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July 2010

Ahh-choo...sorry, it's allergy!

July 29, 2010 | sylvia | Comments (0)

AhChoo  “Aaaaaaaahh-choo!”

“You OK?”

“Emm… It's only my allergy!”

We are all familiar with this kind of scenario. A survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson suggests that as many as 10 million Canadians (1 in 3 Canadians) may suffer allergy symptoms. Canadians are not alone: 50 million Americans (1 in 5 Americans) also suffer from various types of allergies.

Allergy is so common, so what exactly is it? An allergy is a reaction of your immune system to something (allergen) that does not bother most other people, for example: pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, food, insect stings, and medicines, etc.

If you are genetically predisposed for allergy, your immune system misidentifies one of these harmless foreign substances as an invader when you are first time exposed to it, and produces large numbers of IgE antibodies to attack the allergen. These antibodies attach to mast cells which are scattered throughout the skin and respiratory tract. Now you have become sensitized to this particular allergen.

Next time, when you encounter the same allergen again, it binds directly to the IgE antibody stuck to the outside of mast cells. This causes the mast cells to release chemicals called histamines - Histamines are responsible for causing many of the symptoms associated with allergies: runny nose, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling, etc.

While most allergies won't kill you except the life-threatening severe reaction called anaphylaxis, they sure can make you feel bad. Allergies aren't curable, so prevention is the key. Check out these simple things that you can do to avoid the allergens at home, work, school, and outdoors. Or, when you can't avoid the unavoidable, you still have other options: use medications or allergy shots (immunotherapy)  to relieve or control your symptoms.

Borrow some books from the Toronto Public Library to educate yourself:

Sneeze-FreeDogBreeds   Allergies - FightThemWithTheBloodTypeDiet  TheAllergyAndAsthmaCure 


More Information on allergy:


Headache: Is It a Migraine?

July 22, 2010 | carolyn | Comments (1)

HeadacheHeadaches can interfere with your life but depending on the type and severity headaches can be downright disabling!  Many sufferers describe how headaches, especially migraines, have prevented them from finding and keeping a job or attending important events such as a graduation or a wedding.  Many headache sufferers find themselves putting their lives on hold!

According to the World Health Organization: Fact Sheet No277: Headache Disorders:  

"In developed countries, Tension Type Headache (TTH) alone affects two-thirds of adult males and over 80% of females. Extrapolation from figures for migraine prevalence and attack incidence suggests that 3000 migraine attacks occur every day for each million of the general population. Less well recognized is the toll of chronic daily headache: up to one adult in 20 has headache every or nearly every day." 

It is important to determine what kind of headache you have.  Common headache types include cluster headaches, tension headaches and migraines.  For a brief description of them go to Common Headache Types.  For more information about the kinds of headaches check out Headache Network Canada: Headache Diagnosis

Ranked as one of the most disabling illnesses by the World Health Organization, more women than men (three to one) suffer from migraines and most sufferers are between the ages of 25 and 55. 

Watch this informative video from the Headache Network Canada, Diagnosing and Treating Migraine in Canada.

Keeping a headache diary is one way for you and your doctor to understand what triggers your headache or migraine.  For an example of a headache diary and a blank form you can use go to Headache Network Canada: Headache Diaries.  Check out The Weather Network: Aches & Pains: Toronto, Ontario for weather-triggered ailments including migraine. 

Find-a-Headache Doctor by province through the Help for Headaches web site.  

Check out the Library's recent books about headache and migraine. To see which branch has a copy of the book and to place a hold, click on the title link;


Headaches That Persist
Trigger Point Therapy for Headaches & Migraines
Headaches That Persist Trigger Point Therapy for Headaches & Migraines
100 Questions & Answers about Migraine
The Migraine Brain
The Keeler Migraine Method
100 Questions & Answers About Migraine The Migraine Brain The Keeler Migraine Method

Hot, hotter....heat alert!

July 15, 2010 | marietta forster-haberer | Comments (0)

Images When the temperature soars and the humidity is high, public health authorities often issue heat alert advisories. This was the case last week when Toronto's medical officer of health issued a heat alert advisory for the City of Toronto. Other urban centres issued similar alerts.


When are Heat Alerts issued? 

Between May 15 to September 30 Toronto Public Health issues alerts about hot weather conditions that increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. They use the Heat Health Alert System  which compares weather forecast data to historical meteorological conditions which in the past have increased mortality in Toronto.

According to this Alert System, when an oppressive air mass is forecast and the likelihood of weather related mortality exceeds 65%, a heat alert is issued. When that rate exceeds 90%, an extreme heat alert is issued.

