Summertime Rashes: Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Wild Parsnips

By Cate Shookman, nurse practitioner, Meriter ER

During the warm summer months, you might be getting outside to hike or camp. While enjoying these activities you may also come across some plants that can cause rashes, especially May through September.

Common Irritants & Symptoms

  • Poison Oak & Poison Ivy can be found along hiking trails and near camping areas. Both present with similar symptoms. They can causes blisters to appear with redness and swelling of the skin. This helps differentiate from other rashes as redness and itching can be present with just about anything. Symptoms from these plants generally appear in 12-24 hours of exposure.
  • Wild Parsnips are often found in sunny areas along highways and prairies. Encounters with wild parsnips can result in a sunburn type rash, discolored skin and even blisters. Symptoms occur after contaminated skin is exposed to sunlight. Rashes from parsnips will likely appear within 12-24 hours.


Poison oak, poison ivy and wild parsnip rashes are all treated in similar ways.

  • Wash clothes and skin immediately: The oils from poison oak and poison ivy can stay on clothing and your pets for up to a year. Be sure to thoroughly wash your clothes, shoes and pets if you’ve come in contact with an irritant. Try an oatmeal bath for young children as a gentler alternative to soap.
  • Cool compress: Use a wash cloth soaked in cold water to sooth the irritated skin.
  • Apply anti-itch medicine: A cream such as Corticosteroid or Calamine lotion will help reduce itching.

When to seek medical attention

Despite efforts with in-home treatments, it may be necessary to seek out medical attention if:

  • Severe blistering, swelling, or itching occurs;
  • sensitive areas such as the eyes are effected;
  • you’re experiencing a fever;
  • the rash is long lasting or covers a large portion of your skin; or
  • the blisters become infected.
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Top 10 Reasons to Choose a Meriter Doctor for Your Child

  1. We fit into YOUR schedule. Trying to juggle work, school and soccer practice is hard enough. Where exactly does a doctor appointment fit in? We are proud to offer extended hours at most of our clinics so you can make appointments early in the morning or in the evening. We also have a Pediatric After Hours clinic for evening and weekend visits.
  2. Same day appointments. If you’re sick today, you can see us today. Just call and we’ll get you in. There’s no need to wait days or weeks for the care you need if you’re not feeling well.Receptionist
  3. Ready for emergencies. Our 24/7 emergency room has a Pediatric Center with its own private waiting room and is staffed by a care team specially trained to care for children. Plus, current ER wait times are always available on Room
  4. Convenient locations. No matter where you live in Dane County, we have a clinic close to you. Our primary care clinics are located throughout the greater Madison area to be near your home and work.
  5. clinic
  6. Free meet and greets. It’s important you have the right doctor for your little one. That’s why we offer free Meet and Greets so you can have a chance to find a doctor who fits your family before you schedule an at patient visiit
  7. You’ve already trusted us with the BIG moment. Meriter Hospital delivers more babies than any other hospital in Wisconsin, so there’s a good chance your baby was born here. You’ve already trusted us with your child’s biggest life moment so far, so let us partner with you for all the big and small moments to come.Doctor examining patient
  8. Our patients are happy. Need a second opinion? Ask someone who’s visited a Meriter clinic. Our patients rated us highest in the nation for Pediatric Doctor Rating for two consecutive years, according to the National Research with baby
  9. Not just your average doctor. Interested in a doctor who serves double-duty as a lactation consultant to help with breastfeeding? How about one who is certified in travel medicine for your globetrotting family? Need an Olympic caliber athlete who can relate to your active teenager? Our doctors have a unique set of skills and capabilities to meet your needs.find a doctor
  10. Access to Madison’s only 100 Top Hospital. Meriter Hospital is the only 100 Top Hospital in Madison, according to Truven Health Analytics. And if your kiddos need specialized pediatric care, our doctors work closely with the American Family Children’s Hospital to seamlessly coordinate your child’s care.100 Top Hospital - Meriter
  11. We can care for YOU, too. It’s not just about the kids for us. It’s about the whole family! Many of our primary care doctors can treat both you and your child to make sure everyone is healthy and happy.Doctor with patient
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Formula for Good Health: Sleep

By Luke Fortney, MD, Family MedicineSleeping Woman

When the topic of health comes up, we immediately think about exercise and diet, which is usually appropriate. However, even with exercise there is a flip side, so to speak, that is often forgotten. Just as we need to move around physically every day, we also need appropriate down time, rest, relaxation, and sleep. Like most things, getting too much or too little sleep leads to problems, and a balance must be struck. As part of Meriter – UnityPoint Health’s Formula for Good Health, we’re focusing on prevention, including healthy sleep.

