Thrive Health Blog

Foster Parenting: Is It Right For Me?

Did you know May is National Foster Care Month? No? Don’t feel bad, plenty of Americans fall into this category. But everyone wins when we at least take the time to learn more about how foster care works.

Many children in the foster care system have been thrown away. Some were born to parents unable to care for them due to addictions or poor life choices, while others have parents who may be incarcerated. In some cases children were subjected to abuse or neglect.

These represent just a few of the reasons children are placed into foster care, but none of them requested their circumstances. They are simply playing the hand they’ve been dealt.

Over 400,000 children were part of the American foster care system in the fall of 2014. This represented a 4% increase in just two years time. Of that number nearly 40% were five years of age or younger.

What’s more, the number of children entering the system exceeds the number of children exiting the system. The two primary reasons children exit the system are due to adoption, or reunification with their natural parent(s) or primary caretaker(s). With numbers like these, it’s easy to see why foster parents are in high demand.

In a recent post to Disney’s website, Mike Berry shares his heartwarming personal account of parenting over 30 children in the foster care system. If you’ve every considered fostering or are just curious about the process, I highly recommend taking a few short minutes to read Berry’s post.

For more information on how to get started in the foster care system, visit The website offers a variety of resources on the laws which govern the system, and how to get personally involved.

There are many ways to get involved in the lives of America’s youth. Foster care is just one important example. If you feel pulled to learn more about foster care, take that next step. If foster care isn’t right for your family, perhaps a program like Big Brothers, Big Sisters could be.

Take the time to find a way to invest in a child’s life. You’ll be glad you did!

When Tragedy Strikes: Tips For Making it a Little Better

As we age, it’s understandable that we will be faced with situations that will require our condolences—illness, death, divorce—unpleasant turns in life where our family or friends will need our support.

Some people are comfortable offering comfort and seem to know the “right” things to say. Then there are others of us who feel awkward and just don’t know what to say or do. Here are some pointers on how to approach or help your grieving relative or friend:

Let’s cover the “Don’t” list first…

1. Don’t ignore the situation, especially if you are close to the person who is in shock or grieving. No matter how uncomfortable you feel, force yourself to call, write a card or an email, or go visit. Even if you have to say, “I don’t know what to say,” it’s better than abandoning them because of your own discomfort. They are the ones in crisis.

2. Don’t use clichés: “Everything happens for a reason,” “It must have been his time to go,” “You’ll become stronger from this.” These are horrible things to say to someone whose heart is in pain. Using clichés are ways we take a seriously vast emotional matter and try to manage it more easily by being “flippant” (even if we use a caring tone.)

3. Don’t mention God: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Well, maybe he/she just did. It’s probably better to stick to the circumstances at hand instead of diverting feelings or responsibility onto God.

Here’s a list of “Do’s”:

1. React immediately, but don’t make it about you. Expressing condolences and offering to help is great. Listing things you can do may be overwhelming. Alternately, asking what you can do to help may not receive a response.

Chances are, your friend doesn’t have the wherewithal or strength to think clearly. Just pick something and do it. Make a hot meal, bring over coffee, walk their dog, pick up their kids, make phone calls, etc.

2. Listen: Let your family member or friend talk and talk. Allow them time to speak aloud about their feelings, recalling memories, cuss in anger, ask “why” questions, anything they need to say. Listening will mean the world. Nodding and hugging are perfectly appropriate responses. It’s not a time for lecturing, advising, or offering your viewpoint (unless it’s asked for.)

3. Be there: Be in the patient presence of the griever. “It’s the fellowship of suffering.” Spending time together, whether it’s just sitting by their side, washing their dishes, watching a movie, or going for a walk, it’s the company that matters. Most of all, think about what actions or words would give you the most comfort if the tables were turned. Care counts.

Exercise That’s Good for Your Knees and Hips

As we age, we tend to complain more about physical pain. A couple of common areas are our hips and knees. Believe it or not, however, a new study has revealed that recreational running may be of benefit to those parts of our body.

No Competition

A study, which reviewed data from over 100,000 runners from all over the world, showed that those who ran for recreation reaped several benefits. One, of course, was improved heart health. The other discovery, however, was that fewer developed hip or knee osteoarthritis than those who were sedentary or ran competitively.

In fact, only a little over 3% of recreational runners developed arthritis in the knee or hip joints. That study out of the Mayo clinic included both men and women. Once again, exercise can prove to be a form of preventative medicine.

