Health Updates

October 22, 2017

Croup in Infants: Caring for a Baby with a Respiratory Infection

It’s a sound every parent dreads in the middle of the night – the sound of a barking cough that prevents a child from sleeping. Croup is a common childhood illness that causes a barking, seal-like cough that can be scary to parents but is rarely dangerous. Most cases of croup are caused by a virus or allergy so they cannot be treated with antibiotics. Simple home remedies can help alleviate some of the symptoms of croup. In more severe cases, a trip to the pediatrician or hospital may be needed.

Symptoms of Croup in Babies Croup causes swelling in the voicebox and windpipe, which causes difficulty breathing and a harsh barking cough. The smaller the infant, the more he will be affected by swelling in his voice box and windpipe and the closer he must be watched. Croup often gets worse at night. Many cases of croup start off as a minor cold but the infant wakes up in the middle of the night with a barking cough that sounds like a seal and may make a wheezing sound as he breathes. A baby suffering from croup may or may not have a fever.

Treatment of Croup in Babies

Most cases of croup will resolve without medical attention. Croup is rarely serious but it can often last for up to 7 days. Infants will often wake in the middle of the night when croup symptoms increase. Take your coughing baby into the bathroom and turn the shower on hot. Shut the bathroom door and allow the bathroom to fill up with steam. Hold your baby in the bathroom and allow him to breath in the warm, moist air. This will generally help your infant to breathe better. The cough will continue but it is important to remember that the cough is helping to move mucous from the lung. Cold air can often help infants to breath better when they have croup. Bundle your baby up warmly and take him outside in the cold air for a few minutes. A cold air humidifier in your infant’s bedroom can help your baby to sleep better at night until he is feeling better. Never give a child under the age of 6 any kind of cough or cold medicine. Basic cold treatments such as drinking fluids, using a humidifier, and breathing steam will help your baby much more than giving your baby potentially dangerous medicine.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Any respiratory illness in an infant needs to be watched closely. If your baby is struggling to breath, has blue fingernails or lips, or is acting unusually lethargic you need to take him to the emergency room immediately. Because breathing in cold air can help your baby breathe better when he has croup, it is not uncommon for a baby to be feeling much better by the time he arrives at the hospital after breathing in the night air. Your infant’s pediatrician may be able to help by providing breathing treatments and checking for more serious medical issues. Most infants and toddlers will have croup several times. While croup can be scary for new parents, it is not generally dangerous. Being aware of common croup symptoms in infants and knowing when to take your baby to the doctor can help your child start on the path to recovery as soon as possible.  
October 22, 2017

Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs: A Summertime Favourite Becomes an Elegant Side Dish

Corn on the cob is always a popular summertime treat and during its brief season markets and roadside stands overflow with bushels of corn at rock bottom prices. Frozen and canned corn typically enjoyed during the winter months pales in comparison to the sweet flavour of fresh summer corn on the cob.

Corn Varieties

There are dozens of sweet corn varieties grown for eating on the cob. It’s a uniquely North American treat – Europeans grow corn for animal feed and cornmeal but don’t usually eat it off the cob. Some common varieties include Peaches & Cream, Silver Queen and Argent. The kernels can vary in colour from yellow to bi-coloured and white, depending on the type. Look for cobs with well-formed, tight kernels that appear fresh. If there are signs of bugs or the kernels look dry, don’t buy it. Corn should be used as soon as possible after harvesting as its sweetness decreases quickly after it’s been picked.

Roasting Corn

Roasting corn enhances its natural sweetness even further and adds a delicious charred flavour to the kernels. To roast four cobs of corn: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the corn husks including all the silk and break off any long stems. Pour 2 teaspoons of olive oil or neutral oil such as canola over the corn and rub cobs so they are evenly coated with oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 12 minutes and turn cobs over with tongs or a fork. Roast for another 12 to 13 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. This dish can be served warm or at room temperature, making it ideal for casual summer entertaining. Be sure to use fresh herbs instead of dried for maximum flavour. One medium ear of corn typically yields between ½ to ¾ cup of kernels.

Corn with Red Peppers and Herbs

Makes 4 servings (1 cob per person)
  • 4 cobs roasted corn (see above for roasting instructions)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup diced red pepper (cut dice about the size of corn kernels)
  • 8 medium sized fresh sage leaves, torn into large pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Cut roasted corn from the cobs. To do this, hold cob upright in a large bowl with the stem end down. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the corn off in a downward motion, moving around the cob until all kernels are removed. Set corn kernels aside and discard cobs.
  2. Heat butter in a skillet on medium-high heat. Once butter has melted, add diced red pepper, sage, thyme, tarragon and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium low and sauté for about 5 minutes, until butter begins to brown and the herbs become crispy. Watch carefully so the butter does not burn.
  3. Add roasted corn kernels. Stir until corn is coated with butter and heat through for about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serving suggestion: This dish easily becomes a first course or main course with the addition of grilled shrimp or pan seared scallops. Top each serving with the seafood and freshly ground pepper. It can also be added to cooked pasta to make an elegant vegetarian dish. Choose fresh flat pasta, such as fettuccine or linguine.
October 22, 2017

Composition and Health Benefits of Apples: A Nutritious Fruit for Physical and Mental Health and Culinary Uses

The apple is a popular and universally available fruit with many uses. It is also one of the most nutritious fruits known to man; studies have proved its efficacy in maintaining a healthy body and mind.

