The 411 on Ear Infections

January 12th, 2015  |  The Blog

Ear infections are all too common. Adults can get ear infections but children are the most common patients. When a child gets a cold, 2/3 of the time, they end up with an ear infection.

Why Do Children Get So Many Ear Infections?

Two-thirds of children who get an ear infection end up with an ear infection. Why?

  • The immature immune system of a child adds to the statistics
  • A tiny ear does not drain as well as an adult ear

Types of Ear Infections

General ear infection symptoms include:

  • Difficulty hearing
  • Fever
  • Drainage from the ear(s)
  • Dizziness
  • Nasal congestion

Babies additionally can get cranky, have trouble sleeping and often refuse to nurse or take a bottle because it hurts their ear(s) to swallow.

Swimmer’s Ear

This is an infection in the outer ear. Not all swimmer?s ear is the result of swimming. Any defect in the ear, whether from a cotton swab or the ear staying too wet for too long after a shower or bath, can cause it. Wet ears breed bacteria and bacteria breeds infection. It is a plain and simple fact.

Symptoms:

  • Ear is itchy
  • It hurts to touch the ear

Treatment:

  • Medicated ear-drops
  • Keep ear dry

Burst Eardrum

If the pressure in the eardrum builds up too much, the eardrum can rupture.

Symptoms

  • Yellow, brown or white fluid draining from the ear
  • Immediate pain relief because the pressure is resolved

A ruptured eardrum heals itself in a few weeks. This does not affect hearing unless it is a repeated occurrence.

Making the Diagnosis

An otoscope is a tiny flashlight with a magnifying lens attached. This piece of equipment allows a healthcare professional to visualize the inside of the ear.

  • Healthy eardrum = clear or pinkish gray color
  • Infected eardrum = red and swollen

Treatment Options for Recurrent or Stubborn Ear Infections

Antibiotics

Many physicians are reluctant to use antibiotics so as not to create the superbug. Some pediatricians suggest the wait and see philosophy because ear infections sometimes resolve on their own, since some are viral, not bacterial. Antibiotics do not treat viruses.

In some cases, antibiotics are the treatment of choice. This is when the ear infection is bacterial.

Ear Tubes

Small tubes are inserted through the eardrum(s) to drain fluid out of the middle ear. By relieving the pressure in the ear, pain and hearing issues can often be resolved.

Tubes are deliberately left in place for 8 to 18 months but often fall out of the ear on their own.

Tonsillectomy

Enlarged tonsils apply pressure on the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the throat. This pressure can cause recurrent ear infections.

Removing the tonsils can relieve the pressure and reduce the number of ear infections.

Pain Control

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, both non-prescription pain medications, are usually sufficient to control ear discomfort in both children and adults.

Also, warm, moist compresses to the outside of the ear can offer palliative relief.

Allergy Testing, if indicated

Some middle ear infections can be caused by allergies, which irritate the Eustachian tubes. Allergy testing can lead to determining if allergy medications or allergy shots are indicated. Once the allergies are under control, there can be less ear infections.

Chronic Ear Infections

Repeated and chronic ear infections can cause eardrum scarring. This, in turn, can lead to hearing loss and speech problems. It is important to seek professional healthcare when an ear infection is in question.

Preventive Measures

Since the common cold virus is the most likely cause of an ear infection, it is important to try and avoid such illnesses. What everyone can do:

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Be sure to get an annual flu shot
  • If possible, babies should be breastfed for at least 6 months to boost the immune system

Not all ear infections are preventable but the aforementioned precautions can certainly help to reduce the number.

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Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness

January 9th, 2015  |  The Blog

Alzheimer’s disease is a scary diagnosis. It is scary for the patient and for the family and/or caregivers. What does the future hold? How will this disease unfold? What can be done to deal with the symptoms and ramifications, medical, social and financial, moving forward?

Help!

There is a 65 years young gentleman trying to find the answers to the many questions and concerns that surround Alzheimer’s disease. This man was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and is out to educate the greater population, while he can still do it.

Here is his story in a snippet:

  • He was diagnosed at 60 years young.
  • His intellect, at 65, remains almost as intact as when he was diagnosed.
  • His speech and handwriting have become impaired in the recent past.

How will his disease evolve?

The Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, terminal brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, according to this man’s description. It is caused by an abnormal protein that causes the nerve cells in the brain to shrivel and die.

There is a nonprofit organization, Alzheimer’s Association, which keeps the statistics on the disease. This organization raises funds to conduct research and to provide care to those suffering from the dreaded disease.

This is what their numbers reveal:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older patients
  • Every 68 seconds, a new case of the disease is diagnosed in the US
  • Today, more than 200,000 Americans have a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Early onset Alzheimer’s is a diagnosis that affects patients younger than 65. It can even affect those in their 40′s and 50′s
  • About 4% of the total cases of the disease are diagnosed as early onset
  • A total of 5.2 million US residents have some element of the disease
  • The number of projected cases of Alzheimer’s disease is projected to grow to over 7 million by the year 2025
  • The average age for dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease is 73

These are scary and concerning numbers. Some experts in the filed have coined this disease an epidemic.

The number of case grows because as the general population lives longer, the statistics also grow.

This Man’s Mission

The aforementioned Alzheimer’s patient is on a mission to get people to talk and ask me hard questions. He has traveled through the academic world and into the realm of the disease, through no choice of his own.

As simple signs of the disease overtook this man’s daily life, he decided to seek medical attention. He started to forget if he locked his car, had a couple of minor motor vehicle accidents and missed an airline flight by an hour. What was happening to him?

After a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack was ruled out, the grim diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was handed to him.

Treatment for the Disease

There is no cure, yet, for Alzheimer’s disease. There is no magical treatment to prevent the onset of the disease. For now, there are only some drugs, which temporarily slow the symptoms of the disease.

A lesson is there to be had from this brave gentleman who is on a mission to educate the general population, while he can still do it. He states that he is scared and frustrated but wants the world to talk about the disease and try to move forward with research and on the quest to find a cure.

Working diligently, this gentleman is on a mission of awareness and fundraising to stop a disease that has rocked his world and those around him. While trying to keep it positive in a public forum, he still deals with the consequences of the disease everyday of shortened life expectancy.

We all need to take a voice in this disease. If nothing else, act upon any change noted in a friend or loved one. Intercept, don’t look the other way. This gentleman has started the discussion. Now, we all need to continue it.

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The Truth About Multivitamin Supplements

December 30th, 2014  |  The Blog

Eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep and take your daily multivitamin, right? Isn’t that what we all know to be the formula for staying healthy?

In my day, that was the advice that we all followed. Today, there is a growing case against the need to take a daily multivitamin.

The current thought or trend is that taking vitamin supplements can actually cause dreaded diseases, for which we are taking the multivitamin to avoid, like cancer.

Multivitamins By the Numbers

Interestingly, a vast number of Americans still do believe that taking daily vitamin supplements is crucial to good health. Here are some numeric facts about our vitamin-taking practices:

  • Americans spend $28 billion a year on vitamin supplements
  • 40% of Americans take daily multivitamins

What a Multivitamin Does NOT Do

According to recently published studies, multivitamins are not a miracle drug and do not:

  • Prevent premature death
  • Prevent heart disease
  • Prevent cancer
  • Hold off cognitive decline due to aging
  • Prevent a person whom has had a heart attack from having another one

It is important to note that excess amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin E can actually cause cancer. Too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, which can lead to coma and subsequent death.

Why Do We Take Them?

It is believed that most people feel that more of something is always better and most of our moms always gave us a daily multivitamin. So, if there are sufficient vitamins and minerals in the food that we eat, then taking supplements will be even better, right?

Better general nutrition and vitamin-fortified foods in current day society have helped to prevent many true vitamin deficiencies of the past.

True Vitamin Deficiencies

There are exceptions to these study findings. If someone has a vitamin deficiency, of course, supplements will help. They should only be taken at the advice of a healthcare professional.

One example of a vitamin deficiency is scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. In years past, citrus juice was used to treat people and then it was discovered that the reason it worked was the vitamin C content. Vitamin C supplements stepped into the treatment plan.

There are other vitamin deficiencies, which include:

  • Lack of vitamin D causes rickets, a condition with soft, weak bones
  • Lack of niacin causes pellagra, a condition leading to diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia
  • Lack of vitamin A causes blindness
  • Lack of folic acid causes spina bifida, which leads to incomplete closure of the neural tube

These are all potential deficiencies but less common than in years past.

