March 24, 2018

Your kid is really sick, but the doctor says it’s ‘just a virus’

March 17

Your child has been coughing for days; she hasn’t slept in three nights (which means that you haven’t slept in three nights). She has a fever, has morphed into a living snot factory and has a rash that you think might be leprosy. Or smallpox. Or poison ivy.

So you call the pediatrician, who agrees to squeeze you in. When you arrive, you are ushered immediately into that germ-ridden purgatory pediatricians call the “Sick Child Waiting Room.” You strongly warn your child not to touch anything — because no matter how sick your kid is, the ones who were there earlier might have been sicker. And finally you see the doctor, who does a quick physical exam from as far away as his arms will allow, and scribbles something on your checkout sheet.

“It’s just a virus. He’ll be fine,” he says, and sends you off, leaving you wondering what exactly “just a virus” is supposed to mean and feeling quite confident that your child is far from “fine.”

So what, exactly, is “just a virus”? Well, a virus is a certain type of microorganism, or germ. Viruses have some properties that distinguish them from bacteria and other less common infections, but unless you own a microscope, a lab coat and a petri dish, you probably don’t really care.

Calling something “just a virus” is really misleading, because there are some pretty wicked viruses out there. HIV, polio and Ebola are all viruses. The herpes virus that causes mouth sores in some people can cause brain hemorrhages, seizures and death in infants. Other viruses can lead to cancer, liver failure and heart failure.

Fortunately, most of them don’t. In fact, most of them don’t cause any symptoms at all. And most of the viruses that do produce symptoms will cause some nasal congestion or a sore throat. Really, the vast majority of viral infections are more inconvenient than harmful. But calling something “just a virus” is a bit like saying something is “just an animal.” It could be a cuddly puppy or an angry wolverine; you really need to know more about it before you choose an approach.

Of course, when your pediatrician diagnoses your child with “just a virus,” he’s implying that it’s one of those that doesn’t typically cause much harm. There are thousands of viruses out there that can cause cold symptoms, and we don’t tend to test for them. It would be ridiculously expensive, it wouldn’t change what we do and you probably wouldn’t get the test result until the symptoms had gone away.

“Just a virus” is also implying that it’s a problem he can’t do much about. In contrast to bacterial infections, which are typically treated with antibiotics, most viral infections are stomped out by your immune system in a few days. Antibiotics don’t do a thing to treat viruses.

There are a handful of viruses that we can immunize against — such as measles and chickenpox — often with very good effectiveness. There also are a few that we can give medicine to treat, such as HIV and herpes. But these tend to be the bad ones, not the ones that cause colds. For the rest of them, you just have to give them time.

It’s never really the wrong decision to take your child to the pediatrician. There’s always a chance that there could be something else going on. But for most viral illnesses, your child would probably do just as well waiting it out at home.

If you do take your child to the doctor for a virus of the “just a” variety, she may be diagnosed with a “viral syndrome,” “upper respiratory infection” or “acute viral rhinitis.” These are doctor terms for “a cold.” (When you go to the trouble of bringing your child in, we don’t want to seem like we are downplaying your concerns, so we use a complicated medical term instead of “a cold.”)

After making this diagnosis, the doctor will probably provide reassurance and recommend “symptomatic care.” This means fluids, rest, humidifiers — things you were probably doing already. I promise, it’s not that we don’t understand how miserable “just a” viruses can be. Trust me, we’ve all picked up more than our share from snotty little kids (including our own). It’s also not that we don’t care. It’s just that we have nothing else to offer.

But don’t worry. It’s just a virus. He’ll be fine.

Correction: An earlier version of this article included pertussis in a group of illnesses caused by viruses. Pertussis is caused by a bacteria. This article has been corrected.

Hayes is a resident physician in pediatrics in Greenville, S.C. This article is reprinted from his parenting and pediatrics blog, at www.chadhayesmd.com.


Your kid is really sick, but the doctor says it’s ‘just a virus’

Cigar Advisor Publishes Article on Avoiding and Treating Poison Ivy and Other Harmful Plants

cigars, cigar magazine

Cigar 101 – Cigar How-to’s from Cigar Advisor

If I can save even one person from getting a rash, then researching and writing this article will have been worth it.

Easton, PA (PRWEB) August 10, 2013

The all-new Cigar Advisor Magazine is an online cigar magazine that brings a fresh, irreverent, and down-to-earth perspective on all things cigars to thousands of smokers. In addition to educational cigar content and behind-the-scenes cigar industry articles from some of the business’s top names, Cigar Advisor delivers an array of content about a variety of topics of interest to people who enjoy the cigar lifestyle. The magazine also features cigar reviews and ratings submitted by real smokers. Cigar Advisor has just published “The Untouchables,” a new supplemental article to their Lifestyle section.

