Wellness Words June 2019

Wellness Words June 2019

HealthLink Littauer’sAlicia DeRuscio-Head


Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.

Community Education Assistant


Breathe Easy All Summer Long

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately one out of seven American adults suffers from some form of chronic lung disease. The two most common chronic lung diseases that affect Americans include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports approximately 14.8 million cases of COPD and 25 million cases of asthma across the United States.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease refers to a group of chronic, or lifelong, lung conditions that block the airways and make it more difficult to breathe.  COPD includes both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  According to the CDC, common symptoms of COPD include frequent coughing or wheezing, excess phlegm or mucus, shortness of breath and trouble taking deep breaths.


The American Lung Association (ALA) defines asthma as a chronic lung condition that causes swollen and inflamed airways, making it harder to move air into and out of your lungs. When you have asthma, certain things in the environment can worsen your symptoms, causing an ‘asthma attack.’  While most people develop asthma as a child, asthma can begin at any age.  Sometimes symptoms can lessen for a period of time and develop more severely again later in life.

Seasonal Effects

With summer weather just around the corner, it’s important to educate yourself on the effects of hot and humid weather conditions, high pollen levels and grassy, weedy environments on your lungs. For someone with chronic lung problems like COPD or asthma, the heat, humidity, grass and weeds that go hand-in-hand with summer can greatly affect the lungs, causing a flare up of symptoms.

According to the ALA, inhaling hot air can increase inflammation of the airways and trigger the onset of respiratory symptoms, especially in those with COPD or asthma. Similarly, high pollen levels and grassy areas can act as irritants for your lungs, constricting the airways and making it more difficult to breathe.


If you have COPD or asthma, the ALA recommends these tips for minimizing flare-ups during the summer:

  • Check the weather and pollen forecasts to avoid spending too much time outside during a heat wave or time of high pollen levels.
  • Keep out of the sun by wearing loose, cool clothing and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes. If you plan to go outside, avoid staying in the sun for long periods of time.
  • Pack a bag of essentials to carry with you at all times. Make sure to bring your quick–relief medications with you.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent from becoming dehydrated. 

If you would like to learn more, attend a special program entitled ‘Breathe Easy’ presented by Littauer’s Pulmonary Rehab Services on June 26 in Littauer’s Auditorium.

You are invited to join us for a buffet-style luncheon at 11:30 for $6 or attend the presentation only at 12 noon at no charge. To attend, call HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120 or email healthlink@nlh.org.  We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.

Early allergy season a doozy

Bless you! Allergy season is a doozy

Friday, June 20, 2014

By Leah Trouwborst


CAPITAL REGION — After a long winter, the Capital Region emerged from flu season only to walk right into the waiting arms of a very aggressive allergy season.

“I’m kind of overbooked,” says Dr. M. Asghar Pasha of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Albany Medical Center. He blames the long winter for raising pollen levels. “Everything blossomed all together instead of blossoming gradually — one pollen on top of another — so the patient is hit with a large amount of pollen at one time.”

Trees usually release pollen well before June, but cold temperatures delayed the budding process this year. Add to that the grass pollen which June always brings, and you’ve described the double whammy now hitting the Capital Region. (Ragweed, the third major type of pollen, won’t peak until August.)

Along with nonseasonal allergens like mold and animal dander, tree and grass pollen have triggered unusually severe allergy attacks in the Capital Region. According to Pasha, Albany Medical Center has seen “a significant influx of patients calling and complaining about [allergy] symptoms, saying their medications aren’t working, et cetera.”

Even though 2012 and 2013 saw quite a few complaints about bad allergies, Pasha considers 2014 to be even worse. “If you had to put a number on it, 20 percent to 30 percent more patients reported symptoms of allergies [than last year]. If I look at my schedule, I can tell you that,” he says.

Dr. Suzanne Palmieri, a primary care physician at Ellis Medical Group, points to wet weather as another contributing factor behind this severe allergy season. Not only was it a rainy spring, but beforehand “we had a lot of snowfall late in the winter. That provides a lot of water for the trees, and that increases pollen count.”

Adding a third factor behind pollen levels, Dr. David Shulan of Certified Allergy and Asthma Consultants brings up a simple science fact, one that people forget affects pollen levels: the law of gravity. “We’re in a valley, and that concentrates the pollen,” he explains. Reforestation has armed the mountains with even more pollen to send wafting down on lower ground.

