Ticks & Lyme Disease

With the warm summer weather, comes tick season and the chances of getting Lyme disease. Lyme disease is an illness caused by a bacteria that is carried by the blacklegged tick, most commonly know as a deer tick. When an infected tick bites you, it can transfer the bacteria under the skin, leading to an infection. If not diagnosed and treated early, Lyme disease can develop into a chronic illness, causing long-term health problems. However, if caught and treated early, most people can recover without any problems. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent Lyme disease and monitor ticks while being able to enjoy the outdoors.

  • If you are hiking or camping in the woods, wear clothing that will cover your arms and legs, and tuck your pants into socks to limit tick access.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to easily identify ticks.
  • As soon as you are home or indoors, check yourself or have someone help look for ticks. Use a fine-tooth comb to check your hair and check your entire body.
  • Shower and wash any clothes at a high heat to kill any ticks.

To remove ticks:

  • Use sterilized forceps such as tweezers to grab and pull the entire tick out. Avoid twisting or squeezing the tick and be careful not to leave any remains in the skin.
  • Wash your hands and the tweezers after removal.

If you missed a tick on yourself or family member, here are some signs of an infection:

  • Fever/chills
  • Aches and pains. Tickborne diseases may cause headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease, you may also experience joint pain.
  • In Lyme disease, a rash may appear within 3-30 days of infection and typically before a fever. The rash will appear circular, also appearing as a ‘bullseye’ rash. It may be warm to the touch but not painful.

Reduce tick populations in your own habitat:

  • Ticks like tall grasses and brush. Try removing these form areas near your house or the edges of your lawn.
  • Keep the lawn mowed and raked free of grasses and leaves.
  • If your lawn or play area backs up to the woods, consider creating a 3-foot wide buffer using wood chips or gravel to reduce migration of ticks.
  • High fencing can discourage tick-carrying deer from entering your yard.
  • Help reduce the rodent population that ticks often feed on (chipmunks, mice, etc.) by neatly stacking wood piles in a dry area and keeping your yard free of debris.
  • Place tick tubes around your yard. Damminix and Thermacell are two commercially available tick tubes, or you can also make your own. Here is a video explaining how to make your own tick tubes.

Contact your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and develop any of these symptoms.

Importance of Preventive Care

Preventive care is when you take consistent measures to prevent disease or detect existing health conditions before they can become a major issue. The earlier your doctor can find conditions like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, the sooner they can start a treatment plan, meaning a better health outcome for you. Preventive care can even help prevent public health emergencies, for example getting vaccinated against the seasonal flu to prevent the spread of the infectious disease. 

Not only does preventive care help keep you healthy, it can also lead to lower healthcare costs with less visits to specialists or the hospital. 

Here are some examples of preventive care: 

  • Blood tests to check for diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol 
  • Cancer screenings, like colonoscopies and mammograms 
  • Annual wellness visits where your primary care doctor checks all areas of health – physical and emotional 
  • Vaccinations against polio, measles, and meningitis 
  • Seasonal flu and pneumonia shots 
  • Regular vision and hearing screening 
  • Routine dental check-ups every 6 months 

Talk to your R-Health doctor at your next visit to make sure you are up to date on any screenings and immunizations to keep you at your healthiest. 

What is Thyroid Disease?

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly- shaped gland located in your neck that is part of your endocrine or hormonal system. It is in charge of producing several thyroid hormones that are very important to your metabolism, protein production, and used throughout the whole body.

Thyroid diseases are fairly common and impact hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The diseases occur when the thyroid produces too little or too many hormones. Symptoms can be mild and go unnoticed, making it difficult to diagnose. The two most common thyroid diseases are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Below are some of the common symptoms found in both.

  • Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone. Common symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue, cold intolerance, unexplained weight gain, depression, constipation, thinning eyebrows, hair loss, weakness, and slow heart rate
  • Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is overactive and producing too much thyroid hormone. Common symptoms may include:
  • Anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, mood swings, racing heart, excessive sweating, insomnia, thin skin, weight loss, and muscle weakness

Thyroid disorders can be caused by an autoimmune disorder, nutrient deficiencies, or other causes. It is important to talk to your provider if you feel you have any of the symptoms to get started on a treatment plan.