It is important that pregnant women take sufficient folic acid and iodine in order to prevent birth defects. Folic acid is important to prevent neural defects like spina bifida and iodine is important for fetal brain development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Bottom Line

According to the aforementioned studies and an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people should stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements.

Everything in moderation. Life needs a balance. If a person eats a healthy diet, chances are that they do not need to take vitamin supplements. If they are not needed for a specifically diagnosed deficiency, they should not be taken.

The end decision should be made after a conversation between a patient and their primary care physician.

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A Unique Clostridium Difficile (C-diff) Treatment Option

December 22nd, 2014  |  The Blog

Clostridium difficile or C-diff is a serious GI infection, which about 500,000 Americans get every year. Of those half-million people, about 14,000 people die.

C-diff causes nausea, cramping and diarrhea that is debilitating to the patient. The treatment for this condition is usually a potent antibiotic (vancomycin and/or metronidazole) that not only kills the C-diff but also destroys the good gut bacteria. This leaves the patient susceptible to future flare-ups of C-diff infections.

Fecal Transplant

An alternative to the traditional antibiotic treatment is a fecal transfer. By giving an infected person stool from a healthy donor, balance can be restored in the gut.

As vile as it sounds, fecal implants work to treat and cure gut infections. They fecal transplants are delivered through an invasive colonoscopy.

New Treatment Approach

A newer, non-invasive treatment has been devised in which the fecal transplant is delivered through swallowing a poop pill. Healthy people?s poop, stool or solid waste is put into pills to treat others with serious GI issues.

The donor stool is usually from a relative. The stool is cleaned and processed in the lab to remove food particles and bacteria.

The processed stool is packed in triple-coated gel capsules. This prevents them from dissolving until the pills reach the intestines. The pills contain the good stool bugs, not actual poop.

The New Treatment Process

Here is how it works:

  • Patients take an antibiotic to kill C-diff for days leading up to the treatment
  • An enema is given on the morning of the fecal transfer treatment; this provides the newly introduced bacteria with a clean base from which to work
  • The patient takes 24 to 34 poop capsules in one visit, based on the amount of bacteria that needs treatment

The treatment pills are freshly made for each patient because, at this time, the gel capsules can start to dissolve at room temperature. They must be fresh and intact in order to be effective in treating C-diff.

The Effectiveness

According to infectious disease experts, this treatment is effective for patients who have suffered repeated C-diff infections and relapses. Many did not have a recurrence after undergoing the poop pill fecal transplant.

The potential for the future of fecal transfer is that it be used to treat other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.

This is an innovative and effective treatment for C-diff. It is worthy of discussion with a primary care physician and a qualified gastroenterologist. At that time, the benefits and risks can be discussed and the right decision for each individual will be made.

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Birth Control Pills (BCP) and Eye Issues

December 15th, 2014  |  The Blog

With there being 62 million women of childbearing age in the U.S., there are a lot of birth control pill prescriptions written each year. More than 27% of all contraceptive users are those who choose the birth control pill. Birth control pills (BCP) are a popular prescription.

Recently, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) presented research stating that women who took the pill for 3 or more years had double the risk of developing glaucoma, years later.

Glaucoma Facts

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can lead to blindness. This research finding set many women who had been taking the BCP into panic mode.

The average woman over 40 years old has a 2% chance of developing glaucoma in her lifetime. The AAO research findings elevate that risk to 4% if someone has been on BCP for 3 years or longer.

Interestingly, women who did not get their first menstrual period until after age 13 have an 11% increased risk of developing glaucoma, whether or not they choose to use the BCP for contraception in later years.

The African American female population has inherent risk factors for glaucoma so should discuss personal contraception choices with their physician. This advice also stands for those women who have a family history of glaucoma.

Other Factors in the Study

There were other factors stated in the study that could potentially increase a woman?s glaucoma risk. They include:

  • Income level
  • Pregnancy history
  • General health

The study did not compare risk factors based upon any specific dose of hormone therapy in the BCP taken by the participants. The information asked in the study was whether the woman took BCP for 3 or more years or not.

