10 Quick Camping Tips

HealthTapCamping, hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor activities can be exciting and healthy, but it is important to take precautions to ensure your safety. We’ve compiled 7 Quick Camping Tips so you’re ready for the outdoors, no matter what your adventure is.

Can you offer some tips on how to make hiking a safe fitness activity?

“Plan your hiking in advance, determine how much you can handle in one hike, the amount of elevation, the terrain, and the distance. Also were comfortable hiking shoes.” – Dr. Foster Carr

What are the most common animal bites while camping?

“Mosquitos by a landslide. Of animals with teeth, probably raccoons – they are not shy about rummaging through peoples’ belongings.” – Dr. Anatoly Belilovsky

What are some ways to prevent mosquito bites?

“Insect repellents that contain deet (n, n-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) preferably 20-50% or picardin on all exposed skin are very effective mosquito repellents.Permethrin treated clothing is also very effective. Wear protective clothing, use mosquito netting if sleeping outdoors, avoid being outside between dusk and dawn.” – Dr. Michael Ein

What questions should I ask my doctor about camping?HealthTap

“What medications should I take along? What should be in my first aid kit? Where should I go if sick?” – Dr. Martin Raff

How should I wash my face while camping?

“You can bring pre-moistened towelettes that are made for that purpose (or just bring kiddie wipes) if there is not a clean water source near by.” – Dr. Heidi Fowler

How can I keep bandages dry while camping?

“A cast or bandage protector will keep dressings dry, but the best advice is to not go camping or expose the dressing to elements or water until all healed.” – Dr. Eric Lullove

What are the best shoes to wear when camping?

“Wear thick sole shoes when out for hiking or campHealthTaping.” – Dr. Mohammed Parvez

How do I prepare for a long hike?

“1. Gradually work up to the distance (get in shape). 2. Wear quality walking shoes (already been broken in). 3. Wear thin sock under absorbent sock to avoid blisters. 4. Bring moleskin to cover hot spots on feet before blisters form. 5. Plenty of water &water filter kit. 6. High energy food. 7. Light comfortable pack. 8. Warm clothes &good shelter. 9. Map+compass+signaling tools. 10. 1st aid kit.” – Dr. David Carl Houghton

Am I more susceptible to giardiasis when camping?

“Animal contamination of lakes and ponds may make camping a riskier event than sitting at home. Access to purified water and proper boiling of your utensils can lower your risk if you use lake or well water for cleaning. Boiling your water for 10 minutes will eliminate the threat if you are unsure of the water.” – Dr. James Ferguson

What is giardiasis?

“It’s a protozoan parasite that affects the upper GI tract. You get it from ingesting infected stool (through contaminated food, water, or sex). It causes diarrhea, nausea, and bloating. It’s treated with Metronidazole or tinidazole.” – Dr. Joel Gallant


Got another camping question? Ask our doctors today!

7 Fun Facts About Your Brain

The human mind is limitless in its capability of creating the phenomenal.

Christiaan Huygen revolutionized the precision of timekeeping with the invention of the pendulum clock, which later lead to his discovery of the speed of lightAmadeus Mozart wrote the renowned overture to the opera Don Giovanni the morning of its premiere. Along with his incomparable paintings such as the ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Last Supper’, Leonardo Da Vinci has drawn and described the human anatomy in as much detail as medical technology todayDr. Dale Hale Williams (the nation’s first African-American cardiologist) was the first surgeon in history to successfully perform open heart surgery, without access to blood transfusions or advanced medical technology.