Health Consequences of Poor Sleep

An overly busy and stressed life also contribute to poor sleep and our 24/7 “around-the-clock” access to technology and increased or fragmented work schedules are partially to blame for the increased rate of sleep disorders in recent years. Over time, this becomes a very important issue because chronic sleep deprivation, or “sleep insufficiency” contributes to a number of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, obesity, cancer, and decreased quality of life. Unfortunately, research also shows that insufficient sleep also increases unhealthy choices such as smoking, high-risk alcohol consumption, and being physically inactive.

Productivity Consequences of Poor Sleep

Employers are also beginning to recognize that workers who don’t get enough restorative sleep at night are less productive. Being sleep deprived affects our memory and thinking as demonstrated by one study showing that people who regularly slept less than 5 hours a day performed far worse on thinking-performance tests.

Sleep Strategies

There are some good strategies that can help. Finding balance in one’s life is a good starting point. Whenever possible, it is best to start with things that we have immediate control over. For most of us, it appears that getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is best. Here are some suggestions to help you get adequate sleep:

  • Wear Socks: During colder weather, try wearing socks to bed, which has been shown to speed up how quickly you fall asleep.
  • Shut the curtains: Keep the bedroom as dark as possible to help boost your own natural melatonin levels.
  • Turn off electronics: Keep electronic devices away from your head and pillow. Research shows that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from even the smallest electronic devices can disrupt REM and non-REM sleep, as well as inhibit melatonin secretion by the pineal gland.
  • Turn on the fan: Use white noise such as a fan or air purifier to create a soothing atmosphere and block out disruptive noises.
  • Turn down the temp: Keep the room cool-er (not too warm or cold!).
  • Exercise: Exercise regularly, with more vigorous exercise happening earlier in the day, and more restorative exercise (e.g. yoga, walking etc.) in the evening.
  • Limit Naps: Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes or less to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythms and sleep cycle.
  • Get outdoors: Get sunlight as early in your day as possible to help stimulate serotonin levels for increased alertness and wakefulness.
  • Limit Alcohol: Avoid excessive alcohol intake, which initially makes us sleepy, but over time interferes with sleep.
  • Limit Sleep Aids: Avoid taking sleep aids every night, especially benzodiazepine medications which are now known to block deep stages of sleep over time, and have an association with dementia if used daily for years.

If you’re still having problems falling asleep, talk with your doctor if you have ongoing or other concerns.

Sleeping by the Numbers

  • According to CDC, and estimated 50-70 million Americans have sleep problems.
  • We’ve been getting less sleep every year since 1985.
  • 23% of us report difficulty falling or staying asleep due thinking too much about something while lying in bed.
  • 35% of US adults get less than 7 hours of sleep a night
  • More than 30% get less than 6 hours a night (young kids and teenagers typically need 10 or more hours of sleep a night).
  • A 2010 study found that those of us who routinely slept less than 6 hours a night had a 21% higher risk of sudden death, with all other factors being controlled for.
  • Another study found that middle-aged and older adults who got less than 6 hours of sleep a night over time were 4 times more likely to suffer a stroke, even though they were not overweight and had no family history or stroke!
  • A 2012 review study found that lack of sleep increases the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin and decreases the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin.
  • The Department of Transportation estimates that drowsy driving accounts for over 40,000 non-fatal and fatal motor vehicle injuries per year in total.
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Meriter – UnityPoint Health Recognized as ‘Most Wired’

Meriter - UnityPoint Health was recognized for the fifth year in a row as one of the nation’s “Most Wired” by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine. Meriter, who received this year’s award as part of the UnityPoint Health system, received the honor for its ability to leverage information technology to improve care.

“Everything we do aims to coordinate care across multiple settings so that our patients can be as engaged as possible during their wellness journey,” said Arthur Nizza, DSW, President and CEO of Meriter – UnityPoint Health. “This recognition is a testament of our dedication to using the latest technologies and tools to care for our patients where and when they need us, whether that’s in our clinics or on the go.”

The 2015 Most Wired™ survey and benchmarking study, in partnership with CHIME and sponsored by VMware, is a leading industry barometer measuring information technology (IT) use and adoption among hospitals nationwide. The survey of more than 741 participants, representing more than 2,213 hospitals, examined how organizations are leveraging IT to improve performance for value-based healthcare in the areas of infrastructure, business and administrative management, quality and safety, and clinical integration.

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Head Lice: Prevention and Treatment

girl scratching headBy Dr. Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, Pediatric Hospital Medicine

Most parents worry about their children getting head lice during the school year.  The majority of cases of head lice are acquired outside of school, however.  I found myself thinking more about it earlier this summer as I watched kids on my son’s baseball team passing around the same batting helmet.  I voiced my concerns to my husband who then proceeded to tell the story of when his entire little league team got head lice for precisely that reason.

