heart health

4 Strange Symptoms Solved

August 10, 2012

Fast_ambulanceFor every warm, sunny summer week there’s always a stormy day.  And often the changing foliage and spike in temperatures can cause some unique injuries and illnesses.  This article will teach you the difference between seasonal allergies, and serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

Symptom 1: Itchy, Red Rashes on the Body

Summertime is all about spending time in the great outdoors!  Unfortunately, it is also the ideal time for hungry insects to get under our skin – literally!  While isolated red, itchy marks over the body can indicate insect bites, larger areas of redness on the skin can be a sign of an allergic reaction.  This is especially true if you’ve been exposed to a new lotion, perfume, sunscreen, and sometimes even carpeting.  If you think the symptoms you are experiencing could be a result of a new product or other exposure, be sure to take these steps:

  • Avoid additional exposure
  • Try a hydrocortisone cream to take care of any itchiness
  • If symptoms persist, try an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (commonly known as Benadryl)
  • Don’t scratch! It will only make your symptoms worse

Most importantly, head to the hospital if you notice any of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the throat/a closing sensation
  • Tongue swelling, voice changes or drooling

If you have spent any significant time outdoors around plants, you may notice a weeping rash – i.e. fluid is draining from the rash.  This could be poison ivy! In this scenario be sure to keep your hands clean and away from your eyes.  You may be contagious!  Oatmeal baths are a helpful way to quell symptoms of itchiness, but if the rash and/or redness persist, consult a doctor.

Symptom 2: Muscular Pain Resulting in Stiff or Achy Joints

Summer is often a time for people to get in shape and show off their beach bodies.  If you are one of the many that has beefed up their exercise routine to look and feel better, you may be experiencing increased muscle pain.

This pain could be an indication that your muscles are not being fed an adequate amount of oxygen.  It is extremely important to properly nourish and hydrate the body before physical activity. 

In addition to nutrition and hydration, be sure to listen to your body.  If you’re experiencing pain over a pro-longed period of time, you could have a pulled muscle.  To avoid this injury, be sure to stretch routinely before exercise.  Once the symptoms are already at play, use Ibuprofen as directed by your doctor for the pain.  Additionally, be sure to apply R.I.C.E:

  1. Rest – give your muscles a break after an intense workout
  2. Ice – apply a cold compress to aching muscles
  3. Compress – try wrapping ice in a towel and apply to your achy areas for about 20 minutes every 2 hours (as needed)
  4. Elevate – put your feet up and relax!  Elevation helps to minimize swelling

Achy muscle and joint pains unrelated to exercise could be a result of something more serious and should be seen by a doctor immediately.  In serious cases these pains can be a result of Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.

Symptom 3: Chest Pains, Shortness of Breath, Lightheadedness

If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath when participating in your daily summer activities, it is important to consider any family history of heart or lung conditions. If there is no family history, the discomfort could be the result of inflammation in the symptomatic area.  Take Ibuprofen as directed by a doctor, and if symptoms persist consult a professional.

For middle-aged people or smokers experiencing these symptoms, it could be a result of a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.  Serious symptoms that indicate the need for immediate hospital assistance include sweating, difficulty breathing, nausea, pain in the jaw, arms or back and an irregular heartbeat.  If these symptoms occur, be sure to consult a doctor immediately.

In higher temperatures, heat exhaustion is a very relevant concern.  Symptoms such as lightheadedness or extreme fatigue should be treated with immediate hydration, rest, and a lowering of the body temperature.  This can be accomplished by stepping indoors into the air conditioning, using a cool compress, and spraying your body with cool water.  If these symptoms persist, be sure to seek emergency medical attention.

Symptom 4: Abdominal Pain

Family BBQ’s are the best.  But sometimes, foods typical of potluck style dinners can contain ingredients such as mayonnaise, which require careful refrigeration (which we all know doesn’t always happen!).  If you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea after eating mayonnaise-based products, meats or other foods that have stayed out in the hot sun for too long, you may be a victim of food poisoning.

To relieve symptoms of abdominal pain, you can use over-the-counter bismuth subsalicylate (better known as “Pepto-Bismol”).  Be sure to only use this product with easy to digest foods and lots of water.  Soup broths, bread-based products and non-greasy foods are always good options.

Food poisoning should never last more than a day, so if these symptoms persist be sure to consult a doctor.

More Strange Conditions:

10 Bizarre Medical Conditions

Super Strange Phobias



This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.



How Do I Know If the Symptoms I’m Experiencing Are Normal?

October 06, 2011


  • "How many times is normal to get up at night and go to the bathroom?” 
  • “If I’m having trouble hearing the television, am I going to go deaf?” 
  • “Is it normal to forget where you parked your car - I’m only 40!”
  • “Is it ok if my mom is taking naps during the day, or should I be concerned? She did just retire.”