Not only are our brains tools for endless possibilities, but its an organ that indulges in some pretty incredible, thought-provoking, and, at times, frustrating behavior. Here are 7 wild facts about your brain that you probably weren’t aware of:

#1 Most, if not all, of your decisions are made unconsciously 

How many times have you convinced yourself that you just have to get that 50″ name-brand TV, those stylish kicks, that low cut cocktail dress, or that sexy bartender? If you believed these decisions were methodically planned to logical perfection, I’ve got some bad news. Based on Dr. Susan Weinschenk’s book Neuro Web Design: What makes them click?, the deep brain structures that make some of your most innate desires uncontrollable are constantly at work:

Social Validation: Your brain is always processing and imitating what’s regarded as most favorable in the social stratosphere (also known as “keeping up with the joneses”). We care about being a part of the bigger picture, alas our instinctual need to have items that are highly reviewed and rated.

Strategic Product Placement: Consumer companies know your brain better than you do. Contrary to popular belief, these institutions have very little fiduciary responsibility to your well-being. Neuromarketing strategies are rapidly gaining traction in alluring customers to a product based on our predictable, primal needs for sex, food, and safety. The method behind company designs and commercialization is millions of dollars being poured into studying what ideas will best implant your subconscious need for their product.

Affective Forecasting: Based on a study by renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, we misinterpret how much pleasure or displeasure future events will bring.

What does this mean exactly? 

For example, most consumers who overestimate the pleasure of buying (or even worse, leasing) a car, end up resenting the purchase later on and prefer spending the money on other important obligations.

Another prime example is how much you would pay to see your favorite artist now play in concert compared to the amount you would spend on seeing your favorite artist ten years ago in concert. The difference is substantial. But, ten years ago you would have paid much more to see them perform then.

The human mind is constantly in a balancing act of overestimating and underestimating what we buy and need in order to maximize happiness.

#2 Your memories may be misleading 

Pathway of memory consolidation between the amygdala and hippocampus (brain region that stores memory) Our strongest memories tend to be ones overrun with emotion and powerful sensory stimuli. In a way, we see our memories like fragmented movie clips: Roaring emerald waves crashing synchronously to the words “Will you marry me?”, the sweet ringing of a new born’s first cry, and a familiar hand helping you up after your first time falling off a bike.

I truly hate to say this…but it’s these memories (also called “flashbulb memories”) that have been proven to have the most errors, especially with increasing time. Our brains have this strange evolutionary ability to reconstruct memories with new information and perceptual stimuli each time we activate a specific memory. We combine details of a memory with what is generally true, later filling in the gaps with our own imagination of how the sequences took place.

As if this isn’t crazy enough, our brains also have a knack for combining and mixing separate memories into one. Essentially, our memories are almost constantly changing based on how our perceptions of an event, person, place, or the world are changing.

The amygdala has been shown to be the critical brain region involved in enabling us to acquire and retain lasting memories: modulation of long-term memory. When we hold on to specific memories the synaptic links formed from these. memories become stronger, so it becomes more ingrained in our brains.

What’s the evolution behind this process of retrieval and reconstruction? 

Because their is an overwhelming amount of information and stimuli that we, as individuals, process every second, minute, and day, most memories are classified by our brains as insignificant. Which is why emotion, smell, and recognition are the most powerful tools for bringing back specific memories. These cues were orchestrated efficiently by our ancestors to survive from predators and to avoid dangerous wildlife.

#3 Fast-Food chains have hacked your brain

Why is being dumb, fat, and happy so appealing? 

  • Sugar 

Sugar is as addicting as cocaine. Yea. Which means you will go through the same trademark symptoms as drug addicts: binging, cravings, and withdrawal. Apparently McDonald’s “fruit smoothies” have more sugar per serving than Coca-Cola. So, when they say “I’m Lovin’ It” it’s because they are subtly mocking you.

  • Convenience 

When it’s more likely that you will run into a fast-food restaurant than a produce aisle, the chances of compulsive eating becomes a cultural norm. Over time, our impulse control starts to diminish, along with the neurons that are involved in the prefrontal cortex. This means as Big Food companies and their brands become a more prominent part of our lives, the more we give into temptation.

