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Archive for July, 2013

What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease typically produces a distinctive rash on a child’s face that makes the face appear slapped It is common in kids between 5 and 15 years old.  It is a virus, and many children recover quickly and without complications.  It occurs every where in the world, with outbreaks mainly in winter and early spring. The virus begins with a low grade fever, headache and mild cold like symptoms.  These symptoms will pass, and a few days later a rash will appear on the face that will later spread to the body extending down to the trunk, arms and legs.  It may take 1 to 3 weeks for the rash to completely clear.  Other symptoms that may occur with Fifth disease include swollen glands, red eyes, sore throat, diarrhea, and sometimes blisters from the rash.  In some cases relating to adults and older teens, Fifth disease may be followed by swelling or pain in hands, wrists, knees and ankles. A blood test for the virus would indicate if someone has the disease.

Fifth Disease - Slapped Face

*Photo courtesy of the CDC.


A person with Fifth disease is most contagious during the period where they have respiratory symptoms and a fever.  Once the rash appears, the child is no longer contagious. Once a person is infected with the virus causing Fifth disease, they will develop immunity to it and won’t become infected again.  If Fifth disease is developed during pregnancy, it may create complications to the fetus.  Nonetheless, 50% of women have already been infected and have immunity to the virus. Some children with weak immune systems and certain blood disorders, may become significantly sick with the infection that could cause anemia. This may cause the red blood cell levels to drop to dangerously low levels.  Please call your doctor if the rash is widespread over the body, accompanied by other symptoms, or if you’re pregnant and develop a rash and have been exposed to Fifth disease.


There is no vaccine for Fifth disease, and no good way to prevent the spread of the virus.  Practicing good hygiene, like hand-washing, is always good prevention against the spread of viruses.   Although antiviral medicines are now available for many viruses, none are available that will treat Fifth disease.


If you have questions about the prevention and treatment of Fifth disease, please call our office today at 757-488-3333.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

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Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, at ANY age.

There’s more and more evidence that sleep problems such as insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness are more prevalent in older people.

Some of the reasons include:

  • medication side effects
  • increasing disease
  • pain
  • depression & anxiety
  • limited mobility

Even changes in a person’s living situation, such as a move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, and even a hospital stay, can affect sleep. Cognitive deficits and Alzheimer’s can also have drastic effects on a person’s sleeping habits.

In general, older people need less sleep than younger ones; and their sleep is less deep.  Yet, insomnia is not a normal part of aging and can and should be treated.  Recent studies in the journal, Sleep, found that getting too little sleep is a risk factor for depression.  Older adults with poor night time sleep are more likely to have attention and memory problems.  Lack of sleep has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well.

If you are having trouble sleeping at night, ask you doctor to help you determine if any of your current medications have connection to your sleep problem.  Then you may determine if any daytime activities, such as naps are creating such sleep issues.  Daily naps should be halted or at least reduced.  Go outside for fresh air and sunlight, exercise, and to socialize with friends.  Just exposure to sunlight may be helpful. Sleep disturbances result from disruption of the body’s circadian rhythms which are controlled by light and dark patterns.  Age related changes in the eye may also reduce the amount of light that reaches an older person’s retina.

Most importantly is good sleep hygiene.  Establish a bed time ritual such as a bath and quiet relaxing activity, such as meditation or prayer.  A light snack in the evening is preferable and fluids should be restricted a few hours before bedtime to avoid the need to urinate during the night.  Caffeine and alcohol should be limited.  The bedroom should be dark, quiet and a little cool.  If sleep enhancing techniques with out medication fail to work, prescription sleep medication should be considered.  All sleep medications should be used with caution, as side effects are frequent.  Such medication should be used in the lowest dose and intermittently rather than nightly, if possible.

Good Night's Sleep


If you are having trouble sleeping, please call the office today at 757-488-3333, so we can discuss your treatment plan. You don’t have to “live exhausted”!

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

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The Dreaded Mononucleosis: AKA “Mono”

Mononucleosis (often called “Mono”) is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus, a virus in the herpes family of viruses. 

Signs of mono include:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • white patches on the back of the throat
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • feeling tired
  • loss of appetite

Mono is most common among people 15 – 35 years old. Once someone gets mono, the virus stays in the person’s body for life.  This doesn’t mean that they are always contagious. Over time, the virus becomes less contagious.  Mono is not spread as easily as the common cold.  It is found in saliva and mucus and usually passed through kissing, even though it could be passed in other ways, such as coughing, sharing toothbrushes, drinking straws, or eating utensils with someone who has the virus.  Signs of mono develop 4 – 6 weeks after being exposed to the virus.

