Tag Archives: over-the-counter

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.

Don't Fall with Tai Chi

Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Prevention

Each year as the weather turns icy, we return to one major health topic for older adults, avoiding a fall. How big is the risk actually, though?

Truth in Numbers

No matter how healthy you are, falling is a real risk. About 1 out of 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half of those talk to their doctors about it.

Sure, you might think, but everyone falls once in a while, right? Kids fall all the time! But your mom falling could be a lot more serious than your toddler. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.

In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated for nonfatal falls, and 734,000 of those had to be hospitalized. And in 2012, the medical costs from falls reached $30 billion.

They cause the most broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures in older adults. And women are twice as likely as men to break a bone.

What Causes A Fall

Icy and slippery weather is of course a big reason that falls happen, but winter isn’t the only time to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Seeing is an essential part of most of our days, but as you age and your vision gets worse, it can increase your risk of falling. If you can’t see the danger, it’s harder to avoid it.

Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter can cause side effects, like dizziness and drowsiness, that can make it more likely you’ll take a tumble.

Dangers in your homes, like tripping hazards, stairs, and slippery bathtubs, are a huge risk.

And many people who fall once are afraid of falling again and what could happen if they do. This leads them to limit their activities, lowering their mobility and fitness, which can actually increase their chances of falling and of getting hurt.

A recent study also found that many people’s falls are because of an infection, which can cause low blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. This can both lead to your fall, or make you confused about what happened afterwards.

Year-Round Protection

There are ways to help stop falls before they happen:

Get your eyes checked each year, and always keep your glasses prescription as up to date as possible.

Ask your doctor to review all your meds, and see if there are other options for any drugs that might be increasing your risk of falling.

Fall-proof your home. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and railings to stairs and even improving the lighting in your home can make a huge difference.

Get enough calcium and Vitamin D from foods like dairy, soy milk, orange juice, and salmon, or take a regular supplement.

Get tested for osteoporosis.

Remove clutter. A messy house can actually increase your chance of falling at home. Learn more.

Get active! There are great options and resources for getting healthy at any age.

  • Tai Chi is especially helpful for improving your balance and leg strength. Use this Tai Chi Fall Prevention Toolkit to get started now.
  • Try walking outside with friends or family.
  • Weight bearing exercises can lower your chance of hip fractures.
  • Water aerobics is a great way to move without stressing your joints.
  • Moving to the beat and changing to a rhythm are shown to reduce falls. Get dancing at your local senior center’s events, take lessons, or just let loose at home.
  • We want to help, too. Our Medicare members have perks to help you get fit at a gym of your choice.  Our members also get discounts at certain fitness locations.

 

All statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cleaning Meds Out of the Cabinet

Long View: Leave Prescribing to the Pros – Don’t Mix Your Meds!

I used to visit my aunt and uncle in Missouri whenever I got the chance. They were older but still lived on their own. My uncle Bill took a lot of medicine, as is often the case with a 90-year-old. The problem was my aunt, his caregiver, felt she knew better than his doctor.

She would cut his pills in half because she thought they were making him “groggy.” She also would “prescribe” outdated meds. I found my aunt’s secret stash in a shoe box in the closet.

Both of them also took over-the-counter meds … to keep their joints limber, eyesight sharp and other things she was sure would enhance their golden years. Her approach was dangerous, but I could only help while I was there.

So, what can a caregiver do?

Brad Berberet, acting director of the Health Alliance Pharmacy Department, shared this advice.

“Many people know different drugs can interact with each other, causing unexpected side effects,” he said. “However, most people forget that interactions can occur between prescribed medications and over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbal supplements.  Patients should let their doctor and their pharmacist know about all OTC and herbal supplements they are taking, especially when they start a new medicine.”

Our chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Parker, shared similar advice.

“When you take medication exactly as prescribed, your doctor can better monitor you for side effects,” he said. “It’s important to be honest with your doctor to assure you have the best chance of a positive, not harmful, impact to yourself or those you love.”

You can help your loved ones get rid of old medicine. Don’t just flush them. Check for places that dispose of drugs safely, like your pharmacy or hospital. Your local senior center may have suggestions.

My PCP does a medicine review every time I have an appointment. Just keeping a list of how much medicine you take and when helps your doctor. You can ask your doctor to make changes to your list so it stays current.

While I’m sure my aunt had the best intentions, her approach to medicine was dangerous. Be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicine, prescription or over-the-counter. Not only will you avoid harmful interactions, but you will probably feel better, too.

 

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.