To Run or Not to Run

Competitive runners were found to have the greatest risk of developing hip or knee arthritis. That percentage was slightly above 13% (and “competitive” was defined as those who identified as elite athletes, competing regularly and/or internationally.) Those folks who just sat around (or didn’t run at all) had about a 10% rate of arthritis in knees and/or hips.

Researchers out of Brigham Young University also studied the results of this particular analysis, which was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. They observed the knee and hip joints of recreational runners for signs of inflammation after a 30-minute jog. Not only did they not find inflammation, they found that the exercise created an actual anti-inflammatory effect in the applied chemical markers.

One of the scientists remarked that this study “did not indicate that distance runners are any more likely to get osteoarthritis than any other person.” Long-term joint health may yet be another benefit to recreational running.

Running for Head Health

Exercise, including recreational running, can help lower blood pressure, tension, and improve overall wellbeing. With stress levels lowered, the mind can relax more and decrease incidences of anxiety and depression.

The brain even benefits from running activities. According to a study done in 2016, runners’ brains showed increased, synchronized activity between different parts of the brain. More connections were made in the brain as different parts of the body moved simultaneously while running. This involved areas generally used in higher-level thought such as multitasking, visual processing, and decision-making. Whether you choose to run or jog recreationally will all depend on your will and your physical ability. Regardless, any type of physical activity in which you embark upon will offer you rewarding health benefits. Check out GetThrive for more tips on physical and mental wellbeing.


Is Fentanyl the New Killer?

A frightening new statistic was revealed recently: Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old. This statement provokes many questions. One of them being, “Is Fentanyl one of the killers?”

Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein shared the data with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). “On an average day, 90 Americans will die from an opioid-related overdose.” He referred to the nearly 60,000 total drug overdose deaths annually as “horrifying.”

Opioids are a Big Problem

For 2017, it is estimated that well over half of the overdose deaths will again be from opioids, both natural and synthetic. Illegal drugs like heroin and opium, as well as prescribed drugs like Hydro- and Oxycodone, Morphine, and most commonly, Fentanyl, are the culprits in this epidemic.

Fentanyl, in particular, is becoming the largest danger to addicts, along with law enforcement and medical personnel alike. This is due to the increased use and abuse of the narcotic by itself, as well as its addition to other commonly abused drugs. Often, cocaine and heroin are combined with fentanyl (sometimes unbeknownst to the user or first responder) with an unpredictable and deadly result.

Fentanyl Facts

Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid analgesic (pain medication), which was first developed in 1959. Similar to morphine, it is 50 to 100 times more potent, though some versions produced can be as much as 100,000 times stronger.  Just 2 milligrams—equivalent to a few grains of salt, can be deadly.

It is most often used as a post-surgical treatment for pain, or to manage chronic or severe pain. In prescription form, it goes by names like Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.. On the street, illegal forms go by names like Apache, China Girl, China White, TNT, Tango and Cash, and others.

Proper Usage of Fentanyl is Fine

In and of itself, fentanyl is not problematic. In fact, it is an extremely safe and effective pain reliever when used as directed. The creation of the fentanyl patch in the mid-1990’s was seen as a major breakthrough in palliative pain management. It is extremely versatile in both usage and administration, and as of 2102, fentanyl in all forms became the most commonly used synthetic opioid.


It is prescribed and administered in multiple formats:

  • Intravenously, via injection or I.V./catheter
  • Transdermal patches
  • Dissolvable tablets or lozenges
  • As a lollipop
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) or nasal spray

Fentanyl is sometimes used as part of surgical anesthesia and as a spinal or epidural analgesic for many routine medical procedures and is often prescribed to manage pain for cancer patients.

Abuse and Concealment Make it Deadly

Like most “safe” prescription drugs, fentanyl becomes problematic when it is misused. Manufacturers have made it harder to extract or concentrate it from legal prescriptions, but the illegal manufacture of fentanyl is on the rise. Since such a small dose can be deadly, these illicit sources are the cause of most fatalities, as they have no quality control.

Taken alone or mixed with heroin or cocaine, illegally made fentanyl is an extreme danger to the user, as well as anyone else who may come into contact with it. Numerous cases of the general public and first responders accidentally inhaling or otherwise coming into contact with fentanyl are increasing, some with fatal results.

Staying Safe

Overdoses are the killer, but how can they be prevented? Proper usage, storage, and monitoring of prescribed fentanyl products are important, especially around children. Avoiding recreational use of fentanyl, along with cocaine and heroin are critical.

If you or someone you know has an addiction problem, seek treatment, and refrain from touching any unknown powder, residue or container. It could be the last thing you touch. In case of suspected Fentanyl or other opioid overdose:

  • Call 911 Immediately
  • DO NOT touch any paraphernalia, container, or powder on the victim
  • If trained and available, administer Naloxone or Narcan


One group working to stem the tide of opioid abuse is Operation Prevention—a joint effort between the DEA and Discovery Education.  Information can be found here:

Overdoses don’t have to be the number one killer of people under 50. Proper information, education, and coordination with medical and law enforcement professionals can turn the tide.  For more information on drugs, addiction, and solutions for addicts, turn to



Keeping Your Kids Itch-free for Summer

Summer’s here and the time is right—for bug bites, sunburn, rashes, prickly heat, poison oak/ivy, and a host of other skin maladies. Unfortunately, children are especially vulnerable to many of these pesky problems. Sensitive skin coupled with youthful enthusiasm can leave them complaining, suffering, and scratching.

Some Summer Skin Snafus

Here’s a short list of some of the common skin concerns you might face this season:

  • Bug bites and stings: mosquitos, ticks, fleas, chiggers, flies, bees, ants, etc.
  • Sunburn and sun allergies
  • Prickly heat/heat rash
  • Swimmer’s itch, seabather’s eruption (pica-pica)
  • Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac
  • Dry or irritated skin

This site may help you correctly ID what kind of bite or rash your child has:

The good news is that most of these aren’t too serious, and can be prevented or easily treated without a visit to the doctor.  Many of these conditions go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If a problem persists or worsens, or if your child has a severe reaction, do not hesitate to go to a doctor.

An Ounce of Prevention

What can you do to protect your little ones from the hazards of summer fun? There are measures you can take, including safer, chemical-free options. Here are some tips:

Obviously, the best way to minimize the chance of skin problems is to avoid the cause. This isn’t always practical, but teaching your children about sun safety, avoiding bugs, toxic plants, and other hazards is a good first step. When you aren’t there to keep an eye on them, they can be protected with this knowledge.

When you are watching them, there are many steps you can take to ensure they stay safe and scratch less:


Sun Safety: Wear lightweight, long sleeves and pants when possible, with an SPF rating of 50. Wear hats and neck protection, along with sunglasses. Apply broad spectrum sunblock (SPF 50 or better) regularly. Use a child-safe sunblock that is titanium or zinc-based and free of PABA, parabens, and phthalates.

Beat the Bugs:  Bug repellant is key, but studies have shown that DEET, while effective, may not be safe for tots to use. Look for natural, scent and oil-based repellants or wristbands and re-apply often. Don’t let kids share hats (lice) and be aware of bedbug or chigger concerns at camps, hotels, etc.

Safe Swimming: Don’t let kids linger in the water too long. Keep an eye out for jellyfish or other warnings, and don’t forget that biting flies, mosquitoes and other no see-ums love fresh and saltwater. Shower as soon as possible after swimming.

Resist Rashes:  Loose fitting and breathable clothing helps prevent prickly heat.

Ditch the Itch: Several products are on the market that will help coat and protect tender skin from the urushiol oils found in poison oak, ivy, and sumac. Long sleeves and pants help, too.


Treat the Tricks (A Pound of Cures)

Even with your best efforts, however, something might slip through the steps you take. When that happens, the resources below will provide you a wealth of ways to stop the pain, swelling or dreaded itching.There are many treatments available in the local pharmacy, your medicine cabinet, or perhaps even in your kitchen:

  • Oral and topical antihistamines, benzocaine, sting wipes or liquid
  • Hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, aloe vera, witch hazel, alcohol
  • Aspirin or other NSAIDs, Tylenol
  • Baking soda paste, white or apple cider vinegar, sea salt and water
  • Ice or cold compresses
  • Essential oils like Tea Tree, lavender, and chamomile
  • Oatmeal soaps and baths

Treating poison oak/ivy/sumac requires a more specialized method to remove the urushiol oils. While some of the above remedies will help, products like Tecnu, Zanfel, and even Dawn dish soap can help remove the oils and minimize the reaction if applied as soon as possible after exposure.

A carefree summer of fun awaits you and your kids. So get out there and hike, bike, swim, play, barbecue and enjoy yourselves safely.  For more information on skin care, child safety, and summer fun, search



Worst Year for Ticks AND a New Virus?

How annoying and dangerous can these ticks get? First they bite; then, they might transport Lyme disease. Now there is concern that a far more serious (and possibly deadly) virus may be emerging.

Why This Year?

