Saturday July 4, 2020



January 24

Use of Herbal Remedies Linked to Poor Asthma Control

Use of Herbal Remedies Linked to Poor Asthma Control



A cup of tea or herbal supplement may seem like just the trick to take the edge off asthma symptoms. But asthma suffers who trade their medications for herbal remedies are more likely to report a poorer quality of life and a slight increase in asthma symptoms, according to new research. 

Asthma affects approximately 18 million people in the U.S., with disproportionately higher rates in inner cities. Though there has long been anecdotal evidence of patients switching out their inhalers for herbal remedies, few studies have ever focused on the issue.

In a recent study, published in "Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology," doctors at Mount Sinai in New York City tracked 326 inner-city, minority, adult asthma patients for nearly three years. They found that the quarter of patients who reported using herbal remedies also reported using their prescribed inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) less. The study did not specify which types of herbs were being used. 

“But [the study] can’t explain which came first, using herbals or stopping medication, and why,” said Angkana Roy, M.D., lead author of the study and pediatric health fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

The study did find that patients who used herbal remedies (usually tea and herbs) were more likely to be concerned about the adverse effects of ICS and had more difficulty following a medication schedule. About one third stuck with their ICS, compared to nearly half of the non-herbal users.

“When people use these types of remedies as a complementary, they can maximize their health,” said Leonard Bielory, M.D., chair of American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Integrative Medicine Committee. “But when they use (them) as (an) alternative, it can be a problem.”

Dr. Bielory said that the findings in this study are just one piece of the puzzle -- a good starting point from which to look at how patients are using, and potentially misusing, complementary medicine.

The study, however, did not include a range of other commonly used practices, including yoga and prayer, and did not ask about financial ability to fill prescriptions.

“For both patients and doctors, the takeaway is communication,” said Dr. Roy “If patients have concerns about medication, they should bring that up with their physician, because their doctor may be able to allay their fears. And doctors should ask patients if they’re taking something else and find out why.”


January 21

Human Serum Sickness

 The use of foreign animal sera ("serum")  such as that used in the treatment of aplastic anemia of in organ transplantation commonly causes "serum sickness". The clinical and immunopathological findings in human serum sickness suggest that the principles of antigen-antibody interaction, complement activation, and resultant inflammatory response as seen in the previous animal studies are directly applicable to studies of patients with serum sickness. This was studied by Dr. Bielory and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health.

Medicine (Baltimore). 1988 Jan;67(1):40-57.

January 20

Winter warmth, allergy-safe that is

Keep the home fires burning -- safely

That's a lot of opportunity for sitting by the fire. Many of my latest columns have been created with the crackling of the flame in the background. As I was working on the "Cardiac Christmas" column, I learned something I had not previously been aware of: Potential health hazards are related to fireplaces.

"There are particles and toxic agents emitted by burning wood that, when inhaled, may cause shortness of breath or wheezing and possibly a life--threatening asthma attack," according to Dr. Leonard Bielory, director of the STARx Allergy and Asthma Center and Professor at Rutgers University, and Associate Member of the Rutgers University - Environmental Occupational Health Science Institute in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Wood smoke from fireplaces and wood--burning stoves contains fine particles so small several thousand could fit on the period of a sentence, yet they can reach into the lungs and harm heart function. The smoke also contains nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and other toxic compounds, all of which may cause various respiratory and cardiac problems. That was the bad news.

The good news is that we can enjoy a beautiful fire, but to ensure safety, comfort warmth and relaxation, it is up to us be sure the fireplace is well-maintained and we know how to properly operate it.

People with known respiratory conditions should not be too closely exposed to fires for too long, and adequate ventilation in the room will help offset smoke that is emitted. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends chimneys or wood stoves be inspected annually and cleaned, when deemed necessary, by a certified chimney specialist. I think it's more fun to call them chimney sweeps (picture Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins").

The need for a full cleaning is determined based on the number of fires you burn each year and the condition of the chimney. They will look for problems within the chimney and remove creosote and obstructions. It is recommended that you consider a professional certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Most experts recommend a cap be installed on top of the chimney to protect against debris and animals blocking the chimney. The area around the hearth should be kept clear of debris, decorations and any flammable material. Be sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working, and have a fire extinguisher handy.

