Entries in Exposure (6)


Immigrant Children Less Prone to Allergies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- America's obsession with antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer may not be such a good thing. Research shows that some exposure to germs is actually helpful.

A new study found that children born outside the U.S. develop fewer allergies than American-born children. The reason isn't that they have an inherent resistance to them. It may have to do, instead, with the hygiene hypothesis: Kids who spend some of their earliest years exposed to infections and germs seem to get fewer allergies.

"It would be expected that immigrants to the United States from developing countries, where infectious stimuli are more prevalent, would have a lower risk of allergic disease," noted the researchers.

It might also have to do with what foods those children eat and their lifestyles. Asian children living in Chinatown, for example, have lower rates of asthma than Asians outside of that neighborhood.

While the researchers don't have a definitive answer yet, the numbers are compelling.

More than 10 percent of American kids suffer from asthma, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, and one in five may have atopic dermatitis, a skin disease. Those numbers are high when compared to immigrant kids though. While just one in five foreign-born kids develop allergies, more than one in three U.S.-born children do. The discrepancy when it comes to asthma is even larger.

Mexican Americans born in the U.S. have significantly higher rates of asthma, for instance, than Mexican Americans born in Mexico.

Factors including socioeconomic status and ethnicity can play a role, but the researchers accounted for those factors and a strong correlation between being born outside the U.S. and fewer allergies.

That fact was further bolstered by the study's finding that foreign-born kids who spend just a couple of years in the U.S. are far less likely to develop allergies than foreign-born kids who live in the country for a decade or more.

However, this could also mean that the benefits of being born somewhere else don't necessarily provide a shield after so much time has elapsed.

"The odds of developing allergic disease dramatically increase after living in the United States for longer than 10 years," wrote the researchers. "This suggests that the protective effects of the hygiene hypothesis may not be lifelong and that subsequent exposure to allergens and other environmental factors may trigger atopic disease even later in life."

The idea that those kids might be eating healthier and living lifestyles more in line with their countries of origin gains traction when you consider that foreign-born kids with U.S.-born parents are more likely to get allergies than foreign-born kids whose parents are also born outside the country.

"Some cultures more commonly use spices, such as curcumin, and green tea that have anti-allergy and inflammatory properties," wrote the scientists.

Researchers aren't suggesting altering a child's diet solely based on his or her allergies or to let her aversion to baths flourish, and they're certainly not saying that if your child has allergies that you should've let them roll in grass more as a toddler. But some early exposure to irritants may be a good thing.

In other words, it's ok to put down the Lysol wipes. Exposure to a few germs -- a romp through a muddy field or a splash through a puddle, for example -- may help developing immune systems learn to successfully recognize and respond to germs.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Oklahoma Dentist's Patients Struggle to Cope with HIV, Hepatitis Scare

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TULSA, Oka.) -- Among the 7,000 patients who may have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis in an Oklahoma dentist's office are children, as their nervous parents wait to get them tested and grapple with how to explain the public health nightmare.

Deann Zavala took her four children to Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington, an oral surgeon who practices in Tulsa and Owasso. She said her youngest daughter had a tooth extracted.

"How do you look at her and be like, 'You could have AIDS?'" she told ABC News Radio.

The state dental board is offering free testing to Harrington's patients after a 17-count complaint revealed his allegedly poor sterilization practices could have put them at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B.

Patients received a letter from the Tulsa Health Department on Friday informing them of an inquiry into Harrington's practice and advising them to get screened.

Zavala, who said she trusted Harrington to care for her four children, was left shaken.

"If you can't trust a doctor and a dentist and ... the people that are supposed to do right by you ... who can you trust?" she said.

The dentist's alleged practices came to light after a patient who had no known risk factors other than receiving dental treatment in Harrington's office, tested positive for both HIV and hepatitis C.

After hearing about the infected patient on March 15, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise investigation of the dentist's practice on March 18, allegedly finding numerous sterilization and cross-contamination issues.