We have five dopamine receptors in our brains. The D2 receptor is most involved in controlling compulsive eating. Studies have shown that people who are obese, or have a higher body-mass index, correspond to fewer D2 receptors.

  • Reward 

Dopamine is well-known to be the brain chemical that drives our behavior towards favorable outcomes. Hence, the reason we become suckers to fast-food brands. The combination of spending little money for a high-calorie diet placed in your hands within minutes becomes the gold standard for addiction. The closer you pair a stimulus with a reward, the stronger the association. This satiation forms stronger memories associated with a brand, pampering your craving of it. (Joshua Gowin, PhD, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-illuminated/201108/7-things-mcdonald-s-knows-about-your-brain).

#4 You probably have too many Facebook friends


Robin Dunbar, an Oxford University professor, has researched and established that our brains are only capable of making a specific number of meaningful connections and memories. This magic number is: 150. Your brain will only allow you to have 150 “friends”: the optimal number for social cohesion and interaction. Interestingly, our brain can only facially recognize 1,500 people. So, if you have more than 1,500 friends/followers on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/YouTwitFace/etc. you probably won’t remember some of them AT ALL.

How did Dr. Dunbar determine this?

Well, the fundamental recipe for all real relationships is reciprocity. You can meet all 7 billion people on this planet, but the truth is, the majority of people we meet in our lives will either not reciprocate the attention we give to them, or vice versa. Along those lines, a Dutch sociologist determined that every 7 years half of our friends are replaced by new friends, regardless of the change in size of our social network.

I guess it’s time to do some social media spring cleaning…

#5 If you thought the coolest part about you was being able to multi-task….then I’m sorry

In our modern-day way of life it’s safe to say that multi-tasking just has to be done. In all honesty, there’s no way I’ll be able to live with myself if I can’t text my best bros, while studying for the MCAT, while playing the piano, while making dinner, while watching the finale of Games of Thrones.

Side Note: If you HAVE been capable of doing this successfully, call me…I have a job for you.

But, scientifically-speaking, our brains can only attempt one cognitive function at a time (although we like to fool ourselves into believing that we are productively accomplishing many tasks at once).

A Stanford University study in 2009 sought out to challenge 262 college students to complete experiments that involved switching among tasksfiltering irrelevant information, and using working memory.

Researchers wanted to test whether multi-taskers were cognitively more efficient than non-multi-taskers.

What they found was multi-taskers not only did terribly at all three tasks, but also used their brains much less effectively to try to complete them compared to the opposing group.

So, what’s the solution to this problem if you can’t leave your phone? 

Use the “20-minute” rule! The same Stanford researchers determined that rather than switching between tasks every couple of minutes or so, allot 20 solid minutes of focus to one task at a time. (and, yes, I have faith you can study for 20 minutes straight without texting your boyfriend/girlfriend).

Lastly, a French clinical scientist discovered when people attend to two different tasks* simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task. Therefore, our brains have a two task limit.

*Different tasks were defined as one physical task and one cognitive task

How men and women see color #6 Color is just in your mind

The eye only has three different types of photoreceptors. That means that the human retina can only differentiate between the colors redgreen, and blue and that’s it.

Every other color you “see” in the world is only a construct of your brain. In fact, it would be technically inaccurate to call them colors. Our eyes have cones and rods that detect different wavelengths of light, which refract into the perceived colors red, green, and blue.

Our conceptualization of color is so deeply rooted in the brain that even fluctuations in emotional states affect how we see color.

#7 Neuroplasticity: Your brain’s ability to reorganize, adapt, and regrow

This topic of Neuroscience is probably one of the most studied and revered in the field. The term neuroplasticity refers to our command center being flexible, and not a static entity. This means that our brains have a profound ability to adapt to changes in our bodies, both internally and externally.

