Health Savings Accounts

Most people with health insurance, especially employer paid health insurance, really don’t know what their health care costs are. Furthermore, in many cases, they are limited in which health providers (doctors, hospitals, pharmacies etc) they can use.

Most people are locked into a network of doctors. They know what the co-pay is, but have no idea what the doctor actually charges.

When insured consumers are hospitalized, they rarely see the bill. They don’t know if the insurance company was overcharged or not. There are firms that audit hospital bills for insurers and self insured companies. They get paid a percentage of what they save on the bill payer by finding overcharges, duplicate charges and the like. The last I heard these firms were still making lots of money.

Overcharging, whether deliberate or not, by doctors and hospitals drive up health care costs for all. (So do malpractice suits, but that’s another story.)

In order to give consumers more direct control not only over their health costs, but in the choice of which doctor they can see or which hospital they can enter, Congress enacted the Health Savings Account Availability Act. As of the beginning of 2004, individuals who are not otherwise insured can

A Life Giving Reminder Enroll Now

One of the main reasons that the mortality rate for African Americans remains disparately high for heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes is because we too often delay going to the doctor for symptoms or regular checkups. By the time we go, the health condition is sometimes worse.

Dr. Louis Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services and founder of the Morehouse School of Medicine, knows the negative health habits of many African Americans. He says sometimes we don’t go to the doctor because of fear, procrastination, financial problems or just hoping the symptoms will go away.

Visit AARP Health Law Facts »

Well, no more excuses. We now have another opportunity to sign up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If you’ve missed the sign-up in previous years, open enrollment for 2016 ends Jan. 31, 2016. For coverage to start Jan. 1, 2016, you must enroll by Dec. 15, 2015. If you purchase a plan after Dec. 15, your insurance will become effective Feb. 1.

Under the ACA, multiple plans are available for people on fixed incomes and even plans for people with no income. Since President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010, the ACA, which some call Obamacare,

What Does Caregiving Have to Do with Food Allergies

Who is a caregiver?  By definition, a caregiver is “someone who is a family member or paid helper who regularly takes care of a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person”.  Well, if that’s the definition, then that’s me.

I have three small children: Catherine 4, Nora 2, and Mary 13 months.  I haven’t really thought of myself as a caregiver – I’m just a mom taking care of my children.  Most caregivers are just like me.  They don’t think about it, they just do what they have to do to help their loved one(s). Like most caregivers, I have a set of challenges I face.  I have a child with special needs. My daughter, Catherine has life-threatening food allergies.

Four years ago I learned the hard way about food allergies.  My beautiful newborn daughter began developing red marks on her face after she drank her bottle.  Then she began throwing up while drinking her bottle.  It wasn’t long before she was diagnosed with food allergies: milk, eggs, wheat, and beef. Quite a life changer for two new parents! About a year ago, my husband Jim was diagnosed with food allergies as well; milk, eggs, and lettuce (yes – lettuce). He was

Allergy is the price we pay for our immunity to parasites

New findings, published in PLOS Computational Biology, help demonstrate the evolutionary basis for allergy. Molecular similarities in food and environmental proteins that cause allergy (such as pollen), and multicellular parasites (such as parasitic worms), have been identified systematically for the first time.

A study led by Dr Nicholas Furnham (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), supports the hypothesis that allergic reactions are a flawed antibody response towards harmless environmental allergens.

It is thought that part of our immune system has evolved to combat and provide immunity against infection by parasitic worms. However, in the absence of parasitic infection, this same arm of the immune system can become hyper-responsive and mistakenly target allergenic proteins in food or the environment. This results in an unregulated allergic response, which can sometimes be lethal.

The researchers used computational techniques to predict which proteins in parasitic worms would cause an immune response similar to an allergic reaction in humans. Their experimental studies supported these predictions and, for the first time, they identified a protein in a parasitic worm that is similar to a protein that was previously thought to be encoded only in the genomes of plants. This protein is one of the most

Man with Brain Disorder Can’t Recognize His Reflection

A man who thought he saw a “stranger” in the bathroom mirror, when he was actually looking at his own reflection, turned out to have a rare neurological condition, a new case report finds.

