Extreme Weather Can Trigger Your Asthma

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For most people, if their asthma is managed properly and under control then the weather should not have much of an effect, however for others extreme weather conditions can bring on symptoms and organisations suggest extra thought and care is taken before heading out in it.
Changes in temperature of the air within your airways can cause inflammation, for most this is not a problem as the nose controls humidity and temperature. With people who suffer from asthma, they tend to breathe more through the mouth and irritants, pollutants and pollen are more of a factor and many already have inflammed airways. The more severe the asthma, the more likely it is that the weather will affect them.
Common weather triggers include:
•    Cold air can cause constriction of airways.
•    Wind and rain-Rainfall can increase and stir up mould spores, and wind can blow around pollen and mould.
•    Heat-increased ozone from smog, exhaust fumes, and pollutants tend to be higher. Dry hot air can also trigger asthma.
•    Lightning-Thunderstorms, which can generate ozone, are now thought of as an asthma trigger.
•    Air pressure fluctuations-Barometric pressure can trigger sinus episodes and sinusitis is a common asthma trigger.
Cold Winter Air:
75% of asthma sufferers say that cold air can trigger asthmatic symptoms. The advice is to ensure that you are managing your asthma and taking any prescribed medication. Just as important is to be prepared. Check the forecast and make sure you carry your inhaler with you, wrap up warm and dry and wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth and try breathing more through your nose and it will help to dehumidify and warm the air up.
Remember that the difference between inside and outside temperature can be a factor so even going in and out of heated shops, or going from a nightclub or pub out into the cold air are all times when you need to look after yourself.
Exercise is very beneficial for people with asthma as it can help improve lung function and improve fitness but over three quarters of people with asthma have told Asthma UK that exercise in colder weather is a trigger for their condition. This is mainly due to the fact that during aerobic exercise you would inhale more of the cold air, breathing it in through your mouth (which means that it is not warmed or moistened by your nose) and breathe it more deeply into your lungs.
There are many things you can do to maintain your exercise regime but avoid the triggers.
•    Exercising indoors or at a gym or gym classes instead of venturing outside.
•    Warm up and warm down for 10-15 mins before and after outside exercise.
•    Dress appropriately with a scarf around your throat and nose.
•    If symptoms begin stop exercising immediately, take your inhaler and wait until you feel better before you resume.
•    Consider more moderate exercise that will reduce the need for such deep breaths like a power walk instead of a run or a more gentle bike ride.
When it is cold many avoid going outside to try and avoid the triggers, however spending more time indoors exposes you to more triggers within the home such as pet hair, smoke, dust mites, fireplaces etc. Many sufferers prepare themselves for this and from being out in the cold by having a back-up home oxygen supply to use when the cold weather has triggered off a bad asthma attack.
Thunderstorms:
More recently it has become apparent that thunderstorms can trigger serious asthma attacks, especially children and young adults, with large numbers of people needing to go to A&E.
It is not fully understood why this happens, but it is thought during a thunderstorm, the windy conditions cause high levels of pollen and mould spores to be swept up high into the air where the moisture breaks them into much smaller pieces. As the pollen and mould particles then settle back down, these smaller pieces of pollen and mould can be breathed into the smaller airways of the lungs where they irritate the airway and trigger asthma symptoms.
Not all thunderstorms trigger asthma, it seems to depend upon the time of year, the humidity, wind, air pressure and whether ozone levels are high.
The advice is to be aware of weather forecasts, try to avoid being caught outside in them and make sure you carry your inhaler.
References:  http://www.everydayhealth.com/asthma and http://www.asthma.org.uk