Many locations in 2016 in the eastern U.S. recorded the warmest winter ever. Because of this factor, ticks and other insects were able to survive and thrive throughout the season. Not only is there a surplus of ticks, they are feeding more on humans than they have in the past.

Currently, there is a short supply of deer mice (because there’s a short supply of acorns, their main staple.) So, where normally the deer ticks feed on mice, they are looking to other sources for a blood meal (us). But if it’s any consolation, not all ticks carry Lyme or the Powassan virus. And not all states are infested with ticks.

The Powassan Virus

The Powassan virus is not a “new” virus, it’s just that it is newly emerging after being rare and dormant for about 50 years. It was first detected in 1958 in Powassan, Ontario, Canada. There were less than 100 cases reported over the last decade, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the numbers are currently increasing.

While some people who have been bitten by a tick with the virus experience no symptoms, there are others who experience the polar opposite. Those stricken severely with the Powassan virus are in for dire results. Swelling of the brain ensues and about 50% of patients will suffer permanent neurological damage such as blurred vision, facial tics, and loss of memory. And, 10% will die.

There is, unfortunately, no vaccine against contracting the Powassan virus at this time. Treatment requires hospitalization, and providing comfort and hydration. Beyond that, all the patient can do is wait for the virus to work its way out of the system.

Although symptoms may not appear for up to a month after getting bitten by the tick, the actual contraction of the virus can take as short as 15 minutes. (With Lyme disease, the bacteria generally takes about 24 hours before it passes from a tick to a human.)

Powassan Symptoms

When the reaction to the virus is severe, some of the symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Speech difficulties
  • Weakness
  • Seizures

Most of the cases reported have been from the northeast United States and the northern Midwest.

Currently, the number of ticks carrying Lyme disease is about 20%. (That’s a one in five chance of contracting Lyme if you’re bit.) A study out of Columbia University reports that in New York State about 2% of the ticks are carrying the Powassan virus. The total number of people affected is unknown because many can be asymptomatic.

A 2013 study, however, showed that signs of the virus having been increasing steadily in New England deer. This means that the number of ticks that bite the deer who carry Powassan is also increasing. This is one of the concerns for why the virus’ range may spread.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Ticks love woody and grassy areas. When on a trail, walk in the center to avoid contact with ticks.
  • Wear insect repellant
  • Wear long pants and long sleeves
  • Check clothing before you go back indoors. Also check your scalp and neck
  • Check your body when you’re in the shower
  • Check your pets’ fur regularly too

If you find a tick, remove it carefully. Go online and read exactly how to do it. If you or your pet has been bit, you can put the tick (dead or alive) in a bag and have it tested for Lyme or Powassan. You can also take a photo and send it to TickEncounter Resource Center where a scientist may be able to detect the type of tick and if it may be infected.

If you’ve been bit and develop a fever, rash, or flu-like symptoms, go see a health practitioner right away. The sooner a proper diagnosis, the better the outcome when treatment is delivered right away.

These reports needn’t keep you inside or away from playing outdoors. Just be aware of your surroundings and follow the precautions—and just say no to ticks.




Connection Between Using a GPS and Alzheimer’s?

It may seem like a stretch, but there is an association between using a GPS and Alzheimer’s brain function. A recent study has shown decreased neural activity in the hippocampal region of the brain when using the electronic navigation system. The hippocampus is one of the main areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Is There a Cause and Effect?

Using any type of electronic device cannot be called cause for developing Alzheimer’s. However, research has shown that cognitive exercise can help slow the shrinkage of the hippocampus. Mental exercise, the type used naturally to navigate a system from memory or maps would be considered a form of cognitive stimulation.

Smartphones On—Brain Turns Off

A study out of the University College London focused on brain scans of the participants’ hippocampus. Twenty-four volunteers were asked to navigate a simulated version of the Soho District in central London. What they discovered was fascinating.

When the participants used the GPS, portions of their brains literally turned off. The brain region used for memory and navigation was not stimulated in the least. However, when they navigated without assistance, the scans showed spikes in neural activity in both the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex.

The lead researcher and psychologist Hugo Spiers remarked, “Our results fit with models in which the hippocampus simulates journeys on future possible paths while the prefrontal cortex helps us to plan which ones will get us to our destination.”

The navigation activity challenged parts of the brain for memory and navigation (hippocampus), as well as planning and decision-making (prefrontal cortex.)

A previous study showed similar results—that as humans interact with their surroundings, the brain is stimulated to form a “back-up plan.” When the brain is navigating, it relies on memory and then decision making. With a GPS, our brain doesn’t have to do the work.

Isn’t Less Challenge to the Brain Better?