Harrington, who has been practicing for more than 30 years, may face criminal charges. The dentist voluntarily surrendered his state dental license and other permits, and a formal hearing before the dentistry board is scheduled for April 19.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FDA Takes Steps to Lower Kids’ Radiation Exposure

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In an effort to make sure that kids don’t get too much radiation during medical tests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed guidelines for manufacturers of medical imaging devices to make new equipment that takes children’s safety into account.

The agency is urging manufacturers to include instructions on how to safely use their devices in pediatric settings.  If device makers can’t prove their machines are safe and effective for use on children, they should warn against using them. The devices targeted by the FDA include those used for CT scans, X-rays (including dental), angiography and several others.

The guidance document, which will be opened for public comment on May 10, is part of a larger effort by the FDA, the medical imaging community and the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation during diagnostic testing.

“The FDA is especially worried about radiation exposure in younger patients,” said Jana Delfino, a biomedical engineer at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  “Children are more radiation sensitive, have a longer expected lifetime and most importantly, equipment that is optimized for adults may result in excessive radiation exposures.”

Because children will most likely live longer than adults, any radiation effects have a longer time to manifest themselves.

Among those effects, according to the American Cancer Society, are numerous types of cancer, including lung cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer and multiple myeloma.

Despite the potential dangers of radiation, the number of children who receive CT scans, one of the most common diagnostic tests, has increased exponentially.

A 2011 study found that the number of visits to pediatric emergency rooms that involved a CT scan between 1995 and 2008 increased from .33 to 1.65 million, a five-fold increase.

The FDA’s guidelines offer some suggested features manufacturers can add to their new devices to make them safer for children, such as preset control settings, procedures, labeling and protocol that can minimize exposure while producing acceptable-quality images and an interface that will remind device users about pediatric concerns.

After the guidance document is released, the public will be invited to comment.  The FDA will hold a public meeting on July 16 and after that, will issue a final guidance.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heat Overexposure: Know the Signs, How to Act

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Scorching temperatures in many areas over Memorial Day weekend sent several people to emergency rooms for heat overexposure. Baltimore, Laredo, Texas, Louisville, Ky., and Raleigh, N.C., all tied record high temperatures Monday -- and more heat is on the way.

Air conditioning and portable air conditioners can get expensive, so what are things you can do to avoid the heat? Can you recognize the signs of heat exhaustion? And would you know what to do if someone started to show symptoms of it?

Tips for Staying Cool This Summer

  • Be aware of the heat. Pay attention to it and modify your activities appropriately.
  • Pay attention to your hydration status, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
  • Try to stay in relatively cool areas, even when outside. Many public places such as libraries, shopping malls and movie theatres are air conditioned.
  • Avoid hot enclosed places, such as cars. Never leave children unattended in a car parked in the sun.
  • Use a fan, if available.
  • Stay on the lowest floor of your building.
  • Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Cover windows that receive a significant amount of sun with drapes or shades to help keep your house cool.
  • Weatherstripping and proper insulation will keep cool air inside your home.
  • Cool beverages are good for cooling down the body, while alcoholic drinks can impair the body's ability to regulate its temperature.

Signs of Heat Overexposure

  • Heavy sweating. But if heat stroke sets in, the body can no longer compensate and stops sweating.
  • Pale skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Altered mental status (confusion or disorientation)
  • Headache
  • Becoming semi-conscious, or passing out.
  • Nausea or vomiting

First Steps to take After Recognizing Heat-Induced Illness

  • Call 911.
  • Get the person out of the sun and into a cool area. An air-conditioned area is ideal, but moving someone into the shade will also help.
  • Apply water to help the person cool off.
  • Apply ice to the neck or armpits, where large blood vessels are close to the surface.
  • Remove any heavy clothing
  • Immerse the body in cool water, either at a swimming pool or in a bathtub.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fallout Fears: Potential Health Impact of the Japan Nuclear Crisis

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As workers hurry to cool the exposed fuel rods at the Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan's quake-battered Fukushima prefecture, health officials are screening evacuees from the 12-mile danger zone surrounding the plant for radiation.

