November 28, 2016
About 2.7 million Americans have atrial fibrillation and are at a risk for having a stroke. Being over age 65, having a family history or past occurrence of diabetes, stroke, heart failure, heart attack, poor kidney function and high blood pressure, and being female are all factors that increase the chances of you having a stroke. However, the risk of having a stroke can be greatly reduced (by 50-60%) with the help of an anticoagulant (more popularly known as a blood thinner).
When blood flow is obstructed by a blood clot, cells in the brain can’t get enough oxygen, which causes a stroke. The top chambers of the heart of people with atrial fibrillation create a sluggish blood flow that often forms blood clots. If a part of these clots reaches the brain, a stroke can occur. Blood thinners are an ideal solution for this problem because they can reduce the formation of blood clots in the heart, which will decrease the risk for having a stroke.
Despite the success of blood thinners in reducing strokes, almost 50% of patients with atrial fibrillation fail to take blood thinners because of the potential for anticoagulants to cause bleeding and because they don’t feel noticeably better when taking the medication.
New Blood Thinners on the Market
In the past few years, the FDA has approved four new blood thinners called edoxaban (Savaysa) dabigatran (Pradaxa), apixiban (Eliquis) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto). Like the popular blood thinner warfarin, these new medications are also used to decrease the odds of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients. One difference in these new drugs compared to warfarin is the lack of need to do blood monitoring.
Even though blood thinners prevent strokes by reducing the occurrence of blood clots from the heart, they increase the risk of strokes caused by brain bleeds (also known as a hemorrhagic stroke). Warfarin has been known to cause bleeding when it’s weakened by certain foods and medications that interact with its effectiveness. The newer medications cause fewer strokes from bleeding incidents compared to the older medication Warfarin and tend to fare better overall for reducing strokes from either bleeds or blood clots.
Doing Your Part
Consult with your doctor to ensure the treatment of your atrial fibrillation includes stroke prevention. Just because you have a mild case of atrial fibrillation does not eliminate the need to use a blood thinner as a precautionary measure. The other factors already mentioned can increase your odds of stroke even with mild atrial fibrillation, so make sure you are honest about your health history with your doctor so you can discuss better treatment alternatives.
May 17, 2015
It’s the season when you take a timeout from school and your absence is actually excused. But if you’re traveling for spring break, you’ve got to stay safe.
The Office of Women’s Health (OWH) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking new steps to ensure that young women have access to timely wellness information. OWH has launched a new web page with information about health issues to help you stay safe on vacation and beyond. The page is the latest in its ongoing College Women’s Campaign, a collaboration with more than 160 schools across the country to disseminate OWH health publications at college health centers and other campus locations.
“We know college women face a lot of pressures, and we want to make sure they take time to care for their health while they’re in school and on break,” explains Marsha Henderson, FDA’s assistant commissioner for women’s health.
The campaign spans a variety of topics, and here are five themes for spring break. So follow these tips, and enjoy your trip.
You may be tempted to “pre-tan” and then tan some more once you arrive. But don’t. Any increase in skin pigment (called “melanin”) is a sign of damage. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause wrinkles and dark spots among other problems—and tanning puts you at higher risk for skin cancer. But the beach can still be a high point of your trip.
- Protective clothing. Wear a hat and protective clothing, and stay in the shade.
- Sunscreens. Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and choose an SPF of 15 or higher. You need at least one ounce of sunscreen lotion (the size of a golf ball) to cover your body. Reapply at least every 2 hours, or every 40 to 80 minutes when swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the product label. And limit the time your skin is exposed to the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Tanning beds. The lamps in the beds emit ultraviolet radiation that can be more intense and harmful than the sun. FDA recommends carefully reading the instructions and warnings before using these beds, and tanning pills and accelerators are not approved by the agency.
- Spray tans and bronzers. Know that spray-on tanning or bronzing products are not UV protective.
Prepare for your trip by asking your health care professional any questions, including those about side effects and interactions, before you go. Then follow his or her directions. Don’t skip doses, don’t share medication, and don’t take more than the suggested dose. Also check expiration dates in advance and keep your medicine with you when traveling. (If you’re flying, you don’t want to land in Cancun and have your prescriptions land in Cleveland.) Finally, keep a detailed list of what you’re taking. Ideally your travels will be smooth. But if you need to seek medical care this list will be helpful.
They’re convenient but can expose you to serious conditions such as eye infections and corneal ulcers—something you don’t want to deal with on vacation. To avoid problems, first make sure your contacts are prescribed by an eye care professional. Skip colored or decorative lenses sold in beauty supply stores and at the boardwalk, since they can damage your eyes. Second, wash your hands before touching lenses, and use sterile solution. Never expose your lenses to saliva or non-sterile water, including that from the tap, bottle or ocean. Non-sterile water can put you at risk for an eye infection. So remove your contacts before swimming or getting in the hot tub and follow your eye care professional’s other care and removal instructions. If your vision changes, your eyes get red, you have lots of tears, or your eyes hurt or feel itchy, take out your lenses and seek medical attention.
Whether you’re considering a non-permanent (e.g., henna) or a permanent addition (including makeup), think before you ink. Tattoos can cause allergic reactions and put you at risk for infections like HIV or hepatitis from unclean tools, practices or products. FDA has not approved any inks for injecting into your skin and does not regulate tattoo parlors. FDA also hasn’t approved henna or hair dye for skin use, and some people have reported serious problems after using henna, including allergic reactions such as rashes and scarring.
