Summer Skin Cancer Message

Recently a friend posted a very impactful message on her Facebook page (thanks, Lisa!) that I would like to recommend. The youtube video is called Dear 16 year-old Me, and shows real people who lives have been deeply affected by melanoma, and the message they would love to go back in time and send to themselves (and their loved ones) before they started purposefully sun tanning to “look healthy”.

Many people are unaware that the skin cancer MELANOMA is a very serious cancer. Because it looks like a simple little funny-looking mole on the skin, there is often the assumption … Read more

Is Swimming Pool Water Safe?

Swimming season has arrived, and patients often ask me about whether or not you can catch this or that disease from a swimming pool or hot tub. First of all, let me assure you that no, you cannot catch STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) directly from a hot tub…as long as all you are doing in the hot tub is enjoying the water. There are, however, diseases that can be contracted from swimming pools – typically from accidentally swallowing the pool water. How does that happen? Easily, especially for kids and adults who play around with getting mouthfuls of pool water … Read more

Cleaning Ears without Q-Tips

In yesterday’s blog I touched on a pet peeve of mine, asking people to NOT put Q-tips in their ears. Inevitably, the next question is, “but Doctor, if I can’t use q-tips, how can I clean out my ears?”
The answer is two-fold:
Number One- most ears don’t need to be “cleaned out”.
Number Two- when you do have an ear wax build up, flush them out with a bulb syringe.

Ear canals, like many other parts of our body, are self-cleaning. The ear wax (cerumen) is made up of dead skin cells, hair, and other debris that enters the … Read more

Swim Season! Are Your EARS Ready?

Swim season is fully upon us, and with that comes a couple medical challenges. Today I’d like to focus on swimmer’s ear.

What is swimmer’s ear? 
This typically refers to an OUTER EAR infection caused by fungi or bacteria. The moisture left in the ear after swimming is fertile ground for these organisms to multiply, especially lake water.

What are the symptoms?
Swimmer’s ear is PAINFUL and almost always one sided, despite the fact that both ears had the same exposure. (Differently shaped ear canals and varied amounts of ear wax are to blame for this discrepancy.) Since this is … Read more

Staying Alive! Hands-Only CPR & AEDs

When is the last time YOU were CPR certified? Most of my friends were first certified during scouting years, then for babysitting as a teenager, then again when they had babies of their own. I know my last few certifications I did online, without benefit of the famous Annie mannequin. Last week, however, I had a recertification training that included an automatic external defibrillator (AED), and now I’m ready to light a fire under everyone I know to head to an American Heart Association (AHA) training!
There are two main messages that I would like to share:
1. You don’t … Read more

Poison Ivy – Austinites Beware!

It’s nearly summer, and once again, POISON IVY is growing all over down at Lady Bird Lake (formerly known as our Town Lake). There are areas where this climbing plant is well over six feet high! If you are walking or jogging with only two-legged (or wheeled) companions, it’s fairly easy to avoid the plant simply by staying on the trail. However, if you have your favorite four-legged partner by your side, beware that poison ivy can be spread from your dog’s fur to you!

Poison ivy (and poison oak & sumac) all have urushiol- the poison sap- in their … Read more

Breaking Out in Hives?

Hives – the very thought of these itchy, raised, red splotches make me start to squirm and scratch. With our oak allergy season in full bloom here in Austin, we see the full spectrum of allergic complaints- from sneezing, sore throats, dry coughs and itchy eyes to skin reactions such as hives. The medical term for hives is “urticaria”. These lesions come and go, and often cause a burning sensation along with the itch.

In the previous blog entry about allergic eye problems, I mentioned that histamine (the substance that causes the redness and itch of allergic reactions) is stored … Read more

Seeing Red This Spring?

What should you do if your primary allergy symptom is not sneezing, runny nose, or sore throat, but burning, itching, watery, red eyes? Will over-the-counter products help with eye symptoms?
The short answer is yes- oral antihistamines (like Benadryl, Allegra, Claritin & Zyrtec) can help with allergic eye symptoms, but if you are really only having eye issues, you may get better relief from some prescription eye drops.

Many of my patients try to use over-the-counter eye drops that “get the red out”…only to discover that they need more and more of these drops to accomplish the same results. … Read more

Itchy Eyes, Runny Nose…Achoo!

No April Fool’s…here in Austin, Texas, we are fully into OAK ALLERGY season. Our cars have a dusting of yellow pollen, and the streets are strewn with oak droppings. Is it time for a trip to your family doctor or allergist? Maybe, but there are several remedies you can try on your own first.

What are signs and symptoms of allergies?

At the risk of sounding like an antihistamine commercial, it’s sneezing (often in fits of sneezes), itchy eyes, itchy throat, scratchy throat, drainage down the back of your throat (which creates early morning sore throats that often fade mid-morning), … Read more

Getting a Base Tan for Spring Break?

Here in Texas, we are alternating hot days of wearing shorts with chilly days or grabbing jackets, which means it’s nearly time for SPRING BREAK- hooray! Many students and their families head to the beach for spring break, and before the women don their bikinis, the quest for a “base tan” to avoid a sunburn begins. I have had many patients ask my advice on what is better- going to a tanning booth or braving the capricious weather outside. My answer? NEITHER.

The entire notion of a “base tan” has no scientific basis, nor support from dermatologists. In fact, … Read more