The Real Dirt Behind Getting Fresh Air How Air Pollution Affects Asthma, Lungs, and Heart

We often take the air we breathe in for granted, don’t we? If I asked you how often you thought about the quality or cleanliness of the air that you breathe daily, I am sure you, just like me and many others will agree with me that the air we breathe is not something that bothers us much. This however, should not be the case! It is very important to think about the environment you are exposed to and the ramifications it will have on your health. Whereas it is impossible to control the type of air we breathe in, having the knowledge on the state of air pollution in certain region, will help you reduce the number of times you expose yourself to that environment as much as you can.

It is important to stay clear of polluted air or environments with no so clean air because such contaminated places are the key suspects when it comes to causing respiratory complications. Today, we want to take a look at the effects of air pollution on lungs, asthma and cardiovascular diseases.

How air pollution affects lungs

There are very many contaminants in polluted air depending on the levels of pollution in that specific air. Contaminants in polluted air range from sulfur oxide, ozone to small particles. These contaminants cause different respiratory complications to the lungs. When you breathe in these gases and particles, they scour the inside of lungs causing inflammations. The inside lining of the lungs is so soft that any hard particle will cause injury and inflammation to the linings of the lungs. The inflammation causes an increased mucus production and excessive coughing. This reduces the lung function and makes the lungs work so hard to maintain the required respiration levels.

How air pollution worsens cardiovascular diseases

If someone has a preexisting cardiovascular condition and he/she is exposed to polluted air, then the cardiovascular conditions will only get worse. Polluted air contains small particles and toxins which enter the bloodstream through the lungs. These particles reduce both the function of the lungs to oxygenate blood and also reduce the ability of the heart to effectively pump blood to all parts of the body and this is essentially how heart attacks are triggered. Exposure to air pollution can also cause strokes and irregular heart rhythms. Air pollution is believed to be the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease where the proper circulation of blood in the body is inhibited. People with such preexisting conditions are at a greater risk therefore of aggravating these conditions and making them even worse every time they expose themselves to the contaminants from polluted air.

How air pollution affects asthma

As we already know, asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by spams in the bronchi of the lungs which make it difficult to breathe. The disease affects your the airways and makes them more sensitive to certain triggers. Among the most common triggers, are chemicals, dust and certain odors contained in polluted air! This means that any asthmatic individual will really struggle to pull through the day in a polluted environment. They will experience shortness of breath, wheezing, rapid coughing and difficulties sleeping. The quality of life lead by such individuals is really low and if they do not move sooner or later, they will start experiencing even worse complications such as anaphylaxis which can potentially cause death.

Avoiding polluted environments

To stay safe from all of the above mentioned detriments, it is only wise to stay away from areas with heavy air pollution. Areas with heavy industrial activity, urban centers with high smoke emission levels, mining spots with a lot of dust in the air and chemical manufacturing industries are some of the areas that you should avoid at all costs. If you are working in such an area, irrespective of whether you have a respiratory disease or not, always wear protective clothing and equipment which reduce the magnitude of the contaminants and render the air you breathe in safer. In case the working area is not properly equipped to reduce the effects of air pollution, feel free to contact your manager and complain about the same. Your life could be at stake.

If you are exposed to air pollution for long hours, it is important to go for medical checkups on a regular basis. Medical checkups will help you discover any respiratory complications as soon as possible and start treatment before it is too late. The best thing to do however, is to stay away from bad air pollution as much as you can. This way you will improve your breathing and the quality of life that you lead. In case you experience any form of trouble breathing or an aggravated asthma attack, then visit the nearest emergency room for treatment.

Stay Healthy This winter: Tips for Avoiding the Cold and Flu.

People are exposed to cold and flu germs every single day, here are a few suggestions that can help you avoid getting sick this holiday season.

Get a flu shot. It’s the No. 1 thing you can do to obviate the flu.

Couplets Good Hands– A lot! No matter what line of work you’re in, if you come in contact with people who are contagious, you have to wash your hands over and over, as annoying as that can be, you will thank yourself later. To completely get rid of viruses from your skin, you need to scrub hard for 20 seconds or more.

Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If you cannot get to soap & water, sanitizer can kill cold and flu germs.

Avoid getting close to people who are sick. Not shaking hands is a great way to avoid this.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle-Get adequate rest, which many American’s do not get. Get good nutrition daily, don’t smoke, and keep your allergies controlled, because if they’re out of control, then your upper respiratory system is already inflamed, which sets it up to more easily acquire a virus. Basically be kind to yourself and your body will thank you.
We hope you never need us, but if you do we are open 24/7 and can see any minor or major emergency. Have a wonderful holiday season.

