September 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.
HELP WARD OFF CHILD OBESITY - PARK THE STROLLER
Attention, parents: Leave your preschooler’s stroller at home for the next shopping trip or family outing. Let the kid walk instead – it’s healthier, says Dr. Joel Steinberg, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Strollers encourage a more sedentary lifestyle, increasing incidence of obesity later in life, says Dr. Steinberg. Allowing children to walk, he says, encourages them to be active.
“There’s really no need to put kids in a stroller,” says Dr. Steinberg, who works closely with obese children. “The average 3-year-old can walk just as long – although maybe not as fast – as an adult. It’s well known that the parents tire before the kids.”
Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem
YOU CAN COPE WITH ANXIETY BY DOING FUN THINGS
When you’re young, anxiety can “get your motor going,” says Dr. Myron Weiner, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “However, when you’re older, a little bit of anxiety can disrupt your coping abilities.”
Among some older people, anxiety can cause such symptoms as extreme nervousness, fear of leaving their homes or driving their cars, shakiness or panicky feelings in social situations – conditions that can wither one’s quality of life.
Dr. Weiner, a geriatric psychiatrist, warns that some people can control these feelings by spending more time participating in activities they enjoy, such as needlepoint or gardening. They may also practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, for relief. While tranquilizers may help reduce anxiety, they can be habit-forming.
However, new nonaddictive antianxiety drugs are available. So if you are having anxiety problems, talk with your physician or therapist about the best individualized treatment.
Media Contact: Susan Morrison
WITH POISON IVY, YOU’RE NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET
Poison ivy can be an irritating damper on outside fun. Unfortunately, the pesky plant will continue to be a pain until fall’s first freeze, say dermatologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
“Poison ivy is such a ubiquitous plant – it just grows everywhere,” said Dr. Amit G. Pandya, associate professor of dermatology. If you come in contact with the plant, Dr. Pandya recommends the following:
- Wash skin and clothing with soap immediately. This keeps the rash from spreading or infecting others.
- Use cold compresses to reduce swelling, itching and pain. Over-the-counter creams and antihistamines can also provide temporary relief. In severe cases, see a doctor for steroids or other medications.
- Try to avoid future exposure, which will cause the rash to appear faster and be much worse.
Never burn poison ivy because inhaling the smoke can inflame the lungs and may cause severe respiratory attacks.
Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem
EVERYONE SHOULD HEED WARNINGS FOR HIGH OZONE DAYS
From the lowest to the highest level, ozone-warning alerts are not just for individuals with respiratory illnesses.
“An estimated 25 percent of the population is vulnerable to high ozone and will be affected even if they do not have any pre-existing respiratory disorders,” says Dr. Craig Glazer, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
At ground level, ozone is formed as a result of chemical reactions caused by the presence of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. These compounds react with oxygen in the air in the presence of heat and strong sunlight to produce ground-level ozone, the primary ingredient of smog.
Those most susceptible to high ozone days include individuals with asthma and congestive obstructive pulmonary disease, although exceedingly high ozone levels can make even a highly fit person symptomatic.
Exposure to high ozone levels may cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
To avoid exposure to high ozone levels, Dr. Glazer recommends staying in a well-air-conditioned area and reducing outdoor activities from midday to early evening.
Media Contact: Amy Shields
DON’T WANT YOUR KIDS TO SMOKE? THEN QUIT
Parents trying to give up smoking now have another reason to stop – their children.
Recent research shows parents who quit smoking while their children are young reduce the chances their children will become smokers. Children of parents who both smoke were most likely to take up smoking themselves, but only 14 percent of high school seniors whose parents had never smoked became smokers.
“Tobacco companies target children and adolescents because many are likely to become lifetime smokers,” says Dr. Adi Gazdar, professor and lung cancer specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “Unfortunately, kicking the smoking habit is much harder than most of them realize. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known – perhaps more addictive than cocaine.”
The best intervention is never to start, says Dr. Gazdar. The next best is to quit permanently, and the sooner the better.
Media Contact: Scott Maier
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