Oxygen Therapy and Autism

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has only recently in the last two years been used to treat children with autism but with amazing results.
HBOT
A study in 2012 by DA Rossignol et al proved that children with autism who received hyperbaric treatment for 40 hourly sessions showed significant improvements in overall function, receptive language, social interaction, eye contact, and sensory/cognitive awareness compared to children who received just pressurized room air.
When a person concentrates on a task or to generate speech, the brain is doing more work and there is an increase in blood flow to the brain, specifically the parietal frontal cortex, which is located behind the forehead. This increase in blood flow supplies the brain with more oxygen and glucose, giving the cells their needed energy to perform their task. In autistic children the opposite happens, they have diminished blood flow to begin with, and when their brain is attempting to perform a task their blood flow does not increase and does not supply the brain with the necessary oxygen and glucose the cells need.
The theory behind using HBOT on children with autism is that the increase in oxygen will reduce excess swelling of brain tissue, increase cerebral blood flow and stimulate cerebral tissue. There are correlations linking it to being able to remove toxins, reduce inflammation allowing oxygen deprived areas to have a return of blood flow, builds new capillaries in the brain and reduces the inflammation in the gut.
The belief is that all of these results will allow the brain to do its job better, resulting in a child who is more “present” in regards to social interaction and communication.
Studies and parents have reported that autistic children showed improvement in sleep, children becoming calmer and more affectionate, improved focus and attention, improved bowel function, improved cognitive and linguistic skills, being less sensitive to noise and appearing more ‘present’ and ‘connected’ to family members.
There are some unknowns however, such as any long-term affects, whether the treatments are long-lasting or not and whether certain autistic sufferers respond better than others. HBOT is definitely not a cure but it appears to be able to help some autistic children improve their behaviour, cognitive functions and quality of life and bring them a step closer towards ‘normal’.
References: http://freshstarthyperbaric.com/adhd.php and http://oxfordhbot.com/hbot-for-autism/

Oxygen can aid in Wound Healing

Oxygen is fast being recognised as one of the most powerful agents available to medicine. The therapeutic use of oxygen under pressure has been used to assist wound healing for almost 40 years.
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It was first used to re-compress divers in the 1930s, and was developed to complement the effects of radiation in cancer treatment in the 1950s. Within a few years it was being used to support patients undergoing cardiac surgery, and to treat gas gangrene and carbon monoxide poisoning. Pressurized oxygen was first used to assist wound healing when it was noted in 1965 that burns of the victims of a coal mine explosion, treated with it for their CO poisoning, healed faster. In spite of this long history of therapeutic use, the mechanisms of pressurized oxygen are still being discovered and the medical use of oxygen under pressure is still an evolving speciality.
In wound healing, hypoxia can be defined as an insufficient supply of oxygen to allow the healing process to proceed at a normal rate and it is possible to have hypoxia in one area of a wound and not in an adjacent area.
Not all effects of hypoxia are bad and in fact all wounds initially have areas of hypoxic tissue. It actually causes several wound healing processes to occur but when hypoxia is severe, prolonged or widespread it can cause tissue cells to die and the wound can worsen and have effects on other parts of the body.
The capillaries can become leaky and oedema accumulates and blood circulation can become compromised. Surgery or medicine can re-establish circulation which sends blood to the ischaemic area, providing new oxygen substrate for the formation of more free radicals, with the result that the injury temporarily worsens. In massive injury the release of inflammatory cytokines and free radicals are high enough that it  can lead to multiple organ failure. Therefore a catastrophic chain of events can be initiated by oxygen deprivation.
When used in wound healing pressurized oxygen is administered as a short pulse of oxygen – 90 minutes in a 24-hour day. Although the elevated amount of oxygen is only for a short time, the numerous other effects of pressurized oxygen carried on affecting and treating the wound after the treatment has stopped.
At elevated pressures the harmful effects of gas bubbles in the tissue are minimised.
The vasoconstrictive effects can be used to good effect and causes a significant reduction of oedema, which has been shown to be beneficial in re-perfusion injury, crush injury, compartment syndrome, burns and wound healing.
High levels of oxygen can diffuse into the wound which may otherwise be restricted if administered via the blood due to oedema or if blood vessels to the area have been damaged.
It is also capable of increasing the number of cytokines and many growth factors important to wound healing.
Pressurized oxygen also aids in the prevention of infection by not only the killing of bacteria, by aiding in providing an oxygenated environment which would kill of anaerobic organisms and increases the production of neutrophils which aid in also destroying bacteria but by also aiding and increasing the effectiveness of administered antibiotics.
Therefore pressurized oxygen has the potential to be used more widely in the future to aid in the healing of severe wounds and burns, as it has been proven to have reduced morbidity and infection, increases the healing process and reduces the extent of tissue necrosis and prevents further systemic problems in the body normally associated with severe wounds.
References:
http://www.worldwidewounds.com/2001/april/Wright/HyperbaricOxygen.html

