Free Entrance Days to National Parks

parksWith the weather getting warmer, many of us are thinking of hiking and doing other outdoor activities. If you are planning a trip through one of our national parks, why not take advantage of the “Free Days?”

They are:

  • April 18-19
    opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25
    National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26
    National Public Lands Day
  • November 11
    Veterans Day

Only 127 of our country’s 407 national parks usually charge an entrance fee. So start planning your visit!

If you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, you might consider the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands-more than 2,000 in all.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is offered free to all active duty military members and their dependents. Information on these and other pass options is available online.

*Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees to the parks. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

Source: U.S. National Park Service

parks

Combating Antibiotic Resistance

antibioticThe Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that antibiotics resistance is a growing public health concern worldwide.

According to the FDA, when a person is infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium, not only is treatment of that patient more difficult, but the antibiotic-resistant bacterium may spread to other people.

For many years we have relied on antibiotics to keep us healthy, sometimes to the point of insisting that we have an antibiotic even when our doctor tell us it is not warranted.

The FDA describes antibiotics as drugs used for treating infections caused by bacteria. Misuse and overuse of these drugs, however, have contributed to a phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance.

This resistance develops when potentially harmful bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics.

When antibiotics don’t work, the result can be:

  • longer illnesses
  • more complicated illnesses
  • more doctor visits
  • the use of stronger and more expensive drugs
  • more deaths caused by bacterial infections

Examples of the types of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics include the species that cause skin infections, meningitis, sexually transmitted diseases and respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia.

In cooperation with other government agencies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched several initiatives to address antibiotic resistance.

The agency has issued drug labeling regulations, emphasizing the prudent use of antibiotics. The regulations encourage health care professionals to prescribe antibiotics only when clinically necessary, and to counsel patients about the proper use of such drugs and the importance of taking them as directed. FDA has also encouraged the development of new drugs, vaccines, and improved tests for infectious diseases.

Antibiotics Fight Bacteria, Not Viruses

Antibiotics are meant to be used against bacterial infections. For example, they are used to treat strep throat, which is caused by streptococcal bacteria, and skin infections caused by staphylococcal bacteria.

Although antibiotics kill bacteria, they are not effective against viruses. Therefore, they will not be effective against viral infections such as colds, most coughs, many types of sore throat, and influenza (flu).

Using antibiotics against viral infections

  • will not cure the infection
  • will not keep other individuals from catching the virus
  • will not help a person feel better
  • may cause unnecessary, harmful side effects
  • may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

So how do you know if you have a bad cold or a bacterial infection?

Joseph Toerner, M.D., MPH, a medical officer in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says that the symptoms of a cold or flu generally lessen over the course of a week. But if you have a fever and other symptoms that persist and worsen with the passage of days, you may have a bacterial infection and should consult your health care provider.

Follow Directions for Proper Use

When you are prescribed an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection, it’s important to take the medication exactly as directed. Here are more tips to promote proper use of antibiotics.

  • Complete the full course of the drug. It’s important to take all of the medication, even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, the drug may not kill all the bacteria. You may become sick again, and the remaining bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic that you’ve taken.
  • Do not skip doses. Antibiotics are most effective when they are taken regularly.
  • Do not save antibiotics. You might think that you can save an antibiotic for the next time you get sick, but an antibiotic is meant for your particular infection at the time. Never take leftover medicine. Taking the wrong medicine can delay getting the appropriate treatment and may allow your condition to worsen.
  • Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. These may not be appropriate for your illness, may delay correct treatment, and may allow your condition to worsen.
  • Talk with your health care professional. Ask questions, especially if you are uncertain about when an antibiotic is appropriate or how to take it.

It’s important that you let your health care professional know of any troublesome side effects. Consumers and health care professionals can also report adverse events to FDA’s MedWatch program at 800-FDA-1088 or online at MedWatch.

The CDC Offers Words of Caution on Medical Tourism

medicalMore and more people are going abroad for medical care.

Before you or a loved one, make this choice, please read what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has to say on the subject.

“Medical tourism” refers to traveling to another country for medical care. It’s estimated that up to 750,000 US residents travel abroad for care each year. Many people who travel for care do so because treatment is much cheaper in another country. In addition, a large number of medical tourists are immigrants to the United States returning to their home country for care. The most common procedures that people undergo on medical tourism trips include cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and heart surgery.

Risks of Medical Tourism

The specific risks of medical tourism depend on the area being visited and the procedures performed, but some general issues have been identified:

  • Communication may be a problem. Receiving care at a facility where you do not speak the language fluently increases the chance that misunderstandings will arise about the care.
  • Doctors may reuse needles between patients or have other unsafe injection practices, which can transmit diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.
  • Medication may be counterfeit or of poor quality in some countries.
  • Antibiotic resistance is a global problem, and resistant bacteria may be more common in other countries than in the United States.
  • The blood supply in some countries comes primarily from paid donors and may not be screened, which puts patients at risk of HIV and other infections spread through blood.
  • Flying after surgery increases the risk for blood clots.