What happens during a Heat Alert?

Once a heat alert is issued, the City of Toronto's Hot Weather Response Plan gets activated. This includes :

  • Toronto's more than 800 community agencies are alerted to advise vulnerable populations such as the elderly, isolated seniors, the homeless to take extra care during the heat alert
  • the Red Cross operates a heat-related hotline 416-480-2615 to answer questions from the public
  • homeless shelters allow people to stay inside the shelters during the day to stay cool
  • during extreme heat alerts, special cooling centers are open throughout the city

Heat Safety Tips - also available in other languages

  • drink plenty of fluids -- preferably water
  • avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • eat small, light meals
  • stay out of direct sun
  • wear a hat, lightweight and loose clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses
  • avoid heavy activity during the heat including exercise
  • find a cool place to hang out -- go to libraries, malls, community centres
  • don't leave children or pets unattended in cars
  • look out for elderly and isolated neighbours who may have difficulty coping with the heat

Signs of heat-related illness

Normally, our bodies stay cool as our sweat evaporates. During extreme heat, the evaporation of sweat is slowed by the excess moisture in the air. This causes body temperature to rise and can make you ill. Heat related illnesses include heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn. It also worsens heart and respiratory conditions like asthma, emphysema, bronchitis. Infants and the elderly are at high risk. 

Symptoms of heat-related illness include

  • pale, cool, clammy skin
  • headache
  • nausea, vomiting
  • dizziness, fainting
  • fatigue and weakness
  • weak or rapid pulse
  • fever over 40C
  • shortness of breath
  • confusion, hallucination
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness/coma 


Further Reading:

Extreme Heat Event - It's Your Health - Health Canada

Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke - Family

Heat-related Illness - HealthLink BC

Love Your Skin

July 8, 2010 | sylvia | Comments (1)

LoveYourSkin After a long winter, we are all enjoying the nice summer time and want to spend as much time as possible outdoors - whether working in the garden or sunbathing on the beach. Here is a friendly reminder - don't forget to protect your skin from the sun while outdoors.

Moderate sun exposure actually has health benefits. It is known that vitamin D is essential for the formation, growth, and repair of bones and for normal calcium absorption and immune function. It is obtained primarily through exposure of the skin to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. What's more, some studies suggest that vitamin D is associated with reduced risks of some cancers.

Overexposure to the sun however, can damage your skin, cause wrinkles, brown spots, and skin cancer. Tips on how to better protect yourself:

  • Stay out of the sun when it is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection
  • Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds

The bottom line - as in everything - is moderation: enjoy the sun but don't overexpose, and vice versa, protect yourself but don't be a solar-phobe.

Borrow some books on skin care from the Toronto Public Library:

100 questions & answers about aging skin Sun protection for life The green beauty guideFeed your skin, starve your wrinkles

Skin care secrets - how to have naturally healthy beautiful skinYour skin, youngerCooking well - beautiful skinSkin deep

More information on skin care and sun safety:

Outdoor Survival

July 1, 2010 | carolyn | Comments (0)

HikingCanada has many wonderful wilderness areas to explore.

The benefits of exploring the great outdoors are many including a good way to become physically fit, building a strong sense of well-being by getting in touch with nature and a relatively low-cost form of fun and recreation.


But what would you do if you were lost or stranded in the wild?

  • Stay where you are if it is safe to do so -- if you have told someone where you were heading help will arrive when you don't come back.
  • Think, don't panic. Assess the situation. Did you plan ahead and bring along some basic survival items such as water, snacks, a knife, clothing for protection from the rain or cold, first aid kit, flashlight and matches?
  • Find or make shelter for protection from the weather.

For Basic Wilderness Survival Skills check out the British Columbia Outdoor Wilderness Guide or Canadian Wilderness Survival Information.  


What should you do if you find yourself in the open during a thunderstorm?  Have a look at Environment Canada's Being Prepared for Summer tips.

If You Are In Black Bear Country here are some tips from Parks Canada.    

Check out the Library's recent books about outdoor survival .  To see which branch has a copy of the book and to place a hold, click on the title link;

Wilderness Survival for Dummies
Outdoor Survival Guide
Practical Outdoor Survival
Wilderness Survival for Dummies Outdoor Survival Guide Practical Outdoor Survival
The Survival Handbook
Complete Survival Manual
The Survival Handbook Complete Survival Manual Survive!

Toronto Public Library helps find reliable, understandable health information for you and your family.