Surviving Spring Allergies

Spring has sprung – there is beauty to behold everywhere…everywhere that isn’t already covered in pollen, that is. Along with the pretty flowers of this warmer season come the dreaded excess of pollen and an abundance of allergy triggers. Here are five ways to help you survive the season of allergies so you can go outside and enjoy Mother Nature the way it should be done.

1. Plan around pollen levels. Use an app on your phone or go online to check daily pollen counts and forecasts. When pollen levels are high, which is from 10AM-4PM, try to stay indoors as much as possible. If you need to go outside for an activity, try to plan it for early morning.

2. Clean your home. Keep windows closed during the day, despite how tempting it is to let the fresh spring air inside. Wash your curtains often, mop your floors, and vacuum carpets on a regular basis. Vacuums that have a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter are great for minimizing the number of allergens in your home.

3. Keep yourself clean. After finishing all outdoor activities, wash your clothes (or at least put them in a laundry basket to be washed later), then take a shower/bath and wash your hair. This keeps allergens out of your home as well as out of your bed later on when you go to sleep.

4. Keep your pets clean. Dogs and cats can carry pollen and mold on their coats. Bathe and groom on a regular basis to minimize the presence of allergens, especially if your pets stay indoors. If your pet mainly stays outside during the day but comes inside during nighttime, try to keep them out of your bedroom as much as possible.

5. Know what triggers your allergies. You can keep a diary to log all of your activities, including the time of day when your allergies flare up, what helps ease them, etc. This will help your doctor identify what irritates your immune system and how you can help manage symptoms.

Managing Fibromyalgia During Winter

During colder seasons, the symptoms of fibromyalgia can worsen. This may not be the case for everyone, as some are unbothered during winter while others experience more pain than usual. If you are one of those who experiences pain during colder weather, here are some tips to help alleviate symptoms.

1. Take a hot bath. This can help soothe fibromyalgia pain, especially if you take one every night until the season is over.

2. Wear proper clothing. Choose warm clothing that is also loose fitting, as tight fitting clothes can tamper with fibromyalgia. Dress in layers so you can adjust should you start to feel too warm. When going outside, wear gloves, a hat, a scarf, and warm shoes. Wool is a great type of clothing for those with fibromyalgia because it keeps you warm and relaxed in addition to preventing sweat.

3. Use hand warmers. These generate heat once they’re opened, which can ease fibromyalgia symptoms while warming your hands.

4. Refrain from drinking alcohol. Alcohol can dilate your blood vessels, resulting in loss of heat.

5. Limit sweating as much as possible. Blot off any perspiration that forms and change into dry clothes as soon as you can. Being wet from sweat can cause you to have chills, which can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms.

How to Survive Allergies in the Winter

Depending on what you are allergic to, there is a chance your allergies could flare up this winter. While the air outside is crisp and free of pollen, it is possible for the air indoors to become polluted. Here are some tips to stay allergy-free while it’s cold outside.

1. Stay warm. If you use a fireplace to stay warm during the cold days of winter, make sure the wood is being stored outside. This reduces the chances of mold and any leftover pollen from coming into your home.

2. Do a little cleaning. Dust and other irritants can easily collect during the winter due to your heating unit being used frequently. Change the filters of your heating system at least once a month until the season is over.

3. Bathe your pets. Pet dander is an issue that occurs year round, but it becomes quite a problem during the colder seasons when pets are inside more often than usual. Try to keep them confined to one area of your home and clean your carpets and furniture often. Bathing pets once a week helps keep the dander to a minimum.

