Bed Bugs – Traveling Past the Sheets

Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:21 AM comments (0)

Bed-bugsThey may be crawling around in airport waiting areas, public transportation, department stores or hotel rooms before making their way into your home. Bed bugs—per their name most commonly found in, besides and near your bed—can be extremely hard to identify and costly to extinguish. While they don’t typically move far from their blood source, these bugs have become an increased problem in the United States.

Felissa Kreindler, MD, points out some ways to avoid bringing these pests into your home and how to identify a problem:

  • Check for bites. Bed bug bites typically resemble mosquito bites. Bites can often be found in linear groupings along the vein line. Rashes on the skin may also be visible.
  • Inspect luggage thoroughly before bringing it into the house after traveling. It’s recommended to vacuum out any luggage and run all clothes (clean and dirty) through the washer and dryer as extreme heat kills bed bugs. It can also be helpful to wrap suitcases in plastic wrap while traveling.
  • Clean up your home. Bed bugs like to hide in dark places and excessive clutter can help provide these pests with a home. 
  • Carefully inspect items before you bring them into your home.  If you buy new or used furniture, you’ll want to thoroughly check it outside for evidence of bugs before bring it into your home. The same holds true for clothing and other household items.

Have you or someone you know been affected by bed bugs? Are you surprised to learn of all the public places they may be found?


Know Your Poison – Safeguard your Home

Monday, January 14, 2013 3:09 PM comments (0)

Poison ExposureIt’s easy to overlook the potential dangers that everyday products in our home may have on our health. We get used to storing cleaning supplies in lower cabinets, leaving toothpaste out within reach and letting our medicine cabinets fill up—often not thinking about the potential risks many of these products can pose to our families. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the vast majority (nearly 90%) of all exposures occur at home.

Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicologist at NorthShore, provides a short list of some of the most dangerous household products and things that lead to exposure:

  • Cleaning supplies – Some of the most common offenders include: dishwasher detergent, bathroom cleaners, bleach and ammonia-based cleaners
  • Cosmetics – Perfume, nail polish remover, mouthwash and aftershave
  • Plants – It is not recommended to ingest any type of household plant, but the following may cause more extreme reactions: mistletoe, ivy, iris, holly, daffodil, etc. For a full list of poisonous plants, visit the Poison Center’s website.
  • Drugs – Prescription and over-the-counter medications, including sunscreen, lotions and insect repellents

Dr. Leikin recommends the following to help reduce your risk of exposure:

  • Use labels to mark which products are a poison danger.
  • Store products out of the reach of children and pets, and/or lock cabinets.
  • Discard unused items. Rather than stock up on cleaners and medications, only buy what you need to use. This will help limit the amount of potentially hazardous items in your home.
  • Install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in your home. If you already have these in your home, check them frequently to be sure they are working.  It is also a good idea to regularly check that all gas appliances are in working order.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to a poison, call the Illinois Poison Center immediately at 1.800.222.1222. For more information about poison prevention and exposures, visit the NorthShore Medical Toxicology website.

How do you safeguard your home to reduce poison exposure?


Flu Season is Already in Full Gear

Thursday, January 10, 2013 7:50 AM comments (0)

Flu-SeasonThere’s been more coughing, sneezing and sinus congestion this year than in years past, and it’s no surprise as the flu season has been off to a strong start since late fall. Hospitals and medical offices across the country have seen an uptick in office visits and confirmed cases. Over the last month, NorthShore has seen a significant spike in hospital admissions of patients suffering from flu or flu-like symptoms.

Despite the peak in flu cases, there are some things you can do to help reduce your chances of getting infected. Nancy Semerdjian, Chief Nursing Officer at NorthShore, offers the following suggestions to help beat the virus this season:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water multiple times throughout the day.
  • Refrain from touching surfaces that may be contaminated. This may include items in public areas, such as bathrooms, public transportation and waiting rooms.
  • Cover your mouth. If you have to sneeze or cough, be sure to cover your nose and mouth. This helps keep germs from spreading to others. It is also important to try to avoid coming into close contact with those who are sick.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Being well rested can help your body better fight illness.
  • Manage your stress. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day and be sure you are choosing healthy, vitamin-rich foods in your diet.

It isn’t too late to get a flu shot to help mitigate your chances of getting the flu; however, it is important to note that it may take a couple of weeks for the vaccination to take full effect.

What flu remedies do you have? Have you gotten a flu shot this year?