If you are like me, you are probably itchy just thinking about it.  However, it is important to remember that lice are really just a nuisance.  A few months ago the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published updated guidelines for the treatment and prevention of head lice.  The big theme of the guidelines is encouraging the removal of the stigma surrounding head lice (they are not a sign of disease or poor hygiene) and encouraging schools to abandon their “no nit” policies.  It has yet to be determined how schools in our area will adjust their policies, if at all, based on these updated recommendations.

Treatment: Treatment should start with over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain 1% permethrin or pyrethins.  The package instructions should be followed exactly for best results, then the nits should be removed and the wet hair should be combed thoroughly.  The treatment should be reapplied on Day 9 and again on Day 18 if lice or nits are still present.

Some areas of the country have a known high incidence of resistance to OTC treatments.  Patients in those areas or patients who still have lice despite use of the OTC products should talk to their primary care provider about the possibility of trying a prescription medication.

Treating the family and your home: When a family member has been identified as having head lice, all other household members should be checked.  Bedding, recently worn clothing and frequently loved stuffed animals should be washed thoroughly in hot water.  Stuffed animals can also be stored in an air tight bag for at least 3 days if they are unable to be washed or dry cleaned.  Hair brushes, combs and accessories should be soaked in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for at least 1 hour, or simply throw them away.

Prevention: Preventing all cases of head lice is not possible but know that lice do not have wings and spread mainly through direct head-to-head contact or by sharing of personal items such as combs, brushes and hats.  Teach your children not to share such objects.  Needless to say, after my son’s baseball practice, we went to the sporting goods store and bought him his own helmet!

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Walk to Stop Diabetes


Join us as we work together to raise awareness and create a healthier community

Take steps toward a healthier future and find a cure for diabetes by participating in and supporting the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. Beginning at Olin Park, enjoy a one or three mile walk along John Nolan Drive with breathtaking views of the Capitol, Lake Monona and Monona Bay! Invite family and friends, and arrive early to enjoy breakfast and entertainment before the walk begins.

For more information and to register, please visit

Date: Sunday, August 23, 2015
Location: Olin Park, Madison
Check-In Start: 8:30 a.m.
Walk Start: 10:00 a.m.

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Top 11 Reasons to Choose Meriter Hospital

1. 100 Top Hospital. Only one hospital in Madison was named a 100 Top Hospital by Truven Health Analytics in 2015: Meriter Hospital.

100 Top Hospital2. More babies than anyone else. We are proud to welcome more babies than any other hospital in Wisconsin. And, we also offer specialized care for high-risk pregnancies in our Center for Perinatal Care and advanced care for infants in our state-of-the-art NICU. mom and baby

3. We specialize in matters of the heart. Our heart team is among the best in the nation, combining cutting-edge technology with compassionate care. Meriter was the only Madison hospital named High Performing for heart failure care by US News and World Report’s 2015 rankings.

4. Academic-caliber medicine in a community setting.You don’t have to choose between the highest level of care and a comforting location. We offer both without view untrasound

5. The food is great. We grow many herbs and veggies onsite to bring you healthy, local food options. Stop by on Wednesday afternoons in the summer to visit a farmer’s market at the hospital entrance and grab a hot (or iced) coffee at Dr. Joe Coffee Clinic.

farmer's market

6. What the community needs. We are proud to be Madison’s only community health system and the only place offering needed community services, like Dane County’s only Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, the region’s only Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital and a homeless outreach medicine program.

7. We give you options. Your choice is important to us. We partner with a variety of local health providers, including UW Health, Turville Bay MRI and Radiation Oncology Center and many independent practices to coordinate care around you. Plus, we accept most commercial insurance.

Turville Bay Staff

From left to right: Dr. Michelle Mackay, Dr. June Kim, Dr. Jessica Rooney, and Dr. James Richardson - Radiation Oncologists at Turville Bay MRI & Radiation Oncology Center

8. You can’t beat the view. No one wants to be hospitalized, but if you have to be, you can’t beat the view of beautiful downtown Madison, Lake Monona and Lake Wingra.

Madison skyline
9. Ready 24/7. Our topnotch ER team is available 24/7 and current ER wait times are posted on Plus, we offer a Pediatric After Hours clinic in the evenings and on weekends, and most of our primary care clinics have extended hours so you can get care on your schedule.
Meriter Hospital Emergency Room

10. Let us handle the parking. We are proud to offer valet parking at the main entrance to make it easier for you and your visiting loved ones throughout your stay with us.

Meriter Hospital Entrance

11. We come to you. If you don’t live in the Madison area but still need expert care, we can come to you. Many of our specialists travel throughout the region to bring expert care where you need it most.

doctor with patient

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Join our Couch to 5K or 5K to 10K Program

Have you ever thought of running a 5K but don’t know how to train for it? Meriter–UnityPoint Health invites you to join our Couch to 5K Running Club. The Couch to 5K is a plan developed to help beginners get into running or take your current training and enhance it

Couch to 5K works because it starts with a mix of running and walking, to gradually build up your fitness and stamina. It creates realistic expectations and makes the challenge feel achievable right from the start.

