Pump Up Your Lungs

Get ready for the Cold and Flu Season…and COVID 

Since breathing just happens without thinking about it, we can take it for granted.  You may not realize the importance of lung health until you have experienced a hard time breathing or get conditions such as, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or lung cancer.  Your lungs provide you oxygen as you breathe in, and, just as important, remove carbon dioxide from your body as you breathe out.  This is called gas exchange and is essential to life.  Genetics, disease and the environment can have a negative impact on your lung function, leading to respiratory conditions and a shorter lifespan. 

With the continuous threat of COVID, and the upcoming cold and flu season, now is a good time to get your lungs in good shape.  Below are some guidelines, exercises and foods that can help you on this journey toward lung health. 

Healthy lung guidelines: 

  • Remember to breathe deeply as much as you can 
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants, inside and outside 
  • Don’t smoke 
  • Move and stay active 
  • Pay attention to your posture 
  • Simply laugh 
  • Prevent infection  
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Get flu and COVID vaccine 

Exercising your lungs: 

As you walk up the stairs and get to the top, you will feel your breath becoming shallow and rapid. You have to either slow down or stop to catch your breath. Improving your lung function by better breathing increases oxygen to your muscles, including your muscles used for breathing.  

  1. Patterned breathing exercise can help you coordinate your inhales and exhales, for example, a 2-2 pattern: Breathe in, then step left, right; Breathe out, then step left, right; Breathe in.  
  1. Standing or sitting straight:  Breathe in, with palms facing out and up, raise your arms out and up, so that your palms are facing each other. Breathe out, then lower your arms back down to your sides. 

If you have trouble walking or losing your balance, there are exercises that you can do lying on your back. 

Nutrient-rich foods for your lungs: 

The right combinations of nutrients can help you breathe easier. Oxygen and the food you eat or drink become fuel for your body, producing energy, which we need and use, and carbon dioxide, which is a waste product that we exhale.  Carbohydrates produce the most carbon dioxide and fat produces the least. For some people with COPD, eating a diet with fewer carbohydrates and more fat helps them breathe easier. 

Nutritional Guidelines 

  • Choose complex carbohydrates and limit simple carbohydrates. 
  • Eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day 
  • Eat a good source of protein at least twice a day to help maintain strong respiratory muscles. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  

Studies have shown that foods rich in flavonoids, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, certain vitamins and minerals, fiber, Omega 3, promote lung health. Below are some nutrient-rich foods that may support lung health: 

Vegetables. Beets, Peppers, Pumpkin, Red cabbage, Swiss chard 

Fruits. Apples, Pears, Tomato/Tomato-based products, Blueberries  

Others. Yogurt, Brazil nuts, Sardines, Barley, Lentils , Olive oil, Green tea, Turmeric, Dark Chocolate 

Keeping your lungs healthy is essential to feeling your best.  Be mindful of your exposure to environmental toxins and inflammatory foods. Studies have shown that a nutritious diet and lifestyle modification can have a positive impact on your lung health, even if you suffer from lung conditions, such as, asthma, COPD, and lung cancer. 

Let’s all breathe better, and make our lungs stronger to fight these viruses that are creeping into our neighborhoods. Yes, it’s time to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID. 

Now, take a deep breath, relax, and smile… 

Medicines Can Be Powerful Lifesavers, But Can Lead to Danger for Children 

By: Belinda Burchick, RPH, BPharm

Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines (non-prescription) can relieve symptoms, manage your health condition and even save your life. On the flip side, medicines can be deadly if ingested by children, especially if given in too high of a dosage or if taken unintentionally. As a result, about 50,000 U.S. children end up in the Emergency Room each year. 

Many common medicines, such as ones used for pain, heart and diabetes can have toxic effects. Even over-the-counter medications, such as vitamins, can be fatal to the very young.   