The Importance of Regular Pediatric Doctor Visits

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 8:31 AM comments (0)

Pediatric-AppointmentsDoes it seem like you make a lot of trips to see your pediatrician? Regardless of the reason—the sniffles, a high fever, an infection or something else—it is a good idea to make regular visits to the doctor. These appointments, along with any “back-to-school” check-ups, are not only important to your child’s well being, but also can help physicians identify health risks and preventive measures.

Alison Galanopoulos, MD, NorthShore-affiliated Pediatrician, identifies some of the common health concerns that a pediatrician can often identify during regular visits:

  • Behavioral Issues. Some behavioral issues may be hard for a parent to pinpoint. Something as simple as snoring, for example, can sometimes signal serious problems, such as sleep apnea, bedwetting and even ADHD.
  • Growth and Development. Your pediatrician can monitor patterns to help determine your child’s growth and development. He or she should also be able to ask the right questions during appointments to help identify any problems.
  • Obesity. Preventive health is key. With the rise of childhood obesity, having regular appointments that can track your child’s weight and height are essential to help determine a potential weight problem. Your pediatrician can work with you to establish healthy eating habits and promote exercise from a young age.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies. Many children have been found to be deficient in Vitamin D, which can lead to future health problems. The best way to combat this is to have your child (depending on age) eat 2-3 servings of calcium a day.
  • Vaccinations. There are many required immunizations, and it can be overwhelming for a parent to keep track of what is needed. You can work with your pediatrician to confirm your child is up to date.

How frequently do you take your child/children to the pediatrician?


A Sugar High – Knowing When Too Much is Too Much

Thursday, January 03, 2013 11:01 AM comments (0)

It’s hard to avoid the temptation of having something sweet—whether it’s an after- dinner treat, a mid-afternoon snack or something you indulge in to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. Like most things, in moderation, sugar shouldn’t lead to any long-term health concerns. However, when consumed in excess—both in its natural form and processed form—sugar can lead to some very serious health conditions.

Mary Bennett, RD, LDN, CDE, a diabetes educator at NorthShore, identifies some of the health concerns that excess sugar can lead to:

  • Obesity – Sugary foods are usually higher in calories and can leave you not feeling full. A diet high in sugar can lead to excess daily calories, and if not burned off through exercise can lead to increased weight.
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart disease – A diet high in sugar doesn’t necessarily lead to the onset of diabetes, but it can increase your odds. The same holds true for developing heart conditions, as a diet high in sugar can often increase cholesterol and fat levels (triglycerides) in the blood.
  • Added calories – Sugar adds calories and displaces nutritious foods. It is important to note that there is no difference between honey, maple syrup and molasses. Sugar is sugar.

The American Heart Association has set a limit for consumer consumption of sugar, which includes:

  • 9 teaspoons daily (150 calories) for men  
  • 6 teaspoons daily (100 calories) for women

How do you control your cravings for something sweet? What is your favorite alternative snack?


Give the Gift of Life – Donate Blood

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3:08 PM comments (0)

Every year at our four NorthShore hospitals we give patients more than 18,000 blood components. Keeping in mind that a single trauma patient in the emergency room may need more than 20 units of red blood (the equivalent of 20 donations), the need for donors is always present.Donating-Blood

Why not consider giving someone the gift of life this holiday season? Donating blood is a quick, safe and painless process that can help to make a big difference in someone’s life. Not to mention, one pint of blood can save up to three lives.

Not everyone is eligible to donate blood. In general, donors must be healthy, at least 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds and not have a medical history of certain cancers, diseases or infections. A full list of guidelines for eligibility can be found on our website:

Jim Perkins, MD, Director of NorthShore’s blood banks, offers the following advice on donating blood:

  • Be sure to eat something in advance of donating blood and to be well hydrated.
  • Know what medications you are currently taking. There are a few medications that will prohibit you from donating blood and it’s important to have this information ready in advance.
  • Try to be well rested before donating blood.
  • Relax. Think about how your donation will impact the life of someone in need.
  • Confirm your eligibility to donate before your appointment. If you’ve recently traveled outside of the country, you may not be able to give blood. It’s always a good idea to double check before making the trip in to donate.
  • Be a repeat donor. The shelf life of red blood cells is six weeks and platelets last only five days. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for the Chicago area to have a shortage. You can donate blood every eight weeks and platelets every two weeks.
  • Platelet donation has a special impact on cancer patients. Donating platelets on a blood cell separator allows a patient who would normally be exposed to six donors to get all their platelets from only one, you. For more information about platelets and donor criteria, visit our website:

Did you know?
You don’t have to travel far to donate blood. In fact, you can conveniently donate blood and platelets at Evanston Hospital. For more information about donating blood at NorthShore, visit our website.