Five Easy Ways to Ease a Cold Sore

A cold sore, which is an inflamed blister that appears in or around the mouth, is an infection formed by the herpes simplex virus. While there isn’t a cure for cold sores as of yet, there are ways to help ease the pain of them when they occur.
1. Keep your hands away from your face. Don’t touch or pick at the cold sore, as this could cause you to spread it to another area of your body as well as to someone else. It also slows the healing process if it is being tampered with. If you have touched your face since it has appeared, wash your hands immediately after contact.
2. Apply a cold compress. Wet a towel into some cold water and then apply to the affected area three times a day for 10 minutes. This helps reduce pain, redness, and swelling. It also removes the crusty layer that forms and helps you heal in a quicker manner.
3. Watch your diet. Try to stay away from acidic foods, such as fruits and tomatoes, during this time and consume vitamin C tablets instead. This will help your body fight against the infection without irritating the skin.
4. Take medication as needed. You may have to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with pain or swelling. Follow the instructions given on the bottle and consume as needed throughout the day.
5. Use an ointment. There are many cold sore treatment creams available at your pharmacy. Keep a tube on-hand for flare-ups to help heal quickly.

Three Important Steps to Take This Flu Season

Despite what some may try to tell you, the flu isn’t a disease that should be taken lightly when it comes to preventative action. So many opt out on getting their flu shot each year, but with new strains appearing at a rapid pace, it’s not worth the risk. Here are three important steps to take this flu season to help keep your immune system at its best.

1. Make time to get the vaccine. This is going to be the best option when it comes to prevention. There are different types of flu viruses, but the vaccine will help decrease your chances of getting the strains that are most common. Those who are 6 months and older should get the vaccine every year before the season begins (it is recommended to be vaccinated by the end of October). If your child is younger than 6 months, they cannot receive the vaccine; however, it is important that you do. If you’re a high-risk individual, you simply cannot afford to miss out on a vaccine (young children, those who are 65+, pregnant women, those with asthma, diabetes, and those with heart and/or lung disease). If you work in a healthcare environment, it is of the utmost importance to get your vaccine since chances are you will be exposed to someone who is sick during the season.

2. Try not to spread germs. This can be difficult, but try to limit your interactions with those who are sick. If you yourself are sick, isolate yourself from others while contagious. If you believe you have the flu, stay at home for at least 24 hours until your fever is gone, unless you need to visit your doctor. While coughing and/or sneezing, cover your mouth; toss any used tissues in the trash immediately and then disinfect any surfaces or objects that may have germs on them. Wash your hands throughout the day with soap and water; if none are available, use a hand rub that is alcohol based. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; germs are typically spread this way.

3. Take all medications that are prescribed to you. If you have the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs; these aren’t available over-the-counter like most antibiotics. Antivirals can weaken the illness, decrease the amount of time you are sick, and help prevent more serious flu complications. If you are a high-risk individual, an antiviral could be what keeps you out of the hospital while sick with the flu. These drugs work best when started two days into the illness, although taking them at a later time is still helpful. Follow your doctor’s instructions when taking these.

Surviving the Fall Season with Asthma

For many, autumn happens to be the most wonderful time of the year. Especially if you live in an area that takes a beating on the thermostat during the summertime! The weather is cool and there are many festive activities to partake in outside. However, there are some allergy triggers that can bother you if you have asthma. The most common problem is ragweed pollen, which is released into the air from mid-August until early October and can cause congestion, sneezing, and an itchy or a runny nose. Here are some ways you can maintain control of your asthma during this season.

1. Don’t leave your doors and windows open. This will stop pollen from entering your home.

2. Sleep on an asthma-friendly bed. There are mattress brands that make beds safe for those with allergies and asthma. In addition, you will need to wash your sheets weekly in hot water that is at least 130F in order to kill any dust mites and/or eggs that are present.

3. Use your vacuum on a regular basis. It’s best to use one that has a high-efficiency filter and is recommended to clean weekly in order to decrease the number of indoor allergens in your home.

4. Change your furnace’s air filter often. Filters are great for trapping dust and allergens; if there are plenty present, the filter can become full rather quickly. Replace them every 30 to 90 days and make sure you’re using ones that are allergen and asthma friendly.

5. Try to prevent mold growth as much as possible. Keep an eye on the level of moisture in your home by keeping the humidity level below 50%. Also, remove any damp firewood and leaves from your yard.