For Session 2 there are several options:

  • Couch to 5K designed for those that haven’t been running but want to start
  • 5K to 10K for those that can currently run/walk 5K (3.1 miles) and want to increase their distance to a 10K (6.2 miles)
  • 5K walkers we encourage anyone to join us and walk the 5K

The best part of the Meriter’s Couch to 5K program is that it is FREE! In addition, if you attend

6 of the 9 sessions you will also receive a FREE entry for the Zoo Run Run on Sunday, September 27 at 9:00 a.m.

Dates and Times: Every Tuesday from July 28 – September 22 at 5:45 pm
Outside of Meriter Hospital – near the corner of Brooks and Mounds Streets
Free at the Meriter Hospital parking lot
What to wear
: comfortable workout clothes and supportive running shoes
What to bring:
water bottle, running watch and car key storage

Register today

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Healthy Swimming: Share the Fun, not the Germs

by Katelyn Harms, MPH, CIC, Infection Prevention

Girl Swimmer

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fun in the water.  If you are planning a visit to the pool, water park, hot tub, splash pad or spray park, there are ways to be safe and healthy.

Tips for Pool Time

If you’re at the pool for the day, build in a break for kids and adults at least every hour.  Be sure to:
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks;
  • Check diapers and change them away from the pool, in a bathroom or diaper changing area, to keep germs away from the pool ;
  • Reapply sunscreen frequently; and
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Do your eyes get red and itchy after being in a pool?

Here’s why: Pool chemicals are added to water to kill germs, but they don’t always work right away.  When pee, poop, sweat, and dirt rinse off our bodies and into the pool water, the chemicals break down these things instead of killing germs. This uses up the chemicals’ power, which means there’s less to kill germs. Follow the 4 easy steps to help ensure that pool chemicals are working to kill germs.
  1. Shower before you get in the water.
  2. Don’t swallow the water.
  3. Don’t pee or poop in the water
  4. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
To learn more, see CDC.
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Signs and Symptoms of Swimmer’s ear

By Dr. Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, Pediatric Hospital Medicine

doctor examining earThis upcoming holiday weekend is sure to be filled with fun in the sun.  For many families this includes a trip to the swimming pool or lake.  But the fun stops when someone starts complaining of ear pain.  Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is a very common medical problem resulting in an estimated 2.4 million health care visits in the United States each year.  It is more common in children but can affect people of all ages.  Let’s review the causes, treatments and methods of prevention of swimmer’s ear so that you and your family can enjoy the water without the worry.

Causes: Swimmer’s ear is caused by water sitting in the external ear canal.  This wetness can lead to the growth of bacteria which then causes drainage, redness, swelling and pain.

Symptoms: Typically the pain is made worse by movement of the outer ear and may be severe.  A doctor will be able to diagnose swimmer’s ear based on history and physical exam.  A history of swimming (or any activity in which water gets into the ears) a few days prior to the development of symptoms, along with pain with movement of the ear, swelling and irritation of the ear canal, and drainage of pus seen with an otoscope are all consistent with a diagnosis of swimmer’s ear.

Treatment: Treatment is generally with antibiotic drops that are placed directly into the ear canal.  If the swelling of the ear canal is severe, a wick may need to be placed in order to keep the ear canal open and effectively deliver the antibiotic drops to the affected area.  With proper treatment, most infections clear up in 7-10 days.

Difference Between Swimmer’s Ear and Infections: Many people ask about the difference between swimmer’s ear and the classic “ear infection”.  An ear infection, also known as acute otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear space or the space in the ear that is directly behind the ear drum.  This type of infection is more common in young children and often develops after an upper respiratory infection.  Because the middle ear space is in contact with the ear drum, the ear drum is often red and bulging when the doctor looks into the ear with an otoscope and the middle ear space is often filled with pus.  This type of infection often requires treatment with systemic antibiotics, typically given by mouth, unless the child has ear tubes that have been surgically placed.

Prevention: For people who have had swimmer’s ear or seem to be prone to getting it, there are many effective ways to prevent the infection from recurring.  The goal is to dry the ear canal while also keeping the skin of the ear canal intact.  Avoid using a cotton swab to clean or dry the ear canal as that can damage the skin of the ear canal making it easier for bacteria to enter and infect the skin.  Instead, use a towel to gently dry the ear canal.  Using a hair dryer on cool and the lowest setting and holding it several inches from the ear can also help to dry any excess water.  For people who have an intact ear drum (meaning there is no hole present in the ear drum) instilling a few drops of a mixture of ½ rubbing alcohol and ½ white vinegar can help dry the ear canal.  Wearing ear plugs during swimming is a great way to prevent water from entering the ear canal in the first place.

