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What is Gastroenteritis?

This past week, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was hospitalized with a “stomach bug”. Gastroenteritis (also called the “stomach flu”) is the second most common illness in the United States. So, chances are good that your family has been affected by gastroenteritis already this year!

What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines causing symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, and fever. If a person is not able to keep up with fluid losses from diarrhea and vomiting, then they can become dehydrated. Gastroenteritis occurs year-round and affects people of all ages. Those who are young, old, or have a suppressed immune system are more susceptible to severe gastroenteritis and to dehydration.

What causes gastroenteritis?
The majority of cases are caused by a viral infection (occasionally, a bacterial infection) transmitted through contact with another sick person or contaminated food/drink.

I have gastroenteritis, how can I feel better?
Rest and fluids! Staying hydrated is the most important step to controlling gastroenteritis. Some good options for staying hydrated include sports drinks or oral rehydration solutions (such as Pedialyte in drug and grocery stores).

I typically do not recommend any anti-diarrheal medications as this may even prolong the illness. In addition, antibiotic therapy is not helpful unless a specific bacterial cause is identified.

When should I call my doctor?
If you have questions or concerns you should always call your provider. However, things to watch for if you have gastroenteritis include:

How to deal with minor breakouts or major acne

Most of us experience acne at some point in our lives. It is most common in adolescents and young adults, but various forms can affect people well into adulthood. Knowing what you can treat with over the counter products and when to see a physician is the first step to improving acne.

The most common form of acne is comedonal acne and is characterized by whiteheads and blackheads. The next most common is inflammatory acne where deeper, pinker bumps appear on the skin. Milder cases of both comedonal and inflammatory acne can often times respond to over the counter (OTC) treatment with salicylic acid cleansers and topical benzoyl peroxide products. If you try OTC treatment for 6-8 weeks and see good benefit, you can avoid a trip to the doctor and keep using the OTC products.

More severe comedonal or inflammatory acne will commonly not respond to OTC treatment or get limited benefit. If a 6-8 week treatment trial with OTC products doesn’t control your acne, it’s time to see a doctor. There are...

Mindfulness for Childbirth and Parenting

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined by Nancy Bardacke, author of Mindful Birthing, as "the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. It is cultivated through meditation practice and can help you navigate the uncharted waters that lie ahead with more joy, kindness, awareness, calm and wisdom than you might have otherwise. Mindfulness is a universal capacity of the human mind, but unless we intentionally choose to cultivate it, we can spend much of our lives on automatic pilot, sleepwalking through life rather than being fully present for it."

What makes mindfulness helpful for pregnancy? Or parenting?

"Taking the time to learn mindfulness through meditation practice now can help you more skillfully manage the inevitable stresses of pregnancy and the irreducible element of uncertainty of the birthing process. More than that, mindfulness meditation can help you manage the intense sensations of childbirth we usually call pain, increasing your confidence and decreasing the fears that so often accompany this profound journey into the unknown. And mindfulness can help you cultivate lifelong inner skills for healthy living, wise parenting, and loving partnership. " (- Nancy Bardacke)

How do I learn how to meditate to cultivate mindfulness?

The best way to learn is by taking a mindful birthing weekend workshop or 9 week course which are just now becoming available in our area (click here for a flyer about a weekend workshop coming up in March).  Other ways to learn are...

Tips for dealing with dust allergy

Although it’s hard to imagine, we are living and sleeping with thousands of little bugs called dust mites.

For many people, ignorance is bliss, but for those who are allergic, these bugs can cause lots of problems. Dust mite allergy symptoms include eye redness and discharge, itching, sneezing, congestion and trouble breathing. Dust mites are a problem all year long, but can be more obvious in the winter when people spend more time indoors.

Dust mites like to burrow into soft surfaces, like carpets, curtains, pillows, mattresses and stuffed animals. It is impossible to completely kill all dust mites, but here are six ways to minimize exposure:

Immune-boosting foods: what you need to know about antioxidants for your health

I felt compelled to write this post primarily because I am exhausted from witnessing those dramatic cold and flu commercials I see everywhere. We all know how to treat a cold or the flu: rest, fluids, and antioxidant rich foods. Yet many of us (I’m guilty, too) reach for Emergen-C thinking that’s all we need and give little (or no) thought to what ‘antioxidant rich’ foods may do to help. So for your health and mine, I’ve highlighted some of those antioxidant-rich foods that should be featured on our plates this season.

First – what are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are nutrients and enzymes that quench free radicals (unstable harmful molecules that are the result of oxidative damage), therefore protecting your cells from damage. Free radicals can do a number on your immune system, thus blunting your ability to respond to a cold. Major antioxidants include Carotenes (beta-carotene), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium & Zinc.

Where can I get or find antioxidants?

Helping your child cope with medical experiences

The hospital or any medical experience can be a stressful and frightening place for anyone, especially a child. They may encounter new faces, scary equipment and overwhelming feelings of loss of control.

Did you know that there are professionals who aim to reduce negative effects of medical experiences that may affect the development, health and well-being of children and families? These professionals are called certified Child Life specialists and are available at most hospitals who serve children to help you and your child cope with these experiences.

Swedish has four full-time Child Life specialists who cover First Hill and Issaquah campuses from surgery to radiology to inpatient stays. At Swedish, our Child Life team strives to reach every pediatric patient who walks through our doors in an attempt to make their stay a little easier.

Here are some tips for parents on how to help your child cope with medical encounters:

Do you have chronic diarrhea?

Many people suffer from chronic diarrhea, not realizing that many times the cause can be found and corrected. Chronic diarrhea is defined as loose stools that last for at least 4 weeks. It usually means more than 3 or 4 loose bowel movements per day. Chronic diarrhea can have a substantial negative impact on quality of life and overall health. Many people with this problem have to stay near a toilet and are afraid to even leave the house because of fear that they will not be able to control their bowel action. It is particularly troubling if there is associated incontinence.

Chronic diarrhea can be caused by intestinal infections, endocrine disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, food sensitivity or allergy and a side effect of medications. These problems can often be diagnosed with a careful history and appropriate diagnostic testing.

There is one particular ..

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