How To Save On Prescriptions

In today’s world, the price of medication has become quite expensive. In fact, the rising cost of prescription drugs has been one of the main topics in the great debate of US healthcare. Thankfully, there are ways your local pharmacy can help. Here are tips to help you save money while still receiving the treatment you need.

  1. Consider prescriptions without the assistance of insurance. At first this may seem like the more expensive option, but according to a study done by Consumer Reports, many pharmacy chains and “big box” stores sell common generic drugs for less than $5 for a 30-day supply and less than $15 for a 90-day supply for patients who can pay out of pocket. However, your ability to receive this discount depends upon the certain types of medication and the condition for which it is treating. If you choose this method, the money spent will not go towards your deductible. If you’re on Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare, you may not be eligible
  2. Complete a medication review. If you receive different medications from multiple prescribers, there’s a high risk one of those medications is incorrect. This results in poly-pharmacy, which tends to affect elderly patients and patients with multiple co-morbid conditions. Pharmacies should inform patients that the discontinuation of unnecessary meds will also reduce the amount they’re spending on prescriptions. Pharmacies can identify all meds being used through a medication and medical history, and then they can see exactly which meds are helpful in treating the current state of the patient.
  3. Ask about 90-day prescriptions. If you have a chronic condition and will need certain medications for an extended period of time, ask about filling a 90-day prescription rather than the typical 30-day option. With 90-day prescriptions, there is one co-pay whereas 30-day prescriptions have three co-pays for the same amount of meds. You would also only have to make one trip to the pharmacy every three months for a refill.
  4. Get generic rather than brand name meds. In the US, 88% of prescriptions are for generic meds. However, your prescriber isn’t obligated to give you generic. That being said, make sure you ask for generic.
  5. If advised by your pharmacist, safely split your pills. This helps save money, yes, but only do so if you’ve received permission from your pharmacist. Certain pills, such as Mevacor and Crestor (for high cholesterol), and Zoloft (for depression) can be split. However, drugs such as Oxycontin, Prilosec, chemotherapy drugs, and contraceptives should never be split.

Tips on How to Prevent Sunburn

While summer is officially here, it doesn’t mean we have to fall victim to the painful side effect known as sunburn. Here are some tips from The Pharmacy on how you can protect your skin this season.

1. Use sunscreen. Of course, this tip should go without saying. Suggested SPF is between 15-50, depending on your skin tone and sensitivity to sun exposure. Apply 30 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply every two hours, even more so if you’re frequently sweating or in water. Make sure you’ve covered every area of your body that is exposed; this includes your lips and ears.

2. Choose loose-fitting clothing. If you burn easily, wear loose fitting clothing that is tightly woven. This will protect your skin from UV rays. Dark colored clothing is best, as dark colors absorb UV rays.

3. Be cautious of exposure between 12PM-4PM. UV rays can be dangerous during these hours, so make sure you’re covered in a high level of SPF sunscreen should you be outside for an extended period of time during these hours.

4. Protect your eyes and head. Your scalp and eyes can fall victim to sunburn, too! Make sure you’re wearing a hat that shields your head and your shoulders (such as a sun hat), as well as sunglasses.

5. Stay away from tanning oils. While we all love a summer glow, tanning oils can be quite dangerous as most contain little to no sunscreen in them. If you insist on using them, make sure the one you’ve chosen to use has a decent level of SPF within it.

6. Stay on track with your omega-3 consumption. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming fish oils can provide protection against sun damage and improve your immunity towards the sun. According to a study conducted by the journal, four grams of fish oils each day can reduce suppression of the immune system caused by the sun’s rays.

7. Cut back on processed foods. Try to avoid foods with vegetable oil, soy oil, corn oil, and sugar… All of these can negatively impact the quality of your skin.

8. Incorporate antioxidant foods into your diet. These will boost your immune system and can be found in foods such as cherries, blackberries, kale, and spinach. Antioxidants help in the fight against cancer and many of these foods also have vitamin C and vitamin E, which helps reverse the aging effects of prolonged sun exposure.