Need more info? If you think you or a family member might have swimmer’s ear, contact your health care provider to discuss treatment options and further prevention methods.  Have a happy and healthy holiday weekend!

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Healthy 4th Of July Grilling Recipe

Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing and Marinade

Dietitian Krista Kohls makes healthy grilling options on NBC15

featured on NBC15
This makes about 1 cup of salad dressing or enough marinade for 4-6 chicken breasts. It can also be used as a dipping sauce or salad dressing.

  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons less sodium soy sauce
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
  • ½ Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients together and whisk until smooth. If using as a marinade, reserve about ¼-1/2 of it for a dipping sauce. Pour the marinade over the chicken or vegetables and marinate for 2-4 hours or overnight. As a salad dressing this will keep for about a week in the fridge.

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Creating a Safe Sleep Environment for Infants

 Follow these simple tips to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby.

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Register for our Running Clinic

The racing season is in full swing now which is exactly when those nagging injuries tend to creep up.  If you are experiencing pain or injury that is limiting your running or just have questions about your running form sign up now for an appointment at the Meriter Sports Medicine Running clinic.  You will meet one on one with one of our sports medicine therapists who will screen your flexibility, strength, and running mechanics and help you establish a program to improve any limitations.  In addition we will have access to our video analysis system to help identify problem areas within your running mechanics.

Date and Times: July 9, 2015 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: Middleton Therapy Clinic
Cost: $35
Attire: Wear running clothes and have running shoes with you

Space is limited so sign up today.

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Wearable Technology: Shaping the Future of Health Care

Did you know more than 60% of doctors are recommending wearable technology to their patients? 

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Meriter Hospital Farmers’ Market

If you’re free on Wednesday afternoons, make sure to stop by our weekly farmers’ market! This year, we are partnering with The South Madison Farmers’ Market to bring you fresh, organic, locally-grown fruits and vegetables to help you live well and eat well.

Occasional cooking demonstrations and educational events will occur throughout the season.

If you’re planning on coming June 17, we will have recipe cards for a Balsamic Vinaigrette and Basil Walnut Dressing perfect to dress all those leafy greens you’ll find at the market.

Location: Outside Meriter Hospital’s Main Entrance, 202 S. Park Street in Madison
Dates: Wednesdays, June 17 – October 28
Time: 2pm – 6pm

*In case of bad weather, the farmers’ market will be moved inside

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Top 10 Reasons to Have Your Baby at Meriter Hospital

1. You pick a care team that fits you. Do you prefer a midwife or an OB/GYN? Is your doctor at a Meriter clinic, UW clinic or an independent clinic? They all call Meriter Hospital home when it comes to babies, giving you more choices when it comes to your child’s birth.

2. Experience matters. More babies are delivered at Meriter Hospital each year than any other hospital in the entire state of Wisconsin. We have an experienced team ready to care for you and your baby. Even though we deliver the most babies, we make sure each delivery is a uniquely special event.

3.  We’re baby friendly. Baby-Friendly USA has awarded Meriter Hospital the prestigious international recognition as a Baby-Friendly™ birth facility. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative recognizes facilities that provide optimal levels of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. That includes a breastfeeding helpline and lactation consultants available to support you and answer questions.

4. Private rooms shared only with baby. We offer private birthing suites with a homelike atmosphere to give you and your growing family time to bond one-on-one. And, baby will be with you in your room during your stay.

5. Water birth option. Water births can provide a soothing and relaxing environment during labor. We are proud to be one of the only hospitals in south central Wisconsin offering water births as an option for labor and delivery.

6. A picture says 1,000 words. We have professional photographers available to take the first photos of your little one when he or she arrives. Parents whose baby will see a Meriter doctor for his or her care also have the option of having their new baby featured on a billboard on the beltline to help celebrate your growing family.

7.  We all Celebrate. After your baby is born, we invite the entire hospital to celebrate your new little one by allowing you or a family member to play lullaby chimes throughout the hospital.

8. Ready for high risk. We partner with UW Health to offer specialized care for high-risk pregnancies at the Center for Perinatal Care and infants who need advanced care after birth in our state-of-the-art Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

9.  Support before and after baby. Not sure what to expect? We offer a variety of classes for expecting parents and grandparents. After baby is born, we invite you to join us for Mother Baby Hour, a weekly class where you can bond with other new parents and share advice.

10. Visit us from the Comfort of Your Home. Still deciding if Meriter is for you? Take a tour. If you are on bed rest, live outside the Madison area or just want a sneak peek, we are happy to offer an award-winning virtual tour of our Birthing Center so you know exactly what to expect.

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What is Lassa Fever?