Below are some medication safety tips for anyone who may have children around:  

  • Store all medications on a high shelf, in a locked cabinet. Consider a lockable container. 
  • It is important to use medicine containers with safety caps and keep them out of reach of children.  Out of sight, out of mind. 
  • After taking medicines, immediately put back in safe storage.  
  • If a medication spills, clean the area immediately. If you drop a pill, do everything you can to locate lost pill. Vacuum or sweep the area. It is best to take medicine over a bowl or sink. 
  • Remind visitors such as, grandparents, friends, and babysitters, to keep coats and bags with them or up and out of reach of the children as they may contain medication. 

 A larger percentage of the Emergency Room visits are from giving too much dosage of a medication to a child. The dosage can be different for every child.  Consider their weight and age, and other medications they are taking.  Measure dose accurately for a child to prevent overdosage, and use a dosage syringe or dosage spoon, not a regular kitchen spoon.  Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about the correct dose for your child. 

When buying an over-the-counter medicine, look for the ingredients on the label, usually in small print, to make sure you are not doubling up. Acetaminophen can be alone and included in other cold and sinus remedies.  Also, read label for dosage based on age and weight. If minimum age is listed, and child is below this minimum age, please do not give medicine and consult your pharmacist or health care provider. 

 As a general rule, avoid giving child unnecessary medicines, such as, symptom relief medicines, unless child needs it or it is prescribed by their healthcare provider. 

  If child is unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizures due to possible poison contact or ingestion, call 911 

 If a child has come in contact with a poison and has mild or no symptoms, call the Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222, open 24/7. Poison Control is a government-funded service staffed by nurses or pharmacists who are specially trained to assist callers who have been potentially poisoned.  They will ask you the following questions: age of the patient, your relationship to the patient, presence of symptoms, name and strength of the product (read the label for ingredients), container size, amount of exposure, and contact information such as name, phone number and zip code of the patient. The specialist will guide you on whether it is appropriate to call 911, go to the hospital, or if there is a way to counteract the poisoning with an antidote or prevent it from getting worse. Poison Control centers manage calls regarding snake and insect bites, food poisoning, sun poisoning and accidental ingestion of medicines and any contact with potential poisons. 

 Medicine can help, if in the right hands and taken at the right dose.  Take caution. 


Ahh … Summertime. It’s All About  Flowering Plants, Butterflies and Sunshine, Right? Think Again! 


As the summer heats up and we are outdoors longer, there is a natural rise in bug bites, poisonous plant encounters, scrapes, skin rashes and sun-related conditions. Among the many skin-related risks in the summer, the three most common are tick bites, poison ivy rashes and blistering sunburn. 

To keep having fun in the sun during the summertime, it all about avoidance.   

Sunburns can be avoided by limiting your exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., since the sun rays are at their strongest then.  Wear a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses.  Also, use sunscreen for skin and lips with SPF 30 or higher.  
If you get a sunburn, take a cool bath or shower and use a cold compress.  Keep skin moist with a soothing cream. Using aloe vera oil or gel several times a day may promote healing. If you experience fever, severe blistering or dehydration, seek a medical attention.  

Poison ivy can be avoided by identifying the plant and staying away.  This three-leafed plant can be found anywhere from wooded areas to your yard. The oil resin, called urushiol, from the poison ivy plant is the cause of the allergic reaction, causing a red, blistering rash in 12 to 48 hours. It is unbearably itchy.  
If you do come in contact with a poison ivy plant, immediately wash your skin in warm water and use a degreasing product such as detergent dish soap.  Even scrub under your fingernails.  Wash your clothes in hot water and detergent to remove the oil because this oil has been known to last a year on clothes and shoes. 
Once you get the itchy rash, it can last about one to two weeks. During this time, you can find comfort with cold compresses, cool water oatmeal bath and using calamine lotion. Hydrocortisone cream may help. Seek medical attention if you get the rash near eyes or lips or if the rash gets infected. 

