Tag Archives: shortness of breath

Atrial Fibrillation Month

Atrial Fibrillation Month

It’s Atrial Fibrillation Month, and atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib or AF, is a type of irregular heartbeat that can raise your risk of other health problems. Learn more.

Making Sense of Irregular Heartbeat

 

For most people, their heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute. Those with AFib can have heart rates as high as 175 beats a minute.

AFib can feel like drums or thunder pounding in your chest or even flip-flopping in your chest. Talk to your doctor if you’ve experienced this kind of discomfort.

How AFib Feels

 

If you’re experiencing AFib and other issues, like shortness of breath with light physical activity, lightheadedness, dizziness, or fatigue, your heart might not be getting enough blood and oxygen out to your body.

AFib and Other Symptoms

 

AFib raises your risk of stroke by 5 times. It can allow clots to form, which can cause strokes that can cause serious damage to your tissue and brain.

AFib and Your Risk of Stroke

 

Some people may just have to cut caffeine in their diet to improve their AFib. Others may need special medication and treatment to address the underlying cause.

Cutting Caffeine for AFib

 

If you suffer from heartbeat irregularities, changes in your lifestyle, like being physically active, quitting smoking, or managing stress and your blood pressure can also help.

Improving AFib

In Case of Medical Emergency

Long View: What Is a Medical Emergency?

According to Medicare.gov, a medical emergency is a situation where “[Y]ou believe you have an injury or illness that requires immediate medical attention to prevent a disability or death.”

It seems pretty straightforward, so why are there so many questions around the decision to get treatment at your local emergency room?

An emergency room (ER) provides some of the most sophisticated diagnostic options in a hospital and the most immediate care to patients in crisis.

The list of possible emergencies is endless, so it’s important for you to recognize how serious your injury or illness is and to know the best way to get treatment for it.

Many of us have heard about folks with medical emergencies driving themselves to get treatment or catching a ride with a family member. Please don’t. Driving yourself puts you and others in jeopardy and delays the start of your treatment. Dialing 911 brings you the treatment quickly and gets you to an emergency room faster than a white-knuckle trip across town, dodging traffic lights.

Dr. Frank Friedman, one of our medical directors who specializes in emergency care, said, “A true emergency is one that can’t wait. It is something causing such severe pain or such a risk to life or limb, for oneself or a loved one, that it can’t wait hours, or a day or two, to be seen by one’s own doctor or healthcare provider.”

If it’s not an emergency but you need medical care to keep an illness or injury from getting worse, call your doctor. If your doctor can’t see you right away or the office is closed, urgent care (or convenient care) can help you get treatment quickly.

Over the years, I have heard some interesting and alarming questions from our members. This FAQ can help answer those questions.

Q. I just got one of your policies, and I’m having severe chest pain. Will you cover me for an ER visit?

A. This is one of the most unsettling questions we receive. If you’re experiencing severe chest pain, don’t call your plan, call 911. It’s as simple as that.

Q. Do I have to pay a copay when I get there?

A. No, they should be able to bill you, so there’s no reason to wave your credit card around as they wheel you through the front door. In fact, under federal law, an ER has to evaluate and stabilize you in an emergency medical situation, without regard for your ability to pay.

Q. What if I have special conditions they need to know about?

A. Keep a list of your medications with you. MedicAlert’s medical IDs or the Yellow Dot program can also help you share this information. And many smart phones have features that let you add emergency contacts and medical information. Plan ahead.

Q. What are some examples of when I should go to the ER and when I should go to my doctor or urgent care?

A. Visit the ER for emergencies like chest pain, broken bones, poisoning, shortness of breath, fainting, and seizures. For things like a constant fever, strep throat, sprains, the cold or flu, earaches, or minor infections like pink eye, call your doctor or visit urgent care.

Will you recognize a medical emergency? Probably yes, so trust your judgment, act quickly, and please be careful out there.

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.

In Case of Emergency

ER Care vs. Urgent Care

Your 2-year-old has an earache. You slip and sprain your ankle. You’re feeling chest pain. Do you know where you should be getting care in each of these cases?

It can be hard to know, but it’s important because if you go to the emergency room when it’s not actually an emergency, your insurance may not pay for your care.

A trip to the ER is usually the most expensive kind of care. The average ER visit costs more than the average American’s monthly rent.

If you don’t need help right away, you can save time and money by setting up a same-day appointment with your doctor or going to an urgent care or convenient care clinic. These usually have extended hours, you don’t need an appointment, and many clinics have them.

But when something happens and you need care right away, you should know which things you should go to an urgent care location for, and when you should go to the ER.

Emergency Room or Convenient Care?

Earache

Visit convenient care. This needs care to keep it from getting worse, but it won’t pose a serious health risk if not treated immediately.

Sprained Ankle

Visit convenient care. This injury isn’t life threatening, but you may need medical attention to treat it.

