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Mask Mythbusters: Five Common Misconceptions about Kids & Cloth Face Coverings

Submitted by Dr. John Maddox, Pediatrician, Pentucket Medical/ Haverhill

1. Can wearing a mask make it harder for my child to breathe?

Recommended cloth face coverings do not block the exchange of oxygen or carbon dioxide. The vast majority of children age 2 or older can safely wear a cloth face covering for extended periods of time; this includes children with many medical conditions. Begin now having your child wear masks at home. Start with short periods, when they are doing their favorite activities, and gradually increase the length of time, so they get used to it. All schools will offer mask breaks.

2. Can masks themselves spread germs?

Masks get damp over time, from the same respiratory droplets that spread COVID, flu and other germs, so face coverings should washed regularly. It is important to have cloth face coverings that fit a child’s face well, so that they are not tampering with the mask. You should perform hand hygiene before and after touching your face covering.

3. Can a child with special health care needs, like the autism spectrum, wear a mask?

Some children will need extra attention to the way a mask feels and fits and smells. Some kids will benefit from strategies like Social Story (see below), which help explain new situations with both descriptions and directives. Schools are prepared for some students with special needs to be unable to wear masks full-time right away. Occupational therapists and applied behavior therapists will work with students to teach them new and important skills.

4. Should a kid wear a mask during sports?

Cloth face coverings help young athletes protect their teammates and themselves. They also help protect the sports season. Whenever safe and possible, athletes should wear a cloth face covering. This includes on the sideline bench, in team chats and going to and from the field. Exceptions include when they are actively exercising.

5. Do masks really prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Cloth face coverings are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID, flu and other germs. Very early on in the pandemic, there was concern about having enough masks for health care workers, so widespread mask use was discouraged. However, it is very clear now that states, communities, and schools that have contained COVID— despite imperfect social distancing, ventilation and hand hygiene— have used cloth face coverings to prevent spread, even in asymptomatic people.

How Stress Can Affect your Heart

Stress is an inevitable part of life; Work, family, finances and relationships can all cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. While not all stress is bad for you, ongoing, chronic stress can negatively affect your heart.

How Does Stress Affect the Heart?

Stress that goes unmanaged can cause the following health conditions that also impact your heart health:

  1. High Blood Pressure: The surge of hormones produced when in a stressful situation increases your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. High blood pressure can lead to both coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease.
  2. Irregular Heart Rhythm: Irregular heart rhythms, also known as heart palpitations and arrhythmia, can result in feeling like your heart is skipping a beat, pounding or speeding up quickly. While it is not known exactly why stress can cause irregular heartbeats, the adrenaline caused by a surge in hormones is the most common reason.
  3. Damage to Arteries: Chronic stress causes direct aging of the arteries. According to recent research by Johns Hopkins Medical School, individuals who react to stress with anger and frustration has 20 times of arterial aging. Extensive damage to the arteries can cause elevated blood pressure and heart disease.
  4. Higher Cholesterol Levels: Studies show that mental stress can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol). If stress is impacting the amount of HDL your body is producing, how effectively HDL cleans up additional LDL is also affected.

Tips to Manage Stress and Improve Heart Health

Here are some simple tips you can use to manage stress and keep your heart healthy:

  • Keep a positive, realistic attitude when a stressful situation presents itself. You might not be in control of the situation, but you’re in control of how you respond.
  • Start an exercise routine. The endorphins released during exercise can counteract the negative hormones released during stress.
  • Spend time with the people you love. Laughing and being around positive people might undo the effects of stress on your body.
  • Focus on getting an adequate amount of sleep so you can handle stressful situations better.

Do you have questions about your heart? Contact Pentucket Medical Cardiology at (888) 227-3762 to find out more about stress and heart health.

Screening For Colorectal Cancer Can Save Your Life

colorectal cancer screening

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Among cancers that affect both sexes, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It has been estimated that every year some 145,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 die from the disease.

Fortunately, incidences of colorectal cancer and the number of consequent deaths has slowly declined as colonoscopy screenings become more of a routine examination given to adults when they reach middle age. And the screening procedure itself is improving: current methods not only enable diagnosis of colon cancers at early and treatable stages, but more importantly these screening prevent the actual development of cancer through the detection and removal of pre-cancerous polyps.

Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer often do not cause symptoms, thereby making regular screening tests important. If symptoms for colorectal cancer are present, it may include:

  • anemia
  • blood in the stool
  • abdominal pain
  • change in bowel habits
  • unexpected weight loss.

These symptoms should always be discussed immediately with a physician.

Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer, either alone or in combination. It is recommended that patients discuss available options with their health care provider and decide which modality is best. Tests that detect pre-cancerous polyps, such as a colonoscopy, are often preferred given its ability to remove polyps and thus reduce the risk of developing cancer. There are non-invasive options available, such as stool tests looking for blood or DNA abnormalities, which are effective in detecting early stage cancers if submitted on a regular basis. These test will require a colonoscopy if any abnormality is found.

Colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a physician to see the lining of the colon and remove abnormal polyps. A clean colon is very important in detecting small polyps, so patients must prepare for their colonoscopy by avoiding solid food for 24 hours and by taking a laxative solution that will cause temporary diarrhea. During the exam, sedative medications are provided so that patients are comfortable. Most patients sleep during the whole examination and awake afterwards without memory of the test. It is generally a safe procedure, with serious complications such as significant bleeding or a tear of the intestinal wall being exceedingly rare (about one in 1,000.)

Specific screening recommendations depend on one’s risk for colorectal cancer. Those at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 50. Those at increased risk for colorectal cancer, including those with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps at a young age, should typically begin screening at age 40, or 10 years younger than the earliest diagnosis. It has been suggested that African Americans begin screening at age 45 as opposed to 50 and those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease need to have a regular screenings based on the duration and extent of their disease.

At Pentucket Medical Associates, we are fortunate to provide to our patients a state of the art outpatient endoscopy center, where we are able to perform colonoscopies in a comfortable setting Mondays through Fridays. We use updated high-definition endoscopes along with CO2 insufflation, insuring both a comfortable and a high quality examination. Procedures typically take 30 minutes and patients can expect to be home in 2 hours or less.

The majority of insurance plans including Medicare provide coverage for colorectal cancer screening. Local healthcare providers or a gastroenterology office are good sources of information for further questions or concerns. Online resources include the American Gastroenterological Association (, the American College of Gastroenterology ( or the American Cancer Society (

Domestic Violence: Know the Facts

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Even though domestic violence is one of the most common forms of violence in America, the awareness month doesn’t get as much attention as other topics.

Every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted or beaten by a partner. However, very few leave or file a report against their partner. It’s important to be aware of the signs of domestic violence to ensure that both you and your loved ones aren’t in an abusive relationship.

If you or someone you know experiences the following signs of domestic violence, contact authorities immediately.

1. Frequent injuries, such as unexplained bruises, cuts, cigarette burns, etc. The injuries are often explained as an accident.

2. Loss of self worth and lowered self esteem

3. Depression

4. Increased anxiety

5. Anxiousness when communicating with a significant other

What to do about Domestic Violence

If you suspect a loved one is in an abusive relationship, first bring the issue up to them. Ask direct, closed-ended questions to avoid them making excuses. If you’re in an abusive relationship and feel that you are in immediate danger, contact law enforcement. There are also many support networks, including:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.

In 2013, an estimated 232,340 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, while 64,640 will be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer. With early detection and treatment, women can fight back against breast cancer.

Diagnosed with Breast Cancer?

Here Are Your Treatment Options:

  • Breast-conserving surgery and radiation therapy. An operation to remove the breast cancer, but not the breast itself.
  • Total mastectomy. The entire breast is removed. Many celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Christina Applegate, Kathy Bates and Sharon Osbourne, have spoken out about their choice to receive a double mastectomy.

You Are Not Alone in Your Fight Against Breast Cancer!

Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming. Hearing the perspective of others who have survived cancer can give you a better perspective on treatment and survival.
Here are a few quotes from famous faces who won the battle against breast cancer:

  • “Having had cancer, one important thing to know is you’re still the same person at the end…most people come out the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before.” -Kylie Minogue
  • “I look at my cancer journey as a gift: It made me slow down and realize the important things in life and taught me to not sweat the small stuff.” – Olivia Newton-John
  • “Cancer gave me the gift of being fearless.”- Today show co-host Hoda Kotb
  • “I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago and am recovering from a double mastectomy. I don’t miss my breasts as much as I miss Harry’s Law.” – Kathy Bates

What Can I Do To Show My Support in the Fight Against Breast Cancer?

“With over 3 million women battling breast cancer today, everywhere you turn there is a mother, daughter, sister, or friend who has been affected by breast cancer.” -Betsey Johnson

Even if you don’t suffer from breast cancer, you most likely know someone who is. Show your support by:

  • Donating to charities
  • Participating in walks and races that give proceeds to breast cancer foundations. Some of the most popular races include the Race for the Cure, Three-Day Walk for Breast Cancer and “Tour De Pink.”

Do your part in the fight against breast cancer!