Plants may no longer be the sole producer of Oxygen

Earth’s atmosphere hasn’t always contained the Oxygen (O2) which is now essential for life, it was once a mixture of carbon dioxide and other gases, more like the atmosphere of Mars or Venus.
Photosynthesis
The only previously proven way that oxygen could have arisen is that the rise of plants turned the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere into oxygen through the reactions of photosynthesis, in a period called the Great Oxygenation Event. However a new study suggests there may be another way to make oxygen from carbon dioxide, using ultraviolet light and that this method may in fact be partly or wholly responsible for the presence of Oxygen in our atmosphere.
Previously it was thought that a carbon dioxide molecule would split into a CO and an O molecule no matter what wavelengths of light were involved, because that is the path of least resistance and requires the least amount of energy in order to occur. O2 had not previously detected via these methods and therefore presumed to not occur.
However “when you shine C02 with these high wavelengths of light, it can break apart along more than one channel,” said Cheuk-Yiu Ng, a professor of physical chemistry at UC Davis and an author of the paper. “These channels are energy dependent but at the energy we investigated, 5% of these excited CO2 would go on to become C+O2.” The energy required for these 5% is double that which is required to split the molecule into CO + O.
Cheuk-Yiu Ng and his colleagues built a unique instrument to split up carbon dioxide, using ultraviolet light in a vacuum. The device has two lasers — one to split the CO2, and one to detect the fragments produced.
Therefore as certain ultraviolet rays pass through out atmosphere it is possible that 5% of the carbon dioxide molecules that they come in contact with will split and form oxygen molecules.
Not only does this potentially alter how scientists explain how oxygen first came to be in our atmosphere and effect the timeline of Earth’s evolution but the findings have implications for future science. There may be implications on the search for extraterrestrial life, suggesting that merely detecting oxygen in the atmosphere of another planet is not enough to identify the presence of life. The researchers also hinted that it may be possible to use this technique to make oxygen in space or on other planets to aid in space exploration and settlement. Also instead of scientists extracting Oxygen molecules from the atmosphere for medical purposes among many others, we may be able to mass-produce oxygen using carbon dioxide in the future more easily.
References: http://www.latimes.com/science and http://www.livescience.com

FAQ's on supplemental oxygen

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Why did my doctor prescribe oxygen for me?

Every body needs oxygen to survive. Every tissue and cell in the body needs a constant supply of oxygen to work properly.

The lungs breathe in oxygen from the air, then passes the oxygen into the bloodstream through millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. Haemoglobin in the red blood cells then picks up the oxygen and carries it off to the body’s tissues and cells.

Lung disease can cause inflammation and scarring in the alveoli. This inflammation and scarring makes it difficult for oxygen to move into the bloodstream. Therefore, the amount of oxygen in the blood drops, and the body’s tissues and cells don’t receive enough oxygen to keep functioning properly. Not enough oxygen in the bloodstream is called hypoxaemia.

Many diseases affect lung capacity and breathing and if your disease has progressed to a point where breathing is becoming increasingly difficult and you’re suffering from hypoxaemia then your doctor may decide to start you with a prescription for supplemental oxygen.

How did my doctor determine that I need supplemental oxygen?

This will be determined by measuring the levels of oxygen in your blood. The amount of oxygen in the bloodstream can be easily measured in two ways:

  • Oximetry — A small, clip-on device shines a light through your finger or earlobe and measures the amount of light absorbed by the haemoglobin in the red blood cells. By calculating the amount of light absorption, the device can measure the percent of haemoglobin that is carrying oxygen, this result is known as the oxygen saturation of the blood. Normally this is around 95 to 100 percent.

  • Arterial blood gas study — Blood is drawn from an artery, usually in the wrist, using a needle and syringe. The blood is then sent through an analyser to measure the amount of oxygen gas dissolved in the blood. This result is called the arterial oxygen pressure, and is normally 80 to 100 mm Hg.