Time flies when you’re having fun, but take a few moments to sip H2O throughout the day. “When you’re traveling, it’s easy to become dehydrated because sometimes you don’t have access to water,” explains Shirley R. Blakely, Ph.D., R.D., a senior nutrition advisor with FDA. So when you spend a late afternoon at the beach (remember sun safety!) bring water and drink even before you feel thirsty, she advises. Also beware of ice or tap water in places where water isn’t safe to drink. If you don’t have access to safe water, Blakely recommends drinking an internationally known brand of a sugar- and caffeine-free carbonated beverage. Finally, Blakely says, “When traveling, you may find yourself overindulging.” For healthy eating, Blakely recommends following the dietary guidelines by making half your plate fruits and vegetables, and half your grains whole, to get enough fiber and other essential nutrients. “And if you’re faced with a smorgasbord, build your plate with fruits, vegetables and whole grains first, then add the protein source.”
October 25, 2011
You’re in the drug store, looking for a fever-reducing medicine for your children. They range in age from 6 months to 7 years, and you want to buy one product you can use for all of them. So you buy liquid acetaminophen in concentrated drops for infants, figuring you can use the dropper for the baby and a teaspoon for the oldest.
This could be a dangerous mistake.
This use of concentrated drops in much larger amounts—as would be given with a teaspoon—can cause fatal overdoses, says Sandra Kweder, M.D., deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of New Drugs.
You can’t just give an older child more of an infant’s medicine, adds Kweder. “Improper dosing is one of the biggest problems in giving acetaminophen to children.”
Confusion about dosing is partly caused by the availability of different formulas, strengths, and dosage instructions for different ages of children.
Sold as a single active ingredient under such brand names as Tylenol, acetaminophen is commonly used to reduce fever and relieve pain. It is also used in combination with other ingredients in products to relieve multiple symptoms, such as cough and cold medicines. Acetaminophen can be found in more than 600 over-the-counter (OTC, or non-prescription) and prescription medicines.
Tips for Giving Acetaminophen to Children
- Never give your child more than one medicine containing acetaminophen at a time. To find out if an OTC medicine contains acetaminophen, look for “acetaminophen” on the Drug Facts label under the section called “Active Ingredient.” For prescription pain relievers, ask the pharmacist if the medicine contains acetaminophen.
- Choose the right OTC medicine based on your child’s weight and age. The “Directions” section of the Drug Facts label tells you if the medicine is right for your child and how much to give. If a dose for your child’s weight or age is not listed on the label or you can’t tell how much to give, ask your pharmacist or doctor what to do.
- Never give more of an acetaminophen-containing medicine than directed. If the medicine doesn’t help your child feel better, talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
- If the medicine is a liquid, use the measuring tool that comes with the medicine—not a kitchen spoon.
- Keep a daily record of the medicines you give to your child. Share this information with anyone who is helping care for your child.
- If your child swallows too much acetaminophen, get medical help right away, even if your child doesn’t feel sick. For immediate help, call the 24-hour Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222, or call 911.
June 11, 2011
For a medicine to work for you—and not against you—you’ve got to take the right dose.
Many over-the-counter liquid medicines—such as pain relievers, cold medicine, cough syrups, and digestion aids—come with spoons, cups, oral droppers, or syringes designed to help consumers measure the proper dose. These “dosage delivery devices” usually have measurement markings on them—such as teaspoons (tsp), tablespoons (tbsp), or milliliters (mL).
But the markings aren’t always clear or consistent with the directions on the medicine’s package. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received numerous reports of accidental overdoses—especially in young children—that were attributed, in part, to the use of dosage delivery devices that were unclear or incompatible with the medicine’s labeled directions for use.
Parents and caregivers can do their part, too, to avoid giving too much or too little of an over-the-counter medicine. Here are 10 tips:
- Always follow the directions on the Drug Facts label of your medicine. Read the label every time before you give the medicine.
- Know the “active ingredient” in the medicine. This is what makes the medicine work and it is always listed at the top of the Drug Facts label. Many medicines used to treat different symptoms have the same active ingredient. So if you’re treating a cold and a headache with two different medicines but both have the same active ingredient, you could be giving two times the normal dose. If you’re confused, check with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
- Give the right medicine, in the right amount. Medicines with the same brand name can be sold in different strengths, such as infant, children, and adult formulas. The dose and directions also vary for children of different ages or weights. Always use the right strength and follow the directions exactly. Never use more medicine than directed unless your doctor tells you to do so.
- Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse to find out what mixes well and what doesn’t. Medicines, vitamins, supplements, foods, and beverages aren’t always compatible.
- Use the dosage delivery device that comes with the medicine, such as a dropper or a dosing cup. A different device, or a kitchen spoon, could hold the wrong amount of medicine. And never drink liquid medicine from the bottle.
- Know the difference between a tablespoon (tbsp) and a teaspoon (tsp). A tablespoon holds three times as much medicine as a teaspoon. On measuring tools, a teaspoon (tsp) is equal to “5 mL.”
- Know your child’s weight. Dosage amounts for some medicines are based on weight. Never guess how much to give your child or try to figure it out from the adult dose instructions. If a dose is not listed for your child’s weight, call your health care professional.
- Prevent a poison emergency by always using a child-resistant cap. Relock the cap after each use. Be especially careful with any medicines that contain iron; they are the leading cause of poisoning deaths in young children.
- Store all medicines in a safe place. Some are tasty, colorful, and many can be chewed. Kids may think they’re candy. Store all medicines and vitamins out of your child’s (and your pet’s) sight and reach. If your child takes too much, call the Poison Center Hotline at 800-222-1222 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or call 9-1-1.
- Check the medicine three times before using. For any medicine, it is always good practice to first, check the outside packaging for such things as cuts, slices, or tears. Second, once you’re at home, check the label on the inside package to be sure you have the right medicine and that the lid and seal are not broken. Third, check the color, shape, size, and smell. If you notice anything unusual, talk to a pharmacist or other health care professional before using.