The 78-year-old man in France, identified in the report as Mr. B, noticed a stranger in his house. Mr. B said that the stranger looked just him, but stayed in the bathroom mirror, according to the authors of the report published online Aug. 25 in the journal Neurocase.

“The stranger was a double of himself: he was the same size, had the same hair, body shape, and features, wore the same clothes and acted the same way,” the researchers wrote in the report. “Mr. B. talked with this stranger and was puzzled because he knew much about him. Mr. B. even brought food to the mirror with cutlery for two persons.” [Senses and Non-Sense: 7 Odd Hallucinations]

“Eventually, the patient told his daughter that the stranger [had] became aggressive, and she decided to drive her father to the hospital,” said Dr. Capucine Diard-Detoeuf, a neurologist at the University Hospital of Tours in France, who treated the man and is one of the co-authors of the report.

After a checkup, doctors

See Food Diet, What’s on Your Countertops Can Affect Your Weight

If you want to maintain a normal weight, you might try leaving a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people in the study who left fruit on their countertops weighed an average of 13 lbs. (6 kg) less than those who didn’t have this healthy snacking option within arm’s reach.

But before you start filling up your fruit bowl, you might want to put away the cereal. Study participants who left cereal on the counter weighed an average of 20 lbs. (9 kg) more than participants who didn’t keep cereal lying around in plain sight, the researchers found. And those who left soda sitting out were even worse off — they weighed about 25 lbs. (11 kg) more than people who didn’t leave these drinks on the counter. [7 Diet Tricks That Really Work]

The study showed that “there was a huge correlation between what was sitting out and how much [participants] weighed,” said the study’s lead author Brian Wansink, a food psychologist and director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

The new study and other recent research reinforce what you probably already know to be true — eating fruits and vegetables is

Learn to React to Anaphylaxis


What Causes Anaphylactic Allergic Reactions?

Anaphylactic allergic reactions can be life-threatening and may occur after people are exposed to an allergen, or a substance they are allergic to. The symptoms of anaphylaxis tend to come on suddenly and often require immediate medical attention. Anaphylactic allergic reactions most commonly occur in people who are allergic to certain foods, medications, or insect stings. When allergic people first come into contact with one of these allergens, their body’s immune system responds by producing antibodies against the allergen. Once these antibodies are produced, they stay in the body until the person comes into contact with the allergen again. This time, the antibodies trigger the release of chemicals that cause the severe symptoms of anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of Anaphylactic Allergic Reactions

The first sign of an anaphylactic reaction is often the sudden appearance of a raised skin rash, called hives, or other types of itching or redness on your skin. About 95 percent of people who have anaphylactic allergic reactions have skin symptoms. “Typically it is going to be a skin manifestation,” says Julie McNairn, MD, an allergist/immunologist in Cincinnati. “There

Controlling a Wheat Allergy

Yes, you’ll need to read every food label. But having a wheat allergy does not mean you or your child can’t enjoy good foods.
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Most cases of wheat allergy affect children under the age of 3, but adults can have a wheat allergy, too. Someone who has a wheat allergy has an allergy to a protein in wheat, which is a type of grain. The proteins in wheat known to cause an allergic reaction are albumin, globulin, gliadin, and gluten.
What Is a Wheat Allergy?

In a true wheat allergy, IgE, or immunoglobulin E, in your body causes the immune system to overreact when you consume a wheat protein. Symptoms of a wheat allergy vary, and can range from hives or eczema to gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and pain).

If you think you or your child has a wheat allergy, it is important to see an allergist to confirm the diagnosis. “When someone comes in with what sounds like an IgE-mediated allergy, they should have some skin testing done,” says Julie McNairn, MD, an allergist and immunologist in Cincinnati.

Allergen skin

Are You Allergic to Sunscreen?

