Health Articles

Beat the Heat - Preventing heat-related illnesses

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Summer is time for fun in the sun, but as the temperatures climb, don’t forget that the heat can be hazardous to your health if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Heat-related illnesses are common during the summer months – especially if you spend a significant amount of time outdoors – and, if not properly managed, can be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, heat-related illnesses cause an average of nearly 620 deaths per year – more deaths annually than tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, combined.  

What are Heat Illnesses?

Heat-related illnesses are caused by prolonged or excessive exposure to high temperatures and dehydration.  Typically, when the body becomes overheated, it cools itself through sweating, but certain conditions can affect our bodies’ capabilities to regulate proper temperature.  A few of these conditions include extreme temperatures, inadequate hydration, high humidity, high blood pressure, sunburn, prescription drug use and alcohol use.

When body fluids are lost through physical exertion and not replaced, it is difficult for the body to cool itself. Dehydration can affect circulation and brain function.  Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat illness, happens after prolonged, intense exposure to extreme heat. The part of the brain that regulates body temperature malfunctions and the body temperature rises rapidly, sometimes as high as 106 degrees or higher. Without prompt treatment, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability.

Heat exhaustion, a milder heat illness, can develop after several days of exposure to hot weather or inadequate hydration, i.e., working or exercising outside and not drinking sufficient liquids.

Who’s at Risk

People at greatest risk for heat-related illnesses include infants and children up to four years of age, adults age 65 and older, people who are overweight, ill, or on certain medications. Outdoor workers, as well as people on low-sodium diets or those suffering from chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions, are also at increased risk.

If you’re going to be outside, keep cool by drinking plenty of fluids, aiming for 16-32 ounces of liquid per hour. If you aren’t accustomed to being in a hot environment regularly, start slowly and pace yourself – and take regular breaks from the heat indoors or in the shade. Try to avoid being outdoors during the peak hours of heat and sun exposure.

Wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that breathes, and plenty of sunscreen, also are good preventative measures to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Red, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Confusion, lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Rapid pulse or heartbeat
  • Seizures


If you notice someone exhibiting signs and symptoms of possible heat stroke, call for medical assistance immediately, and take steps to cool the person experiencing the heat emergency by moving them to a cool, shaded area, and applying cool water to the body by immersing the victim in water, spraying or sponging the skin, or wrapping the person in a cool, wet sheet.  If possible, monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the victim’s temperature dips to 102 or below.

Less severe forms of heat illness, such as heat exhaustion, can be relieved by resting quietly in a cool, shady place, drinking clear juice or a sports beverage.

Hot Tips …on the Go

For more resources about heart-related illnesses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a free mobile app that displays heat index, risks, reminders and protective measures that should be taken at corresponding heat risk levels.  The app can be downloaded in English and Spanish at

Volunteers are at the heart of hospice

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With today's busy lifestyle, time is one of the most precious resources in our lives and hospice volunteers give their time freely. They may never realize the profound difference they make in a person's life. A listening ear, a kind touch, a gentle presence can mean so much to a hospice patient and their family. Hospice volunteers generously give their gift of time to make these connections, to make a difference in the lives of their patients and families; and what they often discover is what their patients give back to them. Hospice volunteering becomes one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Hospice volunteers discover how volunteering challenges them to grow and to live — not merely exist. Hospice volunteers learn not to take life for granted, to live each day to the fullest.

Senator Edward Kennedy said these words about hospice, "The hospice movement is a great movement, not because it was legislated by Congress, or mandated by the Federal Government, but because it evolved out of the hearts of people who care." Hospice care was started by volunteers. Hospice Volunteers are vital members of the hospice team. A fundamental goal of the hospice philosophy is to preserve the tie between the patient and community so that patient and family are not further isolated during the last phases of an illness. Thus, hospice volunteers are not merely a desirable addition to the professional hospice staff; they are a crucial part of the hospice concept. Through the volunteer's visits, the patient and family remain in contact with the world beyond their own home and beyond hospice. Life can become normal again for a short time. It is the hospice volunteer that helps to maintain or reestablish the patient's sense of self-worth and gives family members increased freedom to live a more normal daily existence.

On average, hospice patients have usually been in and out of hospitals for tests, scans, or possible surgeries for years prior to their hospice admission. Both the patient and their loved ones have been through moments of fear, anxiety, and despair amidst glimmers of hope. They are tired and need support: emotional, social, psychological and spiritual support. They need someone to hold their hand, to share their pain, to listen to them, someone who can be there and in a sense, meet them where they are in life's final journey. Hospice volunteers provide this and give the patient and family someone they can count on for those small but important daily needs. It is the hospice volunteer's caring that brings life and breath to hospice.

Pastor David Weber of St. Peter & Paul Lutheran Church in Houghton will receive Portage Health Hospice's Volunteer of the Year Award Tuesday at their annual dinner honoring and celebrating hospice volunteers for their commitment of time and most importantly, the difference they make in the lives of hospice patients.

To learn more about hospice or to become a volunteer, contact (906) 483-1160.

