Snakebites

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal

If you have been bitten by a snake, take the following steps until you receive medical help: 

  • Try to remain calm, and remove any jewelry or tight clothing before you experience swelling. 
  • Elevate the bite so it is at or below your heart. 
  • Clean the wound without flushing it with water, and cover it with clean, dry dressing. 
  • Do not cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.  
  • Do not try to capture the snake, but remember its color and any other identifying details. This information will help your doctor treat you effectively. 

Venomous snakebites consist of four different kinds of toxins: 

  • Cardiotoxins, which damage the heart directly 
  • Cytotoxins, which cause tissue damage at the site of the bite 
  • Hemotoxins, which cause internal bleeding 
  • Neurotoxins, which damage the nervous system 

The effects of a snakebite vary, from just healing from the puncture wound inflicted by the snake’s fangs, to fatal injury. Snakebites can cause symptoms including swelling, numbness, blisters, tissue death, internal bleeding, vision problems, and difficulty breathing.  

Anyone bitten by a snake should seek emergency medical treatment unless an expert identifies the snake as nonvenomous. The wound will be examined and cleaned, and your doctor may send blood and/or urine samples to be tested. Patients who go into shock may require intravenous fluids and possibly other medicines to maintain blood flow to vital organs.  

Your doctor may administer an antivenom treatment, and/or antibiotics to prevent infection. You should also receive a tetanus shot if you have not had one within the past five years.   

Water Safety

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal 

Throughout summer, families flock to pools, the beach, lakes, and rivers to cool off. Remember to keep yourself and your loved ones safe around the water. 

Do not swim alone, and choose locations where a lifeguard is on duty. In addition to watching the people in the water, lifeguards are trained to watch the water and help swimmers avoid any safety issues or conditions. They are also trained to respond quickly when something happens. 

Don’t rely on toys like water wings, noodles, or inner tubes to keep children safe. Young children and inexperienced swimmers should always wear a Coast Guard-certified life jacket when they are around water.  

Never leave children unsupervised near a body of water. In a large group, make sure at least one adult is the designated watcher and isn’t distracted. 

Make sure your children learn how to swim. Swimming lessons can begin as early as one year old, depending on the child’s physical and emotional development. However, swimming lessons do not prevent drowning, and are not a substitute for diligent adult supervision. Vital swimming skills include: 

  • Swimming in water that is over your head, then returning to the surface. 
  • Floating or treading water for at least one minute. 
  • Turning over and turning around in the water. 
  • Swimming at least 25 yards. 
  • Exiting the water.  

Practice “reach, throw, don’t go” if a friend is in trouble in the water. Use a long object to pull the person to safety. This prevents the distressed swimmer from overpowering the friend trying to rescue them. 

Flesh-eating bacteria

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal 

Necrotizing fasciitis, popularly known as flesh-eating bacteria, is an infection which stops blood circulating, causing tissue death near the site of the infection. The bacteria enters the body during surgery or as the result of an injury, including minor cuts, insect bites, and abrasions. Once the infection begins, it destroys muscle, skin, and fat tissue. 

Patients will begin to experience symptoms during the first 24 hours after infection, including pain that is unusually severe for the appearance of the injury, flu-like symptoms, and dehydration. Over the next several days, the area will swell and/or develop a purplish rash. When tissue death begins to occur, you will notice discoloration, peeling, and flakiness, along with blisters filled with bad-smelling fluid. 

Because many of the early symptoms are so similar to other, more common conditions, doctors often diagnose the condition based on advanced symptoms, and will use lab analysis of fluid and tissue samples to identify the bacteria.  

Treatment for this condition includes antibiotics, surgery to remove the damaged tissue and prevent any further spread of infection. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be employed in order to preserve the healthy tissue. Your doctor may also recommend IV immunoglobulin, in order to help your body fight the infection. 

Infectious disease specialists suggest that we will see an increase in cases of flesh-eating bacteria due to climate change. The bacteria flourishes in warmer waters, and also thrives on organic material such as red tide.  

Diverticulitis

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal

Diverticular disease begins with the formation of small pockets, called diverticuli, in the wall of the colon, a condition known as diverticulosis. These areas of the colon are not as thick-walled as the rest of the colon, so if your colon is overworked because you are dehydrated, you are not getting enough fiber in your diet, or you experience a lot of stress, your colon can become spastic., that increased pressure causes areas of weakness in your colon walls to rupture, get inflamed, and release bacteria into otherwise sterile areas of our body. Complications from diverticulosis can include rectal bleeding, called diverticular bleeding, and diverticulitis, when these pockets become infected.

In order to prevent diverticulitis, drink plenty of fluids, ensure your diet contains the recommended amount of fiber, and minimize stress in your life.

A common misperception that many patients have is that nuts and seeds can get stuck in diverticuli and cause irritation and discomfort. However, studies show that diverticuli are not caused by nuts or seeds, so there is no need to avoid these foods.

Gallstones and gallbladder disease

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal

Gallstones are treated very differently than kidney stones. Kidney stones must be broken down so they can pass through the system.

Gallstones can be hereditary, or caused by diet or pregnancy. There are some disorders which cause red blood cells to recycle more quickly, causing gallstones to form at a very young age.

Symptoms include pain, a burning sensation, and bloating in the upper abdomen. Your doctor will use an ultrasound or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. You can manage your symptoms medically by staying on a low-fat diet, or you may consider having your gallbladder surgically removed. That procedure is done laparoscopically, as an outpatient procedure under anesthesia. Patients generally take two to seven days to recover.

Food allergies

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal

Food allergies develop when a person’s immune system mistakenly identifies a food item as something harmful. The most common food allergies for adults include shellfish and nuts. For children, the most common allergies are nuts, eggs, dairy, wheat, and soy.

An allergic reaction to food can trigger a variety of symptoms in an allergic person, including:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
  • Trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Eczema

In the most severe cases, people suffering from a food allergy can develop anaphylaxis if they come in contact with the item they are allergic to. These symptoms include tightening of the airwaves, a sharp drop in blood pressure, a rapid pulse, and dizziness or fainting. When experiencing these symptoms, emergency medical treatment is necessary.

There are some common conditions that are frequently mistaken for a food allergy, such as food poisoning, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease. Additionally, you may have a sensitivity to certain common food additives, such as the sulfites in wine, dried fruit, or canned goods, but not an allergy to the food item itself.