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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.

Why Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer

Antibiotics can effectively kill bacteria. Oftentimes when a patient has a bacterial infection and needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks. However, there are many everyday situations where antibiotics are inappropriate and can even be harmful. For instance, antibiotics cannot cure colds, flu, or other upper respiratory infections caused by viruses.

Common side effects of antibiotics can include:

  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Yeast infections
  • Severe allergic reactions

Other serious side effects include Clostridium difficile (C. Diff.) infection, which results in diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and even death.

One less discussed potential risk of antibiotic usage is that antibiotics kill not only “bad”, but also “good” bacteria in the gut microbiome, the microbes in your intestines. Using antibiotics kills a significant amount of this “good” bacteria or stops them from multiplying, thus affecting the normal “ecosystem” and function of the gut microbiome.

Finally, from a public health point of view, imprudent antibiotic use lead to antibiotic resistance. According to a recent article in BMC Medicine, the rate of antibiotic prescriptions has doubled from 2000 to 2010.  The report further states that “nearly 50 percent of outpatient antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary.” A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in the U.S. at least 2 million people have serious infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, and at least 23,000 die directly due to those antibiotic-resistant infections. In addition, at least 14,000 people die each year in U.S. due to C. Diff. infections.

Before asking your doctor for another antibiotic, I would like everyone to think about the potential risks, from a personal and societal perspective. Antibiotics may not be the right answer and oftentimes it is better to wait a few days to see if your body can ward off the infection naturally. The side effects and potential risks of antibiotic usage must be carefully considered, and the prescription of antibiotics needs to be treated with greater gravity.

What is Leaky Gut Anyway?

When our body is healthy our cells lining our intestines should allow the absorption of important nutrients, while keeping substances out that could make us sick. Leaky gut happens when there is an increase of the harmful and inflammatory substances being absorbed because the walls of the intestines have been injured and there are bigger gaps between the cells.  These gaps allow passage of these harmful substances inside the body where they ordinarily would not go.  Unfortunately, when our body is chronically exposed to these substances or bacteria in the blood stream, it can cause local (GI symptoms or malabsorption) and systemic (whole body symptoms) reactions and inflammation.  Some common things that have been seen in association with intestinal permeability are – chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease (IBS), celiac disease, eczema, food allergy, inflammatory arthritis and even psychological conditions.
But how do these gaps get there in the first place? 

They seem to begin for some people following an infection, illness, medical treatment, or other major stressful event. It may happen because the usual balance in the intestine is disrupted. The disruption may be caused by medications (e.g., antibiotics, steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) malnutrition, surgery, burns, infection, alcohol consumption, cow milk intolerance, age, or stressful events in your life.  We also know that even for people who do not have celiac or gluten sensitivity, exposure to gliadins (a protein in gluten which is found in wheat, barley and rye) causes a greater increase in intestinal permeability.

How can the gaps be closed? 

We can help heal leaky gut by trying to figure out a little of what might have caused it in the first place – and avoiding it.  So, if it was a medicine or a food, or stress you would want to limit your exposure.  We also want to support our bodies natural digestion and give it the nutrients it needs to heal and calm inflammation and replenish a good balance of bacteria.

For more information, check out the University of Wisconsin site.

The Importance of Breastfeeding Health

There are few things more exciting than a newborn baby. But what’s important is a healthy baby. There are many ways to keep babies healthy and breastfeeding plays one of the most important roles. August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month where the goal is to promote the health and well-being of babies by encouraging breastfeeding.

Part of encouraging breastfeeding is offering the mother proper encouragement. Three keys to this are providing time, space, and family support. While breastfeeding comes naturally for some, it may not for others. It takes patience and time to perfect, which is why paid maternity leave becomes very important. It’s essential for mothers to have areas to breastfeed in private, and spaces where they can rest and be free from interruptions, as family and friends are always eager to greet the mother and new baby.

It’s important that a mother feel supported by her decision to breastfeed. Comfortability will lead to more breastfeeding success in the short and long-term, especially during busy times where a mother may feel like it is not an accessible option.

Finally, breast milk supplies the infant with nutrients made especially for their growth and development. It’s natures perfect food for babies. It’s not only beneficial for the child, but for the mother as well. Per WebMD, the following are the benefits for both mother and child:

For Child:

  • Antibodies in breast milk help fight viruses and bacteria
  • Lowers risk of baby having asthma or allergies
  • Fewer ear infections, less diarrhea and respiratory illnesses
  • Linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood
  • Reduced risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

For Mother:

  • Faster weight loss (can burn an extra 500 calories when breastfeeding)
  • Lower risks of cancer (breast and ovarian cancer) by about 20%
  • Lower risks of osteoporosis
  • More bonding through skin to skin contact, which stimulates release of oxytocin (a hormone that facilitates bonding)

As you can see, breastfeeding is important for all involved and there’s a need for its continued support. Not only is it a bonding experience, but it offers an abundance of health benefits. For more tips, such as best positions, additional medical considerations while breastfeeding, or if breastfeeding is a healthy option for you, reach out to your doctor for the best recommendation.