Health Magazine | Fall 2021

Health Magazine Fall 2021 banner image: a child wearing a face mask

Up Front: Three ways to track COVID-19 In Oregon

Get expert COVID-19 data and forecasts to check risk and see what’s next so you can stay safe. Here are three tools to help you track fast-changing coronavirus as the delta variant roars across the U.S., including Oregon. You can:

  • See detailed data on cases and trends in Oregon.
  • Check the spread in your county.
  • Learn what’s ahead.

These tools can help you decide how to protect yourself and your family. OHSU Health experts also offer advice for staying safe.

  1. Daily Oregon updates

The Oregon Health Authority posts this information daily:

  • Case counts
  • Hospitalizations and deaths
  • Portion of tests that are positive
  • A six-week trendline
  1. Risk by county
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a color-coded map with a search feature. Find any county in the U.S. to see transmission rates.
  1. Weekly forecast
  • Every week, OHSU’s lead data scientist shares stats and trends in Oregon and beyond. Peter Graven, Ph.D., provides a report packed with charts and analysis.

FAQLearn about the delta variant risks and impact

Is it a cold or is it COVID-19?

People over age 2 months can be tested for coronavirus if they have one or more symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control:

Most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Tiredness

Less common symptoms:

  • Aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes

Serious symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Loss of speech or movement

Q. How can we protect our children who aren't able to get COVID-19 vaccinations yet?

A. Usually, children who get COVID-19 have mild cases. But the virus can cause long-term health problems and worse.

Parents and caregivers of young children can protect their kids by getting their own vaccinations. The risk of being exposed to the virus is highest indoors. Children age 2 and older should wear masks when they visit indoor public spaces or when around unvaccinated people. We can be role models for our kids by wearing masks in these settings too, even if we are vaccinated.

People are less likely to catch the virus outdoors, especially when staying physically apart. Some families may allow children to play outside and unmasked with friends whose families are vaccinated.

However, we are seeing a trend of COVID-19 infection rates rising again. Pediatricians are hopeful that a vaccine for younger children will be available this winter. Meanwhile, stick to what has worked this pandemic: masks, distancing and washing hands!

Dr. Eliza Hayes Bakken

Care that’s as connected and unique as you are: Oregon’s No. 1 hospitals

Health and healing begin when we’re seen for all that we are. Combining exceptional health care with care for the whole person is what makes OHSU and OHSU Doernbecher special places. For more than a decade, U.S. News & World Report has ranked OHSU and OHSU Doernbecher among the best hospitals in the nation and no. 1 in Oregon.

This year six adult specialties at OHSU ranked among the nation’s top 50 programs:

OHSU adult specialties rated as “high-performing” include:

OHSU Doernbecher was recognized in the following children’s specialties:

A family of care for everyone you care about

OHSU Health and its partners have more than 3,000 providers in dozens of care locations around the Portland metro area.

What kind of care do you need?

  • Nonemergency illness/injury needing care today or tomorrow, in person or virtually = Immediate care
  • Lifelong care with a provider you know, in-person and virtual visits = Primary care
  • Life-threatening trauma or illness that needs care right now = Emergency care

Find out how to get same-day care, in person or virtually.

Innovations: Latest therapy for pancreatitis leads to life-changing relief

The pancreas gland maintains healthy levels of blood sugar in the body by controlling a hormone called insulin. Pancreatitis is a condition when the gland becomes inflamed, often caused by hereditary genes or gallstones. Pancreatitis can be so painful that people can’t keep a job or even get out of bed.

For some patients, a total pancreatectomy with islet cell autotransplant (TPIAT) can lead to dramatic improvement in quality of life. Only a handful of hospitals throughout the country offer TPIAT, and OHSU is one of them.

In this treatment, surgeons remove the pancreas. Then our special lab separates the cells that make insulin from the pancreas tissue. The surgeon then returns these cells into the patient’s liver, where they settle in and begin to work. It takes about six months to get the full benefit of the transplant. Some patients will not need extra insulin, but others may.

Dr. Brett Sheppard


“Guided-missiles” show promise for advanced prostate cancer

A recent study tested a new treatment option for men whose prostate cancer has spread and doesn’t respond to other therapies. OHSU was part of the study that showed how a targeted treatment extended life and held off cancer growth in the participants.

Immune cells on guard for COVID-19 and variants

An OHSU study recently showed that people infected with COVID-19 still had antibodies in their blood 11 months after they were sick. This is a good sign for long-lasting immunity. To stay healthy and avoid getting this dangerous virus, the vaccine is the best protection available.

Vaccine benefits outweigh rare risk in teen males

The CDC reported seven cases where teen boys developed inflammation in their heart muscles after a COVID-19 vaccination. OHSU led a case review and concluded that though myocarditis could be a rare side effect of the vaccine, there isn’t enough data to prove a definite connection.

Start smart: Supporting kids going back to school

Anxiety in children returning to school

After so long at home, it’s understandable if going back to full-time school is causing more anxiety than usual in children, says pediatrician Angela-Tu Nguyen, M.D. "It’s important to validate children’s concerns and to identify what their worries are. We must stay positive and remember that children are resilient. The many benefits of in-person school currently outweigh the risk of serious disease from COVID-19 in kids."

Reassure your children of the efforts being made to keep kids safe, she suggests. "Catching a cold is normal. If they catch COVID-19, most kids recover without serious complications," Dr. Nguyen says.

