• Is Sleep Apnea Making You a

    Morning Zombie?

    Do you wake up feeling like a zombie? Do you have trouble keeping your eyes open at work or school, or even while driving? You might be one of the 12 million-plus Americans feeling the effects of a disorder known as sleep apnea. Even though you may be getting to bed at a reasonable hour and assuming you’re getting a normal night’s sleep, sleep apnea can subtly interrupt the quality of your sleep, making you feel tired and lethargic in the morning. Sleep apnea has many other affects on the body, but this is certainly one of the most recognizable symptoms of a disorder you may not even be aware you have.

    Serious Consequences of Sleep Apnea

    Most people don’t know they have obstructive sleep apnea, usually caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses when sleeping, says Patrick J. Strollo, Jr., MD, medical director of the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center. That leads to a drop in oxygen levels, prompting the brain to send a surge of adrenalin signaling the person to wake and take a deep breath. That kick-start also leads to a spike in blood pressure.

    According to the National Institutes of Health, this common disorder causes breathing pauses while you sleep. These pauses can last a few seconds, or even minutes — as often as 30 times, or more, an hour.

    “It’s a burden on the cardiovascular system and affects the quality of your rest,” says Dr. Strollo. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems and even cause deadly accidents.

    10 Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea

    Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but it is a major clue. Since sleep apnea only occurs during sleep, a family member or bed partner might be the first to notice.

    Common signs and symptoms include:

    • Loud and chronic snoring — sometimes with pauses.
    • Choking or gasping following pauses
    • Feeling tired or sleepy, even after sleeping all night
    • Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
    • Daytime sleepiness, or lack of energy
    • Morning headaches
    • Restless sleep, waking up during the night, or insomnia
    • Trouble concentrating or problems with learning and memory
    • Depression and irritability
    • Sexual dysfunction

    Consult your primary care physician or family doctor if you’ve experienced any of these symptoms. If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences on your waking life and your health. For more information, visit the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center online or call 412-692-2880.

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  • What You Need to Know About

    Ebola

    Updated 10/24/2014

    On Oct. 23, 2014, Craig Spencer, MD, became the first person in New York City to test positive for Ebola. Spencer recently returned from Guinea where he treated those afflicted with the Ebola virus. He is currently in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. Three people who were confirmed to have been in contact with Spencer are also isolated for observation. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were sent to NYC on Thursday and will confirm the test results.

    On the worldwide stage, the European Union (EU) met at a summit on October 24 and planned to contribute to aid to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa. The organization pledged $1 billion Euros (roughly 1.26 billion USD), in addition to the 600 million Euros (approximately $7.6 million USD) pledged by the European Commission.

    According to the World Health Organization, nearly a million doses of an Ebola vaccine could be available by the middle of 2015. Clinical trials are expected to begin on five other Ebola vaccines in January 2015 in the hopes of helping to stem the outbreak.

    Updated 10/23/2014 

    Beginning Wednesday, Oct, 22, 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared that all international travelers coming from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone be given a health screening at one of five major U.S. airports. Travelers coming from these countries, which have been most heavily impacted by the Ebola outbreak, must make a stop at either Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

    These major hubs will serve as checkpoints where these travelers will undergo testing for Ebola, complete an interview, and have their temperature checked. In addition these travelers will be closely monitored for 21 days by public health officials through daily check-ins. The travel restriction was instituted as a result of demand from bi-partisan lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said, “We are continually evaluating whether additional restrictions or added screening and precautionary measures are necessary to protect the American people and will act accordingly.

    On October 20, health care providers at Emory University Hospital declared a patient Ebola-free after she tested positive for the disease on September 9 and was admitted to the hospital. The patient was one of four treated for the disease by experts at Emory. One patient was cleared to leave on August 19 and another on August 21. The fourth patient was admitted on October 15 and remains in the hospital.

    Updated 10/21/2014 

    Thomas Eric Duncan became the first casualty of the disease on U.S. soil. Duncan was exposed to the disease in Liberia before returning to the U.S. He died in a Dallas hospital on October 8, 2014, after being treated for the disease. By the time Duncan began an experimental treatment, his case of Ebola was too far advanced to respond. A deeper look at Duncan’s case shows that it is actually harder to catch Ebola than most Americans may believe.