By:  Katelyn Harms, Infection Prevention and Control

Lassa Fever is a viral illness commonly found in West Africa. It is very, very unlikely that you will come in contact with this rare disease.

This week a man in New Jersey passed away of a rare disease called Lassa Fever after recently returning from Liberia. So what is Lassa Fever and are you likely to get it? 

What is Lassa Fever? It is a viral illness commonly found in West Africa (similar locations to those with Ebola outbreaks).

Will I Get Lassa Fever? It is very, very unlikely that you will come in contact with Lassa Fever. While common in parts of Africa, it is very uncommon in the United States. This is only the third confirmed case in the US since 2010. Lassa Fever has been successfully treated in the US in the past and did not spread from person-to-person in those cases.

How is it Spread? Lassa Fever is typically spread in West African locations with the help of rats (Mastomys rodents). Human infection can be found where humans have contact with infected rodents or are exposed to rodent excretions. It is also possible to spread the virus person-to-person through contact with an infected human’s body fluids. Casual contact with a sick individual will not spread the virus (such as shaking hands or sharing an elevator).

Is This a New Disease? No. This is the not the first time Lassa Fever has been diagnosed in United States travelers. Several other cases have been diagnosed in previous years, but no person-to-person transmission ever occurred in the US. Like other infectious diseases, hospital staff who treat Lassa Fever can protect themselves by using personal protective equipment.

For More information:

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Sleep Deprivation: Is Your Mind and Body at Risk?

Did you know approximately 30 percent of adults admit they are getting less than six hours of sleep per night?

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How to Treat a Tick Bite

By Dr. Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, Pediatric Hospitalist

Memorial Day weekend is here, and people will celebrate with picnics and time outdoors. Warmer weather and outdoor time is great but can bring with it some unwanted pests. In our area, ticks and tick-borne illnesses are a concern. So what do you do if you find a tick on yourself or your child? When should you worry about those tick-borne illnesses?

If you find a tick on yourself or your child, the best way to remove it is with a tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.  Pull up with steady, even pressure while taking care not to twist or bend the tick. This should result in the entire tick being removed but carefully inspect the area after removal to be sure. Wash your hands and clean the area of the tick bite with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.  Discard the tick by flushing it down the toilet, submersing it in alcohol or placing it in a sealed bag or container. If you are unsure what species of tick it is, you should place it in a bag or container for easy inspection.

Most tick bites are harmless and do not result in disease in humans.  Here in Wisconsin, however, we do have a higher incidence of one of the tick-borne illnesses, Lyme disease, which is spread by the Blacklegged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick.

If you or your child had a known tick bite, watch closely for signs of illness of Lyme disease.  Approximately 80 percent of people with Lyme disease will develop the classic “bulls-eye” rash, known as erythema migrans. 

This rash develops at the site of the bite but can spread to other areas of the body.  It usually develops within 7-14 days of the tick bite and typically precedes any other sign of illness.  Other signs of illness include fever, body and joint aches, headache and fatigue.  If Lyme disease goes unrecognized, it can progress to causing more severe neurologic, cardiac and joint problems.  If you or your child develops the bulls-eye rash or any of these symptoms following a tick bite, it is important to call your primary care provider.  Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, and most people have complete improvement of their symptoms, especially if they were treated early in the course of their illness.

The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites from occurring.  Try to avoid wooded areas and areas with tall grass.  If you are in those areas, wear pants and long-sleeves in addition to insect repellents that contain 20-30 percent DEET.  When coming in from outside, always check over yourself and young children to be sure that no ticks have attached to the skin or clothing.  And don’t forget to check your pets that may have been outdoors, too.

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The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

By: Dr. Jeffrey Larson, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting nearly one in five individuals.  Sadly, my practice frequently involves reconstructive surgery following the removal of skin cancer.

Treatment of skin cancer begins with you!  Once a month, it is important to do a self-exam of your own skin, moles and blemishes.  Intuition may tell you to check more often, but checking once a month will make it easier to see if a spot has undergone a change and needs to be examined by your doctor.

The next component of skin cancer treatment and prevention is a regular visit to your primary care provider.  Any concerning areas should be shown to them; they will be able to tell you if a mole or skin growth has suspicious characteristics and needs to be evaluated by a dermatologist.  In general, you should consider having a skin check by your primary care doctor once a year.  If there is a family history of skin cancer or melanoma, or you, personally, have had skin cancer, more frequent checks may be necessary.

There are many different types of skin cancer, some of which can be life-threatening. To protect your health, it is essential to catch skin cancer early.  What skin-lesion and mole characteristics should cause concern?  The acronym is simple: ABCDE.

A.      Asymmetry – One side of the lesion is not like the other side. 

B.      Border – The border of the lesion is irregular or poorly defined.

C.      Color – There is no certain color that is worse than another.  However, if one lesion has multiple colors (shades of tan, black, brown), this may be a reason for concern.

D.      Diameter – If the diameter of a lesion is more than 6 mm (or larger than a pencil eraser), this may be a worrisome lesion.

E.       Evolving – If you have one mole that looks different from the rest, or appears to have changed, have a doctor look at it.

In the event that skin cancer is diagnosed, there are a variety of treatments that range from topical creams to cryotherapy (“freezing” the lesion with liquid nitrogen) to removing the lesion surgically.  The treatment depends on the type of cancer that is diagnosed and where it’s located. A dermatologist will be able to counsel you regarding the best course of action. 

In the event that skin cancer is surgically removed and the area is large or in a highly visible location, like the face or neck, reconstruction may be performed by a plastic surgeon.  Reconstructive plastic surgery can repair and camouflage skin cancer excision wounds. Each patient and treatment is different.  The area may be reconstructed using other tissue around the area (commonly referred to as a local flap) or with skin from somewhere else on the body (a skin graft).  More complex reconstructions also exist depending on the needs of the patient.  As a plastic surgeon, my goal is to perform a successful reconstruction that matches your native skin as closely as possible.

Of course, no treatment is better than prevention. The leading cause of skin cancer is UV radiation from the sun. When outside, apply a sun screen of SPF 30+ every two hours, wear hats and clothing that cover your skin and greatly limit your amount of exposure to the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have a lesion you’re concerned about, call your doctor and have it examined.

Learn more about Meriter Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Learn more about the Meriter Dermatology Clinic.

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What is Tendonitis and How Can it be Treated?

By: Dr. Beth Weinman, Sports Medicine Physician

Are you in pain every time you use your arm, leg or foot? It may be due to tendonitis. Currently, over 10 million people in the United States suffer from severe pain due to tendonitis, which keeps them from living an active life.

What is a tendon? A tendon is a strong, flexible band of tissue that connects your muscles to the bones in your joints. Tendons and muscles work together to create a pulling force that allows you to twist, grip, grab, move, bend and lift to perform all sorts of activities necessary to your busy life. When your tendon is damaged, like it is with tendonitis, every movement hurts; even picking up a coffee cup is difficult.

What is tendonitis? Tendonitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon that can cause pain and tenderness outside of a joint.

What is tendinosis? Tendinosis, also known as chronic tendonitis, is caused by tiny tears in the tendon tissue that can create pain, stiffness, or inflammation around the tendon. These conditions are more commonly known as tennis or golf elbow, jumper’s knee, Achilles pain or plantar fasciitis. Tendinitis is generally considered chronic, and therefore called tendinosis, once it has been present for at least three months.

Why do people get tendinosis? Chronic tendon pain comes from doing the things you love or need to do over and over and over again. Repetitive motions, no matter how ordinary, can cause small micro tears that occur each time use your tendon. When you do the same activities persistently, the micro tears do not have time to heal properly, causing injury. This causes the tendon to become overused and damaged resulting in it being unable to work at full capacity, causing pain. One may feel a burning, throbbing or sharp sting due to the damaged tendon tissue. Pain due to chronic tendonitis tends to worsen over time since the tendon never gets a chance to heal itself. Tendinosis may occur as a result of occupational requirements such as standing for prolonged periods, gripping a tool with repetitive twisting, cleaning, cooking or typing. In addition, people might get tendinosis from physical activity such as running, jumping and playing golf, soccer or tennis.

How can tendinosis be treated? There are many options including rest, activity restriction, ice, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, cortisone injections, physical therapy, surgery and Tenex.

What is Tenex? How is it performed? Tenex uses gentle ultrasonic technology to remove the damaged tendon tissue through a micro incision and stimulates a healing response. Tenex replicates the goal of an open surgical procedure by removing the damaged tissue, but in a minimally invasive manner. Prior to performing Tenex, I use ultrasound imaging, just like the kind used to see babies in the womb, to visualize and identify the specific location of the damaged tendon tissue. The procedure usually takes 20 minutes or less, requires only a small adhesive bandage to close the micro-incision, and offers quick recovery time for patients, usually within 6 weeks or less.

Why would I consider Tenex? Tenex is a unique non-surgical treatment option because it removes the damaged tendon tissue unlike rest, medications or physical therapy. Without first treating and removing the pain generating damaged tendon tissue, these other treatments may not provide the ideal solution for you to quickly regain your active lifestyle.

How long is the recovery time? Recovery is rapid with many people being back to normal life within 6 weeks or less. Because the surrounding healthy tissue is not disturbed, and no stitches or general anesthesia is required, there is minimal downtime and less discomfort compared to open surgery. The speed of your recovery depends on the location of your tendinosis and your individual results may vary.

