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Picture of Health
Your daily dose of information on better living
More Arundel school kids getting whooping cough, officials say

The Anne Arundel County health department and school officials have notified residents that there has been an uptick this year in cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, particularly in school-aged children, and officials want those who are infected to stay home to stop its spread.

Pertussis is a contagious respiratory infection spread through contact with an infected person. It causes fever, runny nose and cough, which can become more severe and last up to 10 weeks. It can sound like a high-pitched "whoop."

The state requires young children to be immunized against pertussis – it's included in a vaccine along with tetanus and diphtheria. This year, the state began requiring seventh-graders to get a booster.

Arundel schools had about 1,000 students who were not immunized by the time school started but have since been vaccinated.

The county health department reported that there have been eight confirmed or suspected cases so far this year. There were 35 last year and 19 in 2013.

According...

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Acid reflux symptoms and treatment

Acid reflux is a common problem that many recognize from the heartburn it causes. But there are other less obvious symptoms too, according to Dr. Dana Sloane, an assistant chief of medical specialties in the division of gastroenterology for the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. President Barack Obama was diagnosed with the condition in December after complaining of a sore throat. Sloane said it is usually managed at home with medications and lifestyle changes.

What causes acid reflux and how common is it?

Acid reflux is a condition wherein stomach acid "refluxes," or travels backward, into the esophagus (swallowing tube). It is also known by the common term "GERD," meaning gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Acid reflux can cause significant symptoms, since stomach acid is quite strong. This acid can easily injure the lining of the esophagus, throat and even the upper airway.

Understanding a bit of anatomy can illustrate why reflux may occur. There is a muscle at the bottom of the...

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Sheppard Pratt president Sharfstein to retire in 2016

Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, president of Sheppard Pratt Health System, announced Thursday that he will retire.

Sharfstein, who was hired as vice president and medical director before taking over as president and CEO in 1992, said he would retire after three decades with the hospital and health system on July 1, 2016.

"It has been my privilege to lead this continuing reinvention of Sheppard Pratt with all of your help, and it has been quite a ride," he said in a statement to staff. "But, now it is time for new leadership."

Sharfstein has held several positions at the National Institute of Mental Health and is a former president of the American Psychiatric Association.

The Dartmouth College and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine graduate has taken stands on medical measures arising in the Maryland Legislature.

He supported legislation last year to make involuntary treatment of patients easier in the state, saying it lessens the burden on families desperate to help their loved ones.

In...

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How to get going when the going gets cold

Nutritionists from the University of Maryland Medical System regularly contribute a guest post to The Sun's Picture of Health (baltimoresun.com/pictureofhealth).

It's that time of year when everyone wants to resolve to lead a healthier, fit lifestyle, but it seems almost impossible to throw off the warm blankets to get out and do something about it. Here are some tips, for both adults and children, to help the whole family get up and out to enjoy some physical activity.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adults should perform a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate, physical activity each day. Fitting in that 30 minutes seems more reasonable during the warmer months, when outdoor activities are plentiful. Don't let the dark and gloomy cold get you down and keep you out of the game. By incorporating more activity into your day you can still be active while staying indoors. Taking the stairs whenever possible is a great way to increase indoor active time without a gym. If...

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Dental problems could be a sign of an eating disorder

People with eating disorders often mask their disease, making it hard for a primary physician to detect. But the dentist can see telltale signs, such as redness and ulcers, that patients can't hide. Dr. Gigi Meinecke, a practicing dentist and president of the Maryland Academy of General Dentistry, discusses how dentists can help treat people with eating disorders.

Why are dentists able to detect eating disorders?

It might surprise some people that a large number of diseases and conditions of the body have symptoms that can appear in the mouth. Some of these manifestations are disease-specific and help to raise a degree of suspicion in the alert practitioner. Eating disorders are among those conditions which present with very classic appearances on the teeth as well as the soft tissues inside the mouth.

Patients suffering from these disorders often attempt to keep their food-related problems a secret and will avoid their medical practitioner. It's not uncommon for the dentist to be the...

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Earlier, more severe flu season hits Maryland

It's shaping up to be a nasty flu season, with an earlier start and more severe cases, according to hospitals that have begun limiting visitors in an attempt to stem infections.

On Monday, Anne Arundel Medical Center became the latest to bar children and those who have mild flu symptoms, such as coughs and aches, from visiting other patients, citing a high volume of patients with influenza.

Sinai and Northwest hospitals, both part of the LifeBridge Health system, and Johns Hopkins Hospital are among the others that already had limited visitors. Still more are considering similar restrictions.

"Hospitals don't want people with respiratory illness visiting people who are sick," said Dr. Trish M. Perl, senior epidemiologist for Johns Hopkins Health System. "Our primary goal is the health of our patients, and we're really asking people not to visit. We're making sure we put signs up, and if we see you have symptoms, we're asking you to come back another day."

Health officials at the U.S....

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