Have any Thyroid concerns? Call your provider or download Spruce to schedule an appointment to talk about thyroid health.

Staying Hydrated in Cold Weather

When the temperature outside becomes freezing, the last thing on your mind is drinking a nice cold glass of water. However, dehydration doesn’t disfavor the cooler months. In fact, it may be easier to become dehydrated as the dry winter weather can lead to a decreased thirst sensation, causing you to drink less.

Up to 60% of the human adult body is made up of water, which is why our bodies need water in order to function properly. Staying hydrated is essential and beneficial for exercise, sleep, and so many other natural body functions. Drinking water can even give your immune system a boost and prevent you from getting sick during peak cold and flu season. Try these simple tips to help you stay hydrated this winter season:

  1. Carry a water bottle with you so you have an opportunity to drink more on the go
  2. If you are thirsty, don’t wait, stop and take a drink
  3. If your urine is dark, you may need to drink more water
  4. Drink mostly water; avoid alcohol and caffeine as these can cause dehydration
  5. Make sure to drink before, during, and after exercise

Hopefully, these five tips will be enough to remind you to keep your water intake up during the cooler months. Remember, stay hydrated so that you stay well!

4 Common Handwashing Mistakes

Handwashing is important to reduce the spread of infection.  We pick up infections daily by touching contaminated surfaces, then touch our hand to our mouth, nose, or eyes. There are some infections that are airborne, but most are spread through contact with the hands. According to the CDC, handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections.

Handwashing takes on an especially important role during the winter months, so I thought I’d share with you the 4 most common handwashing mistakes that people tend to overlook.

      1. Not washing when you should
        After using the bathroom is not the only time you should be washing your hands. You should be washing them before, during, and after preparing food, after touching garbage, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste.
      2. Not washing long enough
        Many people tend to wash their hands for only 5 or 10 seconds but scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds is recommended. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
      3.  Not completely drying your hands
        Drying your hands is an essential part of handwashing. Germs love wet, moist areas so making sure your hands are fully dry will help prevent bacteria from spreading on your skin.
      4.  Touching germy surfaces directly after 
        If you wind up touching contaminated surfaces such as the faucet handles or door handle after handwashing, it becomes ineffective. Try using a paper towel when turning off the faucet or reaching for the door handle.

If you find yourself in a situation where there is no running water, use hand sanitizer. It doesn’t work nearly as well as soap and water, but does help.

No matter where you find yourself, good hand hygiene can protect and prevent you, your family, and others from illnesses.



Prevent a Sinus Infection—Head on

One of the most common conditions that patients seek medical care for is a sinus infection. The uncomfortable pressure, tenderness and lack of oxygen able to pass through your nose is experienced by 31 million people in the U.S., according to the American College or Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. To prevent a trip to the doctor’s office, it’s important patients understand how to prevent a sinus infection.

Sinuses are a system of connected hollow spaces in your head that link to the nasal passages via small channels. Sinus infections occur when fluid is trapped in the sinuses, interfering with drainage and causing mucus to build up, which allows germs to grow. Usually caused by a virus, to diagnosis someone with a sinus infection requires an examination of the throat, nose and sinuses. Your doctor may look for nasal obstruction, difficulty breathing through your nose, and pain and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead.

Patients can take the necessary steps to prevent a sinus infection including:

  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Avoid close contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory infections
  • Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Use a clean humidifier to moisten the air at home
  • Work with your doctor to manage your allergies to keep symptoms under control

Although a doctor must examine you to determine if you have a sinus infection, most people don’t need to see a doctor. The infection, in most cases, will resolve itself within a week to 10 days. If you’re experiencing symptoms longer than 10 days, contact your doctor to get examined, as you may require additional attention.

Do I need the flu shot?

Still deciding whether you should get the flu shot? Just about everyone needs ones and it offers countless benefits.

Every year, a small needle prick can lower your risk of getting the flu while also protecting the people around you. It’s important that you get the flu shot yearly because the flu viruses are constantly changing and over time your immunity decreases.

Most people have heard of the flu but don’t know the extent of its severity. If you catch the flu it could result in hospitalization or even death. Here are some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that may encourage you to get your flu vaccination this year.