Written as a basic overview of these three nefarious plants and the uncomfortable, itchy rashes they produce, Executive Editor Hayward “Lou” Tenney hopes to make summers across the United States more comfortable with the information he provides in “The Untouchables: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac.”

“I’m extremely allergic to Poison Ivy,” Tenney said, “so when I caught a really bad case of it, I did what any writer would do – I began researching. It turns out that Poison Oak and Poison Sumac are different plants than Ivy, but they all contain exactly the same irritant: urushiol.”

The word comes from a Japanese word meaning “lacquer,” and describes the oily organic allergen common to all three plants. Mind-bogglingly, it is estimated that one quarter ounce of pure urushiol would be enough to give a rash to every person in the world!

The article offers a basic description of each plant, including their appearance and domain, and offers some practical advice for treating urushiol-induced contact dermatitis, the rash that develops after contact with these plants.

“If I can save even one person from getting a rash, then researching and writing this article will have been worth it,” Tenney laughs.

About Cigar Advisor Magazine

Cigar Advisor magazine is a digital publication created for real cigar enthusiasts who love tobacco and live the lifestyle. Cigar smokers are passionate about almost everything they do – whether it’s the drinks they savor, the food they devour, the cars and motorcycles they dream of, the sports they’re fanatical about or the women they love, Cigar Advisor shares those passions with a razor-sharp edge, soaking up each day and experience as if it were our last. Find that passion and more on display at CigarAdvisor.com.

Continued – 

Cigar Advisor Publishes Article on Avoiding and Treating Poison Ivy and Other Harmful Plants

Climate change means mutant poison ivy

Climate change means mutant poison ivy

Climate change means mutant poison ivy – Back in college, I developed an oozing poison ivy rash all over my neck and arms and had to go on steroids — just because I inadvertently grazed the clothes of a friend who had gone tromping through the woods earlier that day. What’s worse, it happened right before the Dalai Lama visited my school. While my classmates were leaning forward in their folding chairs to capture his every syllable, I was shifting in my seat, clutching a bottle of calamine lotion, and desperately trying to look calm while the Lama talked about peace of mind — something I only know from reading the transcript. It’s hard to listen while your skin is on fire.

poison ivy climate change

So yeah, I’m pretty allergic to poison ivy. But a lot of people are — 80 percent of the population reacts to the vine with welts and maddeningly itchy rashes. So the fact that poison ivy plants are getting bigger and more poisonous due to climate change isn’t exactly welcome news. But that’s precisely what’s happening; scientific research indicates that with higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the poison ivy plant grows larger, and its “oil” (a.k.a. the awful poisonous stuff) becomes more potent.

Fortunately, someone’s already thinking about how we could do a better job getting rid of the plant. (Rabbits and deer might miss it — they’re immune to the ivy’s poison, so it makes a nice leafy lunch for them — but consequences to the overall ecosystem would be minor, experts say.) Last week a group of horticulturists, scientists, and nurses convened in Philadelphia for the first conference devoted exclusively to the nettlesome vine. Ivy eradication specialist Umar Mycka, who also works at the Philadelphia zoo, organized the small, four-day gathering. One of his goals was to swap itching remedies and removal strategies with other poison ivy experts.

poison ivy

“If you want to deal with a problem, you have to know what size problem you’re dealing with,” Mycka says. “These plants are so powerful to start with, it doesn’t take much of a touch from carbon to make it much worse.”

That’s exactly what scientists found when they planted poison ivy in an experimental forest at Duke University, piping in carbon dioxide to artificially raise the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to the levels it’s expected to be by about 2050. The result, published in 2006: like other plants subjected to a high-CO2 environment, the poison ivy plants grew 150 percent bigger, with 153 percent higher concentrations of their oil, called urushiol.

Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who co-authored the study, estimates that poison ivy plants are already growing 50 to 60 percent larger than they did 100 years ago. He told me that warmer temperatures are probably also pushing poison ivy-growing zones northward (again, as with many other plants), and urbanization is creating conditions amenable to the wily plant, which thrives in semi-developed areas with more sunlight.

“Think of heat islands or cities as climate change in miniature,” Ziska says. “There are higher C02 concentrations, higher temperatures. There’s a fragmentation of ecosystems. All of those factors allow poison ivy to enter an environment that it may not have been in before.”

At the Philadelphia conference, attendees had a chance to see poison ivy’s monstrous proportions firsthand. Mycka led them to a public park near the center of the city, where a large vine had been growing up a tree. Its weight after removal: 506 pounds. And climate change is going to make it worse? I can already feel my skin burning.

poison ivy

poison ivy

Climate change means mutant poison ivy

Climate change means mutant poison ivy

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