Do you know your blood type? Have you ever donated blood?


Eating for Exercise – Fueling and Replenishing Your Body

Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:50 AM comments (0)

Author: April Williams, MS, RCEP Exercise Physiologist

Workout-SnackEating before you exercise is like fueling up your gas tank to get you from Point A to Point B. It allows you to get through your workout from start to finish with enough energy. A pre-exercise meal serves a variety of purposes, including:

  1. Helps prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and its symptoms of lightheadedness , needless fatigue, blurred vision and indecisiveness.
  2. Helps settle your stomach, absorb gastric juices and ward off hunger. 
  3. Fuels your muscles and feeds your brain. Any carbohydrates you eat far enough in advance of working out will help to release stored glycogen and carbohydrate into your blood stream to keep you going.
  4. Gives you peace of mind in knowing that your body is well fueled.

What to Eat Before Working Out
What you should eat prior to working out will vary from person to person. It will be trial and error to determine what works for you and your routine. As a rule of thumb, you should look for foods that are easily digestible, and often high in carbohydrates and low in fat, such as: toast, bananas, dried cereal, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, fig bars, and/or small servings of peanut butter, jam or honey.

What to Avoid Eating Before Working Out
There are many foods that should be avoided before you exercise. You will want to limit high-fat sources of protein, such as greasy foods like fries and cheeseburgers. Instead, choose smaller portions of turkey, hard-boiled eggs or low-fat milk. Be careful with sugary foods and beverages as they can give you a sugar high prior to exercise and may leave you without the necessary energy to finish your routine. Stay away from anything that is high in fiber, as this type of food could cause gastric upset during your activity.

What to Eat After Working Out
Eating after you exercise can help you recover faster from your workouts. Chocolate milk or yogurt is a perfect post-workout option because each contains carbohydrates and protein. The protein will help build and repair muscle, and the carbohydrates will help replenish glycogen stores that were used in your workouts.  Some other options to help refuel your tank could include: fruit smoothies made with yogurt or milk and a handful of pretzels, juice with string cheese and some crackers, or bowl of your favorite cereal and a banana.

What are some of your favorite snacks for before and after workouts?


Enjoying the Holiday Season: Managing and Reducing Stress

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:16 AM comments (0)

Holiday-stressThe holiday season is often an exciting and much anticipated time of year. This season—for all its fun and festivities—often comes with long lines, burdensome traffic, inclement weather and various pressures leaving you to feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

For many of us the holidays are nerve-wracking.  Some attribute the stress to having to spend time with family, travel and excessive spending.  But, in reality, the holidays are difficult because our self-talk, that never-ending commentary going on in our heads that manages to rob us of joy and happiness.  Below are three habits you can practice before, during and after family gatherings that will help with the process.  Remember, it's not that people and situations make us feel badly, it's our self-talk about people and situations that cause our negative emotions.

Robert Farra, PhD, Psychologist at NorthShore, provides the following strategies to help make the holidays truly merry:

  1. Practice non-judging.  Evaluation often makes our experiences less than enjoyable. Judging is labeling or evaluating something as good or bad, as valuable or not, as worthwhile or worthless. Judging sees the world as black or white, good or bad.  Harshly judging self and others is for many of us an extremely bad habit. Henry James wrote, “Three things in life are important: The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and third is to be kind.”  We don’t know the circumstances behind the person or thing we are judging including ourselves. Give your family, your friends and yourself a break.  Practice non-judging.

  2. Practice patience.  Becoming impatient with self and others is a destructive habit.  If you need to learn how to practice patience in preparation for the holidays, I recommend you go to any large grocery store between the hours of 5 to 7 p.m.  Buy a few items and consciously choose to wait in the longest line.  Be present in the moment and notice how your mind starts creating misery for you as you wait.  Practice patience.  I know, you could move much faster than the clerk who, according to you, is moving in slow motion.  But that’s not the point.  Becoming irritated about something over which you have no control is fruitless.  As you reach the conveyer belt, excuse yourself and choose the next longest line.  Repeat until you are able to relax and enjoy the moment.

  3. Practice gratitude. Focus on the wonderful people in your life.  Consciously think about how grateful you are for them.  No they are not perfect!  But, neither are you!   Consider there are people and things for which you can be grateful in adversity as well as those times everything seems to be going smoothly.