Bellaire ER Staff

New Flu Information for 2016-2017

This is aligned right. Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

Flu vs. The Common Cold

The flu and the cold both are viral, respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, which can make the two difficult to distinguish. In general, the flu tends to be more severe and is more often associated with serious complications such as pneumonia.
It’s a common misconception that the flu always involves the onset of a fever, whereas a cold does not. Both the flu and cold can cause a fever, but it tends to be more common with the flu. Still, not everyone with influenza will develop a fever.
Here are the Symptoms of the flu to look out for:
Some symptoms may be more or less severe. But these are the main symptoms you can expect: fever, chills, fatigue, stuffy/runny nose, body aches, headaches, sore throat, diarrhea and/or vomiting.

A few things are new this season:

• Only injectable flu shots are recommended for use this season.
• Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses.
• There will be some new vaccines on the market this season.

When and how often should I get vaccinated?

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible. However, getting vaccinated later is OK. Vaccination should continue throughout the flu season, even in January or later.

Need any emergency care services for Flu illnesses Call Now (713) 660-0001.

West Nile Virus

Following Historic Rains, Houston Residents Prepare for West Nile Virus

The recent rains and floods of May 2015 have left Texas and Oklahoma with almost 40 people dead or missing. The death toll and volume of water “dumped” on the state of Texas were historic. Houston will be cleaning up and fixing damaged homes for many months. And there will be many pools of stagnate water available for the breeding of the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus. Typically these mosquitoes breed several weeks after major flooding.

The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans after a mosquito has fed on a bird that is infected with the virus. It is also possible to get the virus from a blood transfusion but that is very rare in the United States due to testing safeguards.

Good News

The good news is that 80% of the people who are infected with the West Nile virus will not develop symptoms or any illness. These people will become immune to the virus after being infected. You odds of becoming infected can be reduced further by following some common sense practices. These practices are:

  • Restrict your outdoor activity at dawn and dusk because these are when mosquitoes are most active
  • Use a mosquito repellent when outdoors
  • Wear loose fitting clothing with long sleeves and long pants
  • Drain any standing water around your home – plant pots, bottles, or other receptacle

Bad News

The bad news is that 20% of the people who are infected with the West Nile virus will develop symptoms and an illness. Roughly 1% of all infected people will develop a brain or spinal cord disease due to the West Nile virus and it is very serious. These diseases are sometimes called “neuroinvasive” West Nile virus. Of this 1% who become ill, one in ten will die. Others who become ill can permanently develop one or more weak or paralyzed limbs. So this is a disease that should be taken very seriously.

As with most diseases the young, the elderly and those with health issues are at greatest risk from the West Nile virus. These people should be the most careful about exposure to mosquitoes during the summer months.

Common Symptoms of West Nile Virus

Below are the most common symptoms for West Nile virus. However, also listed are more serious symptoms that usually indicate a more serious illness.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Other Symptoms in Some Cases

  • Eye Pain
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Skin Rash on the mid-section of the body

More Serious Symptoms Indicating Brain or Spinal Cord Infection

  • Stiff neck
  • Mental confusion or sluggishness
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weak or paralyzed limb(s)
  • Tremors


Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or drug for the West Nile virus. Those who become ill are usually hospitalized in intensive care. Should you suspect that you may have contracted the virus then you should visit your doctor immediately.

The West Nile virus is found throughout the continental United States and is most present during the summer months. However, the worst months for infection are August and September.

Call today should you have any questions about West Nile virus.

Enterovirus D68

What is the Enterovirus D68 ?

The enterovirus is similar to the flu virus but it does appear to be able to cause paralysis in limbs.The recent enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) outbreak in the United States has had millions of people on alert, with rumors flying that polio might be making a comeback.  Thankfully, the polio part is not true, but here’s what you need to know about this virus to try and stay out of its path.

How is EV-D68 spread?

Since the virus mainly affects the lungs and respiratory system, it spreads to others through body fluids from the mouth and nose when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or wipes their face and then touches another object.

Therefore, frequent hand washing, minimal exposure to sick people, and avoiding contact with your eyes, mouth, and nose are the best methods of prevention.

How common is EV-D68?

There are actually over a hundred types of enteroviruses that plague people throughout the year and cause a whole array of symptoms.  Enterovirus D68 in particular was recognized in 1987 and since then it has been harassing small numbers of people annually, mostly during the summer and fall months.  This year, however, the virus has been unusually active – about 780 people spread out between 46 states – especially amongst children.