Both Shulan and Dr. Lawrence Horowitz, chief of pediatrics at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville, express less concern over the current allergy season than over a larger trend in the Capital Region. “Over the last 30 years, there’s definitely been an increase in pollen levels,” Horowitz says. Shulan agrees that he’s seen “a general increase of [allergy] patients over a 24-year period.”

But why? Shulan suspects rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased pollination. But Horowitz believes that the cause of the trend is twofold, both the climate and the human body’s ability to tolerate the climate. “As we get healthier, we may be having more of an allergy problem,” says Horowitz. “It’s a trade-off.”

One Capital Region resident is putting up a fight against pollen. Patrice Jordan, who lives in Schenectady and works as a substitute teacher in Niskayuna, enlisted some help. “Yesterday my kids came over and washed my car for me. It was all covered with that yellow gunk,” she says. According to Shulan, very few are actually allergic to the pine pollen that resembles yellow gunk, even though we associate it with sneezing.

But Jordan’s allergies qualify as severe. She says childhood doctors, adhering to now-outdated wisdom, kept her from taking ballet classes in fear of an allergic reaction. Now, nearing her 60th birthday, she credits a cutting-edge prescription medication for allowing her to spend hours at a time in her garden. “It costs $600 per treatment” but “it’s made a tremendous difference,” she says.

Straightening up from her flower bed, she says “my allergies still go nuts” when the flowers bloom in her yard. Extending her left arm, she shows me where a patchy rash has bloomed. Nevertheless, she’s decided over the years that being outside is worth the tradeoff. Anyone looking at her garden would be likely to agree; amid the other yards, Jordan’s gives the impression of an oasis in a desert.

For those still working out a strategy to combat their allergies, a few simple changes can help outsmart pollen. Installing a window air conditioner “can cut the pollen and mold in the [home] by 90 percent,” according to Shulman. If you’re tempted to substitute a window fan for an air-conditioner, keep Palmieri’s warning in mind: “Those window fans tend to pull the pollen into the house.”

Finally, if summertime to you means open windows, wait until after 11 a.m. to crack them open. Plants release most of their pollen in the early-morning hours.

Nathan Littauer monitors childhood asthma cases

Battling to breathe. Childhood asthma a local concern

By ZACH SUBAR, special to The Leader-Herald.
First published in print: Sunday, August 31, 2009

Littauer speaks out about asthma cases in Fulton CountyCharleston resident Heather Bivins works hard to care for her 5-year-old son Josh, who was diagnosed with asthma at age 1 1/2. She has made several early morning trips to the emergency room, and has learned to juggle the medications and devices necessary to keep the disease in check. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” Bivins said. “He’s to the point now where we’ve gone through it enough times where we know the symptoms and treat them aggressively.”

Still, even though there are many diligent parents like Bivins who care for their children’s asthma, numbers indicate high rates of childhood asthma, especially in Fulton County, are a reality in this area. Recent data from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office indicate children were hospitalized overnight 115 times from 2005 to 2007 in Fulton County for asthma symptoms. There are an estimated 866 children with asthma in the county. The number of times a child was placed in a hospital overnight compared to the number of children is higher here than almost anywhere else in New York.

That total number of overnight stays within the three-year time span out of the 866 estimated children with asthma in the county means that, on average, one in about every 7 1/2 children was required to stay overnight in a medical ward.

“If [children] have it, it’s not surprising that you would see hospitalizations,” Fulton County Public Health Director Denise Frederick said. “We’re one of the highest areas outside of New York City.” The next highest rate is in Sullivan County, where about one in every 8 1/2 children was required to stay overnight in a hospital, followed by Erie County, where about one in every 10 children with the disease had an overnight stay. The Bronx has the highest overall rate, with about one of every four hospitalized.

One of every 17 Montgomery County children with asthma was hospitalized overnight, while Hamilton County’s rate is one in every 20 children. “It’s become so commonplace that you don’t necessarily think of it as a problem,” local pediatrician Dr. Richard A. Solby said. “And then you see numbers.”

Solby, who works at Nathan Littauer Hospital’s Primary Care Center in Johnstown, said he deals with lots of child asthma patients. Part of the problem here, he said, is that many parents do not necessarily treat the disease every day, as they should.

Instead of attacking the disease in a proactive manner, Solby said, and administering the proper medicines every day, parents often wait for symptoms to start before they bring their children in to be treated.

“If you’re not treating those other components on a daily basis and being preventative, you’re running into a daily problem,” Solby said. Child asthma has been pinpointed as one of the top five public health issues in the county, according to Littauer spokeswoman Cheryl McGrattan.

Continue reading “Nathan Littauer monitors childhood asthma cases”