(BPT) - In the winter, we tend to be in closer quarters indoors and constantly around friends and family. It is important to be conscious of infectious diseases, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which are spreading rapidly among public places like gyms and schools. MRSA prevention should continue at home, especially for groups at higher risk, like student athletes.
Taking simple measures at home and on-the-go can help you to protect and safeguard your health, environment and family from dangerous bacteria and viruses, including MRSA, this season. Clorox teamed up with Jeanine Thomas, MRSA survivor and founder of MRSA Survivors Network; former NFL player Brandon Noble, who has been personally affected by MRSA; and Saskia v. Popescu, hospital epidemiologist and infection preventionist, to share the following expert tips:
1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds — the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice — or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. “Winter is a prime season for stomach bugs and diarrheal illness, so it’s important to stay vigilant with hand hygiene,” said Popescu. Be extra cautious in public settings like gyms, locker rooms, households and schools, where these viruses are increasingly spreading.
2. Keep to yourself and do not share personal items, such as towels or razors, which contact bare skin. MRSA is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact or touching contaminated items or surfaces. It is also resistant to many antibiotics, making it difficult to treat.
3. Act fast and take care of cuts and open wounds by covering them up with a clean, dry bandage until healed. Seek a medical professional if the wound worsens or doesn’t heal quickly. “When I contracted MRSA, it changed my life. I had no idea such a disease existed and would pose as a threat to my career, health and overall well-being,” said Noble.
4. Use a barrier, such as a towel or clothing, between skin and shared equipment at the gym. MRSA prevention should continue at home, especially for groups at higher risk like student athletes, as MRSA bacteria can remain on surfaces after someone touches them, making it possible for someone else to pick them up.
5. Regularly clean countertops and other surfaces in your home. “Keeping your germs at bay in the kitchen is easy,” said Thomas. “Just mix 1/2 cup bleach with one gallon of water, wipe surfaces and leave solution on for 5 minutes and then rinse.” The CDC recommends disinfecting surfaces which are likely to contact skin with an EPA-registered disinfectant, like Clorox Regular Bleach with Cloromax.
MRSA is one common superbug that can be potentially deadly. Caused by a type of staph bacteria often found on the skin and in the nose, MRSA is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact or touching contaminated items or surfaces. It is also resistant to many antibiotics, making it difficult to treat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 72,444 infections and 9,194 MRSA-related deaths each year in the U.S alone.
“In 2000, I had ankle surgery and ended up infected with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA. The infection spread to my bone marrow and bloodstream and required many surgeries and rehabilitation,” said Thomas. “Since then I have been dedicated to advocating for patients and families to help inform them and bring awareness of the disease and prevention measures to the general public.”
“I wish I had known the simple ways to prevent the spread of this disease, like I do now, as that could have made all the difference,” said Noble. As germs and illnesses spread quickly, especially in close-proximity areas, taking proactive steps to prevent common viruses and bacteria from spreading in the home, at schools and in locker rooms is more important than ever. Learn more on how to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria, such as MRSA, at Clorox.com.
(BPT) - You hear about it on the news. You see the signs in the pharmacy windows. Even your friends and co-workers are talking about it. The flu shot is a highly discussed topic, and for good reason!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population — or up to 64.6 million people — gets the flu, and tens of thousands of people are hospitalized every year because of it. Further, the flu can strike anyone, and adults aged 18-64 years old are the most likely to get ill, accounting for 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations. This number goes up in certain areas, and some states — such as Texas, Florida and California — tend to be hit harder by the flu than others.
“Flu-related illnesses are already trending twice as high in 2017 as they were in 2016, and we are seeing an uptick in flu-related visits across the country,” said Dr. Jason Tibbels, MD, board-certified family physician and director for quality programs at Teladoc, the largest and most trusted telehealth provider in the world. “This year, officials want at least 70 percent of Americans to get a flu shot; however, fewer than 50 percent were vaccinated against the flu last season.”
How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from the annual flu outbreak? The first step is to understand the benefits and any potential risks of flu vaccination and then — if it’s right for you — go get the flu shot.
It’s also important to understand that while the vaccine is the best defense in protecting against flu, there’s still a chance that with it, you could get sick. If you do start to experience symptoms, telehealth is an on-demand, anytime, anywhere resource. This means you can access hassle-free medical care from your home during the middle of the night, from your college dorm room, while at the airport for an early morning business trip, and anywhere else you have access to a phone, a mobile app or the web. A telemedicine doctor can assess your symptoms before they worsen. Visit Teladoc.com/flu to learn more about the telehealth benefits that may be available to you to access care when and where you need it.
We asked Teladoc’s Dr. Tibbels why the flu shot is so important this year. Here are his top reasons:
1) It keeps you out of the emergency room. The flu shot reduces the risk of hospitalization due to flu by approximately 50 to 60 percent.
2) It reduces sick days. Missed time at work due to flu-related illnesses causes an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually.
3) It promotes overall health. The flu vaccine is a helpful tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, and is also proven to have reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease. Further, vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy, reducing the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection by about 50 percent. And getting vaccinated also protects the baby several months after birth.
