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Halloween Allergies

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Oct 30th, 2013

Halloween is a tricky time of year for families with children who have food allergies. About one percent of all children has a peanut allergy, so it’s very likely you’ll hand out candy to a child with a peanut allergy.

Allergist Dr. Joel Doctor says these families need to be prepared and have a plan. He suggests the child have a good meal before they head out to ensure the child does not eat any candy before an adult has checked it over. The parent should go through all candy as soon as the child returns home, and the child can trade any questionable candy with a sibling or friend. Also, these children need to be carrying an epinephrine auto injector, an Epipen or Allerject, with them at all times. They should also know when to use the injector. Ideally, this should be determined with your health care professional before Halloween, but the general guideline is if the child having an allergic reaction has any respiratory difficulty, the injector should be used without hesitation. Also, if it unclear whether the child is having trouble breathing during their reaction, it is safer to use the injector rather than withhold it. Epinephrine is very well tolerated in kids so it is not dangerous if given prematurely, and it will inevitably make the child feel better.

Children with a peanut allergy and asthma need to take extra precautions. And there are many of these children because these two conditions are genetically linked. Dr. Doctor says these kids should have their asthma well controlled before Halloween. Firstly, they don’t want their asthma interfering when they’re running around in the cold air, also if the child’s asthma is not well controlled they’re more likely to have a more severe allergic reaction.

Dr. Doctor is also encouraging all families to hand out nut free candy. He says keeping these kids safe is a community responsibility.

For more information on severe food allergy visit Anaphylaxis Canada’s website.

Psoriasis Awareness Month

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, Oct 28th, 2013

Psoriasis affects approximately one million Canadians. And this skin disease can severely affect their quality of life. That’s because psoriasis causes itchy, scaly, red patches on the skin and many people with these plaques as they’re called, don’t want to be seen in public when their skin is flaring.

But Canadian actor Jim Annan who suffers from psoriasis wants people to understand they don’t have to live this way. For Psoriasis Awareness Month, Jim is telling his story. He was diagnosed with psoriasis at the age of 20 when he was just starting theatre school. He says it was devastating. As an actor, he would decline auditions because he felt his skin was just too bad and didn’t want anyone to see it. As a father of young children, there were times he wouldn’t take his son to swimming lessons if his skin was bad.

But then Jim decided he’d had enough. He educated himself and found a good dermatologist and came up with a tailored treatment plan. His condition is now under control and he wants to help.

Dermatologist Dr. Andrei Metelitsa says there is no reason for psoriasis patients to live with itchy, scaly skin. He says there are so many treatment options now from creams, light therapy, medications and biologics that doctors are now looking for a 95 to 100 percent clearance rate.

It’s just a matter of patients taking control of their disease and finding the treatment that works for them. There is no cure for psoriasis and it is a life-long disease, but there are ways now to control the disease and live a normal life.

For more information visit:

Living Well with Psoriasis

The Canadian Psoriasis Network

Canadian Skin Patient Alliance

Aging Eyes

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Oct 23rd, 2013

Have you started squinting while looking at your phone? What about holding the menu away from you in a dimly lit restaurant?

For Eye Health month I spoke with Optometrist Farrah Sunderji who says this is one of the first signs of aging in the eyes called Presbyopia. It’s an inability to focus on small objects or words up close. She says it starts in the early to mid 40s and the best treatment is usually glasses.

Other early aging eye problems include floaters. Floaters are spots or “cobwebs” that seem to float across your vision. Sunderji says this another common eye issue as we age. She says see your optometrist about your floaters, but if you’re floaters are accompanied by flashing lights, this is a medical emergency and you need to see an optometrist right away because it could be a torn or detached retina.

Tearing or watery eyes is another common aging eye problem that usually occurs in menopausal women. This issue could be an eye infection, dry eyes or a blocked tear duct.

Drooping eyelids is another problem that is not just cosmetic. Sunderji says this loss of elasticity in the skin surrounding the eye can affect your vision. Your optometrist can determine if you’re a candidate for surgery.

