Monday, December 22, 2014

Why Your Doctor Is Asking You About Guns


Joseph Cincotta, MD
One of the routine questions I ask my patients during an office visit is whether they have guns in their home. Some of my patients find this intrusive and even offensive, and they are not alone. But my goal, and that of other doctors like myself, is not to judge or debate, but to make sure my patients stay safe and healthy.

Whether or not health professionals should be asking about guns in the home has sparked a national debate. Emotions may run high when there is any conversation that is perceived to challenge one’s right to own and keep a gun, and those emotions can block any further conversation about guns and gun safety.  Health care professionals are not challenging anyone’s Constitutional right to own a gun.  Many health professionals own guns themselves and use them for a variety of recreational activities.  Our focus when we discuss this issue is one of safety, not the right of ownership.  According to a report by NBC News, firearms injured 15,576 children in 2010. And because of frightening statistics like this, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians and other health care professionals counsel patients about gun safety.

When I inquire about guns in the home, it is with the best intentions. I am not calling a parent’s judgment into question, nor am I attempting to interfere with anyone’s right to own guns. But, the fact is that unsecured guns pose a health risk to children. Just as I would counsel parents about car seat safety, I counsel parents about precautions they should take to keep firearms safe.

A few states have enacted laws prohibiting doctors from asking patients about guns in the home. The practice is not prohibited in Pennsylvania, but patients are also not required to disclose whether or not they have guns in the home to their doctor.

For parents or caregivers who have guns in their home, I recommend taking the following precautions:

  • Make sure that guns are unloaded and stored in a locked location, preferably out of a child’s reach and sight.
  • Store ammunition in a different locked location from the gun, preferably out of a child’s reach and sight.
  • Keep keys and combinations hidden from children.
  • Do not leave your gun unattended when it is not locked up.
  • Use gun locks.
  • Do not leave guns, loaded or unloaded, anywhere where a child can access them (nightstand, table, etc.)
  • Talk to older children about gun safety. Let them know that they should tell an adult immediately if they find one.
  • Talk to your child’s other caregivers about gun safety.
When it comes to gun accidents involving children, there are very few second chances. A high percentage of accidental shootings result in death. Remember, when your doctor asks about guns in the home, they have your family’s best interests in mind.

For more information about gun safety

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Detergent Pods Pose Poisoning Risk

Dr. Joseph Cincotta

Although consumers love the convenience, laundry and dishwasher detergent pods can pose serious health risks if they fall into the hands of young children. According to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 17,000 children younger than six years of age were exposed to detergent pods in 2012-2013.

Children often mistake the brightly colored pods for candy or toys. Because the sacs containing the detergent are water-soluble, they are especially dangerous if a child puts them in his or her mouth. The study showed that nearly 80 percent of detergent pod exposures involved ingestion, which can cause vomiting, respiratory distress, lethargy and, in one case, death. If a child’s skin or eyes are exposed to the detergent, serious irritation can occur.


“It is critical that parents are aware of the potentially harmful effects of household products and take preventative measures to protect their children,” said Dr. Joseph Cincotta, family physician and medical director for PinnacleHealth Medical Group. “One mistake could have serious consequences.”
If you use detergent pods in your home, your best bet is to keep them safely out of sight and out of reach in a locked cabinet. Here are some other tips to help you protect your children and prevent poisoning at home:
  • Store household products and medicines in their original containers. Store household products in a different place than food and medicine.
  • Keep the nationwide poison control center phone number (1-800-222-1222) near every phone in your home and save it in your cell phone. Poison Control can provide assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If your child is unresponsive or is having a severe reaction, dial 911.
  • Do not store household products under the sink or in unlocked cabinets. Never underestimate your child’s ability to defeat a safety lock or climb. 
  • Put household products away immediately after use. Do not leave household products unattended during use.
  • Do not rely on packaging. Containers are typically child-resistant, not child-proof.
  • Don’t keep it if you don’t need it. Safely dispose of any medicines or household products that you no longer use.
  • Talk to older children. Explain the importance of staying away from unfamiliar plants and household products. Tell children they should never take any medicine unless an adult says it’s okay.

“In the course of busy family life, it can be easy to forget to keep household safety a top priority,” said Dr. Cincotta. “Fortunately, there are a number of online resources that can provide a good refresher for busy parents.”