If you are experiencing tendon pain, schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Weinman at the Meriter Orthopedic Clinic at (608) 417-8500 or learn more at

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Meriter Hospital Wins Stroke Care Award


Recently, Meriter Hospital received a Silver Plus stroke award from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. The 2015 award, called the Get With The Guidelines – Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award, signifies that patients will consistently receive the most advanced stroke care as quickly as possible from our dedicated team.

Our adherence to high standards results in a reduction in death and disability from stroke and improvement in the quality of life for patients.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. The faster the diagnosis and treatment, the better the chance of limiting brain damage and potential long-term disability.

Recognizing the signs of stroke and calling 9-1-1 are crucial steps of treatment. The best way to recognize stroke signs is by learning to act FAST:

  • Face: Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arm: Is one arm weak or numb?
  • Speech: Is speech slurred?
  • Time: If an individual has any of these symptoms, time is critical! Call 9-1-1

To learn more about our award-winning stroke care program, visit

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Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?


Did you know laughter has more benefits than just improving your mood?

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Do you Know the Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion?

By: Dr. Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, Pediatric Hospital Medicine

You know spring is in the air when you see and hear children laughing and playing outside.  While the fresh air and exercise is terrific, this can also lead to an increase in head injuries.  While most of us think about head injuries and concussions occurring during sporting events, concussions happen more often off of the playing field.  With this increase in outdoor play, it’s a good time to review the signs and symptoms of concussion and when to seek medical attention.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, usually due to a fall, whiplash-type injury, or anything that causes the brain to jostle around inside the skull.  This movement can injure blood vessels and nerves within the brain that can lead to a concussion.  If your child has a head injury, they need to be monitored closely.  If they develop any of the following symptoms, you should contact their medical provider immediately:

- Loss of consciousness (“blacking out”) after the injury
- Severe headache
- Blurry vision
- Dizziness
- Difficulty walking
- Confusion or saying things that don’t make sense
- Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
- Unresponsiveness
- Vomiting

Symptoms can also include irritability, memory difficulties, trouble with concentration, and difficulty sleeping. Symptoms can present immediately following the injury or may take up to 72 hours to develop.  Luckily, most symptoms resolve within a few days.  If the symptoms seem to be lingering, contact your child’s primary care provider to talk about whether further testing or monitoring is needed.

Following a concussion, your child’s doctor will likely want to do a thorough physical examination, with particular focus on the neurologic exam (coordination, memory, reflexes, etc.).  Depending on the symptoms and exam findings, they may order a CT scan or MRI of the brain to look for bleeding or other injury.  For children with mild symptoms, a few days of rest (no sports, play, or school) allows the brain to heal without lasting effects.  For children with more severe or prolonged symptoms, their doctor may refer them to a physician specializing in treatment of patients with concussions.  In general, avoiding mental and physical stress, along with avoiding bright lights and loud noises, will allow the brain to heal itself.

Once a child with a concussion is completely free of symptoms, they may return to normal activities but should be cleared by their physician first, particularly when it comes to returning to sports activities.  There are rare but devastating cases of “second impact syndrome” where a child has returned to sports too soon and suffers another head injury which can lead to long-term brain damage or even death.  Many states have laws to protect student athletes from a repeat injury.  In Wisconsin, the law states, “individuals may only return to competition or practice after being evaluated by a trained health care provider. The health care provider is required to provide written clearance in order for the athlete to return to action.”

We all want to keep our kids safe, so how can we best prevent head injuries and concussions from happening in the first place?  Nothing can prevent every concussion, but wearing proper fitting sports safety equipment is a great place to start.  Wearing a bike helmet every time kids (and adults!) ride their bike is very important – as is wearing helmets for activities like skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding. For infants and toddlers, childproofing your home is the best prevention.  Make sure those toddlers can’t hit their heads on sharp table corners or fall down the stairs.  Wearing seatbelts and making sure children are in the proper car seat is important for car safety in the event of a crash.  The best mode of prevention, however, is education.  Making sure kids and parents know the signs and symptoms of a concussion, the dangers of concussions, and who to talk to if they have concerns, can help prevent concussions and their possible long-term effects.

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If you Live in Dane County, We Want Your Input!


Meriter-UnityPoint Health is working with our partners in the other Dane County hospitals and public health to conduct a community health needs assessment for Dane County.

The survey is anonymous. It will become part of a larger community health needs assessment and the results of the survey will be used to develop ways to address health issues in Dane County.

Please take the Community Health Needs Assessment Survey at  

The survey ends May 31, 2015.

Meriter-UnityPoint Health partners with St. Mary’s Hospital, UW Health, Stoughton Hospital and Public Health Madison and Dane County to conduct a community health needs assessment every 3 years, as required by the Affordable Care Act. This collaborative is known as Healthy Dane.

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