These are common questions that I get from patients as they get older. And it can be challenging to know the answers when you’re not a medical professional. Yet, it is important to be able to tell the difference between what is a normal part of aging versus a disease. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you should be having ten different medical problems. Yes, you will have some problems such as trouble reading fine print by the time you’re 40, but you’re not going to start having a life of aches and pains just because you’re older. 


I find there are two sorts of patients – those that come in whenever they have any change in a body function, have scoured the internet and now think they have a brain tumor; and then there are those folks who rarely ever come into the office with complaints because they attribute it to “I’m just getting old.” The reality is that it is often diseases that make getting old frustrating, not the normal changes associated with aging. As we get older, too often we are embarrassed to bring up concerns to our doctors, or even get advice for our aging parents. So people needlessly live with pain, depression, bladder problems, vision problems – all the time thinking that these are normal changes, when sometimes they are not!


So I’m here to help you get some more information as to when you should be concerned about that mole on your back, and when you should say that’s just a normal part of aging.  Take the quiz, and let’s see how you do.


More on Aging:

5 Stereotypes About Aging That Aren't True

How Do My Sleeping Habits Change as I Age?

How Does Aging Affect Driving Ability?

7 Ways to Keep Fit

August 22, 2011

Yoga Well, it’s almost the end of summer. I know some of you have been quite active – swimming, hiking, running. Others I’m sure keep saying they’ll wait for Labor Day to get back to the gym. Whichever best describes you, I have some tips to make being active your daily mantra.

Most of us are familiar with the numerous benefits of exercise and daily physical activity, but it can be challenging to find the time to work out regularly. You’ll be more successful by having the mindset of becoming more physically active rather than simply adding “exercise” to a long list of daily chores.

1. Do what you love.

Are you a dancer, runner, or perhaps a swimmer? Getting exercise by doing what you already love is a great way of incorporating physical activity into your life. Even if your favorite thing to do is play video games, there’s a way nowadays to make it active! You could play games that use motion sensor technology, allowing you to move while you play. Or pick dance titles that let you move.

If going to the gym is more your thing, find one that’s close to home, or, even better, within walking distance. You’re more likely to use that gym membership if it’s nearby. If you do have to drive there, don’t spend 20 minutes circling for a close parking spot. You’re there to work out, remember? Instead, park far away and walk all the way to the exercise machines. And don’t forget to bring your favorite music –it makes gym time much more fun!

2. Set realistic goals.

Getting some exercise, even if it’s not for the full hour you had hoped, is better than none.  Don’t let the perfect workout be the enemy of good. Go easy on yourself at first. No one, especially your doctor, is expecting you to run a marathon the first day. Even 30 minutes of activity broken up into three 10-minute segments throughout the day has a proven benefit. If you haven’t been active in a long time, try aiming for even 5-10 minutes of activity. Remember, slow and steady wins the race every time. Too often, people set lofty goals and then become frustrated when they can’t reach them.

When setting exercise goals, I often tell patients to decide whether you’re a morning gym person or an afternoon/evening type. Believe me - you know which one you are! Working out in the morning can give you energy for the whole day and keeps your metabolic rate up – but if you are a zombie before that morning coffee, it’s not going to work. Evening workouts after work can be perfect for folks who get a second wind after 5 pm.

3. Move while at work.

Again, this is where having the mind set of moving and being physically active can really help. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to speak with people rather than calling them or emailing them. Go old-school! In the age of online social networking, nothing beats old-fashioned, real face-time.

Stand, rather than sit, whenever you can. While waiting for those photocopies, do some stretches at the copier. Sure, it might look a little strange at first, but you might actually live longer! During your lunch hour, take a walk outside around the building.

4. Be active at home.

Exercise while watching your favorite TV show. Come on – is it really that hard to do a few pushups or sit-ups during commercial breaks? Try it!

5. Find a buddy or partner to exercise with you.

Nothing ensures success like having someone to motivate and push you on those days when you’d rather just be lazy or quit. Getting your kids involved in sports can also help them learn healthy habits early on and is a great bonding experience for everyone.

6. Take a vacation.

Yes, you read that right! Let the next vacation be one that incorporates some physical activity like hiking. Tour a new city by walking, jogging or biking. Sorry, Segway tours don’t count.

7. Keep a journal.

Keeping a record of your goals and accomplishments is one way to give yourself a pat on the back when you see how far you’ve come. It also helps to have those fitness goals written down somewhere. And if you really want to be bold - tell your friends your goals;  that way, they’ll be asking you about it every so often!

Being active isn’t meant to be painful. Many times, it can actually be fun. See how these tips can help improve your fitness level. The little changes you make to your lifestyle now can yield big results. Years from now, your body will thank you for it!


More Fitness Tips:

Walking to Lose Weight

Total Body Workout Routine

5 Office Exercise Tips


Photo Source: Thinkstock/Valueline

Resolutions need to be from the heart, and for the heart

January 11, 2010

Oh yes, 2010 has finally arrived. The start of a new decade!  Hard to believe that many of us were worried about the "Y2K" bug just a decade ago!  Does that really seem ten years ago? Where has that time gone? Before we know it, we will be writing about 2020.

 Just as in 2000, certain traditions prevail, including the esteemed tradition known as the New Years Resolution. I bet you have made one or two...and by this point, some of us have already broken those resolutions.

My good friend, Dr. Mehmet Oz, has discussed this issue as part of the "Ultimate 20," and believes that resolutions have the best success rate when they have a personal meaning.  Specifically, he believes that people do not simply follow through on their resolutions based on what they know alone (the "factual component"); instead, they require an emotional component for the greatest success rate. So what exactly comprises the "emotional component" for successfully obtaining a New Year's resolution?

For instance, let's say you are trying to focus on removing two "vices" from your lifestyle, specifically  smoking and unhealthy diets. Already, many of us know about the need to quit smoking or follow a healthy diet. Smoking has been linked in literature with lung cancer and increased mortality. Diseases such as hypertension and diabetes can result, in part, from an unhealthy diet that is high in salt and sugar. Surely the literature proclaims a need to change your lifestyle, but one is often left pondering the question- "what is in it for me besides some academic findings from literature?" And somebody always knows somebody who smokes and seems fine.

The answer is simple- other people are depending on you and your attainment of these New Year Resolutions! When you know a spouse, dear friend, or significant other wants you to quit smoking and improve your diet, this strikes at your emotions. You certainly don't want to let them down; of course they believe in you and they will certainly be there for support! So this embodies the "emotional support." Facts are good to know, but they do not always have a personal touch!

But of course, training for this lifestyle modification will not be easy. In light of this challenge, Dr. Oz mentions that the pathway to better health is similar to a marathon. If you are aiming for a successful completion- you need to keep on a constant training regimen. You cannot start one day and then stop a few days later.  Of course, similar to an exercise program, if you have someone who is ready to "practice" with you on that "marathon" to fulfill your New Year's resolution, it makes achieving and maintaining your goals all that much easier.

So, when feeling that your New Year's resolutions are somehow unobtainable, think of Dr. Oz and his philosophy. Don't just think of only yourself, think of the benefits you will give for others!  Think of the way that achieving your goals will help both you and your special team of support! Here's to a great 2010 for all of you and to making sure that you both accomplish your New Year's resolutions and maintain them going forward!

Sleep—Too Much of a Good Thing?

January 08, 2010

I realize that everyone is talking this month about the need to get more sleep. With the
holiday season over and busy work days back upon us, we are flooded with messages
urging us to get sleep despite the numerous time constraints of our daily lives. And I
have even written in the past to sleep better.

It is true that too little sleep is bad for your health – it can cause a heart attack, it can
make you gain weight, as well as increase your risk for cancer and even make you die
prematurely. But what about the flip slide – is it possible to get too much sleep? And
what counts as “too much”?

A recent article in the Journal of Sleep Research looked at the association between the
number of hours we sleep and the possible health risks. After looking at the results from
over 20 other research studies, researchers discovered that adults who sleep on average
more than 9 hours per night experienced more health problems such as obesity and stroke
than those who got a restful 7-8 hours. Some scientists believe that too much sleep is
actually more dangerous to our health than too little sleep.

Now I’m not talking about those of us try to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends, trying
to make up for the nights we sleep too little. (And I might point out there’s no such thing
as “catching up on sleep.”!) The exact mechanism for the increased health problems is
not known but some think longer sleep leads to less exposure to daylight, as well as lower
levels of beneficial stress. That’s right…some stress can be beneficial.

 I often find that when patients come in complaining of too much sleep that there is often
an underlying problem. Often, they are depressed and don’t have an interest in getting
out of bed. Depression is often under-diagnosed and too much sleep can be an early sign.
Luckily there are good therapies – both with and without drugs to fight depression.
Others actually are equating the number of hours in bed with sleep, when in fact they are
getting too little sleep due to restlessness and sometimes chronic pain. And if you are
sleeping during the day, that could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.

I also want to point out that as we get older, we do not need more sleep. I can’t tell you
how many patients come in with elderly parents and complain they sleep all day. Well,
something is wrong there and should be evaluated. As we get older, the quality of our
sleep decreases but the total amount of sleep should stay the same --- 7-8 hours.

Like many of you, I do like to sleep! One of the reasons I did not go into surgery or
anesthesiology is that I don’t like to get up before 6 am! I do recognize, however, that
developing a good sleep regimen is important for good health. So like many others have
told you, establish a regular sleep time in the evening and wake-up time in the morning
and stick with it every day, including weekends. Sleeping longer on weekends actually
messes up our biologic clocks. It’s only natural that there are going to be days when you

sometimes get more, and sometimes get less. But aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and
you will do well! Like a lot of things, too much sleep isn’t good for you!

John J. Whyte, MD, MPH is the Chief Medical Expert & Vice President for Continuing Medical Education where he develops, designs and delivers health programming.








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