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The Effects of Lead Poisoning & Why You Should Care

lead hazard

Lead is a natural element that has been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes. It is also toxic to humans and animals.

In the 1970s, when it became known that lead can cause severe long-term health problems, government regulatory standards were enforced to phase out lead in paint, gasoline and plumbing materials. With these changes, many believed the risk of lead exposure as a major health concern was over, but as we are learning from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, lead poisoning is a problem that hasn’t gone away.

How Lead Affects the Body

When lead is absorbed into the body, often through contaminated water or food, or when lead dust or fumes are inhaled, it damages vital organs, such as the kidneys, liver and the brain. It affects both adults and children, but is critically more damaging to children.

Children absorb lead more easily than adults. Excess amounts can interfere with development of the brain and nervous system. It can also interfere with the development of a fetus and increases a pregnant woman’s risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.

Adults and children may experience similar symptoms after high levels of exposure, ranging from anemia to abdominal pain to seizures. Symptoms may include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Excessive fatigue

If lead exposure goes undetected for years, it can cause developmental or neurological damage. Many affected children have behavioral issues, difficulty learning and emotional issues. And damage from lead is irreversible.

How to Prevent Lead Exposure

There are some steps that can help keep the body from absorbing more lead and prevent lead levels from increasing. Eating a diet rich in iron, vitamin C and calcium is essential.

A child’s body requires calcium and iron. When these minerals are deficient in the body, lead absorption is increased. Children who are deficient in these minerals retain more of the lead than they would have otherwise.

Preventing exposure to lead is the most important first step. If you suspect there is lead in your water or your household materials, contact your local health department.

If you are worried that you, or your child, have been exposed, your doctor can do a screening blood test. That can put your mind at ease or put you in contact with any resources you may need.

Are You at Risk of Developing Multiple Sclerosis?

brain activity

The Geographic Connection

In areas near the equator, MS occurs in fewer than one out of 100,000 people. In areas farther from the equator; such as northern North America, MS occurs in around 30 to 80 out of 100,000 people. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a well-known type of autoimmune disease. The number of people who have MS increases the farther away they live from the equator, in places like Wisconsin.

This unusual relationship between geographic location and MS suggests that an environmental factor is partly responsible for causing the disease.

The Hormonal Connection

There is a hormonal connection as well. Almost four times as many women during their child-bearing years are affected by MS when compared to men, but before puberty and after menopause the number of men and women affected is about the same.

The Genetic Connection

The average person in the United States has about one chance in 750 of developing MS, but a person with a parent or sibling with the disease sees their chances increase to 1 in 40. A person with an identical twin with MS has a 1 in 4 chance of developing the disease.

The Vitamin Connection

Research is increasingly pointing to a reduced level of vitamin D in the blood as a risk factor for developing MS, and multiple studies are underway to determine if vitamin D levels influence MS disease activity. It’s recommended that anyone with MS have their vitamin D levels checked.

The Future

While autoimmune disorders like MS are on the rise, physicians are getting better at diagnosing and treating these diseases earlier than ever. Researchers are working on finding the causes and coming up with new medicines and therapies.

Patients should know that the future looks very promising, there is hope, and light is now visible at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, it’s important to exercise, eat healthy, and stay positive, so you’re ahead of the game when the cure is finally here.

Detox Diets – Good or Bad?

nutrition

Detox diets, also referred to as cleanses, claim that toxins from food need to be eliminated routinely from our digestive systems. Most detox diets are meant for short-term use to flush or cleanse your system.

Detox diets may involve periods of fasting, only drinking fluids, eliminating certain foods, herbal supplements, or even the use of enemas to cleanse your colon. Some last one day, while others last for weeks.

Positives

Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. This may be due to the fact that a detox diet usually eliminates highly processed foods that have solid fats and added sugar.

Often detox diets have a placebo effect where you might feel better because you think you’re doing something healthy, but avoiding high-calorie, low-nutrition foods for a few days may be part of the improved feeling.

Several detox diets claim to be a jump start to weight loss. Because of the drastic reduction in calories during detox, rapid weight loss can occur.

Concerns

But colon cleansing, which is often part of a detox plan, can cause cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Dehydration also can be a concern. And most people will rapidly regain any lost weight once the diet is over.

One of the biggest concerns of a detox diet is that it can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies that alter the body’s natural balance, especially with electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which can have long-term negative effects.

The Verdict?

There is no real evidence that a detox diet is any better at getting rid of toxins than your body’s own natural defense mechanisms. The best path to health and wellness is still to eat a diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.

Anyone considering a detox diet should contact his or her physician first.

Passing a Kidney Stone

kidney pain

Talk to anyone who has experienced the passing of a kidney stone, and they will tell you it isn’t a pleasant experience.

A kidney stone is a solid piece of crystalline mineral formed within the kidney or urinary tract. They form when substances in the urine—such as calcium, oxalate and phosphorus—become highly concentrated. They are fairly common, with one in every 20 people developing a kidney stone at some point in their life.

People with certain medical conditions, such as gout, and those who take certain medications or supplements are at risk for kidney stones. Diet and hereditary factors are also related to stone formation. The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough water. Most stones develop in people 20 to 49 years of age, and are more common in men than in women. People prone to kidney stones will most likely continue to develop further stones.

Kidney stones often cause no pain while they are in the kidneys. But larger stones that travel from the kidneys to the bladder or along the urinary tract can bring on a sudden onset of symptoms, most notably strong waves of pain.

