Chickenpox: How to Relieve the Itch

ChickenpoxThe chickenpox is a contagious disease that caused by the virus known as the varicella-zoster virus. It causes the skin to break out in a blister-like rash that results in itching, along with other flue-like symptoms such as fever and fatigue.

Chickenpox is most common in younger children, though individuals of all ages can also get the chickenpox. The virus can be highly contagious, especially for individuals who have not yet had the chickenpox or have not yet received the chickenpox vaccination. In order to protect your child against the chickenpox, Vancouver family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends that children get the varicella vaccine between 12 and 15 months. Once children reach the ages of 4 to 6, a booster shot is also given to protect them further. While it’s uncommon for anyone who has had the vaccination to get the chickenpox, it is still possible, though the symptoms are usually much milder and you tend to recover faster than if you hadn’t received the vaccine.

As mentioned, one of the most common symptoms of the chickenpox is itching. The itching occurs when the blisters release chemicals that activate the nerves in the top layers of your skin, sending a signal to the brain. Similarly, the same chemical release occurs when a mosquito bites you. While it can be difficult to fight the urge to itch chickenpox, it is best to try to avoid itching them as much as possible – this is because the bacteria from underneath your fingernails can lead to infection. Itching chickenpox can also cause permanent scarring.

That being said, there are a number of home remedies other and steps that Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests trying to alleviate the symptoms of chickenpox, as outlined below.

Home Remedies for ChickenpoxTaking Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help to reduce the fever that is associated with the chickenpox. It can also help to reduce pain caused by the blisters. It is important to avoid giving young children anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, as these medications can lead to a complication known as Reye’s syndrome.

It’s also very important to wear loose-fitting clothing rather than stretchy, elastic-like clothing while you have the chickenpox, as the looser the clothing is, the better your skin is able to breathe. Taking cool oatmeal baths, dabbing calamine lotion onto the itching areas of the skin, as well as taking antihistamines can also help to relieve the itch.

Unfortunately there is no quick cure for the chickenpox once you have them, and they just have to take their course. When you have the chickenpox, you’ll find that the blisters usually don’t appear all at once, and instead form over several days. They will usually stop appearing, however, by day 7, though it can take anywhere from 7 to 10 days for the virus to be out of your system completely.

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What Are Gallstones and How Are They Treated

Gallstones

Do you have sudden pain and/or pain that is rapidly intensifying in the upper right side of your abdomen? What about pain in your shoulder, nausea or vomiting? All of these symptoms may be strong indicators of a gallbladder attack caused by gallstones. Such an attack can last for a few minutes or as long as several hours.

What Do You Do During a Gallstone Attack?

The first course of action (and the most important course of action, at that), would be to book an appointment with your family physician. If you do not have a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a general practitioner from Vancouver, is available to see patients on a walk-in basis at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, BC. It is important to note, however, that this is a walk-in clinic, therefore wait times and closing times may very. To find Dr. Ali Ghahary’s walk-in hours, please visit his website at alighahary.ca/schedule. You can also find out more information by visiting the clinic at brentwoodwalk-inclinic.com and by calling them directly.

What Causes Gallstones?

There are two types of gallstones that can form: Cholesterol gallstones, which are yellow in colour, or Pigment gallstones, which are dark brown or black in colour.

While it’s not clear what, exactly, causes gallstones, healthcare professionals are under the impression that it is a combination of many different factors including too much cholesterol in your bile – resulting in the formation of crystals that then turn into stones, as well too much bilirubin – a chemical that is products when red blood cells are broken down. Gallstones can also be caused by the gallbladder not emptying itself correctly, which can also contribute to the formation of stones.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Certain individuals are at a higher risk of developing gallstones. For example, they tend to occur more frequently in females than males, as well as certain ethnicities such as Native Americans or Mexican-Americans. You’re also at an increased risk of developing gallstones if you are over the age of 40, if you are pregnant, obese, have diabetes, have a family history of diabetes, take any medications containing estrogen (i.e. birth control/oral contraceptives), have liver disease, or have an unhealthy diet (i.e. a high-fat or high-cholesterol diet.)

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Gallstones?

In order to reduce the risk of gallstones, there are certain changes you can easily implement into your life. First and foremost, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends making healthy food choices – particularly foods that are low in fat and low in cholesterol, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poulty and fish, as well as whole grains such as brown rice, bran cereal, oats and whole wheat bread. AVOID foods like chocolate, pizza, creamy sauces and soups. You can find more information on a gallbladder-specific diets by reading HealthLink BC’s ‘Eating Guidelines for Gallbladder Disease’.

It is also important to remember not to skip your meals. By skipping meals or fasting, you actually increase the risk of gallstones, as this can cause bile to build-up in your body until the next time you eat. Also, try not to eat large, heavy meals. Instead, try consuming smaller meals throughout the day. Eating smaller meals tends to minimize the risk of gallstones by constantly removing bile from the gallbladder.

