December 2006 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.

Be mindful of allergies while decorating for holidays

As you begin pulling down the holiday decorations from the attic this season, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center have some tips for cutting down allergy risks.

“Carrying items down from dusty attics or pulling them from garages and other storage areas can stir up dust and molds,” says Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of allergy and immunology at UT Southwestern.

If you have fabric decorations, try washing them before putting them up. When selecting decorations, try avoiding fabric, which trap more dust than plastic, metal and glass items.

If the decorations appear dusty, take them outside and wipe them down before putting them up in your home. That can be particularly helpful with artificial trees, which can accumulate dust and mold in the branches.

People suffering from mountain cedar allergy should not use freshly cut juniper trees for the holidays since these trees pollinate during the winter season. If you are selecting a freshly cut or live tree, look for Scotch pines and Douglas firs — the mainstays of most Christmas tree lots. 

Other things that may exacerbate symptoms in persons with asthma and allergies during the holiday season include: scented candles, wood stored for fireplaces, even the smoke from fires can be a trigger of asthma attacks. If traveling during the holidays, consider taking your own pillow containing a dust mite-proof encasement.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in allergies.

Media Contact: Russell Rian


One gift you don’t need in this season of frenzythe holiday blues

The hustle and bustle of the holidays doesn’t always translate into feelings of warmth and “good cheer” for everyone. A sense of loneliness or isolation — particularly when compared with the glowing environment depicted all around us in seasonal movies, television dramas and store settings — often brings the “holiday blues.”

Quite different from true clinical depression, the holiday blues are transient and can be resolved or prevented fairly easily, says Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, who leads the Mood Disorders Research Program and Clinic at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Some people don’t have the opportunity or the wherewithal to get involved with family and friends and that offers a stark contrast to the pictures painted by the media and the attention focused on the season,” says Dr. Trivedi. “On the other hand, it’s surprising how soon people can shake those blues, if they just make a concentrated effort.”

Dr. Trivedi offers the following suggestions for combating holiday blues:

  • Get involved in your community or with charitable activities.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat properly.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Stick with a routine.
Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in psychiatry.

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

Does the cold cause colds?

Mom always warned you that you’d catch a cold if you stayed out in wintry weather too long or returned from sweat-filled playtime outdoors to a chilly, air-conditioned house.

But are those old adages true?

Not really, says Dr. Jane Siegel, infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“If you’re going out in the cold and having close contact with a lot of people who are sneezing and coughing, then it is the contact with the sick people that might cause you to contract the flu, but not simply going out in the cold,” Dr. Siegel says.

A great way to avoid getting a cold or the flu is avoiding tightly packed crowds of people, she adds.

“The 3-foot-rule is a good rule. It’s less likely that you’ll get the flu virus if you stay three feet away from people, allowing you to avoid catching germs from coughs and sneezes,” Dr. Siegel says.

Dr. Siegel has other tips to prevent getting sick during winter:

  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or with a waterless antiseptic hand de-sanitizer, especially after you’ve shaken hands with people or sneezing and blowing your nose.
  • Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise to boost your immune system.
  • Get a flu shot.

Flu shots are suggested for children ages 6 months to 5 years old, people age 65 or older, health-care workers and those in contact with individuals who are at high risk for getting very sick when they get the flu. The flu vaccine is available to people ages 5 to 49 in an effective nose spray.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in infectious diseases.

Media Contact: Cliff Despres

Watch acetaminophen intake

With the cold-and-flu season under way, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center say it’s important to keep track of how much acetaminophen you’re taking in at any one time.

Acetaminophen is the main ingredient in pain relievers such as Tylenol or Excedrin, many popular sleep aids, as well as many over-the-counter cold-and-flu remedies, such as Nyquil, Sudafed or Theraflu. It is also found in some prescription painkillers.

“It is easy to lose track of how much combined acetaminophen you’re consuming when taking combinations of medicines, particularly for different ailments, such as arthritis and perhaps a cold,” says Dr. William Lee, director of the Clinical Center for Liver Diseases at UT Southwestern.

Too much acetaminophen in the system at one time or over an extended period can cause serious liver damage or lead to liver failure and even death. About 100 people die annually of accidental acetaminophen poisoning and another 15,000 end up in the emergency rooms from unknowingly taking too much.

Avoid more than 4,000 milligrams combined per day, and no more than 2,000 mg to 3,000 mg for those with liver problems like hepatitis or those who drink regularly. Also remember that alcohol makes acetaminophen more toxic while depleting other substances that protect against liver damage.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in digestive disorders.

Media Contact: Russell Rian


About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the premier medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. Its more than 1,400 full-time faculty members
including four active Nobel prize winners, more than any other medical school in the world are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and are committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 89,000 hospitalized patients and oversee 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.?


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