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Eye Health

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Oct 18th, 2016


For the DeRaaf family it was just another annual eye exam for the kids. But this year, they would be shocked by what they found. Optometrist Dr. Farrah Sunderji says she noticed Abby was having trouble doing the eye exam even though she was wearing glasses. And, there were no lenses that appeared to help. After looking at her retina photographs Dr. Sunderji knew there was something seriously wrong and referred Abby to a Pediatric Opthamologist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Turns out, Abby has a macular dystrophy that is progressive and for which there is no cure. Her brother Bryson has it as well. The diagnosis was devastating for the children and their family, but these days they’re moving forward. Their mother, Joel, says it was a “deer in the headlights” kind of feeling at first but these days the family is adjusting. While there are no glasses that will help the children see better, there are many low vision aids that are helping them live a more normal life. Smartphones and tablets are also incredibly helpful.

In the meantime, the DeRaaf family has become very passionate about encouraging all families to get their children’s eye examined. For Eye Health Month, she wants families to take advantage of the fact that all eye health exams in Alberta are covered by the province for children. She says you never know what you’re going to find.


For more information on what an eye exam is all about visit this website.

Getting Ready for Flu Season

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016


Hard to believe but flu season is already upon us. In fact, Calgary is a bit of a hot spot already for influenza activity in the province. I spoke with Medical Officer of Health Dr. Judy Macdonald who tells me for the month of September there have already been 18 lab confirmed cases in Calgary, 37 in the entire province.

But the good news is the public immunization clinics open in Calgary in just over a week an a half on Monday October 24th. And yes, the vaccine is still the best way to protect yourself from this serious illness. However, this year, there may be some confusion about what vaccine delivery method is best for the kids. This flu season, the United States has decided to move away from the nasal spray vaccine, saying it doesn’t work. But here in Canada, officials are sticking with the nasal spray. Dr. Macdonald says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada has reviewed the relevant data, including recent Canadian data which the Americans may not have considered, and says the nasal spray is still effective and safe. So this year in Calgary, when parents take their children to get immunized they will be offered both the nasal spray for children or the shot. The only difference is the nasal spray will not be touted as the preferred method to deliver the vaccine. Both options will be presented as equal.

Dr. Macdonald is encouraging everyone 6 months of age and older to get immunized against influenza. She reminds us that the flu is not a simple cold, it’s a serious infectious disease. Last year, there were 1600 lab confirmed cases of influenza, 62 of those people died. Influenza comes on suddenly with fever, runny nose and cough as well as debilitating body aches, fatigue and fever. These symptoms can last for weeks. Those people most at risk of developing complications from the flu include pregnant women, children under the age of 5, seniors and those with chronic illnesses or who are immune compromised. But the flu can be very difficult even for healthy people. Dr. Macdonald says the vaccine is free for everyone in the province. People can get the vaccine at one of the public health clinics across the province, some pharmacies and doctor’s offices will also be offering it.

Again, the public health immunization clinics open Monday October 24th. To find a location that’s right for you go here, to find out more information on influenza go here. 

New Digestion App

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2016


So many of us, myself included, have various problems with digestion whether it be true celiac disease, gluten or lactose intolerance or IBS. And there is a lot of evidence to suggest that digestive health is directly linked to your overall health, however, sorting out these problems with digestion can be really tricky.

But now, there’s a new app that can help that was developed right here in Calgary by University of Calgary and Mitacs researcher Justine Dowd and her team. It’s called My Healthy Gut and it’s based on the most current scientific evidence in this area.

Dowd says when people first download the app they get basic education on digestive health, then there are the top foods to eat if you’re gluten intolerant as well as supplement suggestions and a meal plan. The app also includes a diet tracker where people can enter what they’re eating and the corresponding symptoms. The app will then do a report for you which you can then go over with your health care provider or even use for your own information. There’s also an opportunity to look up foods that you might want to eat to see if they’re safe to consume.

The ultimate goal, says Dowd, is to help all people optimize their digestive health to improve their overall health and well being.

The app is available now on iTunes for IOS systems. You can also access the app through their website.