Nineteen people have shown signs of radiation exposure following the two hydrogen blasts at the plant's No.1 and No. 3 reactor buildings.  And 141 more are feared to have been exposed while waiting for evacuation, including a group of 60 people removed by helicopter from a high school, according to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Although the health impact of radiation at low doses is controversial, the National Research Council maintains that no level of above what occurs naturally is safe.  Prior to the latest emergency at the Daiichi plant, radiation levels at the plant reached 3,130 microsieverts per hour -- roughly half the average annual dose in the U.S.

But even if a meltdown is avoided, the possibility of low-level radiation circulating in the air and contaminating the soil following the two steam-releasing explosions is very real, according to Dr. Janette Sherman, author and specialist in internal medicine and toxicology from Alexandria, Virginia.

"To assume that steam containing radioisotopes found in nuclear reactors is not going to have health effects, I think, is wishful thinking," Sherman said.

Those radioisotopes, such as iodine-131, strontium-90, and cesium-137, get taken in by the body.  As they decay, they give off energy in the form of gamma rays, beta rays that penetrate deep through tissues, and alpha rays that damage DNA.  Sherman likens them to harmful chemicals that settle in various tissues of the body.

"We know that radioactive iodine, which goes to the thyroid, can cause cancer and stunt children's growth," said Sherman, adding that exposure during pregnancy can damage the fetal brain.  "We know strontium-90 goes to bones and teeth and is linked to leukemia and immune dysfunction.  And we know cesium goes to soft tissues, like muscle and breast tissue.

The Japanese government has evacuated 184,670 residents from 10 towns in the 20-kilometer exclusion zone surrounding the plant -- a distance that Sherman said might not be sufficient.

"We know nuclear radiation [from Chernobyl] drifted as far as North America," Sherman said.

Drifting fallout could also contaminate food and water beyond the evacuation zone.

"They shouldn't eat or drink anything contaminated by cesium," Sherman said. "All food and drink have to come from outside the area."

The Japanese government has distributed 230,000 units of potassium iodide to evacuation centers bordering the danger zone as a precaution, in case radiation levels surge.  Potassium iodide can block radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid -- a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Radiation Exposure: Five Things You Need to Know

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images. Satellite view of Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.(NEW YORK) -- Evacuees in Fukushima grew more fearful Monday of radiation exposure as Japan experienced its second explosion at a nuclear power plant.

On Good Morning America Monday morning, ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser discussed some potential hazards of radiation.

Here are five facts to help you better understand radiation exposure:

1. Radiation can be found naturally and nearly everywhere in the environment.  Heat, light and microwaves all emit some form of radiation.  Uranium, thorium, and radium that emit radiation are found naturally in the earth's soil.  This type of exposure is generally not considered a health concern.

2. Our bodies are all exposed to small amounts of radiation.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80 percent of human exposure comes from natural sources and the remaining 20 percent comes from man-made radiation sources, mainly medical x-rays.  Overall, scientists do not find our everyday exposures harmful.

3. During a nuclear explosion, people are overexposed to high amounts of radiation over a short period of time and may develop acute radiation syndrome (ARS).  Within the first few hours of exposure, people with ARS may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin damage.  Over time, the radiation can damage a person's bone marrow and cause internal bleeding and infections.  Most people who do not recover from ARS will die within several months of exposure.

4. Local communities should have a plan in place in case of a radiation emergency.  Check with your town to learn more about its emergency preparedness plan and possible evacuation routes.

5. During a radiation emergency, such as fears of a nuclear plant explosion, you may be advised to create a "shelter in place."  This means you should stay inside your home or office, or perhaps another confined area indoors.  To keep your shelter in place effective, you should: close and lock all doors and windows; turn off fans, air conditioners, or any units that bring in air from outside; move to an inner room or basement; keep your radio tuned to the emergency response network or local news to find out further instructions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio