ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Indigo Ointment Benefits Psoriasis Patients
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Brazilian Mint Tea Naturally Good for Pain Relief
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Get in Step With Summer Foot Care
CANCER
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
TV Watching Doesn't Fast-Track Baby's Skills
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
DIABETES
Findings Challenge Tight Glucose Control for Critically Ill Patients
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Even in 'Last Supper,' Portion Sizes Have Grown
Pesticides on Produce Tied to ADHD in Children
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
As Earth Warms, Lyme Disease Could Flourish
Warmer-Than-Average Temperatures Raise Migraine Risk
Clear Skies Have Become Less So Over Time, Data Show
EYE CARE, VISION
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
Hybrid Cars Pose Risk to Blind, Visually Impaired
FITNESS
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Barefoot Best for Running?
Good Warm-Ups Could Halve Sports Injuries
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
When Healing Becomes a Commodity
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
Smog Tougher on the Obese
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Fussy Babys Could Be Out Of Your Control
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
MENTAL HEALTH
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
Love Hormone May Ease Discussion of Painful Topics
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Any Old Cane Won't Do
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Supportive Weigh-In Program Keeps Pounds Off
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
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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