Chest Pain

Go to the ER. This could because of a serious problem and is normally considered a medical emergency.

A trip to the ER is usually the most expensive kind of care. If you don’t need help right away, you can save time and money by setting up a same-day appointment with your doctor or going to an urgent care or convenient care clinic. These usually have extended hours, you don’t need an appointment, and many clinics have them. Carle, for example, has a few convenient care options.

Let these examples be your guide to where you should go:

Emergencies

Urgent Care Situations

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Poisoning
  • Broken bones
  • Fainting, seizures, or unconsciousness
  • Sharp wounds
  • Serious bleeding
  • Constant high or rising fever
  • Migraine headaches that don’t improve
  • Uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bronchitis
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Cuts, even minor ones, that need closed
  • Constant high or rising fever
  • Migraine headaches that don’t improve
  • Uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bronchitis
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Cold and flu
  • Minor infections, like bladder, sinus, or pink eye
  • Rash or sunburns
  • Sprains and strains
  • Back and neck pain
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Earache
  • Strep throat
  • Minor cuts
  • Minor work illness or injuries

 

It’s not always easy to know if you should go to the emergency room, especially when you need to act fast. The key is to trust your judgment. If you believe your health is in serious danger, it’s an emergency.

Asthma Treatment

Know Your Asthma

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a long-term disease where your airways become inflamed and narrow, making it harder to breathe. This can cause chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.

It’s affects all ages, but is usually diagnosed in kids. More than 25 million people have it.

Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When the airways react to an allergen, the muscles around them tighten, which limits the air getting into the lungs.

Cells in the airways can also make more mucus in this situation, which further makes it hard to breathe.

And once this has all happened, it’s easy for things like stress or activity to make it even worse. Asthma’s symptoms are in many ways, a chain reaction.

There is no cure for asthma, but there are great forms of treatment, including meds, nebulizers, and inhalers. These let you prevent and treat attacks right away to prevent a more serious attack, which can require emergency care.

Your Asthma

Everyone’s is a little different. Many things create the recipe, or chain reaction, for your asthma. Your age, triggers, allergens in your environment, weight, overall health, where you live, and which meds you’re taking can all matter.

Common Triggers

  • Acid Reflux
  • Allergies
  • Bad Weather
  • Certain Foods
  • Certain Medicines
  • Cold or Dry Air
  • Exercise
  • Food Additives
  • Fragrances
  • High Humidity
  • Infections from Flu, Cold, or Virus
  • Pets
  • Strong Emotions or Stress

Common Allergens

  • Chemicals
  • Cockroach Allergens
  • Dust Mites
  • Mold
  • Outdoor Air Pollution
  • Smoke from Burning Outdoors
  • Tobacco Smoke

Your allergies especially affect your asthma. Your runny nose, sniffling, and sneezing can actually start that chain reaction. And by treating them, you can actually improve your asthma.

Treatment

Everyone with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan that they make with their doctor. It’s a personalized plan that has:

  • The kinds of medicine you’ll take
  • When you’ll take it
  • How you’ll manage it long-term
  • How you should handle attacks
  • How you’ll manage your allergies
  • When you should go to your doctor or the ER

Even though each person will have a different set of things that cause their symptoms, asthma medicine categories are the same for everyone.

Combinations and doses vary, but most people with asthma have 2 kinds of meds, a quick-relief one in case of a flare-up and a long-term controller they take daily.

Types of Meds

Medicine Category

What It Does

Examples

Long-Term Control

This is your most important med. When taken daily, these help control symptoms and prevent attacks. Skipping doses raises your risk of attack.
  • Inhaled Corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene Modifiers
  • Long-Acting Beta-Agonists (LABAs)
  • A Combination Inhaler with a Corticosteroid and an LABA

Quick-Relief or Rescue Meds

Take these as needed to quickly treat an attack and to prevent attacks from exercise. If you’re using these more than 2x a week, tell your doctor. Short-Acting Beta-Agonists:
  • Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
  • Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel)
  • Pirbuterol (Maxair)
  • Bitolterol (Tornalate)
  • Levalbuterol (Xopenex)

Oral Steroids:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Methylprednisolone

Allergy-Induced Asthma

Take these daily or as needed to control allergies, like pollen, mold, grass, etc.
  • Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
  • Omalizumab (Xolair)

Info via National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Your Action Plan

Make sure you have the answers to these important questions in your action plan:

  • What are the names of my medicines?
  • What does each one do?
  • What are their side effects?
  • What can I do to decrease their side effects?
  • Will they work with other drugs, vitamins, food, and drinks?
  • How much is a dose of each?
  • When is the best time to take each? With breakfast, before bed, or with symptoms?
  • How long do I have to take them?

Things You Can Do

You should also work with your doctor or our disease management program to make sure you know how to use your inhaler and flow meter.

Keeping track of your triggers and taking care of yourself can also help: