New Outlook for Preventing Peanut Allergies

shutterstock_348863390Millions of children in the United States suffer from food allergies, and the most common dietary culprit for kids is peanuts. Growing awareness of peanut allergies has led to peanut-free camps, childcare facilities, and schools.

For years, the common belief among experts was that avoiding peanuts altogether was the best solution, but that philosophy has shifted in the wake of recent studies showing children introduced to peanut products (not peanuts themselves, which are a serious choking hazard) at a young age had a sharply lower risk of developing a peanut allergy—up to 80 percent lower.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), after years of recommending that families with any peanut allergy history avoid feeding infants any peanut products when they start on solid food, has changed course. The AAP now advises pregnant women not to avoid any particular food groups in hopes that the exposure will reduce food allergies in children long-term.

The most recent evidence backing the research comes from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which issued new guidelines for doctors and parents. The guidelines address how to safely expose children to peanuts from an early age, and divide babies into three groups.

The first includes those with severe eczema or are already allergic to eggs—they are considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy. The NIAID advises these babies be tested for a peanut allergy, and parents should consult their doctor about how and when to introduce peanut products. A doctor should be contacted very early, in the two- to four-month range.

For the other two groups—babies with mild to moderate eczema and those without any known allergies—testing isn’t necessary, although parents should still consult a doctor about their child’s situation. For these babies, the guidelines call for parents to introduce peanut products gradually, in small amounts, beginning at six months.

Parents can check on the status of a doctor’s license at the Medical Board of California’s website (www.mbc.ca.gov).

Learning to Box May Help Knock Out Parkinson’s Disease

Photo Credit - Rock Steady Boxing

Photo Credit – Rock Steady Boxing

Some people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) have discovered an alternate form of therapy to improve their symptoms—boxing!  Not the Ali or Tyson type of boxing—we’re talking about fitness boxing.

Photo Credit - Jim Grant / Nevada Appeal via AP

Photo Credit – Jim Grant / Nevada Appeal via AP

Though not a cure for Parkinson’s, non-combat fitness boxing is being recognized by many in the medical community as an alternate form of rehabilitation for the disease.  According to a case report by the American Physical Therapy Association, patients showed short-term and long-term improvements in balance, gait, activities of daily living, and quality of life after participating in a fitness boxing training program.  As a result, many people with varying stages of PD are looking to
fitness boxing as a means to improve their quality of life while living with the disease.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, PD is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects approximately one million Americans. The disease is characterized most notably by tremors, stiffness, softening or slurring of speech, slowing of movement, and instability.

The theory behind boxing as a form of therapy for PD began when Scott C. Newman, a former Indianapolis attorney, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40. A few years after his diagnosis, Newman began intense, one-on-one, non-contact boxing workouts at the suggestion of a friend.

“After six weeks of intense boxing training, I could sign my name again. I was getting better,” Newman said during an interview in a December 2016 segment of HBO’s “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley.”

Newman says he experienced dramatic improvement in his physical health, agility, and daily functioning from his workout routine and, ultimately, his quality of life improved.

Photo Credit - Sue Cockrell Enterprise photo

Photo Credit – Sue Cockrell Enterprise photo

After experiencing his own positive results, Newman opened the first non-contact boxing gym in 2006 in his home town of Indianapolis, IN, that offered a workout program dedicated to people with PD.

Classes are separated into four levels depending on the patient’s stage of PD.  Patients share a common denominator inside of a supportive environment, which allows them to work on strength, balance and hand/eye coordination.  A combination of classic boxing moves and exercises choreographed to music is used.

Photo Credit - Luther Life Villages

Photo Credit – Luther Life Villages

To help combat the vocal challenges often faced by PD patients, fighters are encouraged to count out exercises aloud with the instructor. The louder they count the better. Cheering and yelling is also encouraged, not only to improve voice activation, but to boost morale and lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety, two symptoms commonly associated with PD.

Nationwide, thousands of PD patients have been introduced to fitness boxing as an option to assist them with managing their disease. Medical experts acknowledge that fitness boxing may not be for everyone and before considering a new exercise regimen, it is best to check with your physician.

