April 2015

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Readers’ Favorite Online Health Stories

Rashes, Sore Throats, Kidneys, and More

NIH News in Health aims to bring you a wide range of health-related stories, including articles about healthy lifestyles and both common and rare diseases. Some topics are consistently popular, viewed by hundreds or thousands of people month after month on the NIH News in Health website. Here are 5 reader favorites, representing our most-viewed Web articles over the past 2 years. See if any of these topics might be useful to you or someone you know.

1. Red, Itchy Rash? You’ve probably had a rash at some point or another, whether from poison ivy, soggy diapers, or something more unusual. Why does your skin break out in red blotches like that? More important, is there anything you can do about it? Dr. Stephen I. Katz, director of NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, answers these questions and more while also addressing specific conditions, such as skin allergies, eczema, and psoriasis. “If you have any significant rash, you should see a dermatologist,” Katz says. A dermatologist, or skin doctor, is specially trained to figure out what’s causing a rash and help you get the right treatment.

2. Soothing a Sore Throat. When you’ve got a sore throat, your throat may feel scratchy, and it may hurt when you swallow. Most sore throats are caused by viral infections such as the common cold or the flu. The best way to protect yourself from the germs that cause these infections is to wash your hands often. Try to steer clear of people who have colds or other contagious infections. And avoid smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke, which can irritate your throat.

3. Keep Your Kidneys Healthy. Your kidneys aren’t very big—each is about the size of your fist—but they do important work. They keep you healthy by maintaining just the right balance of water and other substances inside your body. Unfortunately, if your kidneys start to malfunction, you might not realize it for a long while. Kidney disease usually won’t make you feel sick until the problem is serious and irreversible. That’s why it’s important to catch kidney disease early, so you can try to prevent or delay health problems. You’re at increased risk for kidney disease if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family history of kidney failure. Talk with your health care provider about whether you should be screened for kidney disease.

4. Should You Take Dietary Supplements? More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, also known as botanicals. People take these supplements to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. “Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.”

5. Waking Up to Anesthesia. When you face surgery, you might have many concerns, including worries about going under anesthesia. General anesthesia is a combination of drugs that dampens pain, knocks you unconscious, and keeps you from moving during the operation. Although anesthesia is typically considered quite safe for most patients, many people have concerns about possible risks and side effects. Some people, especially elderly patients and children, can have lingering confusion and thinking problems for several days after anesthesia. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns, but don’t delay important surgery because of fear of anesthesia.