For example, any time you learn a new skill like playing an instrument, driving a car, scuba diving, or learning calculus your brain starts to build new neural pathways (connections of neurons) to accommodate these changes throughout your life. You see, even throughout the majority of the twentieth century, neuroscientists believed there was only a certain critical period of our life cycle (youth) when the brain was adaptable. After crossing that threshold, it was believed that the brain was immutable, and stagnant. However, with time and research the brain continued to impress and shock the scientific community.

Our brains are capable of regenerating new neurons through learning, memory, and even serious injury throughout our lives.

For example, a fifty-year-old adult who just suffered a stroke to the region of the brain that controls speech can, over time with therapy, re-learn to speak, even if that part of the brain is completely dead and useless. This is due to the phenomenon of plasticity. Other parts of the brain will take over (and build new neural networks) for the task of speech.


Just like the inspirational figures before us, we are all equal in our unique capacity to accomplish extraordinary feats. It is within ourselves to strive for a limitless plan.

But, now you know, that while your figuring this out, your brain is already waiting to make it happen.

Here’s a link to more fun, obscure facts about the brain: http://www.factslides.com/s-brain

AppRx: 10 Best FREE Diabetes Apps

Mother and daughter eating watermelonsEvery week, we bring you AppRx—high-quality health, fitness and wellness apps reviewed and recommended by HealthTap’s network of 62,000 top doctors.

In this week’s edition, we take a look at 10 Best Diabetes Apps. Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. According to American Diabetes Association29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes in 2012, up from 8.3% in 2010. 

Maintaining the proper blood glucose (blood sugar) levels is key to managing diabetes. The apps below, endorsed by HealthTap doctors, can help with tracking and monitoring your condition. Best of all, they’re FREE!

AppRx | Glucose Buddy: Diabetes Log | HealthTap1. Glucose Buddy: Diabetes Log

Description: Glucose Buddy is a data storage utility for people with diabetes. Users can manually enter glucose numbers, carbohydrate consumption, insulin dosages, and activities. Then, you can view all of your data on your free glucosebuddy.com online account. Learn More.

Recommended By: 104 Doctors

Available On: Both Android and iOS – FREE

AppRx | Diabetes Log | HealthTap2. Diabetes Log

Description: Are you a diabetic? Do you need to track the glucose readings, food intake, and medicine records of a diabetic? Then this is the app for you. Includes export of records, user-selectable span of records to view, and recording for Glucose, Medicine, and Food. Learn More.

Recommended By: 59 Doctors

Available On: iOS – FREE

AppRx | Diabetes App Lite | HealthTap3. Diabetes App Lite

Description:  Diabetes Buddy is built to help you manage your diabetes by tracking the factors that influence your blood sugar level, monitoring the fluctuations, planning ahead accordingly, and sharing your data with your doctor. Proper diabetes management can help you lead a full and active life. Let Diabetes Buddy help you manage it better. Learn More.

Recommended By: 30 Doctors

Available On: iOS – FREE

AppRx | Diabetes in Check | HealthTap4. Diabetes in Check

Description: You’ll get all the tools and the most-up-to-date information you need to help you eat better, get active, and lower your blood sugar. This step-by-step app was designed by a Certified Diabetes Educator. Learn More.

Recommended By: 25 Doctors

Available On: iOS – FREE

AppRx | Insulin Dosing Algorithm | HealthTap5. Insulin Dosing Algorithm

Description: Use this new and unique educational tool to easily navigate the ADA/EASD algorithm for the initiation and adjustment of insulin in type 2 diabetes. Learn More.

Recommended By: 24 Doctors

Available On: iOS – FREE

AppRx | Blood Sugar Tracker | HealthTap6. Blood Sugar Tracker

Description: Log your blood sugar levels as frequently as you want, set your target blood sugar range and try to stay within it with mg/dL and mmol/L unit support, export your data in csv, text or both, and graph your blood sugar levels and compare it to your level over a 7D, 14D, 3M, 6M, 1Y window. Learn More.

