Friday, March 24, 2017

The Big Sneeze is coming

With a whiff of spring in the air, people are thinking outdoor activities, but what about allergies?

It's that time again.

Still, allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the Am College of Allergy,  Asthma and Immunology (, says there are some simple ways to make allergies more bearable.

Spring cleaning. Sweep away the cobwebs, do some deep scrubbing (mold, pet hair). Vacuum pet beds and wash their bedding often.

Pollen. Two-thirds of those with asthma have an allergy...conversely, your "allergy" may be asthma. If  you can't get rid of a cough or are short of breath, get checked for asthma.

Clear the air. Do NOT get an ionic air filter. The ionization makes particles stick to the wall or any surface, where you will pick them up anyway. Also--the produce ozone, which can create problems. Instead, get a HEPA room air cleaner rated with Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). Central air? Change your filters every three months and used filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12.

Fresh air. Forget it--don't open windows and let the spring come in. Turn on the AC with the new filer you just put in.

Also forget Dr Google. Sneezing a lot--ask an allergist. There are medications, even shots, that can help ease your suffering.

The Old Wives did not know everything.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Even with insurance, medical bills hurt

Ipsos, a market research company, released a study showing that many Americans are unable to handle unexpected medical bills.

Three-quarters of Americans have seen their health costs rise and not go down--so for many, this means avoiding medical care.

---One in five Americans avoid going to the doctor because of the cost--this includes 56% of people without insurance and 27% of Millennials.

--Forty-nine percent say they don't have enough info on what things will cost to determine what they will have to pay. A broken arm? Almost half of those asked said it would cost them under $500--the real cost, almost $1200. (And that is probably with insurance.)

--In 2015, 41% of Millennials asked for a cost estimate--but only 21% of Boomers and 18% of seniors. HOWEVER--34% of the time, the final bill was higher than the estimate.

Shocker, huh.

Strapped Americans also are not saving for health care. Only 32% contribute to a Health Savings Account.

Bottom line: People who could not afford an unexpected bill over $100 without borrowing--37%. If the bill were more than $2,000 77% said they would have to borrow.

And now--we have a health proposal to make this worse. It's sickening.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Is dread of robots really delusional?

Baylor University researchers examined data from Wave 2 of the Chapman Survey of American Fears (1,541 people).

First, they found the fear of losing a job to a robot is real. This is a "substantial portion" of the American population--37%--identified as technophobes.

Technophobes, according to this study, are very afraid or just afraid of robots in the workforce, decision-making robots, and technology they don't understand, such as artificial intelligence.

--Women, non-whites, and women report being most phobic.

--Technophobes are three times as like to fear losing their jobs, and three times as likely to fear not having enough money in the future.

--Technophobes also are 95% less likely to be able to stop or control worrying.

All this is published in the Social Science Computer Review.

But isn't automation going to cause unemployment? Mark Cuban said it was. Bill Gates, also no dummy, said robots should be taxed and the money used to retrain people (presumably for jobs robots don't want--notice how intelligent I made them there?).

Fear of automation is not new, of course. People said cars would not catch on.

But it's coming on a scale we have not seen.

Visionaries may see blue skies ahead with more leisure time and fabulously fulfilling, non-routine jobs for people.

But--the fear remains--and maybe it is realism and not mental illness. Think?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Which people with atrial fib should be on blood thinners?

Just another day for someone with afib.
First--this is not medical advice. Second--I don't want to get too far into the weeds here.

But over a decade ago, a doctor discovered I had irregular heartbeat--known as atrial fibrillation. One in five Americans have it--my brother does, also a maternal aunt. For once, this is not related to being fat!

Basically, this is when a clump of regulating cells near the heart go off  track somehow and cause the heart to beat funny. One doctor kept referring to mine as my "hippety-hoppety heart."

This funny beat, in turn, can cause blood in the upper chamber of the heart to get sort of churned up into a clot that can travel to other parts--and cause a stroke. People with afib, as they call it, have a greater chance of a stroke as those with "normal sinus rhythm."

Some people get a fluttery feeling and are "in" afib for a time, then revert to normal. Others--like me--are always in afib. My pulse is sort of  like BEAT BEAT...Slidy slurry BEAT...PAUSE...BEAT....

At first, they put me on a med called amiodarone to regulate the beat. This drug made me so sick I ended up ion the hospital and later they said they didn't know if I was coming out alive. I did!

Then they put me on blood thinners--a blood thinner--warfarin. Every month, I had to go to a lab and get a blood test...they would call and say eat a spinach salad--vitamin K in spinach affects your blood thinness. It was wacky...then my intestine bled, leading to a terrible hospitalization for a colonoscopy. Can't have that with thinners on board, so they tried to counteract the thinner with blood plasma. The colonoscopy could not be completed.

I stayed on thinners. They said to.  Eventually, I experienced another bleed--in my right eye, leading to terrible clots, a fully detached retina, four surgeries, and now a blind eye.

I quit warfarin. Now I am on an aspirin only and have been for 10 yrs.

There are two other approaches to afib--ablation (try to kill the rogue cells with radio waves or heat) or the "paddles"--shock you into proper rhythm. I refused both

Long story longer, research from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City now says there is an effective way to tell if someone needs thinners. First, you do a questionnaire called the CHA2DS2-VASc (see what I mean by "weeds"?) and then a second scoring--the Intermountain Mortality Risk Score.

The first is not predictive of outcomes, but has been used for years anyway. It is oversinmplified, the researchers say--a woman over 65 would automatically get a thinner, even though this is not a comprehensive way to tell is she needs one.

The new Intermountain score adds more variables.

Well, fine and dandy...I am seeing my ninth cardiologist next week--to see if I can withstand hernia surgery.  Wonder if he will recommend this.

As I peer into the screen with my one remaining eye--I have no idea.

Monday, March 20, 2017

42% of parents say they would take their kid to Urgent Care

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National poll on children's health said 42% would also try to communicate with the doctor without a visit.

More parents were confident of getting same-day phone advice (60%) than a same-day appointment (53%).

In other words, the researchers said, many parents are frustrated about getting timely advice when they have a sick child.

While retail clinics (in stores) or urgent care clinics may seem convenient, they may not have the child's history and can be expensive. And don't even ASK about the ER--see below.

Most doctors' office have a limited number of "sick" visits a day. I remember my daughter's pediatrician gave out a booklet of when to call or make an appt. I about had it memorized.

Discuss this with the doctor before deciding on a provider--the researchers recommended.

Most often, for a number of reasons, the primary care doctor's office is your best bet.

I will admit I often consider other venues. I even got so desperate with stomach pains two weeks ago, I went to the ER, knowing I could get imaging, testing, and an opinion in one place...and not be shuffled one day to a lab, the next to an x-ray place.

But the bottom line for that six hours...$11,600!!! My part was way less, of course, but someone thought that was what the services were worth,

I think the entire health care system is hardly worthy of the name system these days.