 Tick bites can be avoided by staying out of high grass or dense brush or by wearing long pants and sleeves. Use EPA-registered insect repellent but read label for safe use and do not use for child under 3 years of age. Spray your clothes and shoes with product containing 0.5% permethrin before going on a hike or walk in wooded or grassy areas. 
Routinely check for ticks after you have been outdoors.  Check your pets too. 
If you are bitten, follow safe removal of the tick immediately and treat. Apply cold compresses to help prevent swelling. Seek medical attention if you suspect a tick-related illness with symptoms such as fever, fatigue, joint pain or muscle aches.  An indication of Lyme’s disease may present as a bullseye around the bite.  

Go to CDC.gov (Centers for Disease Control) and do a search on tick bites, poison ivy and sunburn to find additional information on prevention, symptoms and first aid.  You can further your search on other skin-related risks. Call 911 or go to emergency room if you have a severe reaction, such as difficulty breathing, or have a known allergy. 

Summertime is truly filled with beauty, so stop and enjoy those non-poisonous flowering plants, butterflies, and especially, the warmth of the sun. 



For All Your Health Care Needs, AHN Has You Covered

By Janice Lane Palko

From the most advanced, specialized care to routine care for common ailments, Allegheny Health Network has the North Hills community covered.

“North of Pittsburgh, we have multiple facilities and layers of access to care. Particularly with the new hospital, the availability of health care services will continue to expand such that residents can receive most, if not all, of their care right here,” said Allan Klapper, MD, president of AHN Wexford Hospital, speaking about AHN McCandless Neighborhood Hospital which opened last year, and the upcoming Wexford Hospital.

Construction of the new, full-service hospital is nearing completion, and AHN Wexford is expected to open to patients in September. Also coming to the North Hills community are additional specialized care services which will complement AHN’s many existing health care programs and services in the region.

With a multitude of available health resources in the area, where should you go to receive the care you need? Dr. Klapper and AHN’s Chair of Emergency Medicine Tom Campbell, MD, weigh in.

AHN McCandless Neighborhood Hospital

Situated at the crossroads of McKnight Road and Duncan Avenue, AHN McCandless Neighborhood Hospital is located in the heart of the North Hills. The hospital, which operates 24/7, includes an 11-bed inpatient unit with a full-service emergency department that is equipped for the care of both children and adults by a team of world-class caregivers including all board-certified physicians.

“Whether you or a loved one has a medical emergency, or requires an extended hospital stay, you want care that is close by,” said Dr. Campbell. “AHN McCandless, and all of our neighborhood hospitals, uniquely provide that access.”

One of the biggest benefits of utilizing the emergency department at the neighborhood hospital, he says, is the short wait times. On average, patients are seen by a clinician within 5 minutes of arriving at the hospital.

If enhanced levels of care are required, such as surgery or intensive critical care, patients will have their care coordinated for them and may be transported to nearby hospitals such as Allegheny General Hospital or the new Wexford Hospital once it opens.

Later this month, a range of services will become available at the hospital’s Outpatient Center located on the third and fourth floors of the building, including primary care, dermatology, pulmonology, chronic disease management and outpatient laboratory services. As part of the dermatology services, the hospital will be the only in the North Hills region to offer Mohs surgery which is a specialized surgical technique that offers the highest cure rate of any skin cancer treatment.

“Having resided in the North Hills area for many years, I’m so pleased to be able to provide the community with a convenient, high-quality health care resource in the neighborhood hospital,” said David Sarknas, DO, medical director, AHN McCandless Neighborhood Hospital. “The additional outpatient services broaden our capabilities even further for meeting a wide range of health care needs right here in our community where our patients and their families live, work and play.”  

AHN Wexford Hospital

Providing patients in the communities north of Pittsburgh with access to the most advanced care close to home and without having to travel in to the city, AHN Wexford Hospital will open this September. The hospital will house 100 private, in-patient rooms and will expand to 160 rooms by the end of the year.  In addition, the hospital will have a full-service, 24-room emergency department with behavioral health rooms, pediatric-capable rooms as well as a dedicated heliport for AHN’s LifeFlight.