Mono is confirmed through a simple blood test.  The main concern with mono is that the spleen will enlarge and rupture.  The spleen is a large gland located in the upper part of the abdomen on the left side; and in short, it helps filter blood to the body. Mono needs to run its course naturally, and usually last about 4 weeks.  Some people will feel tired for several weeks longer. However, Mono will go away on its own.

The main point of treatment is to relieve the symptoms:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Gargle with salt water or suck on throat lozenges or hard candy for sore throats
  • Take either an acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve the symptoms
  • Avoid sports activities until the doctor tells you its safe

We are not exactly sure how long someone with mono stays contagious after symptoms are gone.  But it’s generally believed that a person can spread the infection for many months after the symptoms are completely gone.  Some studies show as long as 18 months. So, take the needed precautions to decrease the spread of germs, such as hand-washing, not sharing food or drinks, etc.

If you are having these symptoms, please call the office today at 757-488-3333 to schedule an appointment.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD


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Preventing MRSA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus  (MRSA) infection is caused by Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria – often called ‘staph’.  Decades ago a strain of staph emerged in hospitals that was resistant to the broad spectrum of antibiotics commonly used to treat is.  MRSA was one of the first germs to outwit all but the most powerful drugs.  MRSA infection can be fatal.

A specific strain of the common bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus, MRSA, causes a type of ‘staph’ infection that has been cropping up among otherwise healthy people as skin infections, such as abscesses.  Staph bacteria live on most people’s skin or in their noses with out causing any problems.  But a staph infection can happen when the germ enters the body through broken skin such as a cut, scrape, or rash.  Staph is the usual suspect in many skin infections.  Staph infections, including those caused by MRSA usually begin as red bumps resembling boils or pimples.  The bumps often become swollen, painful, and filled with pus. Most skin infections are often minor and can be remedied by regularly washing and bandaging the area and or using oral antibiotics or antibiotic ointment.  Sometimes the abscesses from staph need to be drained by a doctor.

But MRSA can’t be treated with routinely given antibiotics.  We now have to turn to other medications to try to treat MRSA. If the infection spreads to other parts of the body, MRSA may lead to serious complications like pneumonia and blood and joint infections.

MRSA is not a new infection.  The difference is that now, MRSA is affecting more people outside hospitals and nursing homes.  This is called Community- associated MRSA.  This infection has been most recently found in a few high schools and professional sports teams.  The bug can be passed through gyms and locker rooms, as well as shared equipment and skin contact.

To help keep the super bug at bay in your home:

  • Make sure you wash hands well and often
  • Use alcohol based hand sanitizer
  • Don’t share razors
  • Shared sports equipment should be cleaned and sanitized

Call you doctor if:

  • An area of skin that’s red, painful, swollen or filled with pus.
  • Skin is inflamed and feverish or you feel sick.
  • Skin infections seem to be passed from one family member to another, or if two or more family members have skin infections at the same time.

Call our office today, at 757-488-3333, if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

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The Pain of Shingles

Shingles is an infection that results from the reactivation of the same virus that causes the chicken pox.  It is characterized by painful and blistering rash.  The pain could start a few days before the rash appears.  It may appear with a fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea and difficulty urinating.  The rash begins with reddish bumps.  In a few days, these bumps turn into fluid-filled blisters.  It may be a stinging or burning pain sensation.  The rash occurs most often on the trunk of the body in a band of blisters around the back or chest.  The blisters usually crust over and fall off in 7 to 10 days.  There may be changes in the skin color when the scabs fall off and in severe cases these color changes are permanent.


Image Courtesy of the Mayo Clinic


After getting the chicken pox as a child, the virus that causes it stays in the body in certain nerve cells.  Most of the time, the immune system keeps the virus in these cells.  As we get older or if the immune system gets weak, the varicella virus escapes from the nerve cells and cause shingles.  If you have had the chickenpox vaccine, you are less likely to get chickenpox and therefore less likely to later develop shingles.

Even though the rash gets better or goes away in a few weeks, the pain lasts longer.  In most people the pain goes away in 1 to 3 months.  Shingles is often treated with antiviral medication to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms. Your doctor will decide which medication might work best for you.  The medications work better when taken in the first 3 days of developing the rash. Your doctor might also have you take steroid medicines to reduce the pain and swelling.  To help with the pain, over the counter medications are most effective, and a medicated lotion such as Caladryl or Benadryl on the blisters might reduce the pain and itching.  You may also discuss the shingles vaccine with your doctor to decide what is best for your condition.

No one can catch shingles, but they can catch the chickenpox if they haven’t had the virus or the vaccine.  If you have shingles, you should stay away from babies younger than 12 months and pregnant women.

Call our office today at 757-488-3333 if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

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