Look out! It’s licorice and decorative contact lenses
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
That’s the Halloween message from healthcare experts about two common but little-discussed potential hazards associated with the holiday.
Specifically, black licorice is a possible danger for people at risk for heart ailments, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Big kids over 40 years old, according to an FDA advisory, could require hospitalization for an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia if they eat as little as 2 ounces of black licorice daily for two weeks. The health risk stems from the sweetening compound from the licorice root, glycyrrhizin, which can drop potassium levels and lead some people to experience abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy and congestive heart failure. The FDA recommended trick or treaters of all ages avoid eating “large amounts” of black licorice at one time. If they do consume mass quantities and develop an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it and contact their healthcare provider. Another scary health warning was issued by the American Academy of Ophthalmology regarding the use of decorative contact lenses as part of Halloween costumes. The medical group issued statements in the weeks leading up to the holiday that detailed the dangers of wearing nonprescription costume lenses, such as serious eye disorders and infections.
This particular Halloween danger led Congress to ban the sale of such lenses in 2005 and establish civil penalties of up to $11,000 per illegal sale.
There is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” contact lenses, warned the medical group. Contacts that are not properly fitted may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea.
And that’s some scary stuff. demanding better care?’” Miller says. “So then, Occupy Wall Street started going and I jumped on it: We’re not really asking enough of our healthcare system.”
Miller makes clear that the blog is not meant to be his platform alone by any means. The contributors’ page includes six other authors, and Miller says he welcomes anyone who wants to contribute to the debate.
“The website is meant to be a place where providers, patients, policymakers and payers can all come together and share ideas,” Miller says. “We’ve all got blogs and Twitter accounts and things to share. We want to have robust policy discussions and get people connected to have these discussions.”
Besides the impetus from the Occupy protests around the world, the full rollout of the healthcare reform law in 2014 also should encourage debate about what the healthcare system should look like, Miller says. And the explosion in social media provides the tools to do so, he adds.
Demanding more from the healthcare system is only half of what patients need to do, Miller says: Communities must become more involved in their health as well. “We have to take personal responsibility,” he says. “Prevention is going to have to prevail.”