To check on your physician’s license status with the Medical Board of California,  click here.

 

Cervical Health Awareness Month: Get Checked and Vaccinated

Start the new year by taking care of your cervical health. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which highlights the importance of proactive healthcare in the prevention of a possibly deadly cancer.

nccc-posterThanks to the Pap test, the human papillomavirus (HPV) screenings, and the HPV vaccination, cervical cancer has largely become a preventable and treatable disease. The HPV vaccine can protect against four types of HPV—the most common cause of cervical cancer—and should be administered before becoming sexually active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the shot for not only girls and women ages 11 to 26, but for boys and men as well.

Cervical cancer can be serious and even fatal—that’s why taking advantage of the early detection tools and the vaccine are so important. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), nearly 13,000 U.S. women are diagnosed each year with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 die from the disease.

Talk to your healthcare provider about getting screened and about your or your child’s eligibility to receive the HPV vaccine. In California, licensed medical professionals and pharmacists can administer the vaccine. To verify the license status of a doctor, visit the Medical Board of California; to verify the license status of a pharmacist, visit the State Board of Pharmacy. More information on cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine is available on the NCCC website.

Ticks Don’t Take a Winter Vacation

You may think that in winter you don’t have to worry about tick prevention, but if you live in any of California’s snow-free, temperate regions, adult ticks and emerging nymphs pose a threat all year long. Adult ticks are active from October to May, while younger and smaller nymphal ticks—about the size of a sesame seed—are active from January to October.

The three most common ticks in California (from top to bottom): The Western Black-Legged Tick, the Pacific Coast Tick, and the American Dog Tick.

The three most common ticks in California (from top to bottom): The Western Black-Legged Tick, the Pacific Coast Tick, and the American Dog Tick.

Ticks are nasty parasites, but they serve a purpose in the circle of life. They are food for reptiles, amphibians and birds; they host a variety of other organisms (many of those bad for humans); and because they carry diseases and drain blood, they act as a natural population control for their larger hosts—we just don’t want those “larger hosts” to be ourselves or our pets.

These mini-vampires can transmit a number of diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, tularemia, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and erlichiosis. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in California, but luckily, most tick bites don’t transmit disease.

If you’ve been bitten by a tick, the Medical Board of California offers some advice—and an illustration of how to take out the tick—on page 10 of this issue of the Medical Board of California Newsletter.  Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics and most patients recover completely without complications if the infection is caught early. But if left untreated, the disease can cause arthritis or nervous system disorders.

Once a tick is discovered, it should be pulled out as quickly as possible.  After you remove the tick, be sure to wash your hands and apply antiseptic to the bite area. Old-fashioned tick removal remedies such as insecticides, lighted matches, gasoline, petroleum jelly or liquid soaps don’t work and may cause injury to you or your pet.

The best way to protect your pets from ticks is through the use of monthly flea and tick preventatives, which are available from your veterinarian. If you are looking for a veterinarian, don’t forget to check the license first with the Veterinary Medical Board of California.

When working with or looking for tick prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends you:
  • Discuss the use of preventive products, including over-the-counter products, with your veterinarian to determine the safest and most effective choice for each pet.
  • Always talk to your veterinarian before applying any spot-on products, especially if your dog or cat is very young, old, pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
  • Only purchase EPA-registered pesticides or FDA-approved medicines.
  • Read the entire label before you use/apply the product.
  • Always follow label directions! Apply or give the product as and when directed. Never apply more or less than the recommended dose.
  • Remember, cats are not small dogs. Products labeled for use only for dogs should only be used for dogs, and never for cats.
  • Make sure that the weight range listed on the label is correct for your pet because weight matters. Giving a smaller dog a dose designed for a larger dog could cause the animal harm.

Preventing a tick bite is important and you need to take precautions when you or your pets enter tick habitats such as tall grass and brush in urban, suburban, and rural settings. Below are a few things you can do while outdoors:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks if they are on your clothes.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks when you are walking, hiking, or working in tick areas.
  • Use repellents containing at least 20% DEET.
  • Do tick checks for several days after you or your pets have been in tick habitat. Pay close attention to the hairline, waistline and armpits.
  • Remove attached ticks immediately. This can reduce the risk of transmission of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical attention if you, a family member, or your pet becomes ill after a tick bite.

To see additional photos or find out more information about ticks, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s information page.

 

 

Male Contraception Study Cut Short

syringeA male contraception study, cosponsored by the United Nations and commissioned by the World Health Organization, was recently stopped after it was concluded that the drug caused too many side effects.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, tested the safety and effectiveness of a contraceptive shot that was administered every eight weeks to 320 healthy men in different countries around the world. The trial was initially considered successful after it significantly decreased sperm counts. However, after Stage II of the three-stage trial, a number of men dropped out of the study, citing side effects such as acne, mood swings, depression, muscle pain, and increased libido. Researchers decided to stop the trial early in the interest of patient safety. A survey of patients who didn’t drop out found that most would use the product if it were available.

The premature halt of the study has caused some experts to draw comparisons with the side effects experienced by those women who use female birth control. It has also caused some raised eyebrows from women, who have been dealing with the side effects of FDA-approved birth control methods for decades. To learn more about contraception options and their possible side effects, women should talk to a qualified health care professional. (You can check the license of a doctor at the Medical Board’s website at www.mbc.ca.gov or a pharmacist at the Board of Pharmacy’s website at www.pharmacy.ca.gov.)

Despite the sudden halt to the male contraception study, there are still plans to successfully bring a male contraceptive drug to the market. According to an NPR report, future trials with different, safer levels of hormones, as well as possibly alternative ways to administer the drug, such as via a gel or an implant, are in the works.

 

 

It’s Not Just About Generics: Saving Money on Prescription Drugs

shutterstock_385954984The generic version of a two-pack of EpiPen is now priced at $300—a price that’s better than the brand-name cost of $600 for this widely used allergic-reaction antidote. Buying the generic versus the brand-name is definitely the first step in saving money on your meds, but what else can you do to combat rising drug prices?

You may have more control over what you pay for drugs than you think. According to a January 2016 article by Consumer Reports, prices from retailers, especially large retailers like chain drugstores and big-box stores, can vary greatly. Shop around because drug prices can cost as much as 10 times more from one retailer to the next. Also, don’t avoid independent drugstores—they may actually have more flexibility to beat their competitor’s prices.

Surprisingly, drug prices are negotiable, so ask for a lower price—even with generics. Check sites such as GoodRx.com to do some comparison shopping and to also find out the fair market price. The website also gives you information about coupons, discounts, and how to save money at nearby pharmacies.

Be sure to ask your doctor to help you find a lower-cost alternative and have he or she give you a prescription for a 90-day supply versus 30 days, which can save you money as well. A 90-day supply allows you to pay one copay for 90 days instead of one for every 30, plus it saves you extra trips to the pharmacy.

This next tip may sound counterintuitive, but may be worth checking out. You may not want to always use your insurance to pay for your prescription drugs; you may get a better price if you pay out of pocket and if you sign up for a pharmacy’s discount plan (but read the fine print to understand all terms and conditions).

Check online for lower prices—with caution. Be very careful about which online pharmacy you choose—there’s plenty of fraud out there. Only do business with online pharmacies that display the VIPPS symbol—that indicates it’s a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site. Remember, if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Some drug companies and foundations offer financial assistance programs. Check Needymeds.org, a national nonprofit information resource that can help you locate assistance programs so you can afford your medications and other healthcare costs.

To learn more about how to save money when buying prescription drugs and for resources for medication discounts, visit the State Board of Pharmacy’s website at www.pharmacy.ca.gov.

November is American Diabetes Month

Did you know that 1 in 11 Americans today has diabetes?  Despite its prevalence, diabetes is an invisible disease.  It affects men and women, people young and old, and people of all races, shapes and sizes.  Often there are no outward signs of the disease from the 29 million Americans who fight this chronic illness every day.  That’s why there is a critical need to foster awareness and education while breaking down stereotypes, myths and misunderstandings about this growing public health crisis that affects so many of us.

november-is-american-diabetes-month

This is exactly why the American Diabetes Association marks each November as American Diabetes Month: to bring extra attention to the disease and the tens of millions of people affected by it.

Diabetes is more than the medications and devices used to manage it.  For many, diabetes dictates how they organize their day, what they eat at every meal, how they choose to be physically active and how they spend their money.  People with diabetes can have health care costs that are 2.3 times higher than someone without diabetes, as type 1 and type 2 require very specific forms of treatment.

ada2Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and there is no known way to prevent it.  Approximately 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, which means their body does not produce any insulin.  Insulin is critical in order for the body to transport glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells for energy.  People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to live.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of cases in the United States, and is caused when the body does not produce or use insulin properly.  Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes and having diabetes while pregnant (gestational ada1diabetes).  Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose (sugar) with healthy eating and being active; others may require oral medications or insulin, especially as the disease progresses.  Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as older adults.  

Some women develop gestational diabetes, high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy, which requires treatment to protect the health of the mother and the baby. Gestational diabetes affects approximately 9.2 percent of pregnant women.

This November, the American Diabetes Association will showcase real-life stories of friends, families and neighbors managing the day-to-day triumphs and challenges of diabetes.  Through the use of social media, everyone is invited and encouraged to use  #ThisIsDiabetes to share their personal stories and to begin a dialogue about what it means to live with diabetes.2-november-is-american-diabetes-month

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) along with the Board of Registered Nursing, Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, Physician Assistant Board, Medical Board of California, Board of Podiatric Medicine, Board of Optometry and the Board of Pharmacy are proud to help promote the 2016 awareness campaign efforts of the American Diabetes Association.

DCA will run a social media campaign in support of the national awareness effort via Facebook, Twitter and its blog, The DCA Page.

To learn more and view #ThisIsDiabetes stories, check out diabetes.org.

Don’t Put Your Eyes at Risk With Cosmetic Contacts for Halloween

shutterstock_contactsIf you are going all-out on a Halloween costume, complete with cosmetic contact lenses that make your eyes extra spooky, be aware of potential hazards from cheap, nonprescription contacts.

Wearing cosmetic contacts purchased at gas stations, flea markets, or costume shops—any place that doesn’t require a prescription—can damage your eyes in several ways, including corneal scratches, infections, and allergic reactions that can cause impaired vision or temporary or permanent loss of sight.

Selling cosmetic contacts without a state license is against the law, and businesses doing so are operating illegally. Out-of-state companies selling contacts on the Internet to residents of California must be licensed and are required to verify your prescription with your eye doctor.

Although the contacts are not intended for vision correction, it is still vital they fit your eyes correctly. If you don’t have a current prescription, you will need to have your eyes examined by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist; if you have a current prescription, your eye care professional can give you a copy.

Ophthalmologists are eye surgeons licensed by DCA’s Medical Board of California. They perform surgeries for problems caused by diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, and also treat eye diseases and prescribe corrective lenses. Optometrists are licensed by DCA’s State Board of Optometry. They conduct examinations for overall health of the eyes, screen for diseases, and also prescribe corrective lenses.

You can check Medical Board licensees’ records online at www.mbc.ca.gov, and State Board of Optometry licensees at www.optometry.ca.gov.

If you do get a prescription for cosmetic contacts, buy them from a licensed optometrist, ophthalmologist, or registered dispensing optician, and be sure to follow directions for caring for and wearing them properly.

Women Warned Against Using Ovarian Cancer Screening Tests

teal-ribbon

The FDA is warning women and their physicians not to use ovarian cancer screening tests because test results are not reliable and may cause delays in treatment.

Currently, there is no safe and effective ovarian cancer screening test because none are sensitive enough to reliably screen for ovarian cancer without a high number of false results.