What are the symptoms of EV-D68?

Most people who contract the virus will have typical flu-like indicators:  body aches, coughing, sneezing, fever, etc. The more severe and serious symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing or rashes and in a few extreme cases, children have experienced paralysis in their limbs.

Is EV-D68 dangerous?

Yes and no.  For most, this virus is the same as any other flu that makes you feel terrible for a few days and then clears up on its own. However, children with prior respiratory problems seem to be more susceptible to developing advanced symptoms and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now linked the virus to the deaths of five children and hundreds of others that have needed hospitalization.

How is EV-D86 treated?

On October 14, 2014, the CDC announced a new test that identifies the D86 strain quicker than before, but unfortunately, there is neither a vaccination to prevent it nor an antiviral medication to cure it.

Even though there’s no rapid treatment, those exhibiting enterovirus D68 symptoms should get checked out and tested by their doctor. If infected, medical professionals can provide intensive respiratory support and monitor patients closely to minimize symptoms.

Laboratory tests available at Bellaire ER.

Ebola Virus

What is the Ebola Virus and are We at Risk in the USA?

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has thrown the world into a global panic attack.  And while the disease is very serious, it’s not necessarily similar to the Hollywood glorified epidemic portrayed by Morgan Freeman in Outbreak and it doesn’t always result in a terrible hemorrhaging death.

A Quick History Lesson

The Ebola virus was first recognized in 1976 in Zaire, Africa and was thought to be transmitted from monkeys into humans thanks to bats.  There are actually four different strains of the disease that are dangerous: Bundibugyo virus (BDBV), Sudan virus (SUDV), Taï Forest virus (TAFV), and one called simply, Ebola virus (EBOV, formerly Zaire Ebola virus).  However, the last one, simply called the Ebola virus, is the one that’s the most terrifying to humans.

Since rearing its ugly head in the seventies, Ebola has been considered rare and only diagnosed in about 2,360 people and resulted in 1,548 deaths.  What makes the recent eruption so startling is the rapid spread of the disease, which has already claimed over 6,000 victims in five countries and caused almost 3,000 mortalities in a matter of months.

What are the Symptoms of the Ebola Virus?

Ebola is spread through contact with an infected human or animal’s body fluids.  The symptoms of the disease can surface within a few days of contraction and generally feel like a bad flu; body sweats, fever, joint pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Unfortunately, about 50% of patients will experience bleeding from their mucous membranes (eyes, nose, gums, genitalia, gastro tract, etc.) and may have large rashes or hematomas throughout their body.

While the hemorrhaging is definitely not a good sign, it’s not necessarily a death sentence unless since Ebola only kills about half of its victims.  If you make it past the two week mark, then there’s a very good chance of survival, although a long, slow recovery is imminent.

Is the USA at a high risk for an Ebola epidemic?

In short, no, not at this time.  The US is not considered at high risk, although President Obama did recently declare it a “security threat”.  A large reason for the current Ebola outbreak in Africa is due to the lack of adequate healthcare, since the disease requires a very high level of cleanliness and sterilization to isolate and contain those infected.

So for now, there’s no need to start wearing a mask and gloves on a daily basis, although you might want to postpone that trip to West Africa for the time being.


What Happened to Smallpox?

The twentieth century has been a snowball of technology and progress, seeing monumental leaps in all areas of science, from quantum physics to the internet to space travel. However, where medical science is concerned, one of the greatest advances achieved during this time is the eradication of smallpox, which is the first disease to be annihilated thanks to global cooperation.

The official origin of smallpox is unknown, but the virus had been officially wreaking havoc on humans since about 1350 BC, when epidemics were recorded during the Egyptian-Hittite war. After that, the disease is known to have moved from Asia into Europe and finally to the Americas around the eighteenth century. Eventually, the entire planet would be stricken with smallpox in varying degrees of severity, with Europe and Mexico being hit particularly hard.

Over time, a pattern that became recognized was that if a person survived the disease, they were never infected again. With this theory, people began to conduct early research into how they could contract a weakened version of the virus in order to develop immunity, without having to risk a full blown episode. Up until the 1700s, a common method was to grind up scabs taken from someone infected with smallpox, and blow or ingest the tainted powder. These early treatments evolved into the first modern day vaccine when the bovine version of smallpox – called cowpox – was tested in humans in 1796 and found to cause immunity with virtually no side effects.