Composition and Health Benefits of Apples

Apples are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and nutrients, which have preventive and curative properties. Vitamins C and E are anti-oxidants present in apples. They boost immunity, slow aging and fight chronic diseases. Some Vitamin B is also present. Apples have more phosphorous and iron than other fruits and vegetables, and high levels of potassium.
  • These are essential for muscular functions.
  • Potassium prevents heart disease and regulates blood pressure, as it lowers the sodium level. Apples also act as diuretics, and are good for the kidneys.
The sweetness of apples is due to the presence of the natural sugars sucrose and fructose. These metabolize slowly and maintain the level of blood sugar in the body. Therefore, apples are recommended for diabetics. Pectin, a water soluble fiber found in apples, plays an important role in the body.
  • It fights diseases like cancer, lowers cholesterol and acts as a laxative.
  • Moreover, it helps to bind and expel toxic metals like lead and mercury. Thus, apples are good for detoxification.
  • Pectin prevents decomposition of protein matter in the alimentary canal.
Apples are useful for diverse conditions. Raw apples prevent constipation, as they contain more fiber than oats. A medium sized apple contains 5g of dietary fiber. On the other hand, cooked apples alleviate colitis, diarrhea and dysentery. Apples contain malic and tartaric acid, which boost digestion.
  • They regulate stomach acidity, and help in the digestion of proteins and fats.
  • Moreover, they increase the appetite.
  • Malic acid neutralizes uric acid, thus alleviating symptoms of gout, arthritis and rheumatism. The acid in apples also has an antiseptic effect on germs, and prevents tooth decay.
Apple juice is rich in polyphenols like tannin and tannic acid. These have anti virus and anti-oxidant properties, and prevent cancer. The juice also prevents kidney stones. Trace chemicals like volatile esters, alcohols and aldehydes contribute to the tang and aroma of apples. The latter has a calming effect and lowers blood pressure. Ripe apples are fat free, consisting of 80% water, and therefore good for weight control. Moreover, one feels fuller with a medium apple as compared to an equivalent of carbohydrates.

Role of Apples in Mental Health

Studies have proved that anti-oxidant rich foods like apples boost the functioning of the brain, and reduce loss of memory. This is because they increase production of essential transmitters or chemicals that transmit messages to nerve cells. One of these chemicals, Acetylcholine, slows mental decline in conditions like Alzheimers.

Culinary Uses of Apples

Apples are usually consumed as raw fruit, but they also have culinary uses.
  • They are essential ingredients in desserts like apple cake, apple pie, apple crumble, crepe, apple tart, strudel or baked apples. The flavor is enhanced with spices like clove, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  • Apples are also used to make jams and sauces.
  • Some apples can be cooked.
  • Apple juice is a refreshing and tasty drink with many benefits.
A medium sized apple of 5 oz contains 81 calories, including 159 mg potassium, 7.9 mg of vitamin C, 9.6 mg calcium, folic acid and essential minerals. Its high nutritional content lowers the risk of virus infections, and prevents diseases of the body and mind. The popular saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is justified by its composition and properties which enhance physical and mental health.
October 22, 2017

Common Herbal Substitutes: Lemon, Basil and Savory – Replacing One Spice with Another

Don’t be afraid to substitute one ingredient for another. If you don’t care for the flavor of a particular herb called for in a recipe, either leave out that herb, or substitute one that you do enjoy. You may even come up with a better tasting dish than the original recipe that you were following.

Lemon Herbs

Most of the lemon herbs called for in recipes can be substituted for one another. If you don’t have the exact herb called for try one of the other lemon scented herbs such as lemon balm, lemon basil, lemon thyme or lemon verbena. Lemon grass is a rather tough herb which is generally used to flavor the cooking liquid then removed prior to serving. Do not substitute lemon grass for any of the other lemon herbs.

Basil Substitutes

If a recipe calls for cinnamon basil and you don’t have any on hand you can substitute the same amount of sweet basil plus 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. If a recipe calls for lemon basil you may substitute the same amount of sweet basil plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest.

Winter and Summer Savory

Winter savory can be substituted for summer savory in your recipes with a little care. Summer savory is a soft stemmed annual herb whereas winter savory is a woody perennial herb. Winter savory has rather tough leaves and is best added as a small bundle of stems to your recipes which is removed prior to serving. Summer savories soft leaves can be finely chopped and mixed directly into your recipes.

Other Herbal Substitutes

  • Dill leaves and fennel leaves are similar in taste and appearance and can be substituted for one another.
  • Chives and garlic chives can be used interchangeably as can the leaves of marjoram and thyme.
  • The leaves and stems of lovage can be used as a suitable celery substitute. Its strong flavor can even survive long cooking times without losing its flavor or becoming bitter.
  • Any of the mints can be substituted for one another. Peppermint, pineapple mint, chocolate mint, spearmint and orange mint can often be found at Farmer’s Markets.
  • Flat leafed parsley and chervil can substitute for one another. Some cooks prefer the taste and texture of flat leaved parsley to that of curly parsley but you can use the curly variety if that is all you have access to.
  • Winter tarragon, which is also known as Mexican mint marigold, can be substituted for French tarragon. The bonus of growing winter tarragon is that it gets pretty little orange marigold like flowers if you don’t cut it on a regular basis.

Fresh Herbs or Dried Herbs

You can substitute one tablespoon of fresh herb for every teaspoon of dried herb that is called for in a recipe. However, when using fresh herbs you should add them towards the end of the cooking process so that they don’t overcook and loose their flavor. Dried herbs are normally added at the beginning of the cooking process as they will survive longer cooking times and higher temperatures without loosing flavor.