Learn how to identify and deal with a sunscreen allergy.
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Are You Allergic or Just Sensitive?

Summer means sun — and plenty of it. As we spend more time at the pool, park, and beach, lathering up with sunscreen can become a daily activity. And it should. A recent study from Australia — which has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world — found that applying sunscreen daily reduced the risk of melanoma, the most deadly kind of skin cancer, by 50 percent.

For some people, however, applying certain types of sunscreen can actually cause a skin allergy. Sunscreen allergies are fairly uncommon, but if you’re worried your skin irritation is caused by sunscreen, here’s what to do.

Detecting a Sunscreen Allergy

Sunscreens work because they contain chemicals that absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation and keep them from penetrating your skin. Some of these chemicals, including oxybenzone, 4-isopropyl-dibenzoylmethane, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), esters, avobenzone, and cinnamates, have been known to cause an allergic reaction in certain people.

There are two ways a sunscreen allergy generally appears: as a contact allergy or contact photoallergy, according to Anna Feldweg, MD, a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard

Mold and Other Fall Allergies

If you’re allergic to ragweed pollen, you probably don’t love fall. “Depending on where you live, fall is ragweed time,” says Julie McNairn, MD, an allergist/immunologist in Cincinnati. During the fall, dry leaves, grass, and hay harbor allergens such as mold spores and pollen.

Seasonal allergies vary, Dr. McNairn adds. You may experience symptoms one year and not the next. “It’s very unpredictable,” she says. “It is also really hard to say from year to year how the allergy season will be.”

Diagnosing Fall Allergies

Like most seasonal allergies, the symptoms of fall allergies include sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes. These symptoms can interfere with your daily activities, impairing your ability to perform at work or school.

Ragweed pollen is one of the most common reasons for fall seasonal allergy symptoms. A hardy plant, ragweed grows everywhere, but is particularly common in the Northeast, South, and Midwest regions of the United States. Peak ragweed season starts in mid-August and lasts through October.

Ragweed pollen also is known to cause a condition known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS). In OAS, you may experience itching in your mouth and throat, along with

A Guide to Shellfish Allergies

Know the signs of a shellfish allergy and what to do if you have one.
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Shrimp scampi, baked lobster, and oysters on the half-shell can cause serious illness if you have a shellfish allergy. Here’s what you need to know.

“Shellfish allergy is the most common food allergy in adults,” says Anna Feldweg, MD, a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and attending physician in allergy and immunology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Triggered by eating shrimp, lobster, crab, or crayfish, this type of allergy can lead to a serious illness or even death, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and learn some precautions.
What Causes Shellfish Allergies?

“Shrimp is the leading culprit [of shellfish allergy] in this country,” says Dr. Feldweg. But, she adds, in other countries where people tend to eat different types of shellfish, the leading cause can be different.

Shellfish allergies are most commonly caused by crustaceans such as shrimp, lobster, crab, and crayfish. But people have also been known to have a shellfish allergy related to bivalves such as oysters, clams, and mussels, as well as snails, squid,

Allergies Penicillin

Penicillin is a type of antibiotic that is used to treat a wide variety of infections, including pneumonia, ear infections, blood infections, and heart valve infections. This medication is very effective, but it can cause serious problems if you’re allergic to it.

About Penicillin Allergies
A penicillin allergy is more common in some people than others. For instance, those who are allergic to other medications, have a family history of medication allergies, or have taken a lot of medications in their lives are more likely to develop a penicillin allergy.

“The kind of penicillin allergy we worry most about is the kind that can cause anaphylaxis,” says Anna Feldweg, MD, a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and attending physician in allergy and immunology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Those types of reactions are IgE-related.”

IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is an antibody found in the body that mediates allergic reactions. When an allergen — a substance such as penicillin that can trigger an allergic reaction — enters the body, the immune system produces IgE. The IgE then travels through the body and coats a type of allergy cell called mast cells. “[IgE] sits on the surface of the

The Sting of an Insect Allergy

Though most people can tolerate an insect sting pretty well, others may have a severe allergic reaction. If you are sensitive to stinging insects, stay away from them and be prepared, should they find you.
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On nice days, people gravitate outdoors to soak in sunshine and fresh air. The occasional sting from a bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket, or fire ant is nothing more than a nuisance — unless you have an insect allergy.

For most people, the pain, itching, redness, and mild swelling around the area of the sting usually go away within a few hours. But for an estimated two million Americans who have an insect allergy, the threat of running into a stinging insect can be frightening enough to keep them indoors.

What Is an Insect Allergy?

An insect allergy develops because your immune system overreacts to an insect sting. The first time you are stung, your body produces a protein known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody, specific to the venom that was injected when the insect stung you. If you are stung again by the same kind of insect, the venom will react with the IgE and

Vaccine Allergy A Closer Look

If you’ve had reactions from eggs or gelatin, you may be allergic to routine vaccines. Learn how to minimize the reaction.
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A vaccine allergy is an extremely rare type of allergy, with only one to two serious allergic reactions being reported per million vaccinations given. But when a vaccine allergy does occur, it can be very serious, even life-threatening.
What Is a Vaccine Allergy?

Researchers believe that most people who have a vaccine allergy have an allergic sensitivity to one of two common vaccine ingredients: gelatin or egg protein.

Gelatin is used to help preserve viral components of the following vaccines:

Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis /DTaP (Tripedia)
Influenza (Fluzone, Flumist)
Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR II, Priorix)
Measles (Attenuvax)
Mumps (Mumpsvax)
Rubella (Meruvax II)
Rabies (Rabavert)
Shingles (Zostavax)
Varicella (Varivax)

Egg proteins are used to produce some vaccines including:

Measles, mumps, and rubella
Yellow fever

If you are allergic to eggs, or have had an allergic reaction after eating a gelatin-containing food, you are at higher risk of having a vaccine allergy.
Symptoms of a Vaccine Allergy

Symptoms of a severe vaccine allergy may include:

Problems breathing
Low blood pressure

What Is a Drug Allergy?

Many people report having drug allergies when they’ve really experienced an adverse drug reaction. Learn the differences between the two.
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While an allergy usually isn’t much more than a nuisance, a serious one can potentially lead to a life-threatening situation. When the allergen is a medication, the situation can be especially critical. Still, people who are allergic to certain medications have options. They can manage the symptoms caused by adverse reactions, avoid the symptoms altogether by taking a different drug, or work with an allergist to desensitize themselves to drugs that trip their immune systems’ triggers.
Drug Allergy: The Basics

A drug allergy occurs when a person’s immune system responds to a medication or drug as a foreign substance, causing a reaction, including skin irritations (rashes or hives), breathing problems, swelling, and intestinal pain. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) often occur when people take too much of a medicine, or when one medication they are taking reacts with another drug in their system. ADRs usually subside and sufferers begin to feel better 24 to 48 hours after discontinuing the medication.

“Most people experience adverse reactions at some

Food Allergy An Overview

Food allergies aren’t just bothersome — they can be costly, too. A study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that food allergies — an exaggerated immune response that can be triggered by peanuts, milk, eggs, and other products — cost Americans $500 million a year, due to doctor visits, hospital care, and lost work days. Today, about one in 25 people in the United States have food allergies.

What Is a Food Allergy?

If you have a food allergy, your body’s immune system overreacts to certain food components known as food allergens. These allergens, which are usually proteins, are harmless to most people. But if your body’s immune system has been sensitized to the allergens, it may overreact and attack the proteins as if they were harmful bacteria.