Cells and tissues cannot save up a store of oxygen, they need a constant steady supply. When the oxygen saturation falls below 89 percent, or the arterial oxygen pressure falls below 60 mmHg, whether during rest, activity or sleep, then supplemental oxygen is needed.

Your doctor can determine your supplemental oxygen needs by testing you while you are at rest and while walking, and can also order an overnight oximetry study to test your oxygen saturation at night.

When and how often do I have to wear my oxygen?

Your doctor will write a prescription for when and how much you should wear your oxygen, based on the results of your tests. The prescription should specify the following:

  • The appropriate oxygen flow rate or setting, expressed as litre flow of oxygen per minute that will keep your saturations at or above 90 percent

  • When you should wear your oxygen (during activity, overnight or continuously)

  • The type of equipment that you can use that will meet your lifestyle needs.

Why would I need to wear oxygen while sleeping?

Oxygen levels in the blood are naturally lower during sleep, due to a slightly reduced breathing rate and a reduced requirement by your body for oxygen. Also, some alveoli drop out of use during sleep. You naturally have a lower rate, however if your levels are already low as a result of your condition then they may faller dangerously lower during sleep.

If your waking oxygen saturation is greater than about 94 percent on room air, it is unlikely that your saturation during sleep will fall below 88 percent. However, your doctor can order an overnight pulse oximetry test if there is a question about your oxygen levels while you are sleeping.

How do I know that I’m using the right amount of supplemental oxygen?

To determine this your oxygen saturation must be measured while you are using your oxygen. Your doctor or a respiratory therapist from the oxygen supplier should test your oxygen saturation on oxygen while you are at rest, while walking and, if indicated, while you are asleep. As long as your oxygen saturation is in the 90s, you are getting the right amount. 

Should I buy my own finger oximeter to test my oxygen saturations?

Some people feel more comfortable testing their own oxygen saturation throughout the day or during various activities, to make sure they are at least 90 percent saturated.

Finger oximeters are available on the Internet, through medical supply companies and even in sporting goods stores. They can be expensive however and have not been adequately tested for accuracy. You can speak with your doctor who can determine if a finger oximeter is necessary.

How will using supplemental oxygen benefit me?

A lack of oxygen to the body can result in damage to your organs, especially the brain, heart and kidneys. Wearing supplemental oxygen keeps these organs healthy. There is evidence that, for people who are hypoxaemic, supplemental oxygen improves quality of life and survival time.

Supplemental oxygen can also help relieve any symptoms from your disease. It can help relieve you from shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and depression. You may also be more alert, sleep better and be in a generally better mood. You may be able to do more activities such as travelling and generally feeling more mobile and able to get around and take part in hobbies.

Does my need for oxygen mean that I don’t have long to live?

People live for years using supplemental oxygen but it will depend upon the progression of your disease and other complicating factors.

How long will I need to use supplemental oxygen?

That depends on the reason oxygen was prescribed. If your lung or heart condition improves, and your blood oxygen levels return to normal ranges without supplemental oxygen, then you don’t need it anymore. 

Can I become addicted to oxygen?

There is no such thing as becoming “dependent on” or “addicted to” supplemental oxygen, everybody needs a constant supply of oxygen to live. Your haemoglobin or cells wont adapt or structurally change in response to a constant higher supply of oxygen. They just use whatever oxygen is available to them.

Does supplemental oxygen cause side effects?

It is important to wear your oxygen as your doctor ordered it. If you start to experience headaches, confusion or increased sleepiness after you start using supplemental oxygen, you might be getting too much and need it to be altered.

Oxygen settings of 4 litres per minute or above can cause dryness and bleeding of the lining of the nose. A humidifier attached to your oxygen equipment or certain ointments can help prevent or treat the dryness.

