Tag Archives: immunizations

Aging with Your Pets

Long View: Aging With Our Pets

My grandparents had a Chihuahua that lived to be 20 years old. Suzy had her own knitted sweaters to wear when she went outside. Every night, Grandma cooked and cut up liver in tiny, bite-sized pieces for Suzy’s dinner.

I’m not sure what the life expectancy and living arrangements for most dogs were in the 1950s and 1960s, but I would wager that Suzy’s life was particularly plush for that era. When I came along in 1968, my parents gave me the middle name of Sue. I often wondered if this was a happy coincidence or a tribute to that beloved Chihuahua.

Today, I have a yellow Labrador retriever puppy named Harvey. Grandpa’s name was Harvey. Touché.

Americans love their pets. Take a stroll through your local big-box pet supplies chain, and the number of things a person can buy for their animals will amaze you. Strollers, raincoats, probiotics, gluten-free and vegan dog food, and even memory foam mattresses. Within just a few miles of my house, Harvey can go to a doggy day camp, swim at an indoor pool just for pooches, and later have his hair and nails done at the pet spa.

Your pet pampers you in different ways. Owning a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and raises mental sharpness. A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, while also lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

Pets can open up a lonely world and get you out of bed in the morning. Walking a dog (or a cat, if you are particularly brave and the cat is extremely cooperative) is good exercise. Those of us with an empty nest find a new sense of purpose. And nurturing a beloved animal gives us unconditional love in return.

An older person with a pet companion can be a heartwarming love match. I reached out to Stacey Teager, from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, for some advice for those who are looking to add a pet to their home in later years.

  • Make sure your pet gets regular checkups and immunizations. Have your animal spayed or neutered.
  • Never give your pet “people” medications. Always consult a veterinarian before medicating your pet.
  • Have a plan in place with your family or close friends for caring for your pet should you become sick and need to be hospitalized or stay in a nursing facility.
  • Match your pet with your physical capabilities. My 50-pound Labrador retriever puppy can drag my mother down the sidewalk. This is dangerous for both her and the dog. A quieter, smaller animal is a better choice for her to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Despite my grandmother’s loving intentions, don’t feed your pet table scraps or human food. Animals can get overweight and unhealthy with just a few added ounces. If you like to bake, there are lots of recipes for animal treats that use ingredients found in your pantry.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

National Immunization Awareness Month

National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Vaccines save 9 million lives around the world each year.

Another 16 million deaths could be prevented by increasing vaccine use around the world.

Shots Around the World

 

Do you know how vaccines work to protect us? Learn more.

The Importance of Vaccines: Myths vs. Facts

 

Are your kids up to date on their shots for this school year? Make sure they’re ready!

Summer Health Checklist

 

These shots can protect your kids in the future. Make sure they get them!

 

Know your whole family’s shot schedule. (And don’t forget flu shots!)

Shot Schedule

 

Trials for Ebola vaccines started in February. How close are we?

The race is on to stop Zika virus in it’s tracks with a vaccine. A look at the challenges.

Preventing Zika Virus

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National Infant Immunization Week

National Infant Immunization Week 2016

National Infant Immunization Week ended this week, so we helped connect you to resources. Protect your baby from 14 serious diseases by age 2.

Protect Your Baby with Vaccines

 

Besides whooping cough and measles, what other diseases do vaccines protect against?

Protecting Against Serious Diseases

 

Did you know protection from vaccine-preventable diseases starts before birth?

Protecting Them Before Birth

 

Have you ever wondered how vaccines protect your child against diseases?

How Do They Work?

 

Have your kids missed one or more of their shots? This tool can help you catch up.

Catching Up on Shots

 

Quickly see when your child needs each vaccine with immunization schedules.

Shots can be stressful. Learn how to comfort your kids when they get one.

Sticking to a Schedule of Shots

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Health Checklist for Summer's End

Summer Health Checklist

Your kids probably just kicked off summer vacation, but between the trips to the pool, family vacations, and summer sporting events, there are a few things you should add to your to-do list to get your kids ready for next school year. This back-to-school health checklist can help!

Shots

Many schools won’t allow any students to come to school without their immunization record. Immunizations, or shots, help expose your kids to a tiny dose of a disease so that their bodies will already know how to fight off a bigger dose if they come in contact with it again.

These shots protect them from all kinds of diseases, from measles to cervical cancer. And they’re safe!

Kids get different shots at different times, so these handy charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you figure out what they need this year:

Health Alliance covers most immunizations, including flu shots. 

Vision

As many as one in 20 kids can’t see out of one of their eyes. But if they’ve been living without vision in that eye all along, they might not even know something is off.

Expressing that they have trouble seeing can also be difficult for young children, and it can be just as hard for parents to realize their kids are having trouble seeing.

Seeing well is key to learning to read and write and doing well in school. So there’s no better time than back-to-school season to get your kids a vision checkup to see if they need glasses or an updated prescription.