When the fire is burning, leave the glass doors open to ensure the fire gets enough air to guarantee complete combustion and prevent creosote buildup. Keep the mesh screen closed to keep embers from jumping out. Never use flammable liquids to start a fire. Dry, seasoned hardwood is the best. Unfortunately, I just bought a cord, assuming it was seasoned. I was wrong. Learn from my mistake by looking for dark-colored cracked ends with cracks radiating from the center like bicycle spokes. The logs should be light, which indicates there is not a lot of moisture. When two logs are hit together they sound like the crack of a bat hitting a baseball. Peel the bark and be sure there is no green.

Dr. Bielory's RX for a cozy, safe fire:

Don't burn trash, colored or glossy paper.

Never leave a fire unattended.

Never close the damper when embers are still hot.

Dust and vacuum the area thoroughly after each use to remove fine particles.


January 19

Salty Spa

What's Up With the Salt Spa Craze?

When you picture a spa, visions of deep tissue massage and pampering pedicures most likely come to mind. But what if we told you that the hottest new treatment is all about sitting in salt? (Yes, salt!)

Salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, involves relaxing in a warm room coated with salt crystals, while breathing in salt-infused air. Proponents say the particles help ease respiratory and skin conditions, everything from asthma and allergies to psoriasis. Sallie Fraenkel with SpaFinder says the treatment is one of this year’s top trends, with spas continuing to pop up across the United States

“Everything old is new again, and salt therapy is a prime example of an ancient spa treatment that is making a resurgence,” she says.

Salt therapy first popped up overseas in Eastern Europe.

“Once upon a time, people in the Ukraine, for example, used to go below ground and breathe in salt caves to help all sorts of breathing disorders,” says Fraenkel.

Above ground, at places like The Spa At ARIA in Las Vegas, salt therapy rooms often fill up fast, even with people who just need some R&R.

“It’s very quiet in there, and we do have music piped in to some very therapeutic, relaxing chairs. I’ve had repeat guests come in and they say they come to our spa just because of the salt room,” says Michelle Wilkos, Director of Salon and Spa Operations.

Megan Gilley is one of those guests. Winter weather often makes it tough for her to breathe easy. She says her sessions have been a mind- and sinus- clearing experience.

“After I leave each session, I definitely feel like I have more energy. Throughout my sinuses, and with my skin, I do feel refreshed and almost moisturized afterwards. It’s definitely brought me relief.”

Dr. Leonard Bielory is with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. He says it is possible for salt to provide some short term relief. It’s used in everything from IV solutions to nasal washes.

“When you add salt to any object or any tissue, what you do is pull fluid out of the tissue into the area where the salt is. So if you inhale salt, the theory is that you will pull more fluid out and take the mucus that is blocking the airway and make it more liquidy.”

Dr. Bielory says it’s important to remember that salt therapy is not a medical treatment. There are no clinical studies on it in the United States, and no standards for how modern day spas are constructed. Still, he believes that it might help certain people…

“… so we need to define the population it would benefit, and we need to define what type of environment they need to be in.”

That’s because at certain concentrations, salt can actually irritate the eyes and airways. (FYI: Breathing in salty air is not the same as ingesting the stuff. Dr. Bielory says that it does not enter your bloodstream. )

As far as skin conditions, the American Academy of Dermatology doesn’t have a stance on salt spas. Experts say, talk to your doctor and weigh the risks and benefits before giving it a go. Also, educate yourself by asking the spa questions.

Megan heads to the salt spa whenever she needs a time out. She says her sessions are like a day at the beach…but without that sticky feeling!

“I wouldn’t say that you need to take a shower afterwards, just freshen up and you’re good to go!”

Source: GalTime

January 18

Stem cells for the Eye

Dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an as-yet untreatable eye disease that causes blindness in older adults, made headlines last year when Massachusetts-based biotech Advanced Cell Technology launched a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) trial for the disease, marking only the third hESC trial approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Now, two new trials are set to get underway—one also using hESCs and another that is turning to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), derived from adult skin cells. In addition to the hope the trials provide to the 10 or 15 percent of people older than 65 years affected by dry AMD, the parallel trials should allow scientists to compare the medical potential of the two stem cell types.

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Location: Springfield, NJ
Today's Date: July 04, 2020
Station Director: Leonard Bielory, M.D
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