Do you get stressed out during the holidays? What do you do to reduce it?


Guide to Buying and Giving Age-Appropriate Toys

Thursday, December 06, 2012 5:37 PM comments (0)

Now is the time when our shopping lists for holiday giving may include items for children of varying ages. While walking through the aisles, you’ll see plenty of new toys along with many of the tried-and-true classics (like building blocks and dolls). With all the options out there, how do you know which toys are best suited for what ages?

The most colorful or cute toy on the shelf doesn’t always make it the best choice. It’s worthwhile to recognize that children of varying ages have achieved different development milestones.  Just as you wouldn’t give an infant a LEGO® set, you also wouldn’t buy a four year old a teething rattle.

Kenneth Fox, MD, a pediatrician at NorthShore, gives the following recommendations when shopping for age-appropriate toys:

  • Safety first. Choose sturdy toys with washable surfaces. Watch out for small parts, sharp points or edges. Make sure attached pieces (eyes, buttons, etc.) cannot be torn or bitten off to create choking hazards. Avoid toys made of or decorated with toxic substances or chemicals (paints, dyes, glazes or other embellishments). As much as possible, try to understand where toys or other gifts are made and avoid untrustworthy sources even if they appear to be bargains. Make certain batteries are not accessible to curious and nimble little hands and mouths. Battery- or electric-powered toys should be  labeled “UL approved.” For more detailed information on specific toys consult Consumer Protection Safety Commission website (
  • Read the packaging information. Most toys include a recommended age on the packaging. These labels, based on a typical child’s abilities and skills at a particular age, should serve as guidelines. But remember, every child is different and develops at his own pace. Ask yourself the basic question: “Is this toy right for this particular child, given his particular developmental stage?”
  • Resist buying toys that a child can “grow into”. Age guidelines on toys exist for a reason. As nice as it may be to stock up on new toys for the growing child, it’s often hard to keep these toys out of reach until they are age appropriate.
  • Choose usefulness over fad, “must-have” toys. Every year there are countless new toy trends and gimmicks. It often is best to stick to options that have been around long enough to be dependable and tested. The best, most fun toys often have an unstructured aspect. They invite and engage the child’s imagination and creativity.
  • Kids learn a lot both by receiving and by giving. Basic capacities for empathy emerge in childhood through experiences with gift exchange and through symbolic play. Kids learn to be generous givers and gracious receivers of gifts through practice, guided by caring adults. From choosing, wrapping and presenting gifts to others, a capacity for empathy is nurtured, supported and reinforced. Also, modeling how to show one’s appreciation is a great gift in itself. “Thank you” goes a long way, even in today’s world of rampant consumerism.
  • Set limits on gifts and keep things simple. How often have you noticed that young children are often more entertained by gift wrapping and packages—like big empty boxes—for creative play? Art supplies are often the most treasured, enduring and useful gifts.
  • As much as possible, try to connect a gift with an experience. For example, handmade or homemade gifts or cards in which the child participates creatively make for heartfelt and memorable experiences. A book about or memento of a particular activity, thing or place that a child can then have direct experience with in a hands-on way, makes for a wonderful, cherished gift.

Play is essential to a child’s physical, cognitive, social and moral development. Toys, books and experiences that enrich creative play make wonderful gifts for the season and support healthy child development all year long.

Can you remember a time when one of your children received a toy not well suited for his or her age? What did you do?


Wash Your Hands, Improve Your Health

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 4:15 PM comments (0)

Walk into any public restroom and you’re certain to see a sign stating that employees must wash their hands before returning to work. Hopefully you know that this sign applies to more than just employees—you should be washing your hands after going to the bathroom, too!

Not only does washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds help wash away the dirt and grime, it also helps remove germs including viruses and other potentially harmful bacteria.

Becky Miller, MD, Infectious Disease Physician at NorthShore, gives the following tips on the importance of washing your hands:

  • Washing your hands can help decrease your chances of getting sick, especially during cold and flu season.
  • Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice for an easy way to remember how long you should wash your hands.
  • Don’t forget to rub soap and water over all surfaces of your hands – it is the mechanical action of cleaning that helps eliminate most of the germs.
  • If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand rub to kill germs, remembering that it will not be effective for cleaning visibly soiled hands.
  • Remember to wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing to help avoid spreading germs to others.

How many times a day do you wash your hands? Do you wash them more frequently when you’re sick?

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