Now these are just eye problems, aging can also lead to more serious eye diseases. These include:

– cataracts – a clouding of the eye’s lens that can be cured with surgery

– glaucoma – increased pressure in the eye that leads to vision loss

– age-related macular degeneration – the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Canadians over 50

– other retinal disoders

Sunderji says the best way to protect our vision and avoid these eye diseases as we age is to visit your optometrist annually. She also recommends practicing the 20-20-20 rule…. looking away from your electronic device every 20 minutes, 20 feet away for 20 seconds. A healthy diet and regular exercise will also protect your vision over the long term.

For more information visit the Canadian Association of Optometrists public information website.


Breakfast Television unveils its new mobile app

Winston Sih | posted Tuesday, Oct 22nd, 2013

For years, you’ve called Breakfast Television Canada’s number-one morning show, and now we have a brand new way for you to wake up with us.

The new Breakfast Television app for iPhone is free and available to all iOS devices through the App Store, and boasts a stunning, easy-to-use interface with the features you need to get your day started.

Among the features include video on demand, a live stream of the broadcast, a full seven-day weather forecast, and a social stream so you can stay connected to us while on the go.

The app’s built-in alarm clock will let you wake up with the voices of your favourite BT personalities, as well as easily watch a high-quality, full-screen video stream of Breakfast Television.

Download the app here, and watch the video as Breakfast Television digital media correspondent Winston Sih gives you an in-depth tour!

Flu Shot Day!!

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, Oct 21st, 2013

It’s that time of year again! Time to get your flu shot. Alberta Health Services is providing the influenza immunization for free for anyone in Alberta six months of age and older.

So why should we get it?? It’s the best way to protect yourself from influenza. And let’s remember, influenza is not just a cold or the stomach flu it is a very serious respiratory illness that will come on quickly and cause you to run a high fever, have a cough, runny nose, fatigue and lots of aches and pains. And, these symptoms can last for weeks!!

Here are the stats: influenza causes 20 thousand hospitalizations and four thousand deaths in Canada each year.

And Acute Care Physician Dr. Raj Bhardwaj says it’s important to get the shot even if you’re healthy. Yes, it will reduce the severity of your symptoms and will reduce the length of your illness, but it will also protect those around you. So if you have young children, if you have older parents, if  there’s a pregnant woman at work… you do not want to be passing on the flu to these people. Those who are immune compromised or elderly are most vulnerable to influenza.

Pregnant women should also seriously consider getting the flu shot. It prevents them from getting influenza but they will also pass on immunity to their unborn child.

And what about this idea that you can get the flu from getting the flu shot?? Dr. Bhardwaj says this is a very common misconception, but it’s not possible. The influenza vaccine is made up of chopped up, dead virus he explains so it’s impossible to get the flu from the shot. What often happens however is people contract the flu just before getting their shot and then blame the vaccine.  In fact, you can be contagious and have the virus in your system for a couple of days before you start to show symptoms.

There are two options this year: the flu shot or needle and the nasal spray. The nasal spray will be offered to children ages 2 to 17, but if you’re afraid of needles you can certainly talk to your public health nurse about getting the spray yourself.

For more influenza information and for where you can get your vaccination visit the Alberta Health Services website.



Cold vs Flu

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Oct 10th, 2013

It’s cold and flu season. But what really is a cold, or a flu? Many of us don’t know the difference. It’s easy to get them confused because they’re both caused by viruses and they both cause respiratory illness.

But according to Acute Care Physician Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a cold takes days to come on and with influenza or the flu, you’ll feel fine at 8am and by noon you’ll be crawling into bed because you feel so horrible.

Yes, both will cause runny noses and coughs and will make you feel achey. But with influenza, you’ll feel much worse. Usually with influencza you’ll likely run a high fever so you’ll feel that every pore in your body hurts. And influenza symptoms can linger for weeks, a cold will usually run it’s course in 10 days. Also, severe complications are rare after a cold. But with influenza, symptoms can worsen to pneumonia, bacterial infections, hospitalizations and even death.