    Sunday, October 19 marked the completion of the 21-day incubation period that health officials observed, monitoring individuals who Duncan had been in close contact with since his return to the U.S. October 20 marks a full month since he took several flights from Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia.

    To date, and as expected since he was not contagious at the time, no one on Duncan’s flight has fallen ill. Duncan’s family and fiancé – whom he lived with while he was experiencing the symptoms of Ebola,such as sweats, a fever, and vomiting – have not shown signs of the disease either and have been declared free of the virus.

    In addition to Duncan’s family having been given a clean bill of health, a Texas health worker who was traveling aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean also tested negative for the disease. Once she and her husband had been tested for Ebola, they were given clearance to drive home. The remaining 4,000 vacationers on the ship were also allowed to leave a few hours after pulling back into port.

    Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist at UPMC and a senior associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security, says the risk of it spreading in the U.S. is very low because it can only be transmitted under specific conditions.

    Ebola is a deadly disease, it’s a scary disease, but it’s not very contagious. It doesn’t spread through the air; it only spreads through intimate contact with blood or body fluids,” says Dr. Adalja.

    “It is far less contagious than the flu — a respiratory virus easily spread by sneezing and coughing. Also, Ebola is only contagious when a person has symptoms. With the flu, a person is contagious the day before symptoms appear.”

    Although the risk of Ebola spreading is low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies have taken steps to prevent that from happening in this country. That includes increased airport screenings before and after entering the United States from Ebola-affected countries. In addition, the CDC has issued Level 3 travel warnings urging U.S. residents to avoid nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa. The West African nations of Nigeria and Senegal have recently been declared Ebola-free. The country has not registered any new cases of Ebola in 41 days.

    Protocols also have been established to ensure health care facilities are prepared to properly detect and handle the disease. UPMC facilities are ready, says Dr. Adalja. Each hospital in our system has comprehensive and detailed action plans in place.

    “We know how to stop the spread of Ebola. But it’s crucial for hospitals to prepare in advance,” he says. “UPMC has easily accessible protocols from the moment a patient arrives in the Emergency Department through their hospital stay — how we screen that person, how we isolate that person, how we test for it, who we communicate with — it’s all laid out.”

    About the 2014 Epidemic

    According to the CDC, the 2014 outbreak is the largest in history and the first documented appearance in West Africa. About half the people who contracted the virus have died. In the U.S., the Texas patient who had recently traveled from Liberia died on Oct. 8.

    Ebola Facts

    • A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.
    • Symptoms of Ebola may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure, but the average is eight to 10 days.
    • Early symptoms include:

    o Fever (higher than 101.5° F)

    o Headache

    o Diarrhea

    o Vomiting

    o Stomach pain

    o Muscle pain

    o Unexplained bleeding or bruising

    How Ebola Spreads

    Ebola is spread through direct contact with:

    • Blood and body fluids (urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) from a person sick with the disease; and
    • Items contaminated by blood or body fluids from an infected patient, like needles, medical equipment, clothing, or bedding.

    Are You at Risk?

    If you’ve traveled to an area with an outbreak, or had close contact with someone sick with the disease, you may be at risk. The CDC recommends that you:

    • Check for signs and symptoms for 21 days.
    • Take your temperature every morning and evening.
    • Call your doctor — even if you do not have symptoms — to evaluate your exposure level and consult with public health authorities to determine if any actions are needed.
    • Continue normal activities, including going to work, while you are symptom-free.

    If You Get Sick after Travel to an At-Risk Area

    • Get medical care immediately if you develop a fever (higher than 101.5° F).
    • Alert your doctor about your recent travel to West Africa, or contact with a person sick with Ebola, and symptoms before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency department. Calling ahead will help the doctor or emergency department care for you — and protect others.
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  • Recipe: Homemade

    Pumpkin Spice Latte

    Fall is finally here and we are officially excited about EVERYTHING pumpkin! Instead of buying the famous coffeehouse drink, skip out on the saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sugars by crafting your own version of the pumpkin spice latte in the kitchen. You may be used to waiting in a long line for this tasty treat, so you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find you can whip up this recipe in half the time. Better yet, this version uses real pumpkin, not syrup! Pumpkin is low in fat and calories, and also packs a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as iron. Pumpkin is also a great dietary source of fiber.

