April 2003 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.


It’s important for parents to talk honestly with children about war.

“They should be allowed to ask questions about what’s going on as well as be assured of the relative safety for themselves and their families,” says Dr. Thomas Van Hoose, a clinical associate professor of psychology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“If the family has a loved one in the Gulf who is in combat, the children should be given honest information but reassuring answers about that person and what he or she is doing there.”

Conversations as well as exposure to war news should be age-appropriate. Children younger than 9 or 10 probably don’t need to be drawn into protracted war talk or watch televised coverage, he says. Older children should watch such coverage with their parents, who can answer questions, interpret events and reassure them. Van Hoose says families should also discuss the possibility of terrorist attacks and increased security precautions.

Avoiding these frank discussions with children could lead to irrational fears, nightmares or withdrawal, possibly resulting in “long-lasting emotional consequences,” Van Hoose warns.

Media Contact: Ann Harrell


If you’re trying to lose weight, skipping breakfast may not be such a good idea.

“Breakfast gets the metabolism going for the day,” says Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “Research shows that people who eat breakfast tend to maintain their weight and are able to meet nutritional needs.”

One example of a healthy breakfast includes cereal, skim milk, nuts and fruit.

“Cereals are fortified with multiple vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron and calcium,” Sandon adds. “Skim milk is a good source for calcium, which builds strong bones. New research shows that getting three to four servings of low-fat calcium foods per day may aid weight loss efforts. Nuts provide protein, fiber, magnesium and healthy fatty acids for maintaining good cholesterol levels.”

Media Contact: Amy Shields


When heartburn - generally associated with regurgitation of acid-peptic gastric juice into the esophagus - catches you off-guard and without antacids or medications, try reaching for a stick of gum. It could provide temporary relief, says Dr. Stuart Spechler, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and a heartburn expert.

Chewing gum stimulates swallowing and the secretion of alkaline saliva,” Spechler says. “Swallowing helps to clear acid from the esophagus, and the alkaline saliva can neutralize acid that remains in the esophagus after swallowing.”

Heartburn is considered one of the most common ailments in the United States and strikes 60 million adults at least once a month, according to the National Heartburn Alliance. Surveys suggest that 20 percent of all adults suffer from heartburn at least once a week.

Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem


Before you head outdoors this spring, don’t forget to apply the sunscreen.

“If used properly, sunblock is very effective at preventing the harmful effects of the sun that may lead to both skin cancer and accelerated aging,” says Dr. Sarah Weitzul, assistant professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Ultraviolet light, made up of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) wavelengths, has been shown to cause mutations that lead to skin cancer in skin cells. Such mutations and other effects can be prevented by the use of sunblock,” she says.

To get the most out of sunscreen, Weitzul suggests the following:

  • Apply liberally at least 30 minutes before exposure to the sun for full absorption into the skin. If applied too thin, the protective factor can be reduced dramatically.
  • Re-apply after immersion in water, sweating, contact with clothes or long periods of time (3 to 4 hours).
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that covers both UVA and UVB. Look for products that contain avobenzone (Parsol 1789), zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • Use daily. Weitzul tells her patients if they are going to be out in the sun for 15 minutes or less, use a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15. If the person will be out longer, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 is recommended.

Media Contact: Scott Maier


For millions of Americans with rheumatoid arthritis, even small tasks - like getting dressed in the morning, preparing a meal or penning a personal note - can require a major effort.

But early, aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can make a difference, says Dr. David Karp, chief of rheumatic diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“An individual has to take the first step by making the decision to come in and be evaluated,” Karp says. “People should see a physician if discomfort in bones, joints or muscles lasts more than a few weeks or interferes with their daily routine. In many cases, a visit to a rheumatologist is needed to confirm the diagnosis and design customized treatment.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is similar to other autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, such as insulin-dependent diabetes and multiple sclerosis, says Karp, adding, “People quickly can become disabled, stop working and be unable to care for themselves or their families.”

According to the Arthritis Foundation, rheumatoid arthritis affects 2.1 million Americans, mostly women. Musculoskeletal conditions like rheumatoid arthritis annually cost the U.S. economy nearly $65 billion in medical care and indirect expenses, such as lost wages and lost production.

Media Contact: Scott Maier


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