What You Need to Know About Hurricane Harvey’s Aftermath

A bright yellow sign warns motorists that the road is flooded.

In the wake of the ongoing devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, many Texas locals are wondering how to begin picking up the pieces. Along with restoring homes and resuming a normal day-to-day, many are worried about the sewage-filled flood waters circulating the area. Inside Edition reporter, Ryan Sit recently spoke to Dr. Oz about waterborne and water-related diseases that residents and health officials in Texas should be aware of. Read on to learn more.

 Q: What kind of contaminants may be in the floodwaters and dangers do they present?

A: Floodwater isn’t just rain. It can be contaminated with bacteria from sewage as well as chemicals. Everyone should avoid wading through floodwaters, especially people with open wounds because they can get infected. Diarrheal disease caused by floodwater contaminated with norovirus is also an issue. Don’t eat or drink anything contaminated with floodwater, even canned food. Be sure to wash thoroughly if you’ve been in contact with water.  Don’t let children play in floodwater.

Q: What are residents, first responders, and health officials facing as it relates to water-related diseases?

A: Right now health officials aren’t focused on waterborne infections because the biggest killer in floods is actually drowning. In fact, in past floods in the US, the majority of deaths involved motor vehicles. So never drive into flooded roadways, since only six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your car and only 18 inches of water can carry most cars away, including SUVs. Walking in flooded areas is another major cause of death. The other big concern right now is carbon monoxide poisoning. Because of power outages, many people are hooking up generators to power their houses and these can generate carbon monoxide. Use generators at least 20 feet from any doors, windows, or vents.

Q: How important is it to make sure all the water doesn’t become stagnant, that it gets pumped out ASAP?

A: Stagnant water is a breeding ground for bugs, but the bigger concern is that standing water in your house leads to mold growth, which is dangerous for your health. Residents shouldn’t focus on pumping out the water right now, they should be focused on staying out of the water instead. The damage is done, but when the flood is over people should be getting rid of all their furniture and drywall that was immersed in water.

Q: What symptoms should residents be on the lookout for and what are their treatment options?

A: If people are in crowded shelters they are at risk for the spread of viral infections, so it’s important to wash your hands frequently.  At home, people may experience diarrhea from contact with contaminated water, and if that happens it’s important to stay hydrated.

In the News: Aloe Vera May Improve Hair Health, Cinnamon May Control Blood Sugar, Dancing Can Improve Brain Health

Aloe vera may improve hair health. Most often associated with sun burns and skin irritation, aloe vera may also be helpful when it comes to hair vitality and growth. While this connection isn’t universally proven yet, aloe vera is packed with hair-friendly ingredients such as fatty acids, various vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and plant steroids. In a study focusing on seborrheic dermatitis (a skin condition often found on the scalp), applying aloe vera helped reduce itchiness, scaly irritation, and reduced the amount of scalp affected by this condition overall. Only time will tell how this powerful plant will play a role in hair health in the years to come. Want to give aloe vera a try? Try making this delicious shake. (MN)

Cinnamon may control blood sugar. As fall approaches, cinnamon will be sneaking up in all sorts of food and beverages. This fragrant spice not only imparts an all-natural sweetness but also provides an array of health benefits too. The key is to choose the right type of cinnamon. The two basic kinds are Ceylon, which is grown in Sri Lanka, and Cassia, which is grown in China and Indonesia. While Cassia has a strong flavor and scent and is often used in the foods we consume, Ceylon, the more expensive kind, can provide health benefits. This spice has shown a promising effect on diabetes and cholesterol, and the antioxidants found in cinnamon may also play a role in fighting HIV, dementia, lower blood pressure, and cancer. To learn more about the benefits of cinnamon, check out this gallery. (CNN)

Dancing can improve brain health. Research has shown that certain types of exercise can have a major impact on the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and balance. Dancing and endurance training are both effective in keeping the brain young, but dancing, in particular, plays a role in behavioral skills. These findings are particularly exciting for the senior citizen community, and they may inspire new extracurricular programs across the board. One such program, known as “Jimmin” (jamming and gymnastics), combines melodies with physical activity, which helps dementia patients who have strong reactions to music. (SD)

An Inside Look at How Houston Is Dealing With Hurricane Harvey

Closeup of high water flooding on neighborhood street.