    So, save yourself some calories, money, and time spent in line by adopting this version of a fall favorite!

    Pumpkin Spiced Latte

    Ingredients

    2 cups skim milk

    2 tablespoons canned pumpkin

    2 tablespoons Stevia

    2 tablespoons vanilla extract

    1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

    1/2 cup hot brewed coffee

    Whipped cream, pumpkin pie spice and ground nutmeg, optional

    Directions

    Combine milk, sugar, and pumpkin in a small pan over medium heat until steaming.

    Remove heat, stir in pumpkin pie spice and vanilla

    Transfer the mixture to a blender. Process for 15 seconds or until foamy

    Pour into two mugs, add ¼ cup coffee

    Top with whipped cream and a pinch of pumpkin spice

    Nutritional Facts

    1-1/4 cups (calculated without whipped cream) equals 307 calories, 0 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 33 mg cholesterol, 346 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 22 g protein

    Do you have any favorite healthy fall recipes you enjoy with seasonal fruits and vegetables? Share them with us in the comments!

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  • Infographic:

    Colors of the Eye

    From the famous lines of beloved songs to the stories of ancient legends, eye color has captivated audiences throughout time. The origins and genetic makeup associated with eye color makes the color of one’s eye more complex than a simple collection of aesthetic traits, however. Genes and pigment concentrations are two important factors in determining eye color. Some eye colors are more rare than others and can be linked to genetics or family origins and heritage.

    Hannah Scanga, MS, a genetic counselor at the UPMC Eye Center, explains, “The two primary genes that influence the color of the eye, primarily brown and blue eyes, are OCA2 and HERC2. Additional genes influence other eye colors and specific variations, including green or hazel eyes and gold rings.” The scale of eye color from most to least common is brown, blue, hazel, green, and silver.

    According to Ellen Mitchell, MD, “Concentrations of the pigment melanin in the iris of the eye is the primary determinant of eye color. Higher amounts of melanin lead to darker colors while lower amounts result in lighter eye colors.” Dr. Mitchell continues, “The pigment lipochrome also plays a role in determining eye color, specifically green eyes.”

    Eye color can also change due to factors like pupil size, emotions, and age. However, if these changes are drastic or only occur in one eye this may indicate a medical condition and you should discuss symptoms with a doctor.Eye Color Infographic

    Are you still curious about some of the fascinating facts behind blue (green, or brown) eyes? Visit the UPMC Eye Center website to learn more about the latest breakthroughs in the field of optometry and the different eye conditions we treat. Call 1-800-446-3797 to schedule an appointment today.

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  • 5 Ramen Noodle

    “Health Hacks”

    It’s that time of year again. The time when college students flock back to campus, ready to ace their tests, reunite with friends, and feast on the infamously unhealthy Ramen Noodles. Unfortunately, the beloved college-food was the subject of a recent health study, which linked it to series health issues. Even more disheartening? These issues were gender specific. Women who ate the noodles at least twice per week saw a 68 percent increase in their risk of cardiometabolic syndrome, while men saw no notable difference in their risk. But with all-nighters and deadlines looming, it’s not easy to toss the prepackaged delicacy into the trash for good. So what’s a busy college kid to do?

    Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, commented on the story and assured students that it doesn’t take much effort to make Ramen healthier. So next time late-night hunger strikes, try these simple steps to save your wallet and your health:

    Ramen Graphic

    1. Ditch the Seasoning

    The sky-high sodium content is the biggest health issue, so try adding flavor another way! Use water or broth and flavor it with garlic, ginger, herbs, chili, or sesame oil.

    2. Add Veggies

    If you live on campus, grab some vegetables from the salad bar to use in your Ramen. Otherwise, break out the frozen veggies to give your noodles an extra kick of nutrients!

    3. Pack in the Protein

    Chicken, shrimp, tuna, tofu, grilled salmon, eggs…the list goes on! Any protein you choose will make your Ramen healthier and keep you feeling full longer than Ramen alone.

    4. Use your Leftovers

    Have extra food from last night’s dinner? Combine it with ramen noodles (sans seasoning) for a delicious reworking that makes you forget you’re eating leftovers.

