HomeArchives May 2020

The other Corona Disease

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-by Dr. Alan Laird, Chief Medical Officer

No this article is not about the virus. There is a lot of news and articles about that topic. That is not to say coronavirus is not important. Clearly, it has become so.

As we referred to earlier, the corona part of its name refers to the surrounding halo or crown-like spikes seen on the virus. Another object the corona refers to is the sun. It has a corona or halo, as well.

This is the time of year we’re likely to forget what damage the sun can do. We are reminded when we spend some time in the yard and noticed the next day our skin is a different color (or hot, sensitive and itchy if we are dark complexion).

Do not get me wrong. The sun and its corona do a lot of good things for us. We all probably know that getting sunshine can boost your vitamin D levels. It can also help with your mood, stress reduction, and help you sleep better.

But sunshine can also be damaging to our skin. Particularly the ultraviolet or UV portion of the sunlight that we cannot see. That is one of the reasons a person can still get sunburn on a cloudy day. The UV rays penetrate the outer layers of the skin to cause damage to the deeper layer where skin growth occurs. The damage then results in the swelling and pain associated with a sunburn.

A sunburn is something most all of us have experienced (even those with dark complexion). And while most burns cause some minor discomfort for 3 to 7 days, the susceptibility to sunburn is a marker to susceptibility to skin cancer and other sun damage to the skin. In other words, if you sunburn easily, you should consider yourself at higher risk of skin cancer. In general in our area the risk of sunburn is highest between 11 am and 3 pm in the summer months. Again, a fact most of us have learned the hard way. And it does appear that if you have suffered a sunburn, then they burned area has suffered an injury to the DNA inside the skin cells. Hence the reason for increased skin cancer and skin damage.

Besides having a fair complexion, other things that can cause you to burn more easily include: certain diseases — not just of the skin — but systemic diseases like lupus can make you more sun sensitive, as well as several different types of medication and some skin products.

Of course it is not just about skin cancer (although that is important) but sun damage leads to other types of skin problems. These can include: premature skin aging, wrinkles, dry skin, thinning of the skin, and an increase in those dark brown patches called solar lentigines. Rough scaly patches may also occur that are precancerous and called actinic keratosis or solar keratosis. Seek the advice of your healthcare provider if you notice concerning or changing skin spots.

So what can you do to avoid sunburn and the delayed affects from it in the years ahead?

Wear protective clothing. A long sleeve shirt provides more protection than a T-shirt. Long pants obviously cover more than shorts do. And don’t forget about those parts you can’t see – the back of your neck and the tops of your head and ears. A wide brim hat will cover those, where a baseball cap may not.

For those areas that are sun exposed and cannot be covered up, use a sunscreen. This is especially important for children and adolescents. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Try to avoid the peak sun hours from 10 am to 4 pm. If you are sweating a lot or swimming, reapply frequently. For infants younger than 6 months, use lightweight clothing and sunscreen with SPF greater than or equal to 15 to small areas.

In the hopes we can all get outside more and as social distancing eventually becomes less important (we hope), let’s not forget to keep the other corona trouble maker (sunburn) at a distance so our skin stays healthy.

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May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month
Did you know … Dr. Mark Turek offers dermatological evaluations and procedures for a variety of conditions, right here in our clinic, close to home. Utilizing dermoscopy – a method of detection for pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions – allows Dr. Turek to determine if a biopsy is needed. He can perform biopsies and excisions of a variety of skin lesions. Call our medical clinic at 712-737-2000 for an appointment.

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-by Dr. Marie Moeller, Orange City Area Health System Family Medicine

Gardening is seeing a surge in popularity since the Coronavirus pandemic began. Local retailers report seeds, plants and supplies flying off the shelves. Some online seed warehouses stopped taking new orders in April, needing time to catch up with unprecedented demand. Several of my friends, co-workers, and patients have reported plans for an expanded garden this summer.

The reasons for the uptick in plant-enthusiasm are likely as varied as the gardens (and gardeners) themselves. Some families may be trying to plant some edibles in order to stretch their food dollars. Perhaps it gives us a sense of ‘food security’. More likely, the ancient rhythm of planting, growing, and harvesting is welcome in a time when so many of our other routines have changed. Not to mention, gardening is a perfect activity for social connection while still social distancing. Flowers and beautiful landscapes can be admired while walking the dog. Compliments or questions can be hollered across the fence, staying 6 feet apart but still solving that tomato plant dilemma.

I suspect many of us simply have found more time on our hands. Those backyard projects that were long-delayed in lieu of our kid’s activities and other events are now calling to us.

Families with school-age kids were recently thrust into educating from home this spring. I would suggest gardening as a great learning opportunity to continue all summer. Lessons in math and science creep into a great outdoor PE class. Artistic design of flower beds and possibly even some light construction skills might be learned in the process. The produce could then be used for some additional cooking classes in the kitchen. These are the kind of life skills every kid can benefit from. And remember, making a few mistakes in the garden or kitchen is part of the learning and experimenting! No pressure to be perfect!

There are many well-documented health benefits of gardening. First of all, being active in the yard may burn as much as 300 calories in an hour. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, one could gain muscle mass, bone strength, and balance while gardening. Plus, the healthy vegetables and fruits grown can help us eat our recommended “5 a day”; packed with vitamins, fiber and other goodness. Kids that tend to be picky eaters might branch out if they’ve been involved in the choosing and tending vegetable plants.

Many studies show a mental health boost to those who spend time in nature. While gardening alone won’t replace the need for regular medical care for your physical and emotional health, ‘green time’ can certainly complement your efforts.

Ready to try a few garden projects for the first time?

A few square feet in a raised bed is a great place to begin. Kid-friendly choices to grow from seeds might include radishes, because these can be planted early in the spring, and are ready in only 20-30 days. Kids might find raw radishes rather strongly flavored, but you can slice and sauté them to get a nice sweet, nutty flavor. Carrots are also a big hit with kids. Our thick Iowa soil is not great for growing carrots. Try a short, rounded variety in well-tilled soil, or plant the seeds in a large pot. They harvest easily out of the potting soil. Basil also grows easily in pots. The leaves can be harvested for pesto. Leaf lettuce is much easier than trying to grow head lettuce. You can snap off a few leaves to eat and the plant will regrow more. You could also tuck a few of these seeds into a large container or planter that might also have some flowers.

In my opinion, no Midwest backyard should go without a tomato plant (or ten) in the summer. There is nothing as delicious as a tomato that has sun-ripened on your own property. Some varieties can even be planted in a pot on a small deck. My other ultimate favorite is strawberries, if you have space for them to spread out a little. They are easy to grow, in fact you’ll find you soon have extra strawberry plants to share.

Lastly a two dollar pack of Zinnia seeds, or a few started plants, will bring a lot of joy, and hopefully some butterflies, to your yard. Especially given these uncertain times, I think we can all agree, that the world needs more flowers.

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