While diet is the primary cause of gallbladder disease, it’s also important to try to maintain a healthy weight. Eating healthy can certainly help with weight loss as well as weight maintenance, but it doesn’t hurt to implement physical activity into your daily routine as well. More information on the many benefits of exercise can be found by visiting Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog on WordPress.

How Are Gallstones Diagnosed and Treated?

Gallstones are diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms as well as medical imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan. Most individuals with gallstones may not even have symptoms nor need treatment. However, this is entirely dependent on how the patient feels as well as the findings of test results.

In some cases, healthcare professionals may take a ‘watch and wait’ approach for any complications to arise (i.e. intensifying pain) before deciding on treatment, while in other cases you may need to be prescribed oral medications to help dissolve the stones.

In cases where there are complications or if the gallstones keep returning, you may need surgery to have your gallbladder removed. This procedure is known as a cholecystectomy.

Bone, Joint and Muscle Health

Did you know the human body has 206 bones, over 300 joints, and over 650 muscles/ligaments?

The bones provide our bodies with support – such as the skull, which is responsible for the formation of our face as well as protecting the skull; the backbone, which is responsible for protecting the spinal cord – the pathway that transmits messages back and forth between the brain and body; the ribs, responsible for protecting the lungs, heart, liver and spleen; and the pelvic, which protects the bladder/reproductive organs and intestines. While bones may seem light, they are also able to withstand weight.

Then there are the joints. The joints are where the bones meet and allow is to be flexible. Without joints, we wouldn’t be able to move at all. In addition, the muscles also play a similar role and aid in flexibility.

The bones consist of calcium, sodium, phosphorus, collagen and other minerals. In order for the bones to stay healthy, calcium is required. When the bones lack calcium or other minerals, they become much more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Calcium is commonly found in milk. If you are lactose intolerant then you may want to consider taking a calcium supplement.

As we overwork our bones, joints and muscles, we become more susceptible to injury. There are a number of injuries that can happen to the bones, joints and the muscles, with the most common being breaks or strains/sprains/fractures. These types of injuries are commonly seen in contact sports, such as football, and occur frequently in school-aged children. RSIs (Repeititve Strain Injuries) can also commonly occur as a result of bone, joint or muscle overuse. For example, if you write or type on a regular basis without taking breaks, you may develop conditions known as carpal tunnel or tendinitis. These can be severely painful and debilitating conditions if left untreated.

The best course of action that Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends to treat these types of injuries is, of course, rest – meaning no writing, typing or playing any contact sports until you are fully healed. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends the use of a bandage. Wearing a bandage regularly will help to protect (and better support) your bones, joints and muscles, and will prevent injuries from occurring in the future.

More on bone, joint and muscle health can be found by following Dr. Ali Ghahary on Instagram and Twitter!

Blood Transfusions: Who Needs Them and Why?

Dr. Ali Ghahary - Blood TransfusionsBlood is a vital part of the human body. It is responsible for the transportation, protection and regulation of different substances; from supplying the body with essential substances and nutrients such as oxygen, sugar and hormones, as well as the removal of waste, in addition to acting as a clotting agent. Without it, our bodies would not be able to properly function.

A large percentage of Canadians have required blood transfusions, and many hospitalized Canadians need blood transfusions every day. Canada has one of the safest blood systems in the world. To ensure that blood donation is safe for the intended recipient, the Canadian Blood Services requires that donors meet certain criteria prior to making their donation. This criteria includes being over the age of 17, meeting certain height and weight requirements, as well as having good overall health. However, it is also important to note that not everyone is eligible to donate blood. To find out whether or not you are eligible, the Canadian Blood Services has a list of the ABC’s of Eligibility on their website at blood.ca.

A blood transfusion can be necessary for a number of reasons, with the most common one being anemia. Anemia can be caused as a result of a severe injury (i.e. from a traumatic event such as a car accident), being iron deficient, having kidney disease, liver disease, having an infection or infections that stop the blood from producing properly, and even certain cancers that cause the blood cells to produce at a decreased rate, such as lymphoma or leukemia. A patient may also require a blood transfusion after surgery due to blood loss.

There are certain risks and complications that can occur as a result of giving blood. For those who are donors, it is not uncommon to notice some local bruising around the area in which the needle was placed. Typically this bruising will go away on its own after a few days. If you are having localized pain, over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen can provide you with some relief. It’s also not uncommon to feel faint/lightheaded after donating blood. To avoid fainting, you will be asked to stay at the blood donor clinic for at least 15 minutes before you are allowed to leave, and may also be asked to eat a light snack. It’s also important to drink additional fluids (at least 16 oz.) for up to 2 days after donating blood.

Similarly, blood recipients are also faced with complications and risks – including allergic reactions, fever, iron overload, and a rare but serious condition known as acute immune hemolytic reaction that causes your body to attack new red blood cells and produce substances that are harmful to your kidneys. When receiving blood, your doctor has weighed the risks and benefits.

If you have any further questions about blood donation, Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends contacting the Canadian Blood Services by calling 1-888-2-DONATE.