April 13, 2009

Tips about TB

Posted: 04:33 PM ET

In Chicago, public health officials are offering tuberculosis testing to hundreds of people who may have been exposed by a doctor unaware she had the disease.


The good news, according to officials, is that preliminary testing shows the doctor has a form of TB that can be treated with antibiotics. Thus far, no one else has tested positive and the doctor is home recuperating after spending a few days in the hospital.
Ironically, the news out of Chicago came just a few weeks after the Centers for Disease Control, announced TB at its lowest rate since the government started keeping records in the early 1950s. In 2008, there were 12,898 new cases. That's down about 400 cases from 2007. So what are the facts about TB? Here are some answers.
1. How do you get TB? When someone with active TB coughs, speaks or even sings, TB bacteria can be released into the air. It can stay in the air for hours. If someone else breathes in the bacteria, it's called "TB exposure." After being exposed, people can get latent TB or active TB. Latent TB isn't contagious, while active TB is. Click here for more information.
2. What are the symptoms? If you have latent TB, you won't have any symptoms and you are not contagious. (Though you could develop active TB in the future.) If you have active TB, signs and symptoms include:
- Coughing that lasts three or more weeks
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue
- Fever
- Night sweats
- Chills
- Loss of appetite
3. How is it treated? If you have active TB disease, several different antibiotics will be prescribed to you. Click here for a list. Doctors say it will take at least six months to kill all the bacteria. Sometimes TB can be drug resistant. According to the CDC, treatment of drug-resistant TB requires taking a "cocktail" of at least four drugs, for 18 months to two years or longer. Even with treatment, many people with these types of TB may not survive. If treatment is successful, you may need surgery to remove areas of persistent infection or repair lung damage.

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Filed under: Health • Jennifer Pifer-Bixler

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March 31, 2009

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: What you need to know

Posted: 06:20 PM ET

The people of Fargo, North Dakota, can’t seem to catch a break. Just as the threat of flooding began to recede, a massive snowstorm started pounding the area. Meteorologists say Fargo could have as much as 16 inches of snow over the next few days. Two people have died and 50 other people have been injured thus far. Officials say most of the injuries are the result of car accidents, but there have also been other problems, including carbon monoxide poisoning.

With the situation in Fargo, it seems like a good time to remind folks of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. When the power goes out and people use alternative sources to heat their homes, it can lead to some huge problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 400 people die each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. What’s so tricky about carbon monoxide poisoning is that it’s often hard to detect. That’s why it’s called “the silent killer.” So here are some things you need to keep in mind to protect your family.

1. Carbon monoxide can kill In a matter of minutes According to the Environmental Protection Agency you can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide. It is produced whenever gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned in an area that is not properly ventilated. The elderly and young children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

2. What are the symptoms? According to, the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

3. How can I avoid CO poisoning? The CDC  suggests the following:
• Never use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
• Never leave the motor running in your car while it’s in the garage or another enclosed space.
• Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Health • Jennifer Pifer-Bixler

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March 24, 2009

Blacks and Heart Health

Posted: 08:02 AM ET

Last week, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine caught my eye. Researchers found that black adults developed heart failure at a rate 20 times higher than their white counterparts.

That means a 35-year-old black person has the same heart failure rate as a 55-year-old white person. So what's going on? Researchers say there are a variety of reasons for the disparity, ranging from family history and genetics to the high rates of obesity in the African American community.

As doctors told my colleague Shahreen Abedin, this study should be a wakeup call to the African American community. If you are worried about your heart health, the Association of Black Cardiologists suggests you should take the following steps:

1. See the doctor If you don't already have a doctor, find one. He or she can help you come up with an exercise program and diet that's right for you. If you need help finding a heart doctor, the Association of Black Cardiologists has resources to help.

2. Check your cholesterol levels Have your total cholesterol level checked, including HDL-C and triglycerides, at least every five years, or more frequently if your results are not within normal limits.

3. Eat healthy food  Eating the right foods and the right amounts can help you live a longer, healthier life. For a heart-healthy diet, eat a variety of foods, including: vegetables, especially dark-green leafy and deep yellow vegetables, like spinach and carrots, lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.  To read more about the best foods for your heart, click here.

4. Get moving! Aim for at least moderate activity – such as brisk walking, raking leaves or house cleaning – for 30 minutes most days of the week. Before you start exercising or start a new diet talk to your doctor.

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Filed under: Health • Jennifer Pifer-Bixler

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March 19, 2009

Shopping for health insurance as you get older

Posted: 02:48 PM ET

When I graduated from college, my father had just a few words of wisdom: get a job with good health insurance. Over the years - and my many jobs - I have followed my dad's advice. My jobs have always provided health insurance. But millions of Americans are not so lucky. They have to buy their own insurance, which sometimes can be very expensive. We asked experts to give advice for insurance-shopping when you're in your thirties, forties, and fifties.


In your thirties, you might be tempted not to go without insurance, since you're probably not sick very often. But according to the experts we spoke with, if you are in your 30s, you should at least have insurance to cover the big things, like an accident that lands you in the hospital. But make sure you read the fine print. This means coverage for more than just a hospital stay or an emergency room visit. You need coverage on ambulatory care and prescriptions in case you need medication related to your catastrophic illness.

1. Catastrophic insurance  Another reason to get health insurance while you're young and healthy: if you buy now, experts tell us that health insurers can't drop you if when you're old and sick. . Your rates will likely go up (possibly way up) as you age, but at least you'll have insurance. As you get older, and develop more conditions, insurance companies might not insure you at all.


2. Consider starting a Health Savings Account As you make your way into your forties, you may be earning enough money to sock some away in a Health Savings Account. This allows you to save tax free for spending on health care for the rest of your life. To learn more, click here.

Another tip in your forties: if you haven't bought health insurance by now, do so before your fiftieth birthday. Once you hit the big 5-0-, your rates go way up.


3.  Make sure your plan covers prescriptions and screenings As you get into your fifties, you are more likely to need prescription drugs.  Experts say make sure you insurance plan covers medicines.  Also, make sure it covers preventative screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies.  If you are interested in comparing health care plans, experts say is a good place to start.

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Filed under: Economy • Finance • Health

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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!