What You Can Do

  • If you are planning to travel to another country for medical care, see a travel medicine practitioner at least 4–6 weeks before the trip to discuss general information for healthy travel and specific risks related to the procedure and travel before and after the procedure.

  • Check for the qualifications of the health care providers who will be doing the procedure and the credentials of the facility where the procedure will be done.
  • Make sure that you have a written agreement with the health care facility or the group arranging the trip, defining what treatments, supplies, and care are covered by the costs of the trip.
  • Determine what legal actions you can take if anything goes wrong with the procedure.
  • If you go to a country where you do not speak the language, determine ahead of time how you will communicate with your doctor and other people who are caring for you.
  • Obtain copies of your medical records, which should describe any allergies you may have.
  • Prepare copies of all your prescriptions and a list of all the medicines you take, including their brand names, their generic names, manufacturers, and dosages.
  • Arrange for follow-up care with your local health care provider before you leave.
  • Before planning “vacation” activities, such as sunbathing, drinking alcohol, swimming, or taking long tours, find out if those activities are permitted after surgery.
  • Get copies of all your medical records before you return home.

Guidance from Professional Organizations

 

Eye Exams…When to Start and Why

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6.

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses should be examined annually or as recommended by their eye doctor.

The AOA stresses early eye exams for children because 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. Early eye exams also are important because children need the following basic skills related to good eyesight for learning:

  • Near vision           eye
  • Distance vision
  • Binocular (two eyes) coordination
  • Eye movement skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Focusing skills
  • Peripheral awareness

For these reasons, some states require a mandatory eye exam for all children entering school for the first time.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says on its Web site that your family doctor or pediatrician likely will be the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes. If eye problems are suspected during routine physical examinations, a referral might be made to an eye doctor for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to assist them with spotting potential vision problems.

Babies should be able to see as well as adults in terms of focusing ability, color vision and depth perception by 6 months of age. To assess whether a baby’s eyes are developing normally, the doctor typically will use the following tests:

  • Tests of pupil responses evaluate whether the eye’s pupil opens and closes properly in the presence or absence of light.
  • “Fixate and follow” testing determines whether your baby’s eyes are able to fixate on and follow an object such as a light as it moves. Infants should be able to fixate on an object soon after birth and follow an object by the time they are 3 months old.
  • Preferential looking involves using cards that are blank on one side with stripes on the other side to attract the gaze of an infant to the stripes. In this way, vision capabilities can be assessed without the use of a typical eye chart.

 Preschool-age children do not need to know their letters in order to take certain eye tests. Some common eye tests used specifically for young children include:

  • LEA Symbols for young children are similar to regular eye tests using charts with letters, except that special symbols in these tests include an apple, house, square and circle.
  • Retinoscopy is a test that involves shining a light into the eye to observe the reflection from the back of the eye
  • Random Dot Stereopsis testing uses special patterns of dots and 3-D glasses to measure how well your child’s eyes work together as a team.

AAO offers the following reminders:

  • Appropriate vision testing at an early age is vital to insure your child has the visual skills he or she needs to perform well in school.
  • A child who is unable to see print or view a blackboard can become easily frustrated, leading to poor academic performance.
  • Some vision problems, such as lazy eye, are best treated if they are detected and corrected as early as possible while the child’s vision system is still developing.

What About Those Other Foods?

foodsa

Many of us are good at reading the nutritional labels on the foods we buy, but what about the other labels that some foods carry. What about labels such as “fat-free,” “reduced calorie,” or “light.”

Here are some definitions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health that might be helpful:

Calorie terms:

  • Low-calorie – 40 calories or less per serving
  • Reduced-calorie – at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food
  • Light or lite – one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more

Sugar terms:

  • Sugar-free – less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
  • Reduced sugar – at least 25 percent less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food

Fat terms:

  • Fat-free or 100 percent fat free – less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
  • Low-fat – 3 grams or less per serving
  • Reduced-fat – at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food

Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet but consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.

Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You need to check the food labels carefully. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.

Finding the nutrient content of foods that don’t have food labels:

When you get a pound of salmon in the meat department of your grocery store, it doesn’t come with a Nutrition Facts label. The same goes for the fresh apples or eggplants that you get in the produce department.

How do you find out the nutrient content of these foods that don’t have food labels?

You can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database. This is a bit harder than using the Nutrition Facts label. But by comparing different foods you can get an idea if a food is high or low in saturated fat, sodium, and other nutrients. To compare lots of different foods at one time, check out the USDA’s Nutrient Lists.