So, how best to treat a cold or flu? Dr. Bhardwaj recommends rest and chicken soup. And he says REAL rest. Not cleaning the house and catching up on laundry. He means lying in bed. Dr. Bhardwaj does not recommend cold and flu medications. He says there’s no evidence they work beyond the common medications in them, like acetominophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Dr. Bhardwaj says if you’re going to take something, take either acetominophen or ibuprofen to reduce your fever and help with the pain. He says use honey to soothe your sore throat.

As for seeing a doctor, Dr. Bhardwaj says go if you’re doing all the right things… resting and eating chicken soup but you’re not getting better. He says you may also consider going if symptoms are lingering longer than you expect they should. But remember, both a cold and influenza are viral infections that do not respond to antibiotics. So don’t expect to get drugs if you go to your doctor.

Your best defence is to get your flu shot (available October 21), stay healthy with plenty of rest, good food and exercise.

And of course – wash your hands!!!!

For more information visit the Alberta Health Services Influenza website. And watch BT on October 21st for more information about influenza and where and why you should get your shot this year!!



Compassionate Beauty

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Oct 8th, 2013

On average, 65 Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. But more and more women are surviving the disease.

For Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to tell you about a very special place in Calgary where these survivors can go to feel beautiful, supported and comforted. It’s an oncology spa and boutique called Compassionate Beauty.

Founder Saundra Shapiro says they meet clients where they are on their cancer journey. So if they’re going in for surgery, they help clients with what they might want to wear in the hospital, after surgery they have breast forms, if they’re having chemotherapy they have a wide range of wigs, wiglets, hats and caps and once they’re on the road to recovery they have activewear and swimsuits so clients can start exercising again in clothes they feel comfortable in.

Compassionate Beauty is also a spa. And they understand their clients are immune compromised. So they offer dry pedicures and manicures. Their massage therapists specialize in oncology massage and lymphatic drainage that helps reduce swelling after surgery.

They also offer hair styling and eyebrow tatooing.

I spoke with Gwyn Amat a breast cancer survivor who still goes to Compassionate Beauty regularly. She says she went in with hair down her back, and left after a ‘loving head shave’ with several wigs and hats. She said, “I left skipping and and dancing,” that the experience “turned out to be a celebration.”

Now, there is a cost involved to all of this. But the government does have several programs that help cover certain costs, for breast forms for example. Third party insurance will also cover things like massage. And Gwyn recommends asking for gift certificates for Compassionate Beauty when people want to help.

For more information visit the Compassionate Beauty website.

Kids and Warts

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Oct 3rd, 2013

Warts are very common in children. In fact, they’re more common in kids than adults. But that doesn’t mean they’re ugly to look at and tricky to treat!

I spoke with Pediatrician Dr. Peter Nieman who says warts are indeed common and not a sign of poor hygiene or neglect in kids. Warts are caused by a virus, but doctors are not sure exactly why some kids get them and others don’t.

Dr. Nieman says there are many ways to treat warts but in his 30 years of experience, he says duct tape works. Yes, duct tape. Dr. Nieman says there is even some evidence to back this up! The idea is warts need to breathe, so by applying duct tape religiously to the wart over an extended period of time, you are effectively suffocating the wart. Dr. Nieman also says there are a couple of over the counter treatment options. The first is an acid, like Compound W, which mom or dad applies every night before bed. You can also get OTC freezing options that need to be regularly applied. Dr. Nieman says the key here is patience. Parents can expect to be using these treatments for two months before they see any results.

The other option is to do nothing. Doctors say most warts will evetually go away on their own. And I can say I witnessed this myself with my daughter. After trying an OTC acid for 6 weeks, I just gave up and decided to wait it out. We forgot about the warts, and sure enough a few months later I realized they had disappeared all on their own!

If the warts start to spread or the child or parent is stressed, certainly go see the doctor. The doctor may try more aggresive treatment options like a stronger acid, freezing or surgically removing the wart as a last resort. Your child may also be referred to a dermatologist.

Dr. Nieman says the best way to prevent warts in children is make sure their immune systems are as strong as possible. Good food, lots of rest and plenty of exercise.

For more information I liked the advice from the American Academy of Dermatology.

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