Most people who have a food allergy are allergic to a protein found in one or more of the following foods:

  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Cow’s milk

Food Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms of a food allergy may include:

  • Hives. These raised areas of the skin are red and itchy. Hives often appear in clusters.
  • Eczema. Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema appears as red areas on the skin that are itchy and scaly.
  • Asthma. A food allergy can trigger asthma, which

All About Allergic Conjunctivitis

What causes the eye condition allergic conjunctivitis, and what are the treatment options?
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When your eyes are exposed to certain allergy-causing substances, inflammation of the conjunctiva (the thin membrane covering the eyeball and the inside of the eyelid) may occur resulting in allergic conjunctivitis. Millions of Americans suffer from allergic conjunctivitis, making it the most common allergy condition of the eye.

Conjunctivitis is often referred to as “pinkeye,” and the viral or bacterial forms of conjunctivitis are contagious. However, allergic conjunctivitis is not.
Types of Allergic Conjunctivitis

There are two forms of allergic conjunctivitis. The perennial form of allergic conjunctivitis is usually caused by animal hair or dander, feathers, and dust mites. According to Clifford Bassett, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the State University of New York and clinical instructor at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, the more common form of allergic conjunctivitis is seasonal, which is triggered by mold spores and pollen from flowering trees, grass, and weeds.

“Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is on the rise as a result of global warning,” says Dr. Bassett. “As greenhouse gases increase, there

Allergies from A to Z

Use this glossary to learn common terms, medications, and phrases related to allergies.
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Allergens: Substances that can trigger asthma attacks in people who have allergic asthma. Examples of allergens are dog or cat dander, dust mites or pollen.

Allergen skin test: test in which tiny amounts of suspected allergens are introduced into a patient’s skin with a pin-prick. In an allergic patient, the allergen will produce a swollen itchy patch surrounded by an area of redness.

Allergic asthma: A type of asthma in which an allergen triggers cellular reactions resulting in airway inflammation and asthma symptoms.

Allergic conjunctivitis: Also called “pink eye,” this is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the tissue on the inside of the eyelid and keeps eyeball and eyelid moist. It is an extremely common condition that can be triggered by contact with irritating substances such as shampoo, dirt, smoke, pool chlorine, or various allergens.

Allergic reaction: The immune system’s response to an invading allergen in which the mast cells produce the protective antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The IgE antibodies trigger the mast cells to release histamine and other chemicals which produce inflammation, swelling, mucous

What Are the Different Types of Allergies?

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As many as 50 million Americans are allergic to something — whether pollen, peanuts, or pet dander. But not all allergies are the same. Here’s a rundown of the most common kinds of allergies.

Allergic rhinitis: swelling and inflammation of nasal passages, congestion, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes caused by a variety of outdoor and indoor allergens.

Sinusitis: an infection of the sinuses sometimes related to or caused by allergic rhinitis or asthma. However, at least half of all chronic sinusitis is not caused by allergies.

Asthma: inflammation of the lungs and airways and constriction of the bronchial tubes triggered by many of the same allergens as allergic rhinitis, and resulting in wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing.

Food allergies: symptoms such as rash, vomiting and diarrhea, coughing, wheezing, facial swelling, hives, and others triggered by specific foods in some people. Food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance, are more common, but they are not considered allergies because they do not involve an allergic reaction.

Bee sting allergy (insect venom

Key Questions About Allergies

What is an allergy? What are the most common types? How is an allergy diagnosed? Get these answers and more.
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1. What Is an Allergy?
An allergy is the immune system’s excessive sensitivity and over-response to a harmless foreign substance in the body, such as plant pollen, a certain food, a drug or any one of many other substances. Whatever the foreign substance, or “allergen,” the immune system responds as if to a real threat by triggering what is called an immune response, which in these cases is known as an allergic reaction.

2. What Happens During an Allergic Reaction?
In an allergic reaction, the immune system responds to the allergen by producing a highly specific antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). While everyone has IgE antibodies, a person who is allergic has an overabundance of them. When the IgE antibodies attack the allergens, they trigger mast cells, or defensive white blood cells, to release histamine and other chemicals that produce the allergic symptoms of inflammation: swelling, mucous production, itching, rash, hives or other symptoms, depending on the type and location of the allergy.

3. Are Allergic Reactions