For additional tips on preventing poisoning and other common childhood accidents, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Safe Child website at: www.cdc.gov/safechild.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

School bus safety

Blog contributed by Kathleen
Zimmerman, MD
Pediatrician



School is well on its way and your child is probably getting comfortable in their routine.  This is a good thing, but we don’t want them to forget to be safe.  You should review school bus safety rules with your child:

  1. Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before stepping off the curb
  2. Stay in seat  and don’t move around on the bus
  3. Listen to the bus driver – they are in charge
  4. When getting off the bus, don’t cross until the bus is at a complete stop, with the red lights flashing. Children should cross at least 10 feet in front of the bus.
  5. Always watch for oncoming cars before crossing.  Not everyone stops for those flashing lights like they are supposed to!

Your child may ask why they don’t need to wear their seatbelt on the bus.  Pennsylvania does not require this.  Why not?  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has done research that showed that the “compartmentalization” of school bus seats protects children very well.  Their research also shows the lab belts provide little if any benefit and could even cause injury because of misuse.  Shoulder belts would likely give better safety statistics, but children are not reliable to put these on appropriately and could increase their risk.   So, as of now, your child will not need to wear their seatbelt on the bus.  But you should explain to them the importance of seatbelts in all other vehicles.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Feeling Overwhelmed with Health Related News?

Blog contributed by Melissa M. Brown, Psy.D, PinnacleHealth Psychological Associates

As with any serious event that carries uncertainty it can create stress and lead to worry.  Recently, we have been hearing a lot about the Ebola virus and may have developed a heightened awareness because it has affected several U.S. citizens.  While the United States is not currently experiencing an outbreak, it is important to keep yourself informed; however, at a healthy level.  One of the negative consequences of doing so can lead to feeling overwhelmed by information, excessive worry, or displaying symptoms of stress.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of when too much information is not helping but hurting you.  Some symptoms which may indicate that you are reaching a critical point include: not sleeping, sleeping too much, over or under eating, disengaging from previously enjoyed activities, constant worry or fear that you will contract the illness, excessive thoughts about the virus, unnecessary precautions with you or other family members, dizziness, difficulty focusing or concentrating, or anything else that is a deviation from your normal life functions.

There are numerous things to do to protect your mental health while taking the appropriate measures to inform yourself.  First, limit the amount of media information you are viewing about the virus.  If necessary turn off the television or change the channel. Second, educate yourself about the virus through reputable sources of information such as the: CDC, The WHO and your local hospital. These resources use scientific information which has been demonstrated to be the most accurate at the time and will alleviate any concern about things you have heard that may or may not be true.  Third, take the necessary steps to ensure good mental and physical health.  There are a few things you can do that will reduce your stress and anxiety: exercise regularly, eat a well balanced healthy diet, disengage from the media information, and reach out to family members and trusted support systems.  If you find that your symptoms are becoming increasingly bothersome or interfering with your life on any level, it may be time to seek out professional intervention.  A psychologist or other mental health professional can work with you to alleviate your fears and reduce your symptoms of stress.

Finally, it is important to remember that various professionals are available to provide support and, if necessary, intervention.  They have the training and expertise on what to do if you are experiencing any forms of distress.  Allow these individuals and professional organizations to provide you with accurate information.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Information About Ebola

PinnacleHealth
Infectious Disease Specialist,
John Goldman, MD.
While the Ebola virus continues to cause concern, we should be reassured that the risk for the spread of the infection in the U.S. remains low.

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids. Ebola is not transmitted through the air or in water. Patients with Ebola are not infectious until they are symptomatic.

Healthcare providers locally and around the country are taking steps to protect our communities. At PinnacleHealth, we are asking patients to inform us of recent travel. We want to know if you have you lived in, visited, or cared for someone who is ill that traveled to one of the following countries within the last three weeks.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Guinea
  • Liberia
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
By knowing this information, we can properly screen those who may have been exposed and begin treatment if needed. A patient with signs and symptoms of Ebola and recent travel to an area where Ebola transmission has been active will be immediately isolated in Standard, Contact and Droplet Precautions.

Early symptoms of Ebola include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat, each of which can be easily mistaken early on for other ailments like malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis. It generally takes about 5 to 7 days to develop symptoms. However, symptoms might not appear until two to 21 days after one is infected.  Ebola can cause viral hemorrhagic fever, which can affect multiple organ systems in the body and is often accompanied by bleeding.