Ref: http://www.ucsfhealth.org

How oxygen can aid in severe altitude sickness

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An Increasing number of people are now travelling to greater heights as it is becoming more readily accessible and cheaper to do so. However there can be adverse medical implications from doing so. Altitude sickness can affect people that ascend to more than 2500 metres of altitude, whether by climbing or being transported to these heights. It can also affect a person if they ascend too quickly for the body to adapt. It can present with mild symptoms that can subside when the individual has rested or returned to a lower altitude. However more extreme symptoms can be life-threatening if not counter-acted or treated.
Altitude sickness occurs because as you ascend to higher altitudes the air pressure reduces. The air still contains the same proportion of oxygen but as the air is thinner at higher altitudes there are fewer oxygen molecules available in each breath. This means that you have to breathe deeper and faster to obtain the same amount of oxygen that your body requires. If you ascend at a slow rate your body has a chance to acclimatise and adapt to the changing conditions. Your breathing rate will slow down as your body makes more red blood cells to carry more oxygen in your blood.
The most important initial treatment for someone displaying signs of altitude sickness is to stop the ascent and rest to allow the body to acclimatise. If symptoms persist then drop to a lower altitude. Normal symptoms illustrated by the body whilst it is acclimatising can be an increased breathing rate, deeper breathing, shortness of breath on exercise, changes to breathing patterns during sleep, disturbed sleep or passing more urine than normal.
If the affects of altitude are more severe than this then the body can display symptoms of the following three problems; acute mountain sickness, high-altitude cerebral oedema or high-altitude pulmonary oedema.
The exact cause of acute mountain sickness (AMS) is not known but it is thought to be a response of the brain to lower oxygen levels in the blood at higher altitudes which produces some swelling of the brain.
High-altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) usually develops in someone who already has acute mountain sickness (AMS). The swelling of the brain that has led to AMS gets worse and starts to interfere with the function of the brain. So, HACE is really a severe form of AMS.
High-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE) is a build-up of fluid within the lungs. The exact reasons why HAPE can develop are unknown. It is thought that the high altitude causes an increase in pressure in the blood vessels around the lungs which leads to smaller blood vessels becoming ‘leaky’, allowing fluid to escape from the blood vessels into the lungs.
The most important treatment if you start to develop symptoms of mild AMS is to stop your ascent and to rest at the same altitude. For most people, symptoms will improve within 24-48 hours with no specific treatment. Adapting to conditions (acclimatisation) usually occurs after 1 to 3 days at a given altitude. Simple painkillers and anti-sickness medication can help headache and sickness. You should also make sure that you drink plenty of fluids.
However, if your symptoms are severe, they do not improve after 24 hours, or they are getting worse, you need to descend to a lower altitude. You also need to descend urgently if you develop any symptoms or signs of HACE or HAPE.
Treatment of HACE and HAPE is similar and most importantly it is to move down to a lower altitude immediately. If this does not happen, or is delayed, death can occur. Treatment with oxygen and medicine can help to relieve symptoms and can mean that getting someone down to a lower altitude becomes easier. However, these treatments do not remove the need for descent. The descent should be at least to the last altitude at which the person woke up feeling well. A device has been developed called a portable hyperbaric chamber. It is, essentially, an airtight bag that is pressurised by a pump. The person with HACE is placed inside it and it can provide the same effect as a descent. They will be breathing air equivalent to that at much lower altitude. This can be life-saving when descent is not possible and oxygen is unavailable.
 
You can also use oxygen (small cylinder) to avoid these problems. OxygenWorldwide has on certain occasions arranged medical oxygen for mountain climbing. (For availability on your destination check with info@oxygenworldwide.com.

Your phone could save your life – one day…

As if our phones didn’t have enough information about us already, Paul Eremenko of Google’s Project Ara announced at a conference recently that it won’t be too long before your phone will be capable of saving your life.
One of the attachments was a snap-on pulse oximeter which allows the phone to measure oxygen saturation levels in the blood. This is actually pretty big because it basically puts a medical device right in your pocket. It could be used by physicians on the go, EMTs, and so on, especially if they need to get a quick read and don’t have the necessary equipment on them.
ara project
The purpose of the Ara project is to use a touch sensor on the phone to obtain detailed health statistics from the user. Eremenko specifically mentioned blood oxygen content. While a phone equipped with a pulse oximeter is certainly impressive, it appears that it is only the beginning of what Google has planned for the future combining health and technology.
The vision of the Ara project is for users and doctors to be able to communicate up to date medical information that is stored on the patient’s smartphone. The data could range anywhere from vital signs, to a patient’s diet and exercise routine.
With the variety of mobile apps these days, it is about time that all of the data obtained from diet and fitness applications can now be consolidated into a useful form. The particular Google project to accomplish this is still a little ways out though. The company says consumers should be looking for an official announcement regarding the product coming early on in 2015.
For now, we’ll just need to keep going to the doctor the old fashioned way.