    5. Go Dry

    Cook the noodles, drain, and lightly toss in your favorite dressing or sauce! Think low-sodium soy sauce, Italian dressing, vinaigrette, or teriyaki sauce.

    6. Get Creative

    There are dozens (if not hundreds) of Ramen recipes for you to try. There are even Ramen Noodle cookbooks! So don’t settle for boring noodles, spice it up with a creative recipe.

    Eating habits tend to change when entering college mode, as campus life warrants an active and hectic lifestyle. Quick, convenient and unhealthy meals often take center stage, landing healthy eating and cooking in the bleachers. When you’re looking to get creative with regular old Ramen, check out some of our health hacks. Think of it as teaching an old dog new tricks, but this time you’re the dog and the tricks are disguised as noodles. Bring your dorm room dining to a new level while also becoming more conscious of the ingredients your putting in your body!

    How do you make your Ramen healthier? Share your ideas below!

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How Can I Choose Safe Water Bottles for My Kids?

by Pediatrics

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Whether spending a day at the pool or the beach, Little League practices, or taking in a Major League game, water bottles are a great way to keep your kids hydrated and cool this season, but could they actually be dangerous? There are a number of water bottles on the market made from a variety of materials such as plastic, glass, or metal. Is one material safer than another? The bottle may have a picture of your child’s favorite cartoon character or sports team, but how will that bottle impact their overall health? While your kids are having fun and enjoying their summer, staying safe and sanitary isn’t always top-of-mind for them. However, as a parent, their health, hygiene, and hydration are certainly important to you! A few commonly asked questions are answered below so that you can be worry-free about your kids’ hydration this summer.

Can a bottled water bottle be reused?

Reusing a water bottle is safe if the bottle is thoroughly washed. Since the necks of many bottles are thin, they are often difficult to clean, which is how germs can find their way into your water. If you plan on reusing a bottle, it is best to wash it in warm, soapy water with a thin brush in order to disinfect the entire inside surface. Make sure to dry thoroughly to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Can water bottles be frozen?

There is no evidence that freezing water bottles releases chemicals. If your kids are going to be outside in the summer sun for a long period of time, freezing their water bottles is a safe way to keep them cold.

Is bottled water safe?

Bottled water is regulated by the FDA to make sure it follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for quality, and is safe for you and your family to drink.

Are there chemicals in reusable plastic water bottles?

Most plastic water bottles are safe, but if you’re unsure, you can refer to the recycling symbols that are imprinted on the bottom of most plastics. The symbols, which differentiate the types of plastic, look like three arrows in the shape of a triangle that surround a number from 1 to 7. Numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 are safe to use for food and drink. Bottles that say “BPA-free” in addition to one of these numbers are also safe. Materials with a 3, 6, or 7 should be avoided for use with food and beverages.

What is BPA, and why is it dangerous?

BPA stands for bisphenol A and is a chemical that can be found in certain plastics that are sometimes used in the packaging of food and drinks. Because BPA mimics estrogen, some researchers believe that BPA can have negative health effects, and these effects may pose the biggest threat to infants and unborn babies. If you are concerned about BPA, avoid water bottles with the recycling codes 3 or 7 because these may contain polycarbonate — the type of plastic known to contain bisphenol A.

Are metal or glass bottles safe?

If you are going to use a metal bottle, make sure it is stainless steel and not aluminum because they may not contain the liner that is required to meet food grade requirements. Freezing or heating stainless steel is not recommended since it can alter the shape. Glass bottles do not contain BPA, and although some are shatter-proof, they are not recommended as a first option for kids.

In addition to looking for BPA-free water bottles made of safe plastics, stainless steel, or glass, make sure your kids know not to share water bottles with anyone because it can lead to the spread of germs. Most importantly, make sure you and your kids are drinking plenty of water this season to beat the heat and promote overall health.

To find out how you can make sure your child stays healthy this summer and is off to a good start for the upcoming school year, visit the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC website or call 412-692-5325 to schedule an appointment.

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About Pediatrics

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has helped establish the standards of excellence in pediatric care. Renowned for its outstanding clinical services, research programs, and medical education, Children’s Hospital was designed with input from physicians, nurses, and families, to ensure that patients receive quality, family-centered care in a comfortable setting.

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