Dr. Walt’s Take on the Health Headlines – June 3, 2008

Here are my comments on some of today’s health headlines:

FDA Approves Spray-On Estrogen to Treat Menopause

The FDA has approved a form of spray-on estrogen called Evamist, which contains estrodial in ethanol.

Evamist is sprayed on the inside of a woman’s forearm, dries clear in one minute, and is said to be slowly released over a 24-hour period. Supposedly, it cannot be washed off and it won’t transfer to other people.

My Take? More and more experts are recommending transdermal over oral preparations for hormone replacement therapy in menopause. For those who dislike patches, gels, or emulsions, this story is good news. However, don’t expect it to be cheap.

Study: Bunk Beds Have Built-in Risks

According to this study in the journal Pedatrics, every year, bunk bed injuries require a trip to the emergency room for an estimated 36,000 kids aged 21 and younger – with children under 6 suffering nearly half of the injuries.

For those of you who’ve read my book, His Brain, Her Brain, you’ll not be surprised to learn that boys were more likely to suffer these injuries than girls.

My Take? It’s easy to forget the potential risks of items like bunk beds, especially when you or your kids want them. Like one of the experts says, “Think twice about buying bunk beds for high-energy children who love to jump and climb.” For these kids, trundle beds may be a better option.

But, if you decide on a bunk bed, the story recommends, “Discourage kids from playing on it, remove objects from around the bed, position it away from a ceiling fan or light fixture, and keep a nightlight on, so a child can see the ladder while getting down from the top bunk at night.”

Five lessons from ‘Young@Heart’ for us all

Here are the five lessons from this inspiring documentary for us all:

Refusing to buy a bleak view of aging is good for you.

Laugh, because it’s healing.

Old age is not a good time to be a hermit.

Mental workouts keep the mind limber.

People never outgrow their need for purpose.

Acupuncture helped with pain after neck surgery

In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I have a chapter on acupuncture in which I, and my co-author, Donal O’Mathuna, Ph.D., conclude:

Despite its limited effectiveness, acupuncture’s low cost and relative safety can make it a viable option for some conditions, such as pain relief after dental procedures and for the reduction of nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy or surgery.

Now comes a new indication we can add to our next edition of the book – a study showing acupuncture helps alleviate lingering pain and decreased shoulder mobility in people who have had surgery for head and neck cancer.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York studied 70 patients who were at least three months past their surgery and radiation treatments.

About half got standard treatments, which include physical therapy and treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs. The other half got standard treatment plus a weekly acupuncture session.

After four weeks, 39 percent of those who got acupuncture reported improvements in pain and mobility, compared with only 7 percent in people who got typical care.

My take? When it comes to acupuncture, use great caution when choosing a therapist, whether conventional or alternative. Verify that the therapist has had adequate training. Acupuncturists who are physicians may have actually had little training in acupuncture.

Those who adhere to acupuncture’s roots in traditional Chinese medicine and religion may try to convert patients to their Eastern world view, although this is not the case with every practitioner. Others may call upon spiritual powers to assist in treatments, thus exposing people to occult influences.

FDA: Time for Asthma Patients to Switch Inhalers

As I’ve reported previously, old-fashioned asthma inhalers that contain environment-harming chemicals will no longer be sold at year’s end — and the government is urging patients not to wait until the last minute to switch to newer alternatives.

My Take? Patients have been warned of the change for several years, but the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory Friday saying anyone still using CFC inhalers should ask their doctor about switching now.

There is a steep learning curve with the new inhalers which may taste and feel different. The spray may feel softer. Each must be primed and cleaned in a specific way to prevent clogs. And they tend to cost more.

Flat Soda Doesn’t Help Dehydration

Drinking flat soda or other carbonated beverages is no substitute for specially formulated rehydration drinks when it comes to treating a dehydrated child.

This new study shows there’s no scientific evidence to back up the notion that drinking soft drinks, flat or otherwise, helps treat child dehydration.

Furthermore, the researchers say parents should be discouraged from using sugar-laden soft drinks as a treatment and stick to oral rehydration solutions for mild cases of child dehydration.

My Take? This will change my practice. Oral rehydration solutions are beverages that contain the ideal balance of electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) and sugar for avoiding dehydration in people who are losing fluids because of diarrhea and vomiting. They are also called electrolyte solutions and are available in a wide variety of brand names and generic brands.

Online Pharmacies: Dangerous Prescription?

Why are so many people turning to the Internet for prescription drugs? More and more people are finding themselves without health insurance coverage, unable to afford the expensive drugs they need, and the Web appears to offer a cheaper alternative.

But, as this article explains, that can be dangerous to your health.

My Take? Avoid sites that don’t insist on a prescription. Only use licensed online pharmacies. Avoid sites based in foreign countries (such as Belize, Thailand or China).

Gallup Poll: Just 28 Percent of Americans Take Pro-Abortion Position

Here’s a poll that will shock the liberal media – but not the heartland.

A new Gallup poll finds just 28 percent of Americans take a pro-abortion position on the question of when abortions should be allowed.

Another 71 percent of Americans either want all abortions to be illegal or want them limited to certain rare circumstances.

Gallup asked the polling question on an annual basis and it found the abortion levels are holding steady in each of the three categories.

Most Americans typically say they want abortions allowed in cases to save the life of the mother, rape or incest, if the unborn child has life-ending physical problems, or other rare circumstances.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, those types of “hard cases” constitute less than two or three percent of all abortions annually.

In all other circumstances, most Americans say abortions shouldn’t be allowed.

My Take? It’s rarely morally permissible to kill an unborn human. Period.

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