December 20, 2014

Holiday tips from the Nebraska Regional Poison Center

As we celebrate the holidays the Nebraska Regional Poison Center reminds all Nebraskans safety first. Educator and RN Joan McVoy says the number of poisoning incidents involving children increases during the holiday season. She says over 50% of the calls they receive involve medications.

 McVoy says visiting friends and relatives may spend the night and it is important if they bring medications they are out of sight and reach of small hands. They may also pose as a temptation to teenagers.

 McVoy says as gifts arrive make sure to watch out for those that may contain a small disc battery. They typically come in musical greeting cards, games, watches and remotes. She says if swallowed they can become lodged and cause serious injury or death if not removed.

 Prevention is the best treatment for poisonings but if you have any questions or concerns make sure to keep the Poison Center’s number handy – 1-800-222-1222. McVoy says nurses staff the line 24/7, including Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

UNMC takes pride in TIME praise of Ebola fighters

time-ebola-cover-person-of-the-year-141222[2]Those that work at Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Unit feel a sense of pride that TIME magazine selected men and women on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as their person of the year.

“Just a feeling of gratefulness for being able to be here to be that support for those people when they come back and need the care.  Just being proud of what we have been able to accomplish here,” says Biocontainment Unit nurse Angela Vasa.

Critical Care Director Dr. Dan Johnson says, “I think we’ve been part of the fight against Ebola in a small way.  I think the article appropriately gives credit mostly to the people who are in West Africa fighting Ebola on the front lines.”

Johnson says until Ebola is completely eradicated in West Africa the entire world remains at risk.

The Biocontainment Unit in Omaha successfully treated two Ebola patients.  A third patient was critically ill and passed away shortly after his arrival.

Nebraska ranks as the nation’s 10th healthiest state

Medical LogoNebraska rose one notch and again ranks in the top ten on the latest report that rates the states for their health and wellbeing.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, spokeswoman for the United Health Foundation, says the list is compiled by comparing 30 different criteria in four main categories: behaviors, community environment, public policy and the clinical care system.

“Nebraska ranks #10, last year they were ranked #11, and in 1990 when we began the report, they were ranked #5,” Dr. Randall says. “Nebraska has consistently been in the top 20 states over the course of the 25-year report.”

She says Nebraska had excellent showings in several categories this year.

“Nebraska is #1 in high school graduation and #2 in immunization coverage for children, so, very good news there,” Randall says. “Also, #3 for a low rate of drug deaths compared to the rest of the nation.”

Nebraska had a poor showing in rates of smoking, obesity and inactivity and Randall says there are a few other areas where the state could stand to improve.

“Twenty percent of the adult population, or one in five adults, is reporting they binge drink,” she says. “There’s a high incidence of salmonella which is a food-borne illness and a good indicator of infections related to contamination in our food.”

Hawaii ranked first this year, Mississippi was last.

See the full list of the rankings at:

Could early winter weather be giving you the blues?

SunlightCold weather rolled into Nebraska weeks early this fall and lingered, forcing many people indoors much sooner than usual.

Kevin Gabbert, a social worker and counselor, says being deprived of exposure to the sun can bring on the blues and make some people feel moody and lethargic.

Gabbert says the early onset of winter -may- bring an uptick in cases of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“It really kind of depends,” Gabbert says. “If it’s a longer winter, if there’s less sunlight, those types of things tend to play a role in SAD and we could experience more cases. It’s a little early for us to say yet.”

On the plus side, Gabbert says a little counseling can go a long ways for SAD sufferers.

“Talking about what’s going on with you, talking about your feelings,” Gabbert says. “It may be to the point where counseling would be beneficial. For those symptoms that are a little more advanced, it may be something you want to talk about with your physician. It may be that medication would be beneficial for you. Also, light therapy or phototherapy could be very helpful as well.”

Psychologist Dr. David Towle says light therapy is a simple solution that really helps some people get through the Midwestern winter.

“We typically think about exposure of about 30 minutes per day of a full spectrum light,” Towle says. “Often, people will get up in the morning and sit and read the newspaper, listen to the radio, drink their coffee, and sit in front of a light for 20 or 30 minutes and that’s a pretty effective intervention.”

Towle says another option is what’s called “negative air ionization,” which uses a device like an air purifier.

“It is like that and it’s something that people use while they’re sleeping,” Towle says. “It seems not to be quite as effective as the full-spectrum light exposure but it’s pretty effective for a lot of people.”

Studies find that between 10 and 20% of Americans report feeling tired or sad when there are fewer hours of daylight during the winter months.

Report details 24 “dangerous” toys shoppers should avoid

Click on the Trouble in Toyland link to learn why these robots may be dangerous.

Click on the Trouble in Toyland link to learn why these robots may be dangerous.

As the holidays near, a new report shows dangerous toys may still be sitting on store shelves in Nebraska.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group issues its Trouble in Toyland report each year, targeting toys that present choking hazards, use excessive noise or contain unsafe levels of lead and other dangerous chemicals.

PIRG spokesman Peter Skopec says they looked in stores and online: “We continue to find dangerous products that could harm or poison children,” Skopec says. “We found these toys everywhere, at dollar stores but also at big name stores like Walmart and Target and Toys ‘R’ Us but also at online retailers like”

Skopec says the report is a reminder that Nebraska parents and those shopping for children need to be careful about what they purchase. While federal regulations for toy safety have improved dramatically in the last eight years, Skopec says they continue finding an array of dangerous toys.

“There are still products out there that pose hazards to children that fail to meet these important safeguards,” Skopec says. “In some cases, standards have to be made stronger in order to protect kids from unsafe toys.”

This year’s report highlights 24 toys which the group considers unsafe, which includes toys that put out loud and potentially ear-damaging sounds. One such product is a toy smart phone made by V Tech.

“This is a toy phone we found at Target,” Skopec says. “It’s meant to be held up close to a child’s ear and it’s extremely loud.”

For nearly 30 years, PIRG has done an annual survey on toy safety which has led to more than 150 recalls and other regulatory actions.