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By Maren Dunn, D.O. Contributor

Does atmospheric pressure, like spending time above 5,000 feet or scuba diving, have any effect on Vertigo?

The short answer: no. Most people who suffer from vertigo have Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. This type of vertigo gets its name due to lack of malfunction or infection of the brain or nerves, the fact that its symptoms come and go and are worsened by positioning of the head. Symptoms include dizziness, loss of balance and sometimes nausea.

Many people describe feelings of “spinning.” The cause is thought to be debris floating in the fluid that fills the tiny canals of your inner ear. This debris, in conjunction with head positioning and gravity, causes erroneous feelings of movement when the head is turned. Pressure changes are not thought to have an effect on these fluid filled canals, or the associated symptoms.

I’ve been told I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), what’s the treatment?

If you’ve been diagnosed with SAD, you’ve likely experienced a depressed mood starting in the fall that improves in the springtime. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, sleeping too much or not enough, weight gain or loss, inability to concentrate and irritability.

While studies are conflicted regarding success of different treatments, one method continues to stand above the rest: light therapy. This involves exposure to visible light producing 10,000 lux, a measure of light intensity essential to reach anti-depressant effects. Light therapy requires the person’s eyes to be open, although staring at a light source is not advised. Initially, treatment times are 10 – 15 minutes a day, working up to 30 – 45 minutes a day.

Commercially produced light sources are recommended due to their safety and improved quality, including fluorescent light instead of incandescent, and added features to protect your eyes from UV rays. Some people notice an immediate response to light therapy, while others may feel a difference within seven days.

Treatment should be reevaluated if symptoms haven’t improved after four to six weeks. It’s important to seek medical advice before starting light therapy so you can be properly evaluated for all possible treatments, as well as educated on the risks, benefits and potential side effects of each one.

My child has a sore throat, and I’ve heard strep throat is contagious. Is that true?

Yes, Strep tonsillopharyngitis (strep throat) is caused by a nasty bacteria called Group A Streptococcus, or GAS. It’s very contagious, and in fact 34 percent of close contacts like family members or schoolmates who are exposed become infected.

The illness presents itself after two to four days of incubation. Symptoms include severe sore throat, fever, tender lymph nodes in the neck, and exudate on the tonsils. It requires antibiotics ASAP to protect close contacts from infection, and to decrease the likelihood of serious complications.

Studies show that after 24 hours of antibiotic therapy most patients are 80 percent less likely to transmit the bacteria to others.
Because there are many causes of sore throat, it’s important that a medical provider see your child in order to reach an accurate diagnosis.

Maren Dunn, D.O., is owner of Gallatin Family Medicine, a medical clinic in the Big Sky Meadow Village.

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