“When we were designing the hospital, we kept in mind how we could best serve our staff, patients, visitors and the community,” said Dr. Klapper. “For example, we positioned the heliport such that there is little to no fly over of nearby neighborhoods and, instead, the flights will keep to the Route 19 corridor.”

The hospital will also include state-of-the-art operating rooms with minimally-invasive robotic surgery capabilities; a cardiac catheterization lab and hybrid OR for advanced cardiovascular, neurosurgical and radiological procedures; a short-stay observation unit; advanced diagnostic imaging; and an adult intensive care unit.

It will host a range of medical and surgical specialties, as well as leading edge specialty care in cancer, neurology, cardiology, radiology, gastroenterology, rheumatology, endocrinology, orthopaedics and more.

Notably, Wexford Hospital will also offer comprehensive women and infant care, including the only labor and delivery unit in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, as well as advanced high-risk pregnancy services and a Level II neonatal intensive care unit. Providing women all of the specialty services they need close to home, additional services will include gynecological oncology, urogynecology, infertility, advanced breast care and midlife care.

“Women in the suburbs north of Pittsburgh will no longer have to travel outside of the community to deliver their babies or obtain the most specialized services,” said Dr. Klapper.

The hospital has additional features to minimize the traditional clinical feel including an abundance of natural lighting, personalized private rooms and several dedicated green spaces for relaxation.

Additional Care in the North Hills

The layers of AHN’s health care doesn’t stop with the two new hospitals. It also includes the Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion which has proven to be an invaluable community asset over the past several years as a one-stop health care destination.

In addition to offering primary care as well as multiple medical and surgical specialties, the pavilion houses a comprehensive cancer center, ambulatory surgery center, full-service women’s health center, onsite pharmacy, physical therapy, cardiac testing, imaging and lab testing. Walk-in express care is also provided with extended availability including weekends. The pavilion’s comfortable amenities provide patients and visitors the best experience possible. Wexford Hospital will be connected to the facility.

Located just across from the pavilion along Perry Highway, and led by AHN orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Mark Sangimino, the AHN Pediatric Orthopaedic Institute provides treatment for pediatric orthopaedic injuries and the repair of congenital conditions with the physicians, tests and treatments that your child needs in one location.

“Many of the northern communities of Pittsburgh continue to grow and, with that, we have a large youth population. It is a tremendous advantage for families to have this resource which has some of the best-trained and recognized practitioners in the area, plus the added benefit of the facility being integrated with Wexford Hospital,” said Dr. Klapper.

The AHN Orthopaedic Institute also opened a new location in the North Hills for sports performance training at 1013 Wexford Plaza Drive. Staffed by physical therapists, strength and conditioning specialists, athletic trainers and recovery specialists, the AHN Sports Performance team offers physical therapy, strength training and sports medicine services.

AHN alsodelivers comprehensive cancer treatments and expert cancer doctors in the north at the Beaver Cancer Institute and Butler Cancer Institute.

If you are unsure of the best place to go to receive care, Dr. Campbell recommends utilizing the network’s ‘24/7 Nurse Line,’ which is free to everyone, regardless of insurance.

“Unless it’s a life-threatening emergency, if you are not sure what level of care you need or where to go to receive that care, our nurse line is staffed by AHN registered nurses who are available to help you navigate the health system, make appointments and more,” said Dr. Campbell.

The 24/7 Nurse Line can be reached at 412-NURSE-4-U (412-687-7348). Patients may also call 412-DOCTORS to schedule an appointment.

To view a full listing of AHN facilities and services north of Pittsburgh, visit www.ahn.org/locations and select ‘North Hills.’

2021 Health Care Guide

The February issue of Northern Connection Magazine features our 2021 Health Care Guide.  CLICK HERE to read the entire guide.