Written by Jon P. Spiers, MD JD

I was near the epicenter of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina, and they share many characteristics. Storms are unique, and I want to be clear that a disaster is a disaster – no matter its name.

I was in a suburb of Biloxi, MS when Katrina made landfall. The winds and storm surge were immense. We had a surge inland for miles. At my own home on the shore we took about 20 feet of water. Most of my neighbors lost their homes, and those that did not were left with shells of homes. Read more  »

In the News: Walnuts May Aid in Weight Loss, Licorice May Ease Hot Flashes, Eye Test May Detect Alzheimer’s Disease

Walnuts may aid in weight loss. As many nutritionists will tell you, a handful of nuts can do your body a lot of good. As it turns out, walnuts, in particular, may aid your weight loss efforts. In a recent study, researchers had several obese patients consume a smoothie with walnuts for five days in a row and had others drink a smoothie sans walnuts that had the same flavor and calories. Eventually, they had the placebo drinkers switch with the walnut drinkers and tracked their results. After drinking the smoothies, participants were asked to look at photographs of fatty food and had brain exams to track what took place. The group that drank the walnut smoothies had the appetite control part of their brains activated more than usual, while the group drinking placebo smoothies did not. Want to add walnuts to your daily snack rotation? Try this fragrant and delicious recipe. (NYT)

Licorice may ease hot flashes. While licorice root has been used in Egyptian and Chinese cultures for centuries for medicinal and culinary purposes, it turns out it may help treat hot flashes as well. While it has become increasingly popular to take a licorice supplement when dealing with pesky menopause symptoms, doctors are concerned that this root can negatively interact with other medications. They looked into how three types of licorice interacted with liver enzymes that help break down medications and found that the drugs were either processing slower or faster than usual. (SD)

An eye test may detect Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are currently determining if eye exams can diagnose Alzheimer’s early on. In one study, experts found that an imaging technique could spot beta-amyloid plaques in the patients’ retinas. Beta-amyloids are pieces of a protein that are found in brain tissue; when a patient has Alzheimer’s disease, these beta-amyloids all bind together in little groupings or plaques, and these disrupt neural signals and cause inflammation. Since these plaques are considered a tell-tale sign of this disease, having the ability to spot them in a non-invasive and routine eye exam can be extremely beneficial. Eat these 10 foods to help keep Alzheimer’s at bay. (MN)

In the News: Avocado Seed Husk May Have Disease-Fighting Potential, Peanut Butter Is Not as Unhealthy as It Seems, Breakfast Feasting May Be Beneficial

Avocado seed husk may have disease-fighting potential. While it’s common knowledge that avocados are full of healthy fats and provide tons of health benefits, it turns out the husk of the seed may be good for you too. According to recent research, the husk is made up of chemical compounds that may fight heart disease, certain viruses, and potentially cancer as well. This new finding suggests that you should not discard the seed and husk, since these parts may carry the most nutritional benefits. Some of the ingredients found in the seed husk oil include an alcohol that is used in antiviral medication, an acid that raises good cholesterol, and heptacosane that may be able to kill tumors. Want to add more avocado to your diet? Try these recipes. (MNT)

Peanut butter is not as unhealthy as it seems. For a long time, full-fat foods, eggs, and peanut butter have had a bad reputation, which many experts suggesting that they may cause weight gain and other health issues. As it turns out, these foods are okay to eat, as long as you consume them in moderation. Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamins, full-fat products can increase satiety and positively impact gut bacteria, coffee may lower the risk of degenerative diseases, and peanut butter can provide healthy fatty acids and protein. Want to find new ways to eat peanut butter? Try these 25 tips. (ABC)