  • During the 2016–2017 season, vaccination prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits, and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.
  • A 2017 study was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza.
  • A 2018 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59% less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated. Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients on average spent 4 fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.

It is recommended that you try to get the flu vaccine by the end of October. However, if you don’t get the vaccine by then, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  You can get vaccinated at any time throughout the flu season. But don’t wait too long, it takes 2 weeks for your body to develop immunity after you get the flu shot. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor or local pharmacy and get vaccinated today.


Tips on Improving your Employee Wellness Program

Most people have heard of the term wellness program, normally thrown around the office, but for those that haven’t, wellness programs are put in place to improve and promote health and fitness.

Oftentimes, companies that offer employee wellness programs don’t know how to make them as effective as they could be. My philosophy is that these programs need to be practical as well as engaging. That’s why during National Health Education Week, I wanted to share 3 simple tips to enhance your wellness program.

1. Go smoke-free at your workplace.

Going smoke-free helps create a safer, healthier workplace by not exposing people to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. This change might also give tobacco users who want to quit more of a reason to do so.

2. Show you competitive side, create a fitness challenge.

This could be something as easy as creating teams and the team with the most steps or miles at the end of the month wins a prize. If your office is small, try doing this individually. You’ll be surprised how many people will turn this challenge into a habit.

3. Have a set kitchen area.

Having an area designated for eating is huge. By supplying a fridge and counter space for a blender or microwave allows people to store and prepare their lunch or snack versus eating out.

Have ideas on other workplace wellness programs that have worked for you? Let us know.


Identifying Breast Lumps: 8 Non-Cancer Causes of Breast Lumps

“Is it cancer?” is what most people think when they discover a lump in their breast. But, did you know, not all breast lumps are cancerous? In fact, the American Cancer Society reported that four out of five biopsies of breast lumps are benign, harmless and surely not breast cancer.

The more common non-cancer causes of breast lumps are:

  1. Breast cysts- a fluid-filled sac that’s usually benign
  2. Fibroadenoma- a solid, benign mass that is most common in young women
  3. Fibrocystic breasts- lumpy or rope-like breast tissue
  4. Injury or trauma to the breast
  5. Intraductal papilloma- a benign, wart-like growth in a milk duct
  6. Lipoma- a slow-growing lump made up of fatty tissue
  7. Mastitis- an infection in breast tissue that most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding
  8. Milk cyst (galactocele)- a milk-filled cyst that’s usually harmless

Knowing your body and being aware of how your breasts normally look and feel can help determine any new changes such as an increase in size or change in shape. If there are changes you are concerned about, let your doctor know. They will take more steps to find out what it is.



Top 3 Things You Should Expect from Your Doctor

Choosing a primary care doctor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Your primary care doctor essentially acts as your quarterback who helps you navigate the healthcare jungle. Without a primary care doctor, you could be putting your health and well-being at jeopardy. Why you may ask? Your primary care doctor should know your ins and outs in order to provide the best treatment option.  Whether you currently have a primary care doctor or are in the market for a new one, here’s a list of what you should expect from your primary care doctor.

  1. Someone that values your time.

No one likes to wait an hour to see the doctor for them to turn around and only take 5 minutes to review your symptoms. Primary care doctors should be active listeners and want to figure out the root of the problem rather than worry about hitting the patient quota for the day.

  1. Can give you access to them, when and where you need it.

Have you ever gone on vacation and got sick? Or not had time to see the doctor because by the time you get off work the doctor’s office is closed? Rather than turning to the ER or urgent care, you should be able to contact your primary care doctor to discuss your symptoms. That way they can point you in the right direction and help you plan your next course of action.

  1. Have a doctor-patient relationship.

With the internet available at your fingertips, and a lot of bad information out there, it’s hard to decipher what your symptoms truly mean. Sure, you could use an online “symptom checker” to figure out what your medical symptoms could mean, but this is why having a doctor-patient relationship is vital. Before Googling, your doctor should always be your first point to help figure out what your symptoms mean and to guide you through your options. So as a patient, use your doctor as a resource and continue to build on your relationship because having an open two-way communication and full trust in your doctor is really the key to good health.

So, when it comes to choosing your primary care doctor, be picky. After all, this is your health.