Get your Plate in Shape during Nutrition Month

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It’s time to get your Plate in Shape! 

That’s the message from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is celebrating National Nutrition Month this March.

Here are six simple tips that everyone could learn from:
1) Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Eat a variety of vegetables, especially those that are dark-green, red, and orange, plus beans and peas. Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables. For canned vegetables, look for those without added salt. For canned fruits, look for those in water or 100% juice.

2) Make at least half of your grains, whole grains
Choose 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta and brown rice. Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.

3) Opt for fat-free or low-fat milk
Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories.

4) Vary your protein choices
Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Twice per week, make seafood the protein on your plate.

5) Cut back on sodium and empty calories
Watch for salt (sodium) in foods you buy. Compare sodium in foods and choose those with lower numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Select fruit for dessert. Eat sugary desserts less often. 
Make major sources of saturated fats, such as desserts, pizza, cheese, sausages and hot dogs occasional choices, not everyday foods. Select lean cuts of meat and fat-free or low-fat dairy. Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.

6) Enjoy your food, but eat less
Avoid oversized portions. Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass. Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what’s in your food. When eating out, choose lower calorie menu options and opt for dishes that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

For more information on healthy eating visit or

Spring is start of outdoor allergy season

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Sharon Stoll, MD is a family medicine practitioner providing a full spectrum of primary care to her friends and neighbors out of the new Calumet Family Health Center, which is located in the Mine Street Station in Calumet. Call 483-1777 to make an appointment.

It is spring, the time of year when April showers bring May flowers, and children hunt for Easter eggs on manicured green lawns; or at least I've read about these things in books. For those of us living above the 40th parallel, it is the season sump pumps become overwhelmed by run-off, gravely snow piles keep their strong hold on north facing slopes, and you look around your yard wondering how one dog made all that mess. I would like to add, to the list of springs' rites of passage — the start of the outdoor allergy season. It begins every year in late April. The add-on slots in clinic quickly fill with stuffed up patients exclaiming "Sinus infection!" Or worse, those with red, watery eyes who have been ostracized by coworkers for fear of the dreaded "pink eye," (though actual bacterial conjunctivitis is exceedingly rare). Often a quick review of these patients' charts show they have the same set of symptoms every April, helping to identify the real culprit: environmental allergies.

Environmental allergies occur at somewhat predictable times every year: molds in April and May, followed quickly by grass and then tree pollens. There's some brief reprieve in midsummer before ragweed appears around late August. The severity varies from year to year, depending on moisture, south winds and so forth, but the symptoms are predictable: itchy, red, watery eyes, stuffy or runny noses, and for some, a worsening of asthma and cough. If this sounds like you or a loved one, read on for some cost-saving solutions and advanced treatment options.

Log your allergy symptoms and seasons. This will help guide targeted therapy, and also help identify possible cross-reactive foods, which may cause oral allergy symptoms (think really itchy mouth). For example, ragweed peaks in August, so if you find yourself with gooey eyes every August, ragweed is the likely culprit. And ragweed can be cross-reactive with foods like parsley, beans, celery and several others.

Use single-ingredient over the counter remedies geared at allergies. For itchy red eyes, over the counter antihistamine drops like Zaditor, Alaway, Zyrtec Itchy Eye Drops, Claritin Eye or generic ketotifen work wonders, at a fraction of the cost of prescription antihistamine eye drops. For stuffy or runny noses and itchy mouths, consider a non-sedating oral antihistamine like generic fexofenadine or loratadine. For nasal or sinus congestion, consider a decongestant like generic pseudoephedrine. Avoid multi-ingredient cough and cold formulas, which may have ingredients you don't need.

Consider immunotherapy. Allergy shots are the best-known form of immunotherapy in this country, but for those not interested in the high costs, time commitment or needles involved with allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) may be a better option. Instead of injecting allergens into the skin to promote tolerance, allergen drops or tablets are held under the tongue to reprogram the over reactive immune system. This method has been around since the early 1900s, and was recognized by the World Health Organization as a viable alternative to shots in 2006. It is a mainstay of treatment throughout the European Union, and available in Canada. In the US, it has been used as an off-label treatment with good success. The general idea is this: when you place antigens (protein particles that cause allergic reactions) under the tongue, immune cells take them up, and train the immune system to stop generating an allergic reaction when exposed. It makes good intellectual sense: holding something under the tongue for a minute is an intentional act, and the immune system wouldn't want to react to things your higher-ranking brain has chosen as acceptable for ingestion. This is probably how raw local honey also helps combat environmental allergies, as the unprocessed pollens in the honey serve as a sort of immunotherapy.

Not sure what to make of all this? Come see your friendly local doctor. We'll help you sort it out. And however you deal with spring allergies, just remember you were shoveling in minus 20° winds a few weeks ago, so maybe some red eyes and runny noses are a small price to pay for spring. Consider this your prescription to celebrate by manning the barbeque grill in shorts when it's nary 40 degrees out.

Immunization Schedules from Birth to Adulthood

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Knowing which vaccines to take when is a good step toward living a healthy life. Below are some schedules for childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Other resources

These websites have a wealth of trustworthy information. 