4) If you do get sick, it may decrease the severity. The flu vaccination does not guarantee protection against the virus; people who get the shot are still at risk of getting sick. However, if you do get sick, the flu vaccination can make your illness milder. If you start to experience symptoms — whether or not you’ve had the flu vaccine — it’s important to see a doctor. Many people have 24-hour access to board-certified and licensed physicians seven days a week via telemedicine from home, work or on the road through a phone or tablet, making it easier than ever to get a diagnosis and start treatment.
5) It helps stop flu from spreading. Did you know that the flu virus can be spread to people within three feet of a sick patient when that patient coughs, sneezes or talks? Getting vaccinated doesn’t just help protect you from the flu; the flu shot is the responsible choice for protecting those around you. Vaccination is especially important for protecting more vulnerable populations, such as babies and young children, the elderly, and people with certain chronic health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“When it comes to the flu, it’s not wise to take a wait-and-see approach,” said Dr. Tibbels. “Talk to a doctor! We’re available all day, every day, all through flu season and beyond.”
To learn more about Teladoc and the level of flu risk where you live, visit Teladoc.com/flu.
To help shed light on the growing national problem with opioid drugs, Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist, lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
(BPT) - While a decade ago you may not have heard much about opioids, today they make headlines daily. The nationwide epidemic crosses generations and socioeconomic lines, and it's affecting your family, friends and neighbors.
"Opioids have long been used clinically to treat pain, but prior to the 1990s they were primarily reserved for patients with a limited life expectancy, such as for someone with cancer or in a hospice setting," says Dr. W. Michael Hooten, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and Pain Clinic specialist. "The potential problems associated with long-term use were secondary considerations."
To help shed light on this growing national problem, Dr. Hooten lends his expert insight on what people need to know about opioids.
Opioids are prescribed for various reasons
Opioids are used to treat a variety of pain disorders. While they are commonly prescribed after an operation, opioids are also used to treat a host of chronic pain conditions including musculoskeletal, abdominal, pelvic, and neuropathic pain.
Length of use varies
"Following surgery, up to one in four patients may use opioids longer than anticipated," says Dr. Hooten. "How long, exactly, depends on several clinical factors."
He notes that after an operation, a patient might use opioids to manage acute pain for three to five days.
"When opioids are used for acute postoperative pain, patients should try to use the lowest possible dose." After this short time period, opioids should be replaced with non-opioid pain medicines including Tylenol scheduled to be taken every six hours."
There are alternatives for pain management
There are many alternative options for chronic pain. Dr. Hooten suggests talking with your doctor about:
* Non-opioid analgesics (non-opioid pain medications).
* Interventional treatments such as image-guided spine injections or nerve blocks. * Acupuncture.
* Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates. Consider working with a physical therapist to develop a structured exercise program.
* For advanced pain treatment, spinal-cord stimulation can disrupt the pain stimuli and provide sustained pain relief.
* Work with a pain psychologist who can help teach individuals how to use specialized behavioral and cognitive techniques that could lead to improvements in daily functioning and quality of life.
Opioids can be deadly if misused
"Approximately 90 people per day die in the U.S. from a prescription opioid and/or an illicit opiate overdose," says Dr. Hooten. Many of those are accidental overdoses. “People who take prescription opioids will inadvertently mix them with benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax). Dr. Hooten warns that these two drug classes should never be taken together, as the combination can suppress the central nervous system and put the individual at risk of an accidental overdose.
Addiction can happen to anyone
As Dr. Hooten notes, “No one plans to get addicted, but it happens. Using opioids requires a high level of vigilance for the signs and symptoms of addiction."
There are many signs of over-reliance or misuse that families should be aware of. These include an increased preoccupation with the drug, concern about the timing of the next dose or refill, hiding use of the drug, and signs of intoxication like slurred speech and excessive sleep.
If you notice these warning signs, alert your loved one about your concerns. "This might be enough to prompt a change," says Dr. Hooten. "Otherwise relay this information to the prescriber and tell them what’s going on. They can take the correct next steps."
For more information on pain medication and alternatives, or to make an appointment, visit www.mayoclinic.org.
Colder weather and cold and flu season go hand-in-hand. While you may not be able to completely avoid getting sick, you can take some steps to protect yourself and minimize the chances of a serious illness.
Fight Off the Flu
(Family Features) Colder weather and cold and flu season go hand-in-hand. While you may not be able to completely avoid getting sick, you can take some steps to protect yourself and minimize the chances of a serious illness.
The flu is a highly contagious illness that can result in hospitalization and even death. Managing your own risk of exposure to the flu not only protects you, but can help minimize the chances of passing on a potentially dangerous illness to those in higher risk groups. Those with compromised immune systems and risk factors such as age (both the elderly and young babies and children) and other health conditions are at an elevated risk.
Know the signs
Other preventive steps
Treating the flu
Find more cold weather tips for healthy living at eLivingToday.com.