Talk to the School

One of the most important parts of this time of year is talking to your kids’ school. Making sure the school has up-to-date information could save your child’s life.

  • Is the emergency contact information correct for your family? Can the school reach you or your family if something happens?
  • Does the school have a full list of all the medications your child takes? Even if he or she doesn’t take them at school, it is important the school knows what your child is on in case of an emergency.
  • Does the school know of all the health problems it might have to deal with? For example, does the school know what your child is allergic to, like peanuts or bee stings?
  • Does your child have any physical restriction, like asthma or a heart condition? Are there sorts of activities he or she should avoid?

Little Things That Make a Big Difference

Before school starts again, there are also some little things you can help your kids do to feel good and succeed in school.

  • Help them get enough sleep. A sleep schedule can help your kids get into a routine and stay alert all day long. Growing kids need at least 8 hours a night, and teens need even more.
  • Make sure they have a healthy breakfast for all-day energy.
  • Help them know their healthy options. Vending machines are always tempting. But you can help them know what choices are healthy and will keep them going all day and how to limit things like chips and candy.
  • Encourage exercise. Whether it’s P.E., playing a sport, or riding their bike to school, just one hour of activity a day can help kids feel less stressed, stay healthy, sleep better, build their self-esteem, and grow healthy muscles, bones, and joints.

Talk to your kids’ pediatrician if you have more questions about their health this summer.

Annual checkups with your doctor are perfect at this time of year. Kids can get their shots, a routine checkup, and a sports physical all at once if they need it!

Protecting Your Baby with Vaccines

The Importance of Vaccines: Myths vs. Facts

A little boy in Germany has died, the first death in the current measles outbreak. While people take sides about vaccines in the news and politics, the medical world’s feelings are clear.

Vaccines, or immunizations, are a time-tested and scientifically proven way to prevent certain diseases to protect your kids and our society.

What are vaccines?

Vaccines, immunizations, or shots are kinds of drugs you can take to help your immune system. Inside your body, they act like the diseases they’re supposed to prevent and trick your body into producing the kinds of cells it needs to fight a certain disease. By doing this, vaccines teach your body how to beat real infections when they happen.

When enough people are vaccinated, 90 to 95% of the population, it is enough to protect everyone, which helps get rid of diseases altogether.

Inoculation, an early form of vaccines, has been saving lives since the year 1000 in China. And waves of diseases and struggles to find treatments and cures across history have shown that sometimes, vaccines are our first and best form of protection.

Get more history on vaccines and the diseases they fight with this project from The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, The History of Vaccines.  

How well do they work?

Some of the scariest and most painful diseases to ever exist have been nearly wiped out by vaccination. And smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases, has been completely wiped out around the world. By doing so, according to Unicef, we’ve saved approximately 5 million lives each year.

And other diseases, like polio, have been close to being wiped out, too.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a dozen of the most deadly sicknesses humans have ever seen have been nearly wiped out in the last 200 years since vaccines were made. This infographic from Leon Farrant, also shared in this ThinkProgress article on vaccines, shows their power:

ThinkProgress Vaccine Infographic

Still not convinced? The Wall Street Journal can visually show you the data piece by piece for some of the main diseases your doctor vaccinates you against.

If they work so well, why are we even talking about them?

Diseases that we hadn’t seen much in the last few years, like measles, are making a comeback.

Those diseases are coming back because parents aren’t vaccinating their kids as much as they used to. And once the population falls below that 90 to 95% vaccination rate, those diseases are able to come back. And even with modern medicine, you can still die from them.

So why are parents taking that risk? Because of an old medical study that has been discredited, says The New York Times.

In 1998, a doctor said that he had linked the measles, mumps, rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism in children.

Dozens of scientists and studies proved his work wrong, saying his research was bad since he’d only studied 12 kids, which is a tiny sample when doing scientific research. The British medical authorities even took away his medical license.

This is the only time a link has ever been made between vaccines and autism, and scientists and the medical field proved it wasn’t true. As this Guardian article talks about, later research studies have even made a lot of data disproving a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Yet the story stuck.

People also worry that vaccines are just being produced by a big company to make money, not to protect patients. But as this New York Times article points out, many doctors lose money by giving you vaccines, and historically, many makers of them have made very little money off them.

As Newsweek points out, some statistics have also been skewed in a negative way. The CDC keeps a database of adverse effects from vaccines, which it’s required to do by law. Since 2004, 69 people have died after getting a measles vaccine. However, not necessarily because of the vaccine. In some cases, their death was completely unrelated, but the reporting system just gives the cold, hard numbers, not the cause-and-effect relationship between patients’ deaths and the vaccine. Numbers like these are sometimes used to convince people that vaccines are dangerous.

But the fact is that vaccines save many lives around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the measles vaccine alone has saved 15.6 million lives between 2000 and 2016.

The government, your insurance companies, doctors, and pharmacies make vaccines affordable and easy to get for one reason and one reason only: to save lives.

Don’t risk your family or your community. Health Alliance covers immunizations for our members, and we can help you stay up-to-date.

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Active with Medicare Advantage Extras

Everyone Loves Extras

We’ve been mentioning Health Alliance Medicare Advantage’s great extras for weeks, today we’re telling you all about them!

Healthways SilverSneakers® Fitness Program

SilverSneakers helps you get fit the way you want, at your convenience. Reach your fitness goals with access to more than 11,000 fitness locations, where you can:

  • Use all basic amenities, plus take SilverSneakers classes*
  • Get guidance and assistance from a Program AdvisorSM
  • Enjoy fun social activities

You can also choose 1 of 4 fitness kits. They help you maintain good health, and gain balance and muscle strength, without leaving your home.

SilverSneakers also gives members a secure online community with access to:

  • Easy-to-use nutrition, fitness, and health tracking tools
  • Fun exercise videos and demonstrations
  • Expert advice on exercise, nutrition, and life skills

Assist America

No matter where you are in the world, Assist America connects you to the help you need. They link you to quality emergency medical care while traveling. These are just a few of the great features our members get:

  • Medical referrals
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Medical repatriation
  • Prescription assistance
  • Compassionate visit
  • Return of mortal remains
  • Lost luggage assistance
  • Interpreter and legal referrals

$0 Tier 1 Drugs at Walmart and Sam’s Club

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Members with prescription drug coverage get Tier 1 prescription drugs at Walmart and Sam’s Club for $0. Tier 1 drugs feature the most-used drugs on our formulary.

You pay low copayments when you go to other in-network pharmacies.

Be Well

We take care of you, when you’re healthy and when you’re sick.

When you’re healthy, we help connect you to:

  • Yearly physicals
  • Routine screenings, like mammograms or colonoscopies
  • Yearly dental cleanings
  • Timely immunizations
  • Member magazines that share health info and plan details
  • Quit For Life stop-smoking program

When you’re sick, we help connect you to:

  • Case Management to help explain your diagnosis and test results, assist with home care, and discuss treatment options
  • Disease Management Programs
  • Anytime Nurse Line

Call 1-888-382-9771 (TTY 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Or visit HealthAllianceMedicare.org for more info.

Health Alliance Medicare is an HMO, PPO, and PDP plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment depends on contract renewal. You must continue to pay your Part B premium. Low-cost prescriptions are available at other in-network pharmacies. The benefit information here is just a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, premium, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year.

Protected Against the Flu

Chasing Health: I Got My Flu Shot

Hi, I’m Nicole Mechling, and I’ve worked at Health Alliance as a communications coordinator since April. I’m not a health buff—or a health insurance buff for that matter—but I don’t have to follow all the health recommendations to be a communications coordinator, right?

I mean, I take two-hour walks and regularly bust out my own dance routines in my living room during Glee and So You Think You Can Dance. I even go through spurts of intense crunch and pushup regimens and take a Zumba class here and there.

I eat berries and apples, and sometimes I even go a whole day without chocolate … OK, maybe I have a few things to work on. At least I try.

I got my flu shot[1] copy

But when it comes to vaccines, this girl is ready to throw in the towel and run the other way screaming. I absolutely hate needles. I’m 26 years old and have never had my ears pierced because needles are just too scary.

Earlier this week, it was flu shot day at Health Alliance. Remember when you used to get shots in grade school, right in front of your classmates? This was the same thing, only worse because as an adult, people assume you’re not going to cry or hide under your desk. And if I got the shot, there was no guarantee I wouldn’t do both.

I went into the office that morning with every intention of not getting my flu shot. I had never had one before, so in my head, that clearly meant I was going to have an awful reaction and die. (I also feel this way about car washes and gas fireplaces. I know it’s crazy, but I always think they’re out to get me.)

Anyway, part of my job is to tell people to get their flu shots. After a few hours of editing fliers about vaccines, I had to ask myself, “What kind of person am I if I tell people to get this shot but am too scared to get it myself?”

My ethics got the best of me, and I decided to take the long walk upstairs to where the nurses were giving the shots. By the time I got there, I felt sweaty and weak, and my stomach hurt more than a little bit. The room was spinning slightly, and my heart was beating so loudly the nurses could probably hear it.

The rest happened so quickly. I sat down, got the shot (which only hurt a little), stayed for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t have a bad reaction as a first-timer and then went back to work. I survived.

I’ve heard all the excuses—I’ve used them myself. One of Michael Jordan’s best games was his “flu game,” so why should I deprive myself of that opportunity? The shot is not 100 percent effective, so why even try? What if I want a reason to stay home from work at some point?

I did it anyway so that I could tell all of you fine people to go get your own flu shots. Don’t let my shot be for nothing. Go get vaccinated.

(Regardless of what you do, I’m guessing my shot will be worth it to me when I don’t get the flu later this year, though.)

Thank you all for unintentionally making me overcome my fear of getting my flu shot. Maybe next time you can do something about my chocolate addiction.

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