MEDICAL NEWS TIPS

August 1997


Listed below are story ideas from The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
To pursue any of these stories, call the contact person listed.

PREVENTING E. coli CONTAMINATION WHEN GRILLING

Grilling burgers incorrectly can cause a grueling after-dinner experience--food poisoning caused by Escherichia coli, better known as E. coli. This common germ normally lives quietly in our gastrointestinal tract without causing problems. But newer strains of this bacterium have genes that let them produce illness in people, says Cynthia Sears, M.D.

The best way to avoid problems with E. coli is to grill the burgers till they're brown inside and the juices from the meat run clear (i.e., to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F).

Improperly grilled chicken also can cause a severe case of food poisoning, but the culprits there are other bacteria, Salmonella and Campylobacter.

For media inquiries only, contact Marc Kusinitz at (410) 955-8665 or mkusinit@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL HEALTH TIPS

When it comes to international travel, prevention pays, according to Judy Baker, the assistant director of the Johns Hopkins International Travel Clinic.
Some travel tips for jet-setters heading for exotic vacation or work destinations:

  1. Make sure you and your family have all your routine vaccinations, plus those needed for specific countries.
  2. Make sure drinking water really is drinkable; or use only bottled, boiled or chemically purified water. Just in case, bring anti-diarrhea medicine with you.
  3. Use chemical repellants such as DEET to block biting insects that spread malaria and other diseases. Also, sleep in beds covered by mosquito nets, wear clothes that cover your arms and legs, and take preventive medicines that are prescribed by your travel clinic doctor.
  4. Stay alert and avoid injuries in developing countries, where safety devices like seat belts in cars are not common. And in general, avoid nighttime travel.
  5. Take precautions against sexually transmitted diseases, which occur worldwide.
  6. If you get sick after returning home, make sure to tell your doctor where you've been.

    For media inquiries only, contact Liz Pettengill at (410) 955-6878 or lpetteng@phnet.sph.jhu.edu

    TAKE OFF CONTACTS BEFORE SWIMMING

    Summertime means swimming time to many people. But whether you go to the beach, the lake or the neighborhood pool, you might get more than salt water or chlorine in your eyes, according to a Johns Hopkins eye doctor.
    Eyes are easy targets for germs in water, especially if you wear contact lenses that absorb moisture, says Terrence P. O'Brien, M.D. an ocular infectious disease specialist and refractive eye surgeon at Wilmer Eye Institute.

    Swimming puts people at risk for developing a severe infection of the cornea with a microbe called acanthamoeba--a parasite that lives in water, soil and many other outdoor environments during summer months. The problem is worse with people who swim while wearing contact lenses.

    "Such an infection can cause a loss of vision," O'Brien warns. "So it's best not to wear contact lenses while swimming."

    For media inquiries only, contact Marc Kusinitz at (410) 955-8665 or mkusinit@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

    CHOOSING SUNGLASSES WISELY

    Sunglasses are a fashion statement. But choosing the wrong pair of sunglasses can be a dangerous mistake. A Johns Hopkins study showed several years ago that fishermen who spent years working the waters of the Chesapeake Bay without eye protection had significantly increased risk for cataracts--a clouding of the lens of the eye--as those who wore sunglasses or brimmed hats.

    When it comes to sunglasses, the smartest buy is a pair that absorbs virtually all of the ultraviolet rays, says Johns Gottsch, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute. Gottsch offers the following tips:
    1. Choose sunglasses that block all UV-A and UV-B light and don't be fooled by price. Some inexpensive glasses absorb UV light better than expensive ones.
    2. Polarized lenses cut reflected glare, but don't block all of the UV light. Make sure polarized lenses also offer adequate UV protection.
    3. When exposed to large amounts of UV light (such as during boating or skiing), consider wearing large-framed wraparound sunglasses, which protect your eyes from all angles.
    For media inquiries only, contact Marc Kusinitz at (410) 955-8665 or mkusinit@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

    WOMEN'S EYE PROBLEMS

    Both men and women have eye problems; but women have special problems men don't.
    More specifically, healthy pregnant women sometimes have dry eyes, or may have difficulty with their eyeglass or contact lens prescription, says Janet Sunness, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute. These changes are probably related to hormonal changes.

    Teen-age girls who share makeup can spread conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes. Eyeliner and mascara are especially likely to cause problems, particularly blepharitis--chronic inflammation of the eyelids, as well as itching and loss of lashes.

    For media inquiries only, contact Marc Kusinitz at (410) 955-8665 or mkusinit@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

    MEN, DON'T FORGET YOUR LIPS

    Skin cancer rates are higher among men than women, probably due to their jobs--men work outside more, experts say. Stanley Miller, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins melanoma clinic, says everyone, particularly men, should remember their lips when applying sunscreens. Women may be at an advantage when it comes to the lips because they often get protection from lipstick or lip balm with an SPF of at least 15.

    For media inquiries only, contact Karin Twilde or Valerie Mehl at (410) 955-1287

    THE ABC OF SPF

    SPF 10, SPF 15, SPF 30--they have become the catch phrases of summer, but what do they mean, and how much is enough? The ultraviolet rays of the sun, the rays that cause sunburn, are the same rays that lead to skin cancer. Sunscreens filter out these dangerous rays and are labeled with that common measurement, SPF, which stands for sun protection factor, and the accompanying number that refers to the amount of sun a person can be exposed to before burning. For example, people wearing sunscreen labeled SPF 15, the most commonly recommended degree of sun protection, can tolerate 15 times more sun without burning than if they were wearing no sunscreen. Right? Maybe not, according to Stanley Miller, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Melanoma Clinic. Miller recommends sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or 40. "People do not apply sunscreen as liberally as they should, so they've already lost some protection. Then, if you sweat, as most people do in the sun, and don't reapply, you've lost even more protection. You've started out with an SPF of 15 but you're already down to a seven," he says. By starting with an SPF of 30 or 40, Miller says, people give themselves an extra cushion and ensure they're getting adequate protection.

    For media inquiries only, contact Karin Twilde or Valerie Mehl at (410) 955-1287.

    PREVENTING HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS IN KIDS

    Hot fun in the summertime can also mean visits to the emergency department if you are not careful.
    Children most commonly suffer heat-related illness during outdoor events such as parades, festivals and sporting activities, where they may wear heavy uniform clothing, not drink enough fluids, and be very active. Teens may suffer from heat-related illness working outdoors or drinking alcohol during daytime parties. These children and teens are at risk for severe dehydration, heat exhaustion and even potentially fatal heat stroke.
    Pediatricians at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center offer specific steps to prevent heat-related illness, telltale signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and recommend treatments.

    For media inquiries only, contact Melissa Sweeney at (410) 223-1741 or msweeney@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu


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