Health Dangers Lurking in Your Closet
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Think only kids fear monsters in their closets? Think again. The Doctors reveal the scary things that may be lurking in the dark corners of your home.

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Major Closet Makeover
Allison, 17, says her mom, Sandy, is in need of a major closet makeover and reaches out to The Doctors to help her get organized.

“It’s very frustrating, it’s like a maze,” Sandy says. “And I’m too exhausted to deal with it because I don’t even know how to anymore.”

“Sandy, this isn’t about organization,” OB-GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson says. “It’s about your health.”

When clothes and boxes pile up, it can create dangerous amounts of dust, which can lead to asthma, allergies and respiratory infections. Plus, items stacked high can fall and cause injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests cleaning your closet and vacuuming at least once a year.

But the biggest risk of keeping a cluttered closet is a house fire.

Orange County firefighter Luke Perisin explains that one in every eight house fires starts in a closet, when belongings are stored too close to a light bulb.

“A 40 watt bulb can generate enough heat to set fire to boxes and clothes,” he says.

“I see the damage fires bring to homes and people’s lives on a regular basis,” he continues. “It’s a reality check when you lose family heirlooms and objects.”

Put the Mold on Hold
Mold can range from a simple allergen to a deadly toxin and the health consequences depend on your age, your immune system and the type of mold you’re exposed to. It grows in moist, dark places, from your bathroom to your closet and even your umbrella!

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Breaking out your umbrella this fall? Before you open it, Dr. Sears reveals why it could cause you to sneeze, itch and even develop fungal infections!

“Mold can also be completely harmless, but in some situations, it can be truly deadly,” ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says.

“One study found a child’s risk of asthma can double from simply smelling mold,” pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says.

Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Andrew Ordon explains that clothes can conceal mold growing in your closet and symptoms can easily be confused with a cold or allergy attack.

Mold Symptoms:
• Sneezing
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Cough
• Itchy or watery eyes

The most common fungi and one behind 160 different mold species is Aspergillis, which is the leading cause of fungal infections that require medical attention.

Stachybotrys chartarum is a common house mold that is black and slimy in appearance and most often stems from unnoticed or ignored water damage. This mold can trigger the symptoms listed above, as well as nosebleeds, sinus infections, headaches, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and autoimmune conditions. For those with compromised immune systems, this mold can be life-threatening.

“Pregnant women fall into the [compromised immune system] category,” Dr. Lisa says. “They can get really sick from respiratory infections, however no studies have shown that mold causes birth defects.”

If you have any concerns about mold in your home, be sure to contact an environmental inspector.

Top 10 Mold Tips
1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory complaints.
2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
5. Reduce indoor humidity (30 to 60 percent is recommended) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing and cleaning.
6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
8. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (e.g., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof or floors) by adding insulation.
9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (e.g., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, provided moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet and foods.

SOURCE: UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Harmful Handbags
Could you be carrying a harmful toxin around with you every day? Recently, The Center for Environmental Health found dangerous levels of lead in purses.

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A specific ingredient in your favorite beauty products could pose serious risks to your health. Phthalates, chemicals found in hairsprays, gels, lotions and self-tanners may disrupt your hormones, increase your risk of metabolism disorder and even double your risk of diabetes! Learn more.

Lead acts as a stabilizer to preserve the color of bright hues, especially yellow and red, and brightly-colored bags tested for higher levels of the metal.

Dr. Travis explains how lead gets into the body and the effects it can have on your health.

“Kids are more prone to lead damage in their bodies, which can cause developmental problems and growth problems,” Dr. Sears warns.

Dr. Sears says diet plays a crucial role in lead absorption. Feeding your child a diet rich in vitamin C, calcium, iron and zinc can help protect him or her against lead absorption.

“The better diet your child has, the less lead they’re going to absorb,” he adds.

“Stay away from the brighter [purse] colors since they have a higher content of lead,” Dr. Lisa says. “You’re better off if you stick to the natural fabrics like leather, canvas and fiber types of purses.”

Keeping Out the Creepy Crawlies
Rodents and insects can make their homes in the dark, dry corners of your home. Meet Dylan, a man who’s learned to live with the brown recluse spiders infesting his apartment. Plus, how to protect your family from poisonous spider bites.

• You’ve gotten rid of the rodents, now what? Click here for clean-up tips.

And, from bugs in your pantry to germs on your cutting board, chef Devin Alexander shares top tips to keep you and your family safe in the kitchen.

Balloon Dangers

The Doctors and USA Weekend

The Doctors have an exciting partnership with USA Weekend magazine as the exclusive medical contributors to its weekly HealthSmart column!

• Latest: Gastric Bypass Surgery

• Check out USA Weekend for more information.

• See which local newspapers feature USA Weekend.

While parents know to lock away medications and chemicals to keep their children from accessing them, they may not realize the dangers in seemingly harmless items such as balloons.Latex balloons are the most common cause of toy-related choking deaths in children. To prevent this, be sure to keep party supplies out of reach of children who tend to place objects in their mouths, or may try to blow up the balloon without having proper control of his or her mouth or airway.

If a child is choking on a latex balloon, perform an oral sweep by reaching into his or her mouth and removing the balloon. Since balloons are not easily projected out of the mouth, the Heimlich maneuver may not be helpful in this instance.


More child safety tips: 

Birthday party safety. 

Car seat safety 411.

Avoiding child abductions.

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