False-negative test results cause a woman who actually has ovarian cancer to not receive needed treatment. False-positive results cause a healthy woman to undergo more testing or unnecessary surgery with risks for complications for a cancer that doesn’t exist.

Several companies have marketed tests that claim to screen for and detect ovarian cancer. In a recent safety alert warning about these tests, the FDA said “women and their physicians may be misled by such claims and rely on inaccurate results to make treatment decisions.”

There are also fears that women at high risk for the disease may rely on inaccurate testing instead of working on prevention.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries, which are reproductive glands found only in women. Ovarian cancer occurs when abnormal cells in or near the ovaries grow and form a cancerous tumor.  Symptoms rarely appear until the cancer has spread and early detection is difficult.

In the U.S., ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women. The National Cancer Institute says that in 2016, more than 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Those at highest risk are women who have reached menopause, women who have a family history of ovarian cancer and women with specific genetic mutations.

Women are encouraged to talk to their doctors about ways to reduce their risk of developing ovarian cancer, especially if there is a family history of ovarian cancer or they have BRCA genetic mutations.

Physicians are asked not to recommend or use tests that claim to screen for ovarian cancer in the general population of women because testing higher-risk patients for ovarian cancer has no proven benefit and is not a substitute for preventive actions that may reduce their risk.

Physicians are instead asked to consider referring at-risk women, including those with BRCA mutations, to a genetic counselor or gynecologic oncologist or other appropriate health care provider for more specialized care.

The Medical Board of California shared the FDA safety alert with its licensed physicians.

“The Medical Board’s primary mission is consumer protection and this type of information is extremely valuable in achieving that goal,” said Kim Kirchmeyer, Medical Board executive officer.

The California State Board of Pharmacy also helped spread the word to licensed pharmacists.

“We believe women who are considering such tests should review the concerns of the FDA,” said Virginia Herold, Board of Pharmacy executive officer.

To view the FDA safety alert, click here.

 

 

Be an Informed Patient:  Check up on Your Doctor’s License

Med_Verify_FrontPanel

The Medical Board of California urges consumers to take a minute or two to check up on their doctor’s license. A license checkup is simple and helps consumers make informed choices when choosing a doctor.

To check a doctor’s license, go to the Medical Board’s website at www.mbc.ca.gov. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can call (800) 633-2322 and someone at the Medical Board will assist you in looking up the doctor.

To use the website to search for a license, click on “License Search” on the homepage. Then, under “Physician and Surgeon” click “Search by Name.”

Enter the doctor’s last name and first initial. If it is a common last name, enter the entire first name. Make sure the names are spelled correctly. Then click “Search.”

When a list of names comes up, click on his or her name. Review the license details and scroll down to determine whether any disciplinary or other public actions are listed at the bottom of the page.

A tutorial here takes consumers through the steps of the license search.

Recently, the Medical Board of California was rated best Medical Board in the nation by Consumer Reports for website access to information about physicians. According to the May 2016 issue, “Consumer Reports and the Informed Patient Institute, a nonprofit patient group, analyzed the websites of boards in all 50 states to see how complete the information was and how easy they were to use, and rated them on a 1-100 scale.”

The Medical Board of California topped the “Best Five” list, with a score of 84. Others in the best five included New York (79), Massachusetts (78), Illinois (76), and North Carolina (76).

“In these days of social media, consumers need to know they can get a significant amount of information about their doctors on the Medical Board’s website,” said Executive Director Kim Kirchmeyer. “The information will assist patients in making an informed decision about their doctor.”

Ms. Kirchmeyer noted that of the 132,370 physicians licensed by the Medical Board to practice in California, only a fraction has disciplinary action by the Medical Board.

“But to a consumer, it is important to know if your doctor is in that group,” she said.

She added that along with the Medical Board’s disciplinary action, the website also has information on certain misdemeanor convictions, malpractice information, hospital disciplinary actions, as well as felony convictions and action taken by another state or federal agency.

If you have any questions regarding your doctor’s profile, please contact the Medical Board at (800) 633-2322 or discuss them with your doctor.