A larger stone (usually larger than 0.12 inches) may get stuck along the urinary tract and block the flow of urine. These larger stones can cause excruciating, cramping pain in the lower back, side, groin or abdomen. Changes in body position do not relieve this pain. The pain typically waxes and wanes in severity. Other associated symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • blood in the urine
  • painful urination

The best initial remedy is to drink ample fluids for maximum hydration. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be taken to help with the pain and discomfort.

If you suspect you may have kidney stones, your physician can recommend the best course of treatment for you. Medications are available to speed the passage of kidney stones. For particularly large kidney stones that are not able to pass on their own, shock waves can be used to break the stone into smaller fragments with a procedure known as lithotripsy. Surgical treatments are also available for stones that do not respond to other treatment methods.

Preventing Common Winter Diseases

Sandy Johnson, RN, NREMT-P, MSTC EMS coordinator

Have you ever thought about the diseases that come around every winter season? Living in this cold and snowy environment five to six months of every year, we tend to get used to the various winter ailments circulating around us.

Influenza

One of the most common diseases is the flu (influenza). The flu is a respiratory disease most commonly accompanied by a headache, fever, cold, body aches, chills, fatigue and cough. Typically the flu is highly-contagious and can spread to others via airborne droplet form. Between 10 – 20 percent of the population contracts the flu each year.

It can come on suddenly and is more serious and long-lasting than a regular cold. Flu season in the United States generally spans from November to April. Flu vaccine remains the best way to prevent and control influenza. A new flu shot is needed every year because the predominant flu viruses change.

Common Cold

The common cold is another disease which attacks all ages; however, children are especially vulnerable. On average, a child will get four to eight colds per year. The good thing is that as children grow, they develop resistance to more and more types of cold viruses Colds typically start with a scratchy, irritated throat, muscle aches, headache, decreased appetite and sneezing. There is no vaccine for the common cold as there are more than 200 types of cold viruses. Treatment is usually aimed at the symptoms and as the old adage goes, “A cold will disappear in a week if you treat it and it will go away in seven days if you don’t.”

Some people suffer with sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus in the nasal cavity) all year round, but the cold weather seems to aggravate this condition for many. Histamine release causes constriction along the nasal cavity, which makes it difficult for the person to breathe. Sinusitis can also cause frequent sneezing, irritability and a mild headache. A build-up of mucous only increases the severity of the symptoms. There are a number of sinus medications available to help decrease the swelling and mucous production, but sometimes antibiotics are necessary.

Cold viruses and the flu can be passed through coughing, sneezing and contaminated surfaces, such as the hands. In an effort to reduce your risk of exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends regular washing of the hands with warm, soapy water for about 15 seconds. Children should be taught to do the same.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that while soap and water are undoubtedly the first choice for hand hygiene, alcohol-based hand rubs may be used if soap and water are not available. However, the FDA cautions against using the alcohol-based rubs when hands are visibly dirty. This is because organic material, such as dirt or blood, can inactivate the alcohol, rendering it unable to kill bacteria. Keep surfaces cleaned regularly using a bleach-based or virus-cidal product. Try to limit your exposure with sick people and practice healthy habits, such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising, doing your best to keep stress in check, drinking plenty of fluids, and dressing warm for the weather.

Heart Disease Complications

During colder seasons, heart disease cases tend to increase because the cold, winter temperatures cause the blood vessels to constrict, which can inevitably cause the person to be at risk for stroke, myocardial infarction and artery rupture.

Additionally, people are outside performing tasks that require considerable effort, such as shoveling snow, which puts strain on the cardiovascular system. Anyone with a cardiovascular condition should check with their physician before exerting themselves in cold weather.

Arthritis

Arthritis is another condition that may be triggered or made worse by the cold weather. Most people who suffer from arthritis will agree that cold, damp weather increases their arthritis pain; some can predict if it going to rain or snow based on their level of pain and stiffness.

Research from Tuft’s University suggests changes in barometric pressure worsen knee pain in people with arthritis, while colder temperatures can cause painful changes in joint fluid thickness. Other studies have shown very few or no links between weather and point pain.

If the cold weather bothers your arthritis pain, keep moving! Your joints need exercise as it helps to lubricate them to prevent/reduce pain. Supplements and vitamin D help some people; however, you should consult your physician about which supplements are appropriate for you. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins K and C have been noted to curb inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.

Mental Health

Mental health issues, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), often follow climatic changes, with sufferers experiencing extreme depression during the long, dark, cold days of winter. SAD is believed to be linked to levels of melatonin, a hormone that is influenced by light, which promotes sleep.

Sufferers generally experience total loss of interest, problems with sleeping and eating, irritability, and a pervasive depressed mood. Physicians commonly prescribe light therapy and antidepressants to ease the symptoms of SAD.

Frostbite

Frostbite is a seasonal concern for those who live in a cold environment. Frostbite is an injury to the body due to freezing and causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes.

Frostbite can permanently damage the body; severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among those who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

Frostbite and hypothermia often go hand-in-hand and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. Taking preventive action is your best defense against extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related problems.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, seek your EMS Medical Director’s advice and follow your protocols. Take care and stay warm!
Sources:
www.fda.gov, www.cdc.gov, www.weather.com, www.rightdiagnosis.com

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