ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Higher Vitamin D Intake Could Cut Cancer Risk
Awareness of Alternative Therapies May Be Lacking
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Winter Is Tough on Feet
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
Fall Sports Peak Time for Lower Leg Damage
CANCER
Healthy Behaviors Slow Functional Decline After Cancer
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Many Ignore Symptoms of Bladder Trouble
CAREGIVING
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
Six Healthy-Sounding Foods That Really Aren't
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Main Ingredients in Household Dust Come From Outdoors
Gene Mutation May Cause Some Cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Radiation Exposure Linked to Aggressive Thyroid Cancers
EYE CARE, VISION
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
FDA Goes After Unapproved Eye Washes, Skin Ointments
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
FITNESS
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Antioxidants Blunt Exercise Benefit, Study Shows
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
Lack of Vitamin D Linked to High Blood Pressure
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Countdown to Hair Loss
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
SENIORS
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
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'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue

Dogs perform lifesaving jobs every day. They sniff out bombs, locate lost children and even find people buried by avalanches.

Now another type of specially trained working dog has emerged in recent years. Comfort dogs come to the emotional rescue of people who are suffering in the aftermath of disasters or battling the difficulties of daily life.

Their job is deceptively simple: to get people to open up and talk about what happened.

Amy Rideout, president of HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, a national organization with more than 100 certified dog-handler teams, said engaging in a discussion about an experience is healing and helps a person to overcome a traumatic event.

There are other health benefits the pooches provide. Research has shown the simple act of petting a dog helps to lower blood pressure, lift spirits and reduce stress.

"There are not too many things that we can do that can make an instantaneous impact on somebody, so this is special work," she said.

To become certified with HOPE, dog-handler teams must go through 40 hours of basic training, then tackle specialized coursework such as learning crisis intervention skills and the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) incident command system, as well as participating in mock disaster drills. Dogs are painstakingly desensitized to sights, sounds and smells typically encountered during a disaster. And all teams are recertified yearly.

Members of HOPE have responded to some of the decade's worst tragedies, including Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech school shootings.

After 9/11, Rideout and her hound, Janie, were sent to a family assistance center in New York City to support families who had lost a loved one. But surprisingly, she said, it was the stressed-out emergency responders who seemed to need her and Janie the most.

"Those were the folks who would come up to Janie and give her a big bear hug and say, 'Thank you. I needed that before I went back to work today,'" she recalled.

Not all comfort dogs are used to help people emotionally cope after disaster strikes.

Meet Fuerst. Every weekday morning around 9 a.m., Pastor Tim Engel drives his faithful canine partner to work at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Portage, Ind.

Fuerst is one of nearly 30 Golden Retrievers permanently placed at churches throughout Indiana and Illinois by Lutheran Church Charities, a national ministry.

"His job is to help open up opportunities for conversations and Christian ministry that otherwise wouldn't happen," explained Engel.

The retriever has been at Holy Cross for a little more than a year now.

Fuerst -- the German word for prince -- goes everywhere with pastor Engel, from visiting nursing homes and emergency hospital rooms to attending Sunday service.

"Not everybody sees the value of [Fuerst] like I do," he admits. "But the majority of the members look forward to seeing him on Sunday morning and they understand his function in our church."

Like others in the K9 Parish Comfort Dog Ministry, Fuerst has his own business card. On the front are his picture and the church's phone number; on the back is his job description. The business cards are frequently handed out in the community, he said.

On occasion, people have phoned the church to schedule a private meeting with Fuerst -- and only Fuerst.

Engel laughs recalling some of those requests but insists that he isn't offended.

"If the dog provides comfort for people and is something that makes them feel more at ease then the dog is doing his job," he said.

SOURCES: Amy Rideout, president, HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response; Timothy Engel, pastor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Portage, Ind.

Last Updated: March 18, 2010