Recommended By: 16 Doctors

Available On: iOS – FREE

AppRx | Animated Quick Reference Guide - DiabeticFoot | HealthTap7. Animated Quick Reference Guide – DiabeticFoot

Description: The Animated Quick Reference Diabetic Foot deals with one of the most serious complications caused by chronic diabetes, and how foot complications associated with diabetic neuropathy and diabetic vasculopathy develop, the symptoms, diagnosis and self care. Learn More.

Recommended By: 15 Doctors

Available On: iOS – FREE

AppRx | Carb Counting with Lenny | HealthTap8. Carb Counting with Lenny

Description: Carb counting allows children with diabetes to eat a variety of foods, just like other kids, and increases their sense of control and confidence in managing their diabetes. For parents and caregivers, this is important in order to plan meals and help children maintain good blood sugar levels. Learn More.

Recommended By: 13 Doctors

Available On: Android – FREE

AppRx | Glycemic Index of Products | HealthTap9. Glycemic Index of Products

Description: The glycemic index, or glycaemic index, (GI) provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels (i.e. levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food. This application displays the list of products and their glycemic index. Search bar allows to find required product very quickly. Learn More.

Recommended By: 12 Doctors

Available On: Android – FREE

AppRx | Diabetes Log | HealthTap10. Diabetes Log

Description: Diabetes Log tracks and analyzes key diabetes data like glucose level, description, tags, which you can edit, view on interactive graphs or send them directly to your doctor! The most simple diary for diabetics. Learn More.

Recommended By: 13 Doctors

Available On: Android – FREE

For more Diabetes apps, visit HealthTap today!  And stay tuned for next week’s edition, Top 10 Doctor-Approved Diet Apps!

Why I Dumped a Bucket of Water on My Head

Kendall McCann | Ice Bucket Challenge | HealthTapLast night, I dumped a bucket of ice water on my head.  The reason I did that was to join the millions of people world wide accepting the “Ice Bucket Challenge” in order to raise awareness and raise funds for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.  The idea is that you either post a video of yourself dumping ice water on your head, or donate $100 to ALS Association.  At the end of the video you nominate a couple other people and give them 24 hours to complete the challenge.  The crazy part about all of this is it’s actually working!

Why am I doing this?

This month, three years ago, my father passed away from ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  This is not something I usually like to talk about openly but I wanted to share my experience in the hopes of helping to raise awareness and donations for the ALS Foundation.

For those of you that don’t know ALS, it is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. The average life expectancy of an ALS patient averages 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis.  My experience was much quicker.  My father was diagnosed in March 2011 and passed away that August.  Although it was tough at the time to watch my healthy, 55 year-old father go from working everyday to barely being able to get up out of bed and swallow food on his own, I think looking back, it was for the better.  I couldn’t imagine having watched my dad slowly suffering as his body deteriorated for more than those 6 months—it was not a way of life.

It was confusing, heartbreaking and definitely tested the strength of my family to pull together and cope with everything that was changing and happening so quickly.  ALS did not impact my fathers mental health so it was very difficult to see him everyday feeling trapped in a body that just started shutting down so suddenly and unexplainably.

KendallMcCann | HealthTapMy father is one of the bravest people I know.   He did everything he could to push his body to continue working so he could enjoy every last day he had with us.   The doctors told him to stop walking- he continued- they told him to stop eating hamburgers – he continued, even when it took him an hour to get it down.  They even let us pour a beer down his feeding tube in the end so that he could have one last drink with us.  He never gave in or gave up.  He continued cracking jokes and keeping his spirits up until the very end- even better than I did at most points.  This was extremely hard on my family and although it is too late for us, I would do anything in my power to prevent other people and families from going through that horrible experience.

I have been so incredibly thrilled to watch the Ice Bucket Challenge go viral on social media these last couple of weeks.  Yes, the video is silly and making light of the situation but at the end of the day- fundraising is up 10x what it was last year.   I love all the awareness it is raising, and attention it is getting from celebrities.  These fundraising efforts are truly going to change peoples lives for the better and I hope one day lead to a cure.

