Posts Tagged "symptoms"

Shingles: A Legacy of Chicken Pox

Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Health Signals |

“Shingles” is a painful, blistering rash experienced by about 130,000 Canadians every year. Your risk of having an episode of shingles increases after age 50, but the majority of people experiencing shingles are 60 or older. Here are the ABC’s of shingles:   What are the symptoms of shingles? Shingles symptoms begin with headache, fever and the chills, and upset stomach. These often occur before the rash appears. Usually the rash occurs on one side of the trunk of the body but can also erupt on the buttocks, neck, face and scalp. The rash produces painful, reddish, fluid-filled blisters, which last 7 to 10 days. During this time, the blisters break, dry out, then crust over. The discomfort can range from an itchy, tingling sensation to severe pain. If severe, an infection can last more than a month. Unfortunately, some people have pain that persists even after the rash is gone (this is called post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN).  What causes shingles? Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox; namely, varicella-zoster or herpes zoster. After chickenpox symptoms have passed, the virus can hide out in the root of some nerves and then re-activate at any time to cause a painful skin rash. The rash occurs in the area of the body connected to the infected nerves. Who can develop shingles? About 1 in 5 adults will develop shingles. You must have been previously exposed to the virus and had chickenpox. Although it can occur at any age, the majority of people experiencing shingles are those over the age of 60. Some people may have more than one episode. Often an attack occurs when your immune system is already compromised. How is shingles treated? If you suspect you might have shingles, see your physician as soon as possible. The rash is usually easy to identify. Anti-viral drugs can help stop the spread of the rash and reduce the length of the infection. However, to be effective, these drugs must be given early in the course of the illness. Cool, moist compresses, calamine lotion, or other ointments applied to the rash can reduce the pain. Your physician or pharmacist can suggest the best products for you to use.  Is shingles contagious? To get shingles, you must already have had chickenpox at some point in your life. When you have shingles, the fluid from the blisters does contain the virus. Therefore, you could give chickenpox to someone who has not had it already. Avoid contact with people who have not had chickenpox. However, the reverse is not true; a person with chickenpox cannot give shingles to someone else because shingles occurs from the virus that is already present inside the body. Can shingles be prevented? A shingles vaccine is now available. The vaccine is not 100% effective but it does reduce your chances of developing shingles by about 50 percent. If you do get shingles after receiving the vaccine, you are more likely to have a milder infection and less likely to experience PHN.  Currently the vaccine is not covered by provincial health plans; you must pay privately. Because it requires specialized storage, not all clinics offer the vaccine.  Consult your physician to decide if you should consider receiving this...

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Dementia, Depression or Delirium?

Posted by on Jan 18, 2011 in Health Signals |

Three of the most common mental health problems experienced by the elderly start with the letter D: dementia, depression, and delirium. Their symptoms may, at times, appear similar. Comparing the conditions and highlighting the differences can alert you to when medical help may be needed. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer Disease. Incidence increases with advancing age. It is not curable.  Depression affects about 10% of the general population, can occur at any age, and affects both men and women. Incidence is higher when other medical conditions are present. Delirium is often unrecognized and therefore not treated. To read the complete article in PDF format, open the attachment below. Dementia Depression Delirium...

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Heat Stroke

Posted by on Sep 16, 2010 in Health Emergencies |

Summertime brings the benefits of fresh air and sunshine, but hot, sunny days pose a risk of heat stroke, particularly for seniors.  What is heat stroke? Heat stroke occurs when the body can not regulate its temperature. It can develop quickly; internal body temperature can rise as high as 106 degrees in as little as 10 to fifteen minutes. Heat stroke can lead to brain damage and even death. Why are seniors at greater risk of developing heat stroke? As the body ages, sweat glands which help cool the body become less efficient.  Blood vessels carry less blood to the skin. The skin itself goes through natural changes that may slow the rate of heat release or “cool down”.  Bodies of the elderly may be slower to respond to heat and therefore may not produce sweat until body temperature is already quite high. Diseases of the lungs, heart and kidneys, and illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure can affect the body’s ability to cool down. Drugs that treat depression, motion sickness and high blood pressure also change the body’s ability to regulate temperature. What are the symptoms of heat stroke? Red, hot and dry skin (with no sweating) Heavy sweating together with cold clammy skin Dizziness Throbbing headache Nausea Rapid pulse Confusion Unconsciousness How can you prevent heat stroke? On extremely hot days, stay indoors in an air-conditioned room.  If there is no air conditioning at home, spend time at a local mall, library or movie theater. Wear a hat when golfing, gardening or hiking. Always have water with you or near by.  Drink 8-12 cups of water daily to maintain hydration, more during hot days or physical exertion. Choose fruit juice or sport drinks if your activity means you’ll experience heavy sweating. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.  Also avoid extremely cold drinks, which can cause stomach cramping. Eat small nutritious meals throughout the day rather than large meals.  Reduce your intake of  protein, which can raise body temperature. Increase intake of potassium-rich foods, e.g., potatoes, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe and broccoli. Take frequent breaks from physical activity. Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath. If you see symptoms of heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately.  Vol. 3, No. 14 © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE...

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Norwalk Virus Hits Seniors Hard

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Health Emergencies, Health Signals |

Each year, many seniors are infected by a Norwalk-type virus. It’s usually not serious enough to cause hospitalization or serious long-term effects, but Norwalk can cause distress and can be spread to other family members. This illness is more common in the winter and affects all age groups. What is a “Norwalk” infection? Norwalk is a viral infection in the intestine – named after it was first identified in a 1972 outbreak in Norwalk, Ohio. Today, we use the term “norovirus” to refer to the group of viruses. Noroviruses are found worldwide and affect only humans. Anyone can be infected but it tends to be more common in children and in older adults. An outbreak of Norwalk infection usually occurs in schools, care homes, other institutions or within families. How is the virus spread? Noroviruses are very contagious. They can survive on almost any surface including door handles, counters, sinks, and dishes. People become infected by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated from an infected person or by touching an infected surface. People are contagious from the first sign of symptoms and for at least 3 days after they recover. What are the symptoms of Norwalk infection? How is it treated? Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. They appear within 1 – 2 days after ingesting the contaminated food and can occur quite suddenly. Most people recover in 2 to 3 days. There is no treatment for the infection itself. Any treatment given is aimed at reducing the symptoms. What can you do to prevent Norwalk virus infection? Focus on personal hygiene and proper food preparation. If you or someone in your home has a Norwalk-type infection, all of you should: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after toilet visits and before preparing or eating food. Wash raw vegetables before eating. Dispose of sewage in a sanitary manner. Wear household gloves to clean contaminated surfaces with a mild bleach solution.  Clean the bathroom frequently. Wash dishes in hot soapy water or, ideally, the dishwasher. Wash soiled linens in hot soapy water; wear gloves to handle the linens. Individuals with symptoms of Norwalk-like illness should not prepare or touch food. Restrict visitors to the home. What can you do if a family member has Norwalk virus? If your family member lives in a long-term care centre, visiting will be limited during an outbreak. If they are at home, you can provide support and ensure good personal hygiene to prevent the spread to other family members. Norwalk virus infections are unpleasant to say the least, but a little knowledge and attention can go a long way towards curbing their effects. Vol. 6, No. 2, © ElderWise Publishing 2010. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter....

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