Start your new year by making an appointment with your provider

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Dr. Todd Anderson is a board certified family medicine provider at Portage Health. Learn more about Dr. Anderson at

There’s nothing more important in a relationship than open and honest communication. While that’s a general truth for all relationships, it’s even more dynamic and significant when it comes to a patient-doctor relationship. That’s something I like to keep mind, and frequently remind my patients.Since arriving in the Copper Country in August, I’ve been hard at work building relationships with patients. The fresh start with some patients has been refreshing, as I’ve had many conversations with patients of all ages regarding health.

These conversations are vital to establishing a good baseline for healthcare, and something everyone should do. For anyone who doesn’t have a primary care provider, I’d highly suggest that you spend time researching your options locally, and schedule an appointment sometime in early 2014.

Even if you’re healthy presently, it’s important to begin that relationship with your provider. Actually, it might be more important to start that relationship now. By doing that, you and your provider can begin a lifelong journey together that includes proactive steps to naturally lower your risks.

For those unsure what to look for in a doctor, some things I like to suggest:

  • Look for someone you would be comfortable talking to about issues very personal to you.
  • Look for someone you can trust with your information.
  • Look for someone with the training and expertise needed to appropriately understand and diagnose whatever health concerns you have.
  • Look for someone who will be a good listener. This is especially important early on in your patient-doctor relationship.
  • Look for someone that you could see yourself working with for a number of years moving forward.

Once you have found a provider that fits your needs, and you’ve made the appointment, the next step is the most important. Your first appointment is a great opportunity to establish a meaningful relationship. Right now, I’m working with a lot of patients who are just starting their patient-doctor relationship, and there’s a lot I’ve learned from this abundance of new patients.

Below are some of the most important things I’d suggest to anyone beginning a relationship with a new primary care provider.

  • Prepare for the first appointment. Write down your previous health issues/concerns so they can be discussed, prepare a list of medications you take and write down any current concerns you have so you don’t forget to discuss them at the first appointment.
  • Honesty is absolutely crucial to the entire patient-doctor relationship. It’s impossible for your provider to effectively treat you if you’re holding back information.
  • No question is too small. If something has been on your mind, don’t hesitate to bring it up. When it comes to your health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

The New Year has arrived. If you don’t have a primary care provider, or if you’re looking for a fresh start with someone new, I hope you take the calendar turning as a sign to take a proactive step forward with your healthcare. Start that relationship, and remember to make an appointment each year, even if you’re in great health.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Todd Anderson.

Healthy aging more important now than ever before

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Dr. Katriina Hopper is a board certified internal medicine and geriatric medicine provider at Portage Health. Learn more about Dr. Hopper at

Tips to live healthier, longer

The growth of the number of adults over age 65 is unprecedented in the history of the United States. The National Institute of Aging reports that by 2030, almost one of every five Americans will be 65 years or older. In the next five years, 65+ year olds will outnumber children under 5. This population change is driven by the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, and an increase in life expectancy of older adults.

With this demographic shift, greater attention is being given to the healthy aging. 

What is healthy aging? 

Healthy aging is adapting to the physical, social and emotional changes that occur with age. It is preventing or managing chronic diseases that occur with age, like heart disease or dementia.

What do we know about healthy aging?

Exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle at any age. Multiple studies have shown an association between exercise and disease prevention. It doesn’t have to be high impact running or mountain biking. Walking as little as 20-to-30 minutes a day for five days a week is beneficial. For those who cannot walk, resistance or “chair” exercises have proven beneficial.

Regular physical activity can prevent heart disease, improve blood sugar levels, prevent falls, regulate mood and may prevent some forms of dementia.

Maintaining connection to friends, family and your community is an important part of healthy aging as well. Aging is often associated with losses of loved ones and of the ability to live independently. Friendships and other social connections can help buffer the losses that we face as we age. Some studies have linked social engagement with a lower risk of dementia. Social connection can be as simple as having coffee with a friend, performing volunteer work, belonging to a club or going to church.

Stimulating your brain with new experiences, or challenging puzzles and games may reduce the risk or slow progression of dementia. Taking a community education class or attending a lecture or musical performance keeps your mind engaged. For those who have hearing and/or vision impairments that limit the ability to participate in these activities, treatment of these conditions can improve quality of life, prevent falls and improve cognitive function.

Treatment of chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure will decrease risk of end-stage kidney and heart disease, and may decrease risk of dementia. Many of the lifestyle changes needed to control these diseases (like a healthy diet and exercise) also promote healthy aging. Over time, control of chronic conditions with medication and life style changes will prevent disability and lengthen life.

There are no pills or herbal remedies to reverse the aging process, but we know more about factors that affect how people age. The good news is that older adults are now living with less disability and more independence. So, if you are able, take a walk outside and enjoy the summer weather, and bring a friend. It will benefit you now and later in life.

Dr. Katriina Hopper is a board certified internal medicine and geriatric medicine provider at Portage Health. Learn more about Dr. Hopper at


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