From that point on, the smallpox vaccine was distributed globally quickly to get the virus in check. The World Health Organization (WHO) took the vaccine to the next level by declaring war on the disease in 1976, creating campaigns to eradicate smallpox worldwide. Their goal was pronounced a success in 1980, shortly after eliminating a final outbreak in Somalia.

With the efforts WHO and worldwide cooperation, an epidemic was permanently wiped out, to the point that vaccinations are no longer needed. Even though this is the only successful case of a virus being completely squashed, it gives hope for the future that other deadly diseases, such as AIDS, can be systematically extinguished as well.

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¿Qué pasó con la Viruela?

El siglo XX ha sido una bola de nieve de la tecnología y el progreso, viendo saltos monumentales en todas las áreas de la ciencia, desde la física cuántica a la Internet para los viajes espaciales. No obstante, cuando la ciencia médica se refiere, uno de los mayores avances logrados durante este tiempo es la erradicación de la viruela, que es la primera enfermedad para ser aniquilados gracias a la cooperación global.

El origen oficial de la viruela no se conoce, pero el virus había sido oficialmente causando estragos en los seres humanos desde alrededor de 1350 AC, cuando se registraron epidemias durante la guerra egipcio-hitita. Después de eso, la enfermedad se sabe que han pasado de Asia a Europa y finalmente a las Américas alrededor del siglo XVIII. Con el tiempo, el planeta entero se enfermó de viruela en diferentes grados de severidad, con Europa y México que afecta particularmente.

Con el tiempo, un patrón que se hizo reconocida era que si una persona sobrevivió a la enfermedad, nunca fueron infectados nuevamente. Con esta teoría, la gente comenzó a realizar las primeras investigaciones en la forma en que podrían contraer una versión debilitada del virus con el fin de desarrollar la inmunidad, sin tener que arriesgar un episodio completo soplado. Hasta la década de 1700, un método común era para moler costras tomadas de una persona infectada con viruela, y sople o ingerir el polvo contaminada. Estos primeros tratamientos evolucionado hasta convertirse en la primera vacuna de hoy en día cuando la versión de la viruela bovina – llamada viruela de las vacas – se puso a prueba en seres humanos en 1796 y se encontró que provocar inmunidad prácticamente sin efectos secundarios.

A partir de ese momento, la vacuna contra la viruela se distribuyó en todo el mundo de forma rápida para obtener el virus bajo control. La Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) llevó la vacuna a un nivel superior al declarar la guerra a la enfermedad en 1976, la creación de campañas para erradicar la viruela en todo el mundo. Su objetivo fue declarado un éxito en 1980, poco después de la eliminación de un brote de final en Somalia.

Con los esfuerzos de la OMS y la cooperación en todo el mundo, una epidemia se limpió permanentemente, hasta el punto de que las vacunas ya no son necesarios. A pesar de que este es el único caso exitoso de un virus de ser completamente aplastado, que da esperanza para el futuro que otras enfermedades mortales, como el SIDA, pueden extinguirse sistemáticamente también.

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Tuberculosis (TB) is Back and some of it is Incurable

Most people in the United States have never seen or met another person with tuberculosis (TB).  TB is a disease that people in other countries contract and suffer from.  Not Americans.  Well, that may be changing and what makes this scary is that some forms of tuberculosis are incurable.

Tuberculosis is a disease that is closely associated with poverty.  It is caused by a bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis and it is common in areas of dense population with poor sanitation and poor health care. It is a disease that has plagued mankind for centuries and has killed millions.  Today it kills about a million people per year around the world.

The most common form of transmission of TB is when a person with infected lungs sneezes, coughs, or spits, which releases the bacteria into the air that others breathe.

Most people who contract tuberculosis can be effectively treated with an aggressive drug regimen.  However, new strains of TB have become resistant to many drugs (extensively resistant TB) and other strains are resistant to all drugs.

Where is Tuberculosis?

Extensively drug resistant TB, known as XDR-TB, is global. It has been reported in 92 countries throughout the world but is probably present in more. Some experts believe TB is present in every country.  It is most serious in East Europe, Russia, South Africa, China, and India. India is now reporting cases of incurable TB.

The United State has been affected.  There were 72 reported cases of XDR-TB in this country in 2013.  With international travel becoming more frequent we can expect more cases of TB in the USA in the future.

It is estimated that one-third of the people in the world have latent TB.  That means they have been infected by the bacteria but they have no symptoms of illness and they can not transmit TB to others.  There are approximately 1/2 million new cases of XDR-TB worldwide every year and this number can be expected to increase.

What are some of the Early Symptoms of TB?