It might feel easier, but it’s not to the benefit of our brain health to let it sit inactive. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to grow and thrive. Decreased plasticity of the hippocampus happens naturally over time. It actually shrinks. But, continued research is showing that exercise and cognitive stimulation slows the shrinking process. In fact, working the mind has, in many cases, shown to reverse hippocampal atrophy.

Alzheimer’s and the Brain

One of the first areas of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is comprised of two seahorse-shaped portions that lie on each side of the brain. It is responsible for helping us form new memories (short-term memories), as well as the gateway for allowing those to get stored in our long-term memory. So, it’s also a part of the brain that helps us retrieve those older memories.

With Alzheimer’s, brain scans will show a shrunken hippocampus. (Other forms of dementia affect the hippocampus as well.) This is why the impairment of memory is often the first notable symptom of the disease. In connecting the GPS navigation study to the challenges of Alzheimer’s, it’s clearer to see why certain patients also experience disorientation with their surroundings.

There is ample research to support that mental exercise boosts brain activity and health. Also, peruse GetThrive for related topic on mental health.



Are We Becoming a Nation of Addicts?

We see or hear news stories about addiction almost every day. There are statistics, overdose deaths, DUI arrests, and celebs checking into rehab. Legal prescription and illicit drug use and abuse seem to be at an all-time high, (pardon the pun.) Is the news sensationalized or is it really that grim?

It’s not Just the Pills

Besides substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco and drugs,) addiction comes in other equally harmful forms. Gambling, eating, shopping, porn/sex, and even technology addictions can interfere with or even ruin lives. With so many opportunities for addictive behavior to manifest, odds are that you or someone you know has been touched by addiction. Knowing the enemy is a good first step to fighting back.

What is Addiction?

Simply put, addiction is a chronic disease involving compulsive behavior.  Typically, addicts do not have control over what they are doing due to physical and/or mental dependence. Unlike a habit, which involves choice and an ability to stop, an addict can’t disengage from the behavior, no matter how destructive it might be.

The causes of addiction and factors contributing to it are wide and varied. Genetics, environmental, emotional, circumstantial, mental and physical factors may all play into a person becoming an addict or not. Recent studies have shown that both substance and behavioral/psychological addictions trigger similar “reward” areas of the brain.

By the Numbers—Bad and Good News

Are we at epidemic levels of addiction?  The numbers seem to indicate that possibility in some cases, but not all.

A few discouraging statistics are :

  • Almost 25 million Americans have an addiction, excluding tobacco
  • Both illicit and prescription drug use and abuse is up overall
  • Approximately 100 people die daily from drug overdoses
  • Over 5 million annual ER visits are drug-related
  • Substance abuse costs the economy over $740 billion annually



There is some good news, hidden amongst the bad:

  • More people are seeking and in treatment—700,000 per day
  • Use of cocaine, hallucinogens, PCP, and ecstasy (MDMA) is down
  • Fewer Americans are smoking
  • Alcohol dependence/abuse are down overall

The government doesn’t collect statistics on non-substance addiction. Various estimates indicate that 5.5 million adults have serious or compulsive gambling problems.  Another 18-24 million suffer some form of sex addiction, and anywhere from 3-6% of the current population may have some type of technology addiction.

Opioids and Synthetics—the New Enemy

America appears to have an opioid problem. We are five percent of the global population, yet we consume a whopping 80% of the opioid drugs. Opioids include legal drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as the illegal opium and heroin. Even though prescriptions for opioids are down, use, abuse, and overdoses are up. Long-term use and abuse are on the rise, and it seems there is no end in sight.

The other emerging problem is the abundance of synthetic drugs, often referred to as Spice, Bath Salts, K2, Flakka, and other odd names.  Often available in convenience stores and gas stations, they promise to offer cheap highs similar to illegal drugs.

Most come from China, and none can be effectively regulated by the FDA or DEA, as the names and formulas change too quickly. The one thing they all have in common is that they are far from safe. They offer unpredictable results at best, and in many cases have led to hallucinations, psychotic behavior (including murder) and even death.

Finding Solutions

Addiction in any form is problematic, but rest assured, it can be overcome.  Many forms of rehabilitation and treatment are available.  In most cases, insurance will cover some, if not all of the costs, and low-cost or free options exist.

If you think you or a loved one may have a problem with addiction, the following resources will help you spot the warning signs and seek assistance:

Addiction doesn’t have to control you or someone you know.  Armed with the right tools, the road to recovery can be found.  For more information on addiction, drug use, and rehabilitation search