While the medical community is working to develop a vaccine, there aren’t specific medications to treat the infection. We are able to offer supportive measures while the body works to heal on its own.  The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival:
  • Providing intravenous fluids (IV)and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
  • Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
  • Treating other infections if they occur
It is our strong recommendation that all non-essential travel to West Africa should be avoided. If you are traveling, use common sense infection prevention. Do your best to avoid sick individuals and use good hygiene practices, such as regular hand-washing and hand sanitizer. The CDC offers the following information about travel and Ebola.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Flu Vaccine

Good Hope Family Physicians
Flu Vaccine—our view

Think about this: the people who at highest risk to die from the flu are the very old, the very young, and people with health problems. The reason they have a harder time with flu is because their immune systems don’t work as well as they should. For that same reason, when we vaccinate them for flu, their immune systems don’t make antibodies well either, so the flu vaccine doesn’t work as well for them as it does for healthy people. In the previous year’s flu season, the flu vaccine only had 10% effectiveness in the over-65 population. 10%!! If we could only choose to vaccinate healthy people or high-risk people, we might actually choose the healthy people, because if they don’t get sick, they don’t pass it to the high risk people. Fortunately, we don’t have to make that choice. So if you are low risk, please think about getting flu vaccine to protect your loved ones or others who are at higher risk.

For this reason, this year’s flu vaccine for those over 65 is a stronger vaccine.

“But you can get the flu from the flu vaccine” is a common response.  No, what is actually happening is that when the immune system is asked to really crank up production of antibodies, you can feel “flu-like symptoms” of body aches, fever, fatigue, etc. When these symptoms occur with flu disease or any other infection, it is your body’s immune response to the infection causing these symptoms, not the germ itself. Who knows, maybe having these symptoms is a good thing as your immune system is clearly responding to the vaccine. And having a few days of some aching is much better than being knocked down for a week with flu disease, or worse yet, dying from flu.

It is important that you know what influenza is. It is NOT vomiting and diarrhea, which is referred to as “stomach flu” but is not influenza at all. Influenza is fever, cough, body aches, fatigue (“like you were hit by a truck”), congestion, etc.

“But I’ve never gotten the flu before” is also a common response. The average healthy person gets flu once every 7 years, and it might be a mild case but doesn’t mean you won’t ever get a bad case. Don’t you wear your seatbelt to protect yourself from something bad which hasn’t happened? And if you feel this way, re-read paragraph #1.

There are so many myths about influenza and vaccines in general, which is really sad, because vaccines today are very safe and save lives. But they are a victim of their success; since we use them widely, we don’t see those illnesses very much and we underestimate how useful and important they still are.

Please ask questions if you have further concerns.

The Providers at Good Hope Family Physicians, PinnacleHealth Medical Group


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Baby Safety Month Topic - “Bare is Best”

Blog contributed by Kathleen
Zimmerman, MD
Pediatrician



When you’re getting ready for new baby to come, it is fun to get the room decorated and looking cozy.  But as cute as those matching bumper pads, baby blankets and stuffed animals look, cozy is not always safe.  In fact, new parents should stick to the motto, “Bare is Best”.

The recommendations for safe sleep has changed a lot over the past few decades.  The Back to Sleep program and recommendations have dramatically reduced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Unfortunately there have been increasing tragic deaths seen from babies being trapped or suffocated by extra items in the crib.  So in addition to sleeping you baby on his back, also be sure to follow these recommendations:

1. Use a firm sleep surface
2. Use only the mattress that came with the crib or playpen, don’t replace it with something else and don’t place something on top (like a pillow or wedge positioner). You should not be able to fit more than 2 fingers between the mattress and the side
3. IF the mattress needs to have a slight angle at the head (30 degrees or less) for congestion or reflux symptoms, then do it from underneath the mattress, not on top
4. It is safest for the baby to sleep in the same room as the parents for the first 4 months.
5. But DON’t put the baby in your bed to sleep.  Parents’ mattresses are often softer and there are bodies and pillows in the bed that can suffocate the baby.
6. No pillow, blankets or bumper pads in the crib.
7. Use a sleep sack to keep your baby warm, not blankets.  Or a swaddle sack or thin blanket swaddled tightly is safe for babies until they start to roll (typically 4 months of age)
8. Keep cords, blind pulls, or other hanging objects away from the crib or playpen in order to avoid possible strangulation