 

Living without breathing is now possible!

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This may seem like something out of a science fiction movie: researchers have designed microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate your body, even if you can’t breathe anymore. It’s one of the best medical breakthroughs in recent years, and one that could save millions of lives every year.

The invention, developed by a team at Boston Children’s Hospital, will allow medical teams to keep patients alive and well for 15 to 30 minutes despite major respiratory failure. This is enough time for doctors and emergency personnel to act without risking a heart attack or permanent brain injuries in the patient.

The solution has already been successfully tested on animals under critical lung failure. When the doctors injected this liquid into the patient’s veins, it restored oxygen in their blood to near-normal levels, granting them those precious additional minutes of life.

Particles of fat and oxygen

The particles are composed of oxygen gas pocketed in a layer of lipids, a natural molecule that usually stores energy or serves as a component to cell membranes. Lipids can be waxes, some vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, phospholipids, or—as in this case—fats.

These fatty oxygen particles are about two to four micrometers in size. They are suspended in a liquid solution that can be easily carried and used by paramedics, emergency crews and intensive care personnel. This seemingly magic elixir carries “three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells.”

Similar solutions have failed in the past because they caused gas embolism, rather than oxygenating the cells. According to John Kheir, MD at the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, they solved the problem by using deformable particles, rather than bubbles:

We have engineered around this problem by packaging the gas into small, deformable particles. They dramatically increase the surface area for gas exchange and are able to squeeze through capillaries where free gas would get stuck.

Kheir had the idea of an injected oxygen solution started after he had to treat a little girl in 2006. Because of a lung hemorrhage caused by pneumonia, the girl sustained severe brain injuries which, ultimately, lead to her death before the medical team could place her in a heart-lung machine.

Soon after, Kheir assembled a team of chemical engineers, particle scientists, and medical doctors to work on this idea, which had promising results from the very beginning:

Some of the most convincing experiments were the early ones. We drew each other’s blood, mixed it in a test tube with the microparticles, and watched blue blood turn immediately red, right before our eyes.

It sounds like magic, but it was just the start of what, after years of investigation, became this real life-giving liquid in a bottle.

This is what the future is about. And it’s a beautiful one indeed, one that is arriving earlier than we ever could have expected. I wonder if this would find its way to other uses. I can see it as an emergency injection in a spaceship, for example. But what about getting a shot for diving? [ScienceDaily]

Image by Filip Fluxa/Shutterstock

Jesus Diaz Gizmodo

Luckily not all traveling babies require these…

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Hoods provide the perfect wear for babies Babies with heart or lung problems may need to breathe increased amounts of oxygen to get normal levels of oxygen in their blood.
There are several different ways to deliver oxygen to a baby. Which method is used depends on how much oxygen is needed and whether the baby needs a breathing machine. An oxygen hood is used for babies who can breathe on their own but still need extra oxygen.
A hood is a plastic dome or box with warm, moist oxygen inside. The hood is placed over the baby’s head. Too much or too little oxygen can be harmful. If the cells in the body get too little oxygen, energy production decreases. With too little energy, cells may not work well and may die. Too much oxygen can also cause injury.
Breathing too much oxygen can damage the lung. Under certain conditions, too much oxygen in the blood may also lead to problems in the brain and eye. Babies with certain heart conditions may also need lower levels of oxygen in the blood.
Your baby’s doctors and nurses will try to balance how much oxygen your baby needs. These hoods provide babies and young infants with the perfect medical solution to get the right amount of oxygen in these early stages of life and how important oxygen is in the development at the right levels saving life.