It is important to note that women who took BCP many years ago where likely given a higher dose of hormones per pill than is delivered in the newer formulations. Therefore, the risk of glaucoma could be dose induced because estrogen, a hormone in BCPs, is known to affect the eye?s optic nerve.

One More Study

There was another study conducted by the Brigham and Women?s Hospital in Boston, MA, which supports the increased risk for developing glaucoma for woman who take BCP for 5 years or longer. This study states that the risk is a higher 25% but that it decreases the longer a woman is off the BCP.

What Now?

The researchers in both groups state that there is much more research to be dome on the subject of glaucoma and the birth control pill. Stopping the BCP is not the recommended route for the short term. Unwanted pregnancy can result, which presents another myriad of issues, good and bad. It is important for every woman on taking the BCP to discuss concerns with her physician. It is also important to have regular and comprehensive eye examinations with a qualified ophthalmology specialist.

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Prostate Surgery versus Watchful Waiting

December 11th, 2014  |  The Blog

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, other than lung cancer. These are alarming statistics.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are 233,000 new cases annually in the U.S. That said, close to 30,000 American men will die from the disease in any given year.? These startling statistics translate into the fact that 0ne in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

The Good News

Despite the alarming prostate cancer statistics, most cases of prostate cancer are not terminal. There are at least 2.5 million living American men who carry a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Treatment Options, Specifically Surgery vs Watchful Waiting

According to a Swedish study, surgery to remove the prostate definitely saves lives versus watchful waiting. This is especially true in men whose prostate cancer is truly symptomatic.

That said, some physicians warn the public that immediate surgery is not always a necessary treatment option for prostate cancer, especially those diagnosed early with a slow-growing tumor.

What is watchful waiting? This option is when a man diagnosed with prostate cancer is not aggressively treated unless the disease progresses. The benefit of watchful waiting is to avoid the often-debilitating effects of surgery and/or radiation therapy, which include urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

The Current Recommendation

Cancer centers like Boston?s Dana-Faber routinely offer a version of watchful waiting called active surveillance. This involves monitoring the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels and a yearly prostate biopsy in men over 65 years old with early, non-aggressive prostate cancer that is not likely to be their cause of death. Some institutions are looking at dropping the active surveillance age to patients younger than 55 years old but the medical community is struggling with where the actual cut-off age should be.

Assessing whether the disease is life-threatening or not in each case is a difficult task. While active surveillance is targeted at the older affected male population, some younger men also wish to delay treatment, rather than undergoing aggressive cancer care. This is an individual and personal plan of care to treat a too common disease in the United States.

The ultimate goal of watchful waiting or active surveillance is to reduce over-treatment in men with low-risk prostate cancer while still working to control and obliterate the disease.

The bottom line recommendation derived by the study is two-fold:

  • Early prostate cancer usually takes decades to kill a patient
  • Prostate cancer treatment should be tailored to the patient?s life expectancy.

Therefore, patients with a life expectancy of about 20 years should consider more aggressive treatment than those with a shorter life expectancy.

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The Skinny on Belly Fat

December 3rd, 2014  |  The Blog

Belly fat is so annoying. It is not pretty and certainly not healthy. That said, it is also the toughest of fat collections to shed. Sometimes, a little explanation helps to decipher the code on how to get rid of some of the excess belly fat.

It is important to note that there is no single cause of belly fat. A combination of genetics, diet, age and lifestyle all contribute to the potential problem.

Who Has the Most Belly Fat?

Males have more belly fat than women. Women younger than 40 years old carry most of their body fat in the hips, thighs and buttocks. When estrogen levels drop, after 40 years old, most women’s body fat redistributes to the belly area.

Some Important Facts

Here is some important information about belly fat:

The Danger

Excess belly fat is unhealthier than fat that sits around the hips and thighs. Belly fat is associated with:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Colorectal cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Metabolic syndrome

Genetics determines some of a person’s body type, as do lifestyle choices, so most people have to work at keeping the belly fat to a minimum.

Food and Drinks

High-fat foods and high-caloric foods expand the waistline and contribute to belly fat.

Alcohol intake specifically targets a growing waistline. When alcohol is consumed, the liver works hard to burn off alcohol and, in turn, does not burn off fat. Alcohol intake also enhances the appetite. Both of these things contribute to a growing waistline.

