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Health Q&A

Posted October 17, 2012 in Advice Column, Ankeny

Q: What is pink eye?

A: Pink eye is general term that describes a red, irritated eye due to numerous causes, including allergies, dry eyes or bacterial or viral infections. Pink eye in children is usually cause for concern because certain forms can spread quickly in school or day care populations.

The two forms one would be concerned about in that situation are viral and bacterial. The bacterial form typically involves a yellow or green discharge/crusting of the eye lids and tends to only affect one eye, but can affect both. It is treated by antibiotic drops or ointments. The viral form has a more watery appearance to the eye, and less discharge/crusting, which tends to be white instead of yellow or green.

Viral pink eye tends to start in one eye and then will spread to the other eye quickly; this is not always the case, however. It is highly contagious and can be spread by coughing and sneezing during the cold and flu seasons, or by rubbing an eye and then touching or playing with toys or other kids, and is spread when someone else comes in contact with those surfaces or items. The viral form requires no treatment, other than possibly some drops to reduce any itching or burning, or to reduce the redness; viral pink eye will go away on its own.

Optometrists are thoroughly trained in the diagnosis and treatment of pink eye and have special tools to aid in that process. As cold and flu season fast approach, along with increased indoor time at school and daycare, pink eye will become more common. If your child or other family members develop pink eye at any time, please call us to help determine the best treatment.

Information provided by Erik Romsdahl, Child and Family Vision Center, 2525 N. Ankeny Blvd., Suite 109, Ankeny, 964-7541.

Q: Is it true the recommended temperature for cooking pork has changed?

A: Park the truck and let the tailgate down. It is football season and time to cheer for your favorite team. Whether you are grilling on your backyard patio or at the stadium parking lot, tailgating brings big appetites. Grilled pork is an easy way to satisfy a crowd of hungry fans.

New cooking guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture help make pork a winner at your next tailgate. The recommended safe end-point for cooking pork is now 145°F. Until recently it was 160°F. Today’s pork is extremely lean and is very easy to overcook, making it dry and less flavorful. Cooking to just 145 results in a juicier, more flavorful meat. The meat will be a little pink in color and is perfectly safe to eat. Those used to only eating “white” pork will be surprised at the juiciness and good flavor of these more gently-cooked chops.

The only way to make sure you are cooking foods to their proper temperatures is by using a meat thermometer. An instant-read thermometer is a low-cost, must-have for every kitchen and tailgate. Simply insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (without touching any bone). The temperature should register within a few seconds. To check grilled pork chops, hold the pork chop with tongs and insert the meat thermometer a few inches into the side of the chop.

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Information provided by Jenny Norgaard, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Ankeny Hy-Vee,, 515-964-0900.

Q: How can I protect myself from colds and flu?

A: You can reduce your risk of catching a cold or the flu by washing your hands frequently, which stops the spread of germs. Eating healthfully, exercising and getting enough sleep are also important.

Cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow (rather than into your hand). Clean table and counter tops, toys, door handles and bathroom facilities with anti-bacterial disinfectant to stop the spread of germs.

The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the influenza vaccine each fall or anytime throughout the flu season. The vaccine is available by shot or by nasal spray. The vaccines work by exposing your immune system to the flu virus. Your body will build up antibodies to the virus to protect you from getting the flu. The flu shot contains dead viruses. The flu shot is safe for adults and all children 6 months of age and older, and it is strongly recommended that all children 6 months of age to 59 months of age get a yearly flu shot. The nasal-spray vaccine contains live but weakened viruses. It is safe for adults and all children 2 years of age and older who do not have asthma or breathing problems. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal-spray vaccine.

Some people who get the vaccine will still get the flu, but they will usually get a milder case than people who aren’t vaccinated. The vaccine is especially recommended for people who are more likely to get really sick from flu-related complications.

Information provided Dr. Doug Layton, D.O., Family Physicians at Prairie Trail, 2515 S.W. State St., 964-6999.

Q: Does my child need vitamin supplements?

A: Nutritionally-sound foods are necessary for children to grow and develop correctly. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the vitamins and minerals listed below. To make sure your child gets the recommended daily intake consider adding dietary supplements to his or her routine.

   Vitamin A: Healthy bones, teeth, skin and vision are dependent on Vitamin A. Eggs, meat, milk and cheese are high in vitamin A as well as carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit and leafy green vegetables.

    Vitamin B: The B vitamins helps the body form red blood cells and make energy. Vitamin B is found in fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy products, leafy green vegetables, beans and peas.

   Vitamin C: The antioxidant Vitamin C is important for healthy skin, bones and connective tissue. It also helps with healing and resisting infection. Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli and spinach are all good sources of vitamin C.

    Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your child absorb calcium, which is important for the formation of healthy bones and teeth. Foods rich in vitamin D include egg yolks, fish and liver, as well as fortified milk and cereals.

    Calcium: Calcium is important for helping muscles and blood vessels as well as for healthy bones and teeth. Milk, cheese and yogurt and leafy green vegetables, all provide good sources for calcium.

    Iron: Iron is necessary to form blood cells and build muscles. Good sources include dried beans and fruits, eggs, liver, lean red meat, tuna, salmon, iron-fortified cereals, and whole grains.

Information provided by Jennifer Meurer, PharmD., Medicap Pharmacy, 107 N.E. Delaware, Suite 6, 964-8550.

Q: When should I start an oral care program for my child?

A: When caring for your child’s teeth, prevention is the best approach to good oral health. Developing a regular routine is the surest way to ensure lifelong oral health.

As an adult, you already understand the basics of oral health, such as brushing twice per day, flossing daily and visiting your dentist every six months. The same rules apply to your child.

A good oral care program requires diligence and helping your child associate regular dental care with the normal routine of day-to-day life. You must also lead by example. Brush and floss with your child. This benefits the whole family in the long run.

You may be wondering when you should bring your child in for his or her first visit. As soon as the first tooth appears, you can schedule an appointment (usually in the child’s first six to eight months). Of equal importance is a visit to the dentist if teeth have not appeared by the end of your child’s first year.

Here at Peddicord Family Dentistry, we are committed to patient education, and we will be glad to help you develop a sound oral care program for your child. Because we are a family practice, we provide dental care to everyone in your home, with a full range of preventive, cosmetic and restorative services. Contact our office to make your child’s first appointment.

Information provided by Dr. Erika Peddicord, Peddicord Family Dentistry, 121 N.E. 18th St., Suite C, 963-3339.

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