Even before the pandemic, some children were more anxious about schoolwork, shifting routines or being away from home. “Remember that everyone — kids, teachers, parents — are also going through this transition. If your child’s anxiety doesn’t improve after the opening weeks, talk to your pediatrician and school about how to support your child.”

Dr. Angela-Tu Nguyen

Train your brain to cope with stress

The part of the brain that controls your “fight or flight” response reacts to triggers. These triggers can even sometimes be your own body’s sensations.

You can help your brain understand the difference between physical discomfort and actual risk.

Babette D. Reeves, M.A., M.S.W., LCSW of OHSU Health Hillsboro Internal Medicine recommends:

  1. Stop and check in with your body during the day. What do you sense?
  2. If you are feeling a stress symptom — tummy feels funny, for example — can you find words to label the feeling? Is it tight, knotted or fluttery?
  3. Now sit with the sensation for a few seconds.

When nothing awful happens, it teaches the brain that this sensation isn’t always part of a threat. “This helps to develop tolerance, and people become less anxious over time,” Reeves said. “This body scan and labeling skill can work for all ages.”

Schedule a Well-Child visit to check in about:

  • Overall health
  • Growth targets
  • Reaching milestones
  • Vaccinations
  • Healthy living counseling
  • Behavioral health questions

Tips for good health at school

Share your child’s health records with school, including information about asthma, allergies or prescription medication as well emergency medical contact information.

To help limit illness, keep vaccinations up-to-date and remind children to wash their hands and wear their masks.

Make sure your child’s backpack fits well using both shoulder straps and pack it lightly.

If traveling by bike, wear a helmet. If your child takes the bus or walks to school, plan ahead to explore the route together.

Set clear expectations for sleep, healthful eating and limiting screen time.

Preventing sports injuries in kids and teens

Photo of a child kicking a ball into the air
  • Take your child to a health care provider for a physical before starting a sport.
  • Tell coaches about any medical conditions your child has.
  • Check that water or sports drinks are available at games and practices.
  • Ask if a person certified in CPR and first aid will be at all games and practices.
  • Make sure your child uses all the safety gear for the sport.
  • Is your child having fun? Pushing too hard can lead to getting hurt.
  • Don’t let your child play through pain.
  • Know RICE – Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. This works for most minor sprains and strains.
  • Be alert for concussion symptoms.
  • Make sure your child warms up and cools down properly.
  • If playing outdoors, provide your child with sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.

Sports medicine experts within the OHSU Health system see patients of all ages at multiple locations in the Portland metro area.

Learn more about playing safe

Q. My daughter is 14 and her periods are still irregular and heavy. Is that normal?

A. There can be a lot of confusion about periods, or menstruation, in teens.

“Normal” periods can vary widely, especially when first starting out. When a young woman begins her period, it is very common for the timing and flow to be irregular for the first couple of years. Her body is finding a rhythm.

If she’s concerned, talk to your daughter's primary care provider, who may refer her to an obstetrics and gynecology doctor. If her periods last longer than seven days or she is missing school and other activities due to heavy or painful periods, let’s talk about what is normal and how we can help.

Also, if a teen isn't showing any signs of puberty, such as pubic hair or breast development by age 13 or hasn't started her period by age 15, it’s a good idea to check in with her provider.

Dr. Claire Steen

Period pack for school

  • Pads and pantyliners
  • Baby wipes
  • Extra underwear
  • Black leggings
  • Ibuprofen with school nurse

For your good health: Prevention is some of the best medicine

Q. My provider wrote me a prescription for naloxone along with my pain medications. Why?

A. Naloxone is a medication prescribed along with opioids because it can reverse an overdose. Opioids, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone, can slow down and possibly stop your breathing, even if you’ve been taking them for a long time.

Naloxone comes in many forms, including a nasal spray and an injectable. If your provider prescribed you even a short dose of opioid medications, it’s smart to have naloxone too. You can get naloxone prescribed from an Oregon pharmacist, if needed.

I always carry naloxone in my bag, just like I have extra Band-Aids or pens. You never know when you may need it. Nobody wants to overdose, and naloxone can save a life.

Laurel Hallock-Koppelman, D.N.P., FNP-C, APRN

Q. What can we do to help our kids be heart-healthy?

A. Parents are role models for their children, so I encourage adults to establish healthy habits in children at a young age.

Find time in the family routine for a half-hour of movement that is fun for everyone. This can be any activity, such as walking, bike riding in the neighborhood or dancing in the living room. When children see their parents are active and having fun, they will model that behavior and carry it on for their children.

When exercise is part of the lifestyle, other heart health factors tend to improve, like weight and stress management. Replace some TV/screen time with outside time. Even if your children get physical activity through teams or classes, prioritize doing fitness activities together also. Try for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Dr. Judd Salamat

Autumn is open enrollment

Do you get your health insurance through Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans? Do you purchase insurance for yourself and/or family through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace?

Fall is the season for comparing and renewing your health care coverage. During open enrollment, you can change your plan without penalty. It’s important to review your options during this time period, as health and prescription plans may change prices and coverage. To be a smart consumer, compare plans to best fit your needs for next year, such as:

  • Your health status and any upcoming health treatments, including medications.
  • Total costs of premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.
  • What services are covered by the plans you consider.
  • Choices and availability of providers, hospitals and health networks.
  • Quality of the options in providers, hospitals and health networks.
  • Whether you also want coverage for dental, vision, hearing aids or alternative health options.

Questions or suggestions?

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