The best way to eat and drink to reduce belly fat is:

  • Read food labels and know what you are eating
  • Reduce saturated fat intake and increase monosaturated fat intake
  • Reduce portion size
  • Avoid high-fat, high-calorie, super-sized fast food
  • Increase the amount of produce, fruit and vegetables, which you eat
  • Drink diet beverages, not regular soft drinks
  • Eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates

How to Fight Belly Fat

Food and Drink

  • Drink green tea. It contains catechins, which help the body burn calories and lose belly fat
  • Eat blueberries. They helped to reduce belly fat in rats, which offers promise for people
  • Eat a high-fiber diet
  • Eat whole grain foods, including air-popped popcorn
  • Include proteins like lean meat, fish, eggs and poultry as the foundation of a healthy and calorie-controlled diet

Exercise

Spot exercises strengthen the core but are not the solution to reduce belly fat. What works? Aerobic exercise, 30 to 60 minutes most days, is the best choice to reduce belly fat:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Tennis

The answer sounds simple but takes commitment: Eat healthy and exercise regularly to reduce belly fat.

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How Much Produce Should You Eat?

November 26th, 2014  |  The Blog

Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or green beans…vegetables come in all shapes, colors and textures. They are fresh from the field or flash frozen. They can be consumed cooked or raw. Vegetables are versatile.

Peaches, apples, grapes, bananas or pineapple…fruit also comes in all forms of sweetness or tartness. Fruit is most often consumed raw but is also cooked in many different recipe choices. Fruit can act as a snack, a dessert or an addition to a main course to vary the flavor and texture of the dish.

The Food Groups

There are five food groups to insure a balanced diet, which include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Protein (meat, poultry, fish, nuts)

Together, vegetables and fruit comprise 40% of the food group list. They are important components of a healthy diet.

How Much Produce Should You Consume?

The U.S government recommends that adults consume 5 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This recommendation has been challenged by a Harvard School of Public Health study, which finds that there are no additional health benefits if more than five servings are consumed a day.

The Facts

According to the Harvard study, each daily serving of fruit or vegetables a day lowers a person’s risk of dying from heart disease or cancer by 5% over a 25 year span. Do the math. Eating five servings of produce a day lowers the risk of dying by 25%.

The interesting fact is that eating six, seven, eight or more servings still only reduced the risk of dying by 25%.

The Benefits of Eating Vegetables and Fruit

Besides the wonderful flavors and textures of vegetables and fruit, there are many other benefits to being sure they are a regular part of a healthy diet. Some of the benefits include:

  • Reduce the risk of cancer
  • Reduce the risk of some chronic diseases
  • Provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber necessary for good health
  • Naturally low in calories
  • Low in fat
  • Satiate hunger because they are filling

Try This Calculation for Precise and Personalized Intake

The U.S. government has developed a nutrition calculator site where the person’s age, sex and level of activity are entered. The site calculates the daily amount of produce that each person should consume.

An Important Note

There is no downside or harm noted from eating the extra daily servings of produce, that is, more than 5 or 6 servings a day. So, pile on the spinach, tomatoes, blueberries and pineapple.

The overall picture of a healthy diet includes, not only fruit and vegetables, but also other diversified plant-based foods. These include foods like nuts, legumes and whole grains. Each of these choices adds an additional variety of nutrients.

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When Should You Call the Doctor?

November 17th, 2014  |  The Blog

There is never a totally wrong time to call a doctor but there are definitely times when it is imperative to call one. What might those it is time to call the doctor moments be?

These guidelines are important for everyone, adults and children, but especially essential for parents to keep in mind when and if their child complains about any concerning symptoms.

The it is time to call the doctor symptoms include:

Difficulty breathing

  • Anyone with difficulty breathing needs to be evaluated.
  • A child who has rapid breathing or whose abdomen is sucking in around the ribs needs to be seen immediately.
  • If the patient is also pale or weak, along with the dyspnea, this warrants a 911 call, not a simple visit to a doctor’s office.

Fainting

  • Fainting has many causes such as dehydration and sometimes just sheer fear. If someone does not resume consciousness quickly, a 911 call is warranted.
  • Any fainting should ultimately trigger a call to the doctor.

