Thursday, October 23, 2008
Maintaining healthy habits requires attention
By Anthony Policastro, M.D

When I was in the military, we knew that whatever the commanding officer was interested in doing was going to get done. Everyone would turn his or her attention to the problem to make sure it happened. Resources were given to get the job done. No matter how bad the problem, you could bet on it being improved in the short term. Once attention was turned from it, there was usually a fall off. We see the same thing happening today with the economy. Governments around the world are turning their attention toward it. Individuals are paying attention. Massive monetary resources are being devoted to it. You can bet that in the short term, it will improve. There will likely be some worsening when the attention is turned away from it. We are no different with our health care. When we get a scare that something is going wrong with our health, we suddenly react to it. We may take medication exactly as prescribed. We may watch our diet carefully. We may spend monetary resources to make it better. There are two issues with this approach when it comes to health care. The first of those has to do with timing. Often people decide to make the changes when it is too late. Stopping cigarettes after you already have lung cancer will be of little benefit. Taking medication for your blood pressure after you have had a stroke will not improve your muscle weakness. Controlling your diabetes after you have a leg amputated will not bring your leg back. Quitting the tanning salon after you get melanoma will not improve your life expectancy. There are many things that have adverse health consequences. We all know what they are. The time to address them is before they cause a problem. The time to avoid them is before the problems become irreversible. The second issue has to do with the fact that many people make changes for the short term. They may take their medication religiously for a period of months. Then they do not follow the prescription as carefully. They might stop smoking for a while but then go back to doing it. That may be true even if they have the early signs of emphysema like morning cough. They might pay careful attention to their diet and weight for a brief period. Then they go back to their old habits. Many of the individuals who have obesity surgery do well for a few years but then gradually gain all the weight back. That is because the diet is too hard to maintain. They might control their blood sugar carefully for a period of time. Then they relax that control and the microscopic damage to their arteries begins again. Just like the military and the government, we can impact our health significantly for the short term. The problem comes with sustaining that positive impact. Old habits die hard. We must make sure that those old habits don't cause us to die hard.

Dr. Alu joins Laurel practice Nicole Alu, DO was recently granted associate staff membership with clinical privileges in Ambulatory Primary Care, specialty of Family Medicine at Peninsula Regional Medical Center. She has joined PRMC's Laurel Family Medicine practice in Laurel. Peninsula Regional Medical Group is a network of family medicine physicians operated by Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Md. Dr. Alu specializes in family practice and is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and by the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians. She received her medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia and completed both an internship and a residency at Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, N.Y. Dr. Alu has been practicing family medicine since 1996 and most recently served as an associate physician and residency director at Geisinger Medical Group in Dallas, Pa. Laurel Family Medicine is located at 30668 Sussex Highway in Laurel. Dr. Alu is accepting new patients, newborn and above, and can be reached at 302-875-6550.

Breathing support group held A support group for those suffering with breathing problems will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Medical Staff Conference Room. If you or loved ones suffer from breathing difficulties, attend this support group and learn how to breathe, get tips on exercises and share experiences in a group setting. To access the Medical Staff Conference Room, attendees should use the Cardiac Rehab/Wound Care entrance, located in the rear of the hospital. For more information, call Angie Howard, RRT at 302-629-6611, ext. 3815.

Nanticoke offers flu shots Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Occupational Health will offer flu shots to the public at Nanticoke Mears Health Campus (across from Seaford Post Office) on the following dates: Wednesday, Oct. 29 and Wednesday, Nov. 5 - 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 4 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31 and Friday, Nov. 7 - 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6 - 4 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is $20. Medicare billing is available with proof of Medicare insurance. Pre-registration is required. The vaccine is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18; it is recommended for elderly and high-risk individuals. To schedule an appointment, call Nanticoke Occupational Health at 629-6611, ext. 8682.

Follow these tips to ensure a safe Halloween
By Linda DeRose-Droubay
Director of Product Safety and Quality Compliance, HearthSong

Halloween is one of the most enjoyable holidays for adults and children alike. It is also a time for making sure our kids are safe – in their costumes, on the street and enjoying all the treats collected on their rounds. And let's not forget about making sure Mom and Dad have fun with their children on this spooky night! The following tips will help ensure your trick-or-treaters enjoy haunting their neighborhoods.

Pumpkin carving
  • Never let young children near carving tools. Non-toxic paint, stickers, and push-in lights are safe decorating alternatives. Or, let your child draw the face on the pumpkin; you do the carving.
  • When permitting older children to carve, always supervise closely. Work on a flat, tip-proof surface in a well-lit room.
  • Don't let your child use adult kitchen knives - supply safer, kid-size tools created specifically for this purpose.
  • Consider using battery operated candles, tea lights or flashlights to illuminate your decorative accents instead of candles. Treats
  • Make sure your children understand they're not to snack on their treats while they're out trick-or-treating.
  • Parents should inspect the goodies (even commercially wrapped) for any signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance, discoloration, pinholes or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
  • For young children, remove hard candies as they can become choking hazards; even larger varieties which will shrink as they are eaten.
  • Other choking hazards for younger children include gum, nuts, small toys and coins.
  • If juice or cider is served to children at Halloween parties, make sure it is pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria. Juice or cider that has not been treated will state it on the label.
  • When purchasing costumes and accessories, look for "flame resistant" labels. Although this label does not mean these items won't catch fire, it does indicate that the items will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from the ignition source.
  • Purchase or make costumes that are light and bright enough to be clearly visible to motorists.
  • For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car's headlights. Bags or sacks should also be light colored or decorated with reflective tape.
  • To easily see and be seen, children should also carry flashlights.
  • Costumes should be short enough to prevent children from tripping and falling.
  • ƊChildren should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Exaggerated footwear can result in slipping or twisting ankles while walking.
  • Hats and scarves should be fitted enough to prevent them from slipping over children's eyes.
  • Apply a natural mask of child-safe cosmetics rather than wearing a loose-fitting mask that might restrict breathing or obscure vision. If a mask is used however, make sure it fits securely, has eyeholes large enough to allow full vision, and an unobstructed breathing opening.
  • Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be of soft and flexible material.
Pedestrian safety
  • Young children should always be accompanied by an adult or an older, responsible child.
  • Have your trick-or-treater carry your cell phone.
  • All children should walk, not run from house to house and use the sidewalk if available, rather than walk in the street.
  • Only cross the street at cross-walks and always look both ways.
  • Children should be cautioned against running out from between parked cars, or across lawns and yards where ornaments, furniture, or clotheslines present dangers.
  • Going out in groups with several adults in attendance ensures children will be supervised. Choosing safe houses and safety in your home
  • Children should go only to homes where they know the residents.
  • Choose homes which have outside lights on as a sign of welcome.
  • Homes should be well lit inside as well as out.
  • Children should not enter homes or apartments unless they are accompanied by an adult.
  • If you are expecting trick-or-treaters remove anything that could be an obstacle from lawns, steps and porches.
  • Candlelit jack-o'-lanterns should be kept away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
  • Indoor jack-o'-lanterns should be kept away from curtains, decorations and other furnishings that could be ignited.
  • Consider using battery operated candles, tea lights or flashlights to illuminate your decorative accents instead of candles.