Every year during the Fall, my family and I participate in a Fundraising Walk in San Jose.  If you would like to join our team, THE FIGHTING IRISH, or make a donation, visit our ALS page here.
Thank you for the support!
- Kendall

10 Answers to Your ALS Questions

ALS Ice bucket challengeYou’ve likely seen or participated in the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates posting their challenges on social media, but how much do you know about ALS  or Lou Gehrig’s disease? A neurodegenerative disease that weakens and atrophies muscles, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) symptoms often include difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and voice changes.

It’s a disease that hits home for one of our HealthTappers (read her story here). HealthTap’s Dr. Kwok adds, “While few cases may be due to a genetic defect, the cause is usually unknown.” What exactly is ALS? Our HealthTap doctors weigh in.

 What is ALS?

“In brief, it’s a neurologic disease. Amylotrophic lateral sclerosis – a neurologic disease that affects motor function, leads to muscle weakness and significant disability. Also known as Lou Gehrigs disease.” – Dr. Slade Sucheki

“Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a disease of a misfolded protein (superoxide dismutase) causing death of the motor neuron cell body and therefore resultant weakness, muscle atrophy, flickering of muscle tissue, and eventual loss of mobility, with inability to breathe or swallow. It is difficult to treat, has no cure, but is rare.” – Dr. Bennet Machanic

careIs ALS painful?

“No. ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disorder. Only the motor neurons and muscles are affected. The sensory nerves remain intact, so the patient can feel pain, but the disease itself does not cause pain.” – Dr. Steven Bowers

Does ALS affect the mind?

“Yes. Als, can cause moodswings, memory loss, and difficulty deciding.” – Dr. John Moseri

Is ALS contagious?

“No. ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, results from an attack on the spinal cord motor cells. This can be hereditary, but is not caused by a bacteria or virus one can catch.” – Dr. Kevin Teal

How is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis transmitted in humans?

“90% of cases are sporadic, without clearcut genetics, and this is not known to be infectious. Of the 10% familial cases, 25% of these have a mutation in the gene encoding copper/zinc superoxide dismutase.” Dr. Bennett Machanic

What are the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?

“The main symptoms of ALS are weakness. The weakness often starts with one hand and then may progress to the other. The legs will often become weak as well. The muscles begin to get thinner. This is called atrophy. There may also be exaggerated reflexes and stiffness in the muscles called spasticity. The muscles that help us speak and swallow and breath can also be weakened.” – Dr. Jay Rosenfeld

handsCan brain damage cause ALS?

“Possibly. Recent research suggests that a history of multiple concussions increases the risk of ALS, but more research is needed. Fortunately, the vast majority of those with concussions will never get ALS. The cause of ALS is largely unknown; genetic factors play a role in some cases. Lyme disease may cause symptoms very similar to ALS; should thus be ruled out.” – Dr. Randy Baker

At what age does ALS onset occur?

“Symptoms usually develop after age 50.” – Dr. Lucia Zamorano

Is there a cure for ALS?

“Although there is a lot of research attempting to find a cure or opportunity to better manage this dreaded condition, at present there is no known cure. The course of progression is variable depending on the individual and there are some new pharmaceuticals that have not been introduced to the market yet that are under investigation.” – Dr. Keith Rafal

What have been the latest advances in ALS research?

“A number of established agents have recently been investigated for their potential as neuroprotective agents, including antibiotics and minocycline. Progress has also been made in exploiting growth factors for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, partly due to advances in developing effective delivery systems to the central nervous system but overall out looks so far is not great yet.” – Dr. Atif Malik

For more information, visit the ALS page on HealthTap. For details about the Ice Bucket Challenge or to donate to the cause, visit the ALS Association’s website. Together, we can eliminate ALS.

Do you have another question about ALS? Ask our doctors now.