Severe allergic reaction

  • A severe allergic reaction often starts with hives. Sometimes there is facial or lip swelling and difficulty breathing.
  • An EpiPen should be administered to anyone with a diagnosed allergy for whom it is ordered by a doctor. It is an immediate 911 call if an EpiPen is administered.

Excessive sleepiness

  • Difficulty waking a child or more generalized sleepiness can indicate an illness or potential poisoning and should be evaluated.

Bad pain, regardless where it is

  • Pain can be a sore throat, an earache, a headache or arm/leg pain after falling.
  • A doctor should evaluate any pain that does not go away in a short period of time.

Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea

  • The source of persistent vomiting or diarrhea should be determined in case it is a serious problem.
  • Dehydration is also a great risk in this situation.

Burns

  • A blistered burn or one that looks black, indicating a severe injury, or white, indicating infection, should be seen by a doctor for the proper treatment.

High fever

  • A high fever with a child still acting generally okay is not as concerning as if a child stops eating and drinking, becomes listless and generally appears very ill.
  • If a fever over 102? F lasts more than one or two days, a visit to the doctor is advised.

Concussion

  • Not every bump on the head results in a concussion but if a patient becomes sleepy, confused or has trouble focusing on their usual activities, a concussion assessment should be done.

Bleeding

  • Unstoppable bleeding or a gaping, bleeding wound needs medical care.

The Guidelines

Pediatricians, especially, find themselves sometimes asking a parent why they waited so long to seek medical evaluation of their child. On the other hand, some parents repeatedly call the pediatrician and the physician wonders why a child was brought in for evaluation.

Key guidelines for calling a doctor include the specifics listed above but also some general thoughts listed below:

  • If what is happening is bad such as bad pain, bad bleeding or bad anything
  • If the symptom is not going away such as a lingering headache, a persistent rash, prolonged diarrhea or vomiting
  • If there is a gut feeling or instinct that something is wrong

So, there is no ultimately correct or wrong “time to call the doctor.” A level head should prevail in making an informed decision.

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Laughing Gas and Childbirth

November 12th, 2014  |  The Blog

Childbirth is approached with many different treatment options for the mother’s comfort. Some choose to go the natural route while others opt for an epidural spinal or, sometimes, pain medication. Read on to learn about another option.

There is a new, or actually renewed, treatment option to alleviate the discomfort of childbirth. As long ago as 1881, laughing gas was used in childbirth. In the 1930′s, using nitrous oxide during childbirth was fairly common. Shortly thereafter, options like twilight sleep, IV narcotics and epidural blocks stepped into the picture. These options were used for a long period of time during which nitrous oxide was no longer used. Everything old is new again even, sometimes, in medicine.

Laughing Gas and Childbirth

Laughing gas or nitrous oxide is currently and frequently used in countries, other than the U.S., during childbirth:

  • Canada, almost 50% of births
  • Australia, 50% of births
  • United Kingdom, 60% of births
  • Finland, 50% of births

Only 1% of U.S. hospitals have been using nitrous oxide during childbirth, according to a 2011 report. Currently, over 30 hospitals and birthing centers are offering or making plans and policies to offer laughing gas as a treatment option.

Nitrous Oxide Explained

What is nitrous oxide?

  • It is an odorless gas
  • It is a 50-50 mix of the gas and oxygen
  • It causes a dissociating effect in the brain that allows for less pain during childbirth

When can it be used?

  • It can be used at anytime during labor
  • It is self-administered through a mouthpiece as needed (Note: the nitrous oxide used in a dental office procedure s administered continuously) and easy to use
  • It is safe for the baby and the mother
  • At the start of a contraction, the patient inhales the gas so it has peak effect at the pinnacle of the pain; it wears off when the patient stops inhaling and is eliminated from the body in a few breaths

How does it feel?

  • The patient gets a little drowsy
  • It takes the edge off the pain but isn’t as much pain relief as an epidural
  • It reduces anxiety more than it delivering pain relief

What are the benefits?

  • It does not stop labor
  • It can be stopped or started at anytime

What are the side effects?

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness
  • Extreme drowsiness

Interesting fact

  • 35% to 40% of women who use nitrous oxide also get an epidural

Sometimes, just taking he edge of the pain off is enough to get a woman through labor and delivery of their baby. This innovative approach to childbirth is just what the doctor ordered.

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