Breakfast feasting may be beneficial to your health. While many of us prefer to snack on something small for breakfast, eat a moderate size meal for lunch, and a big meal for dinner, it may turn out that doing the opposite is actually better for you. After reviewing 50,000 adults over the course of seven years, scientists have found that front-loading our calories may significantly aid in weight control. The American Heart Association has also backed this theory, stating that timing meals can prevent heart disease, elevated blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In fact, skipping breakfast altogether can raise your risk of diabetes and obesity, making it extra important to have a healthy and filling breakfast, instead of surviving on coffee or eating a donut on the go. Want some culinary inspiration? Give these 20 breakfasts a go. (NYT)

In the News: Late Night Snacking May Damage Skin, Study Says You Can’t be Fit and Fat, Blood Test May Find Cancer Early

Late night snacking may damage skin. According to a recent study, eating late at night may make your skin more prone to sun damage. When studying mice, scientists discovered that if their eating patterns shifted, they became more vulnerable to UV rays. When looking for an explanation, Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi found that altering the circadian rhythm changes the way a specific skin-protecting enzyme operates. This enzyme, known as xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA), became less active during the day when the mice ate at different times and more active at night. While it’s not clear if this phenomenon would also impact humans, it does raise questions about how diet can impact your skin health. Want to stop nighttime eating? Try this plan. (MNT)

A study says you can’t be fit and fat. A study printed in the European Heart Journal has found that being overweight raises the risk of coronary heart disease, even if the person seems healthy overall. These findings challenge the notion that one can be overweight yet simultaneously fit. After analyzing thousands of heart disease cases in 10 European countries for over a decade, researchers discovered that being overweight was linked to a 25% higher likelihood of developing heart disease. These results will likely open a new discussion about what it really means to be healthy and whether blood tests or other assessments will be needed to determine that. Want to try a lightning-fast workout? You can do this one in just seven minutes. (CNN)

A blood test may find cancer early. A team at Johns Hopkins University has found that a blood test can detect breast, colon, lung, and ovarian cancer. While it will take a long time before this exam can be used as a method of cancer screening, it does show great promise. Scientists found that dying tumor cells shed tiny bits of DNA that can show up in the bloodstream. Interestingly, the team was able to find a lot of early-stage cancer patients having these changes in their blood. This type of testing can potentially find cancer before any symptoms even emerge. If these tests continue to be accurate over the next few years of research, it can create a huge impact in the world of early cancer detection. (NBC)

In the News: Solar Eclipse Safety Tips Revealed, Anger May Improve Happiness, Singing May Improve Parkinson’s Symptoms

Solar eclipse safety tips revealed.  As the anticipation grows for the upcoming solar eclipse, many are wondering how to safely witness this phenomenon. With so many people planning to wear their regular sunglasses or to buy counterfeit pairs it’s important to get the facts and stay protected. According to Steven Pfriem from the ICS Laboratories, the way to tell if your solar eclipse-viewing glasses are safe is to check for the “ISO 12312-2 standard” label on the frames, check that you can’t see your hand while you’re wearing the glasses, and make sure there are no bubbles, creases, dents, or scratches on the glasses themselves. (TODAY)

Anger can improve happiness. While it may sound strange to say that anger and hatred can somehow improve one’s happiness, research shows that this may be true. An international study found that happiness is more complicated than seeking to feel good and avoiding feeling bad. In actuality, feeling the emotions you desire to feel, even if those are negative, can boost your happiness. Some interesting findings showed that 11% of participants want to feel less positive emotions and 10% want to feel more negative ones. To make sense of this, Dr. Maya Tamir from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem explains that people who read horrible news want to feel sad or angry rather than feeling nothing. Researchers also found that expecting to feel happy constantly can have serious downsides since it’s natural to have an ebb and flow of emotions. (BBC)

Singing may improve Parkinson’s symptoms. A new study has found that singing may be used as a voice therapy to help Parkinson’s patients. While symptoms differ from person to person, 60-80% of people with Parkinson’s experience some type of vocal change such as becoming monotone, speaking in a whispered voice, or losing vocal pitch. While typical Parkinson’s treatments don’t cover this area, singing, a form of voice therapy, may help improve these impairments. In one study, researchers found that in two months of singing, volume, swallow control, and pitch were noticeably improved. While further research is required to determine how and why this practice can improve these symptoms, for the time-being it is showing great potential. (MN)