  • A Persistent Cough that lasts longer than two weeks
  • A General Feeling of being ill for more than two weeks
  • Weight Loss that is unexpected and unexplained
  • Heavy Sweating at night
  • Fever

How Did TB Become Incurable?

The experts believe that the most likely reason that some forms of tuberculosis have become incurable is because patients have not completed their treatment regimens of antibiotics. In these cases, the TB bacteria has be exposed to the antibiotics but not killed, and therefore have had an opportunity to mutate and develop resistance.

Incurable TB is dangerous – incurable – because all known treatment drugs are ineffective and are literally useless.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself and Family from TB?

The best prevention is to avoid known areas of the world where there is a high concentration of TB cases. Other preventative measure can be grouped into a healthly life style – a healthy diet, exercise, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections make millions of people miserable every single day.  As we all know, there’s nothing more irritating and energy draining than not being able to breathe comfortably.  With that in mind, it’s helpful to know what exactly a respiratory infection is and where it comes from to maximize your health and happiness.

What is a respiratory tract infection?

Respiratory tract infections (RTI) are simply defined as any infection that affects the lungs, throat, airways, or sinuses.  For the less fortunate, it can often be an infection of several of these at the same time to double your misery.

To further classify this ailment, doctors typically divide RTIs into two groups: Upper respiratory infections and Lower respiratory infections.  An upper RTI encompasses the nose, head, sinuses and throat while a lower RTI generally affects the lungs and airways.

RTIs are often attributed as the ‘common cold’ or flu, especially since they can be caused by both bacteria and viruses.  Because of this, it’s also one of the most common reasons for visiting the doctor to ease symptoms and get prescriptions for antibiotics when appropriate.

However, as a general guide, upper RTIs usually consist of tonsillitis, laryngitis, or sinusitis.  Some of the more common lower RTIs include pneumonia, bronchitis, or bronchiolitis.

How do you get a respiratory tract infection?

As any office worker or teacher knows, colds and infections spread fast and furiously.  Since RTIs can either viral or bacterial, they are particularly savvy at transferring from one host to the next.  Children are especially susceptible since they lack the immunity of antibodies and defenses found in most adults.

The most obvious and preventable method that RTIs are spread is through direct or indirect contact of someone already infected.  Indirect contact is the trickier of the two since it can happen through something as innocent as a sick person who has rubbed their eyes or nose and touched the same object as you.

As the name implies, RTIs can also be airborne and pulled directly into the lungs or airway.  This is why it’s imperative to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing when you have an RTI.

While it’s virtually impossible to completely avoid RTIs, with good personal hygiene and regular hand washing, you can substantially minimize your chances of getting and spreading respiratory infections.

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Phage Therapy

Phage Therapy – Infecting the Infection

Today doctors and patients are faced with numerous infections and diseases that are resistant to antibiotics. What are we going to do? Recently American scientists have “re-discovered” an old tool – Bacteriophages (phages). Phages were known to work – sometimes – by doctors in the 1920s but in the last few decades have become a very important medical tool for doctors in Russia, eastern Europe, and more recently Asia.

Phages are very small viruses that can invade or infect a dangerous bacteria or pathogen such as dysentery or cholera. They are 100 times smaller than the cells they target and kill. These phages can have DNA that contains very specific genes from the immune system of other bacteria. In essence, a specific phage can “steal” certain genes from one type of bacteria, incorporate it in its DNA, and then become an assassin against another type of bacteria. When a specific phage can be identified and targeted against, say cholera, it becomes a valuable weapon that can save lives. As mentioned earlier, phages are widely used in other parts of the world and are used to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial diseases, wounds that won’t heal, diabetic ulcers, and other medical conditions.

Perhaps the first widespread use of phage therapy in this country was and is the use of phages to kill pathogens in our food supply. These phages are often combined into a “cocktail” and sprayed on meat, poultry, vegetables, and fruit. Listeria, Salmonella, and Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) are foodborne pathogens that can be fatal. Listeria can cause an infection called Listeriosis that has a 20% fatality rate. Nationwide foodborne illnesses account for about 3000 deaths annually.

Research is accelerating with phage therapy and much of it is focused on human cures. Some of the more prominent medical conditions being targeted for phage research are dysentery, acne, chronic ulcers, and bacterial “superbugs” that are resistant to almost all antibiotics. There is still a lot of research and testing that needs to be done. However phage therapy has great promise because it does not harm humans but will target the source of the problem, the cells of these pathogens that cause such nasty bacterial infections.

Let’s root for the phages !

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