June 2007 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.

Vacation downtime vital to rejuvenate

Taking a vacation — getting away from work and from your everyday schedule — is not just a fun diversion. It’s important for mental health and de-stressing, says Dr. Munro Cullum, a psychiatrist and neurologist who leads UT Southwestern Medical Center’s division of psychology.

“Our brains need a rest now and then,” he said. “More and more we are flooded with information in ever-increasing quantities, with more ‘to-do’ lists, more to keep in mind and more things to remember — such as passwords, PIN numbers, computer procedures, day timers, appointments, cell phones, e-mail — not to mention the everyday demands of life in today’s busy society.

“These things can add up to stress,” Dr. Cullum said.

While some level of stress can help us keep going and hasten projects and accomplishments, if stress becomes too much, it can result in negative physiological reactions in our bodies that can facilitate the development of illness.

“We need some downtime, to allow our brain to work ‘off-line,’ ” Dr. Cullum said. “That’s why we need vacations. It’s a time to recharge and to do things that are outside the normal daily routine.

“Vacations need to be long enough to de-stress, although even a short break can be a bit rejuvenating. For a significant de-stressing, however, it may take several days just to get ourselves used to the idea of relaxing.”

Another word of advice: Leave work at the office and try not to be “on-call” while away, Dr. Cullum says. “Being ‘on-call’ via cell phone and e-mail during vacation is being ‘on-edge’, which can contribute to anxiety. Getting away for a vacation is an important and effective means of allowing ourselves time to de-stress and simply play and leave the ‘baggage’ behind.”

Tell that to the boss.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in mental health.

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

Pregnant women can keep cool and get exercise with simple precautions

Summer isn’t the most fun time to be pregnant — heat and sweat add to the ordinary discomfort of pregnancy, and hormonal changes can make women less able to regulate body temperature. But it’s still important to get healthful exercise, 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week, says Dr. Diane Hughes, an obstetrician/gynecologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“By taking some simple precautions, and knowing the early signs of overheating, pregnant women can maintain their health even through hot weather,” Dr. Hughes says.

Avoiding overheating is especially important in early pregnancy, when the fetus is going through critical developmental stages.  For that reason, pregnant women should not use hot tubs or saunas.

Among Dr. Hughes’ tips are:

  • Drink plenty of water, about eight to 10 glasses a day. Enjoy cold treats such as frozen fruit pops, but keep an eye out for junk ingredients such as added sugar.
  • Consult with your doctor about an exercise plan. If exercising outdoors, do it in the cool parts of the day.
  • Get in the water. Swim, take frequent cool showers or baths, lounge in a kiddie pool, carry a spray bottle to spritz yourself with, or sit with your feet in a basin of cool water.
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing in natural fibers. When exercising, wear clothing that wicks moisture away from skin.
  • Stop exercising if you begin to feel bad. Seek medical help for racing pulse, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, vaginal bleeding, a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or mental confusion.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/obgyn to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in gynecology and obstetrics.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

When allergy symptoms bloom, find the right medication

Choosing the right medications is essential to gaining control over symptoms as allergy season comes into full bloom, allergy specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center warn.

“It’s reasonable to try some of the over-the-counter drugs first, and if you’re not satisfied with those results, then you need to see a doctor,” says Dr. David Khan, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern who heads the asthma clinic at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Antihistamines can usually help relieve itching, sneezing and runny noses, but they don’t generally help with stuffiness. Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine target stuffy noses.

Prescription antihistamines can offer more potency and beare generally less sedating than over-the-counter options and won’t affect your work or school performance. Physicians also can prescribe corticosteroid anti-inflammatory prescription nasal sprays that can be used regularly.

However, allergy shots are still the most effective medical treatment, Dr. Khan said, actually making allergy sufferers less allergic. And rush immunotherapy, which involves taking fewer more shots over a shorter time period, gets allergy sufferers to an effective dose more rapidly.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently rated Dallas-Fort Worth the second most challenging place to live with spring allergies. It ranked third in the 2006 fall survey.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/allergy to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in allergy.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Implants should not deter women from mammograms

Having breast implants can make mammograms more complicated, but women with implants should not neglect this important exam, says Dr. Phil Evans, director of the Breast Care Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Experienced mammographers know how to deal with the extra challenge an implant poses, so women should not avoid mammography, a potentially life-saving test,” Dr. Evans says.

A standard mammogram requires four views, two from each breast, while a woman with implants will need four views of each breast.

The image can also be more difficult to read. Thus, a woman should choose a facility where the technicians and radiologists are experienced in dealing with implants.

Implants that are inserted behind the chest muscles are easier to deal with. The brief pressure of the procedure does pose a very slight risk of rupturing the implants, but the medical importance of detecting breast cancer outweighs this, Dr. Evans said.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/obgyn to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in gynecology and obstetrics.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie



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