4 Ways to Stretch Your Health Benefits
Avoid surprises. About 91 percent of adults in the United States are confused about what their benefits cover, according to a recent Harris poll. The best starting point is to review your plan so you understand the care and services covered. If you have a high-deductible plan, you will need to pay for most or a percentage of the health costs until reaching the individual or family deductible. Be prepared to pay any copayments or deductibles the plan requires before receiving care. Also, before scheduling appointments, ask for a cost estimate for the appointment, tests or service.
Preventive dental and vision. Many voluntary plans, such as dental and vision, offer preventive exams, such as routine cleanings and vision exams, that are fully covered. That’s because these preventive exams help to maintain and improve overall health and help reduce health costs. Voluntary coverage is affordable and many plans offer added incentives. For example, coverage for LASIK, dental, vision and hearing benefits can increase from one year to the next for those who continue to enroll and use their benefits. Members could earn monetary rewards to use for dental, vision, LASIK, orthodontia and hearing benefits, care materials and services simply by using their benefits and keeping the benefits paid out under a specified amount.
Medical screenings. Routine health screenings, such as mammograms, immunizations, colonoscopy procedures and prostate cancer screenings, which may be covered fully or in part by your medical coverage, can help you stay healthy and lower health care costs.
Get paid to save. Many employers encourage employees to save money by matching a percentage of the amount the employee contributes to the plan. If available, enroll in a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to set aside money to pay for health care costs.
Learn more about the questions to ask when reviewing benefit plans at ameritasinsight.com.
Photos courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
(BPT) - Despite recent news that Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that can carry Zika, chikungunya and other viruses has spread to 30 states, the majority of Americans have yet to embrace basic recommendations to help reduce the mosquito population at their own homes.
That's the result of a new survey fielded by TNS Global detailing homeowners' knowledge of steps to reduce mosquitoes in their yards. According to The Mosquito Squad Fight the Bite Report, nearly three quarters of Americans (74 percent) do not plan to modify their time outside this year, yet less than half (49 percent) follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to use mosquito repellent and just a third (36 percent) remove standing water, a simple task also recommended by the CDC, to reduce mosquito breeding.
"Unlike chikungunya and West Nile virus, Zika has been identified as a world health crisis and we must work together on personal, local and global levels to fight mosquitoes," says Scott Zide, a founder and president of Mosquito Squad, the largest and most experienced home and commercial mosquito control firm in the country. "Removal of standing water is the most essential tactic in mosquito elimination, yet homeowners aren't actively removing it, which is surprising given that mosquito concerns are so high."
According to Zide, just as surprising was the finding that 46 percent of homeowners surveyed said they did not plan to do anything different in their yards, despite recent news of Zika virus. Findings from the survey show:
* Only 36 percent of Americans turn over toys or items in their yards that contain water.
* Less than half (44 percent) throw out lawn debris, under which mosquitoes can breed.
* Just a quarter of Americans (25 percent) shake out tarps, including barbecue and fire pit covers, to remove water that accumulates.
* Less than 27 percent make sure their gutters are clean.
* More than a quarter (27 percent) walk their yard regularly to remove items that can harbor mosquitoes.
To help homeowners take control of their yard, Mosquito Squad experts urge customers to take an active role in mosquito control with the following tips:
Tip over anything that holds or collects water. A bottle cap filled with water holds enough water for mosquitoes to breed. Since mosquitoes breed in standing water, the elimination of standing water decreases a mosquito's breeding ground. Mosquito Squad technicians report that yards with bird baths, play sets with tire swings, tree houses, portable fireplaces and pits and catch basins are the biggest offenders.
Toss any yard trash including clippings, leaves and twigs. Even the smallest items can provide a haven for mosquitoes and increase the population.
Turn over items that could hold water and trash. Look for children's portable sandboxes, slides or plastic toys; underneath and around downspouts; in plant saucers, empty pots, light fixtures and dog water bowls. Eliminate these items or keep them turned over until used.
Remove tarps that can catch water. Many homeowners have tarps or covers on items residing in their outdoor spaces. If not stretched taut, they are holding water. Check tarps over firewood piles, portable fire places, recycling cans, boats, sports equipment and grills. Mosquito Squad suggests using bungee cords to secure tarps in the yard.
Take care of your home. Proper maintenance can be a deciding factor in property values and mosquito bites. Regularly clean out gutters and make sure the downspout is attached properly. Mosquito Squad recommends re-grading areas where water stands more than a few hours, and to regularly check irrigation systems to ensure that they aren't leaking and causing a breeding haven. Keep lawn height low and areas weed-free.
Team up with neighbors. Despite taking all precautions in your own home, talking with neighbors is a key component to mosquito control. Townhomes and homes with little space between lots mean that mosquitoes can breed at a neighbor's home, and affect your property.
Treat your yard and yourself. Utilize a professional mosquito elimination barrier treatment around the home and yard. Using a barrier treatment at home reduces the need for using DEET-containing bug spray on the body.
Individuals who want a more comprehensive mosquito control treatment can utilize Mosquito Squad, which uses the latest EPA-registered mosquito control barrier treatments, larvicide and all-natural substances to eliminate mosquitoes from yards and outdoor spaces. For more information, visit www.MosquitoSquad.com.
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