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National Handwashing Awareness Week

National Handwashing Awareness Week

It’s National Handwashing Awareness Week, and washing your hands can significantly reduce the spread of disease.

December is a busy time, and between the rush of the holidays and the weather you are more susceptible to getting sick. Washing your hands can help you avoid germs.

Avoid Holiday Sickness

 

Teaching handwashing to a community can reduce respiratory illnesses in the community, like colds, by 20%.

The Value of Washing Your Hands

 

Know when it matters most to wash! Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom, before, during, and after making food, and after touching an animal.

When to Handwash

 

If you are sick, washing your hands after you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze can help you avoid spreading it to your loved ones.

Fighting the Spread of Germs

 

You should be washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and make sure to get under your fingernails.

Dry your hands completely to avoid bacteria. If paper towels are available, they’re better for removing germs.

Drying with Paper Towels

 

If you can’t always wash your hands, hand sanitizer is a great alternative. Buy a small bottle for your purse or pocket.

Hand Sanitizer for Cleanliness

Should You Be Fighting Your Symptoms with Antibiotics?

What Do Your Symptoms Mean?

Have you ever heard people say they’re getting the flu when they have a stomach bug? How about a stuffy nose or sore throat just being allergies?

We try to diagnose ourselves all the time. That’s how sites like WebMD got so popular. And trying to figure out what’s wrong is a good thing, but sometimes it’s really hard to know what our bodies’ symptoms are trying to tell us.

And believe it or not, knowing if you have a bacterial infection, a cold, or the flu can make a big difference.

When you have a bacterial infection, your doctor gives you an antibiotic. Antibiotics only cure infections caused by bacteria, like:

  • Strep throat
  • Staph infection
  • Sinus infections
  • Some pneumonia
  • Some ear infections

Antibiotics can make you or your kids feel better fast when they’re taken for those things. But if you take antibiotics for infections they can’t treat, like ones caused by viruses, bacteria can build up antibiotic resistance.

When you take antibiotics and don’t have an infection from bacteria, it gives the bacteria the chance to learn from the antibiotic, and then it can change to survive and grow, which means next time you really need an antibiotic, it might not work as well. This is bacteria becoming antibiotic resistant.

Some of the illnesses antibiotics can’t cure are:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Sore throat not caused by strep
  • Runny nose

Unfortunately, a bacterial infection in your lungs or strep throat can have a lot of the same symptoms as the flu. Your doctor can tell whether you have a bacterial or viral infection by doing a quick test, like a throat swab.

If you’re trying to figure out if you need to go to the doctor because you’re not sure if you have more than a common cold, though, this chart can help:

What Your Symptoms Mean

If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, make sure you take it exactly how your doctor told you to. Don’t stop taking it early, even if you feel better. You need to kill all of the bacteria to keep from getting sick again.

If you do have a viral infection, like a cold or the flu, these are things you can try to feel better:

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which pain relievers are right for your child’s age and how much you should give him or her.
  • Try over-the-counter cold or cough medicine (check if it’s OK for kids).

And if you’re still not sure, don’t forget that Health Alliance members can call the Anytime Nurse Line 24/7 for help figuring out what you might have and if you should visit the doctor.

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Know Your Heart Meds

Your Meds and Your Heart

Know Your Heart Meds

You don’t need to be an expert on your drugs, that’s what your doctor’s for, but you should ask questions and know the basics about your heart meds.

Whether it’s a pill for high cholesterol or your blood pressure medicine, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • What’s the name of my medicine?
  • What does it do?
  • What are its side effects?
  • What can I do to reduce those side effects?
  • How does this drug work with other drugs, dietary supplements, foods, or drinks?
  • How much is a one dose?
  • When’s the best time to take this medicine, like when you wake up, with breakfast, or before bed?
  • How long will I take this medicine?
  • What should I do if I miss a pill?

Helpful Terms for Understanding Your Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood vessels move blood through your body. These are the types of blood vessels:

  • Arteries – These carry blood away from your heart
  • Capillaries – These connect your arteries to your veins and help move water and chemicals between your blood and tissues.
  • Veins – These carry blood from your capillaries back to your heart

Did you know? If you laid all the blood vessels of an average adult in a line, it would stretch over 100,000 miles.

Kinds of Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood pressure meds fall into 11 different classes, but they all have the same goals, to lower and control your blood pressure.

Classes

How It Works

Possible Side Effects

Diuretics Help your body flush extra salt and water through your urine.
  • More trips to the
    bathroom
  • Low potassium
Beta-Blockers Reduce your heart rate and how much blood it pumps to lower your blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness
  • Low heart rate
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) Narrow your arteries and make you produce less angiotensin, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Dry cough
  • High potassium levels
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers Block your blood vessels from angiotension, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • High potassium levels
Calcium
Channel Blocker
Prevents calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and arteries, which makes your heart’s job easier, and helps your blood vessels open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Low heart rate
  • Uneven or rapid heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Ankle swelling
Alpha-Blockers Reduce nerve impulses to your blood vessels to let blood pass more easily.
  • Headache
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Small decreases in bad cholesterol
Central
Agonists
Decrease your blood vessels’ ability to narrow, which also helps to lower blood pressure.
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
  • Fever

Via the American Heart Association.

Kinds of Cholesterol Heart Meds

Depending on the type, cholesterol meds help:

  • Lower your bad cholesterol.
  • Lower your triglycerides, a fat in your blood that raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Increase your good cholesterol, which guards against heart disease.

Types of Cholesterol Meds

How It works

Possible Side Effects

Statins
Altoprev (lovastatin)
Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Lescol (fluvastatin)
Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Mevacor (lovastatin)
Pravachol (pravastatin)
Zocor (simvastatin)
Lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and cause small increases in good cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Bile Acid Binding Resins
Colestid (colestipol)
Questran (cholestyramine/ sucrose)
Welchol (colesevelam)
Lower bad cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Upset stomach
  • Gas
  • May increase triglycerides
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor
Zetia (ezetimibe) Lowers bad cholesterol, and causes small decrease in triglycerides and small increase in good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle soreness
Combination Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor and Statin
Vytorin (ezetimibe-simvastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Fibrates
Lofibra (fenofibrate)
Lopid (gemfibrozil)
TriCor (fenofibrate)
Lower triglycerides and increases good choleterol.
  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach pain
  • Gallstones
Niacin
Niaspan (prescription niacin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Upset stomach
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • High blood sugar
  • Peptic ulcers
Combination Statin and Niacin
Advicor (niacin-lovastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Lovaza (prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplement)
Vascepa (Icosapent ethyl)
Lowers triglycerides.
  • Burping
  • Fishy taste
  • Increased infection risk

Via The Mayo Clinic

When Should I Take My Heart Meds?

Your body’s inner clock can affect how well some medications work. Since, you can’t read your body’s clock though, researchers have studied how well heart meds work when they’re taken at different times of the day.

According to a clinical trial from Medscape, blood pressure meds are most effective when taken at night. The random trial tested the effect of taking blood pressure meds at bedtime versus in the morning.

It found that treatment at bedtime was the most cost-effective and simplest strategy to reach the right blood pressure when sleeping and of getting a normal 24-hour blood pressure pattern.”

It also estimated that each 5-mm-Hg decrease in overnight blood pressure reduced the risk of heart events by 14%.

Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before you make a change to your meds or their schedule. You can also learn more about the importance of taking your heart meds regularly and on-time in our Health section.