Spring Health Tips from Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas
03/28/2007

DALLAS – The following health tips are provided by Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. For more information or interviews about these or other health topics, call 214-345-4960.

Humidifiers might be making your allergies worse
While millions of Americans flip on humidifiers to fight off allergy symptoms, doctors say increasing humidity may only make the sneezing, runny nose and congestion of an allergy attack worse for many people.

“The problem is that dust mites and mold, which cause allergy problems for millions of people, thrive in high humidity,” says Anil Nanda, M.D., an allergist on the medical staff at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. “If you're allergic to these, a humidifier may worsen or prolong your symptoms.”

To keep dust mites and mold at bay, Dr. Nanda says, a number of environmental controls can be utilized. Ways to control dust mites include: encasing your mattress and pillows in allergen-proof covers; washing all bedding once a week in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit); and removing wall-to-wall carpeting (as much as possible). For mold control, ventilate and clean moist areas, especially kitchens and bathrooms. Dehumidifiers may also help control both mold and dust mites. Make sure that you regularly see your allergist for additional recommendations and treatment.

Not all clothing protects equally against harmful sunrays
Don't be fooled into thinking all clothes are created equal when it comes to protecting your skin against harmful sun rays. Dermatologists say the color of clothing and how tightly it's woven contribute to how well the fabric protects against harmful UV sun rays. Some clothing is so loosely woven, it's no better than wearing medium strength sunscreen, says Peter Hino, M.D., a dermatologist on the medical staff at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

“People think putting on a T-shirt while they're swimming or wearing a long-sleeve shirt when they're working in the yard will completely protect their skin, but that's not necessarily true,” Dr. Hino says. “Covering your skin is better than no protection at all, but people should be aware that some clothes do a better job of protecting the skin than others. If you can see light coming through the fabric when you hold it up to a lamp, it means sun rays can penetrate the material.”

Sun burns and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight increase a person's risk of developing skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. Special made sun-protective clothing can be good options for people who spend a lot of time in the sun, Dr. Hino says.

Pregnancy is no time to slow down
Most myths about the risks of exercising during pregnancy are just that – myths. In fact, most women potentially face greater health problems if they don't exercise during pregnancy, says  Frances Crites, M.D., an OB-GYN on the medical staff at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

“There's nothing that ties exercise to an increase in birth complications or miscarriages,” Dr. Crites says. "In fact, we as physicians don't do a good enough job telling pregnant women what they can do. We spend all our time telling them what they can't do. That's a huge mistake that has medical consequences."

Almost all types of exercise are good, Dr. Crites said, but pregnant women should avoid using treadmills. With less than perfect balance during pregnancy, there could be an increased fall risk.

Otherwise, go for it. "On top of all the health benefits, there's the spiritual aspect of exercising," Dr. Crites adds. “It's a time when there are additional pressures and stresses on you, you're gaining weight and losing that figure you've always worked so hard to keep. The best way to improve everything – your physical health and your mental health – is to exercise.”

First step to losing weight is getting rid of the word 'diet'
The first step to losing weight and improving your health doesn't have anything to do with getting rid of high-carb foods or sugary sweets. The first thing to ditch is the word “diet,” eating disorders specialists say.

“People need to think of a healthy eating plan as a way of nourishing their bodies, not dieting or depriving themselves of something,” says Urszula Kelley, M.D., medical director of the Eating Disorders Program at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. “What happens is people who see themselves as dieting eventually reward themselves by overindulging or binge eating.”

A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that teens who go on diets are more likely to skip breakfast and binge eat later in the day, which may explain why they put on more weight over time than their peers who don't diet.

To foster good health, people should make lifestyle changes, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and finding healthy foods that taste good. “Most studies show that dieting is a short-term fix that people choose instead of longer-term, healthier strategies such as eating more fruits and vegetables and getting more exercise,” Dr. Kelley adds.

About Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas
Established in 1966, PHD is the flagship hospital of Presbyterian Healthcare System, a member of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system. PHD is a recognized clinical program leader, providing technologically advanced care to patients. The 866-bed facility has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information about PHD, visit www.texashealth.org/phd.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health care delivery systems in the United States and the largest in North Texas in terms of patients served. THR controls 13 affiliated hospitals and a medical research organization, and is a corporate member or partner in seven additional hospitals and surgery centers. THR’s family of hospitals includes Harris Methodist Hospitals, Arlington Memorial Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare System.  For more information about Texas Health Resources, visit http://www.texashealth.org/.