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The flu vaccine: a necessary precaution for seniors

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Contrary to popular belief, influenza infection, better known as the flu, isn’t always benign. Elderly people and those with a weakened immune system are at risk for experiencing potentially fatal complications. This is why the flu vaccine is so important.

While its efficacy isn’t guaranteed, the vaccine can prevent vulnerable people from contracting the flu. Even when infection does occur, being vaccinated can mitigate the symptoms and prevent complications from arising. Finally, the risk of hospitalization is much lower for someone who’s been vaccinated.

Remember that you need to receive the vaccine every year as the flu virus mutates constantly. Speak to your healthcare professional to find out where and when you can receive the vaccine.

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Be careful out there this summer

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Beautiful grass and long stretches of parkland offer an open invitation for summer activity. But it can be an invitation for aches and pains if your body isn’t prepared for vigorous exercise.
The long quarantine period means that people might not be as ready for summer exercise as they have been.

Orthopedists at Northwestern Memorial Caremark Physical Therapy Center in Chicago say these are the most common summer sports injuries and how to prevent and treat them.

Running: Knee cap pain. To prevent it, build up miles gradually. Warm-up slowly. Stretch before running. Treatment includes rest, strengthening thigh muscles.

Tennis: Tennis elbow (tendinitis). Improve your technique. Gradually build up time of play, which should be no more than two hours a day. Rackets should have properly fitted grip and string tension. Treatment includes rest, strengthening the forearm with exercises.

Golf: Low back pain. Practice proper swing mechanics. Condition for strength and flexibility. Do stretching exercises before playing. Treatment includes rest, stretching, strengthening exercises, adjusting your swing.

Cycling: Neck and backache. To prevent aches, raise the handlebars and change positions often. Treatment includes rest, strengthening.

Volleyball: Condition for strength during the season. Stretch and warm up gradually. Treatment includes rest, stretching, strengthening the rotator cuff with exercise.

Basketball: Ankle sprain. Condition and stretch. Tape ankles before playing if you are prone to sprains. Treatment includes Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE).

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Trigger finger: causes and treatments

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If your fingers are frequently stiff and un¬comfortable, especially in the morning, you may be developing stenosing tenosynovitis, better known as trigger finger. This common condition causes discomfort when flexing or extending the affected finger, which is often the thumb or ring finger. Bending or straitening it may result in a palpable snap. In severe cases, the finger may get stuck in a bent position.

Causes
Trigger finger is the result of inflammation in the flexor tendon sheath (the protective covering that surrounds the tendons in your fingers). This causes the affected finger to become partially or fully immobilized. Prolonged inflammation may result in nodules forming in the tendon, thereby restricting the finger’s movements even further.

Treatments

Typically, trigger finger caused by unusual and forceful hand activity will respond well to rest, a splint, and anti-inflammatory medication. However, severe cases and those caused by a chronic health condition such as arthritis may require a corticosteroid injection to be resolved. Should this treatment fail to produce results, surgery will likely be necessary.

If you think you may be suffering from trigger finger, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor.

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Farm safety: how to protect outdoor workers from heat stress

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Heat-related ailments are common among agricultural workers. Here’s how they can stay safe outdoors this summer.

1. Drink plenty of water. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much salt and water due to excess sweating. For this reason, it’s important for outdoor workers to remain hydrated.

2. Take breaks in the shade. Heatstroke, which is a serious condition, occurs after prolonged exposure to extreme heat. Therefore, outdoor workers need cool, shady places where they can rest and should take five- to 15-minute breaks every hour. This is especially important during periods of intense heat and for those who wear protective gear.

3. Don’t rush through tasks. Outdoor agricultural workers should build up their heat tolerance gradually. Initially, they’ll need to move slowly and take frequent breaks, but this is more efficient than dealing with a heat-related illness.

4. Know the signs. All outdoor farmworkers should know the signs and symptoms of heat-related ailments and feel comfortable reporting them. Supervisors should also be able to spot them.

Heat-related ailments can be dangerous and lead to serious complications, especially when treatment is delayed. Make sure you have a plan to handle heat-related health emergencies and that workers and supervisors know about it.

Know the signs
These symptoms of heat stress should never be ignored:

• Dizziness

• Fainting

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Headache

• Muscle cramps

• Confusion

• Shallow breathing

• Rapid pulse or heartbeat

• Red, hot skin

• Lack of sweating

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Osteoporosis: who’s at risk?

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Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissues in the body. It occurs when the creation of new bone tissue can’t keep up with the natural breakdown of existing tissue, causing bones to become brittle. This disease commonly leads to fractures in the wrists, shoulders, vertebrae, and hips.

Risk factors
Though the cause of osteoporosis remains unknown, the risk factors are well understood. It’s more common in women, particularly following menopause. In men, the risk goes up after age 50. Other risk factors include low calcium intake, genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and alcohol use.

Diagnosis

Since it doesn’t cause pain or other noticeable symptoms as it progresses, osteoporosis is typically diagnosed quite late, often after a fracture occurs. A bone density scan following a suspect fracture will confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment
There’s no cure for osteoporosis, but there are ways to prevent and delay its onset and progression. Depending on the case, certain medications may be prescribed. However, all patients benefit from taking calcium to help maintain bone mass. Additionally, vitamin D supplements allow the body to absorb calcium better. Regular physical activity will also reduce the risk of fractures and slow the rate of bone degradation.

At-risk individuals, especially women who underwent early menopause and those whose parents had hip fractures, should discuss osteoporosis with their doctor at their next appointment.

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The risk of dehydration among seniors

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Did you know that seniors are more susceptible to dehydration? This is because aging causes the body’s thirst signals to weaken, thereby increasing the risk of not drinking enough.

In addition, the kidneys become less effective at conserving water when eliminating waste. Plus, mobility and memory problems can make it harder for older adults to drink fluids regularly.

Dehydration is also a side effect of medications used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease.

Symptoms

A dry mouth and thick saliva are common symptoms of mild dehydration. Other warning signs include reduced urination, having dark yellow urine, getting a headache, and experiencing muscle cramps.

More severe dehydration can result in an inability to urinate, low blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, and convulsions. Weakness, irritability, dizziness, and confusion are also symptoms.

Prevention
The most effective way to prevent dehydration is to consume enough fluids, and seniors shouldn’t wait until they feel thirsty to drink. It’s a good idea for them to always have water within easy reach, drink gradually throughout the day, and include a beverage with every meal.

There are also a variety of foods that can help with hydration, including most fruits and vegetables. A bowl of low-sodium broth is a good source of electrolytes and a soothing alternative to water on a chilly afternoon. In the summer, consuming ice pops and smoothies may help counteract excessive perspiration.

It can also be beneficial for seniors to keep fruit juice or a sports drink on hand to quickly replenish fluid levels if they experience mild dehydration. Moderate to severe dehydration, however, is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate hospitalization.

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3 gluten-related issues

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Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Here are three health issues related to its consumption.

1. Wheat allergy
People who are allergic to wheat will have an autoimmune response if they consume it. This can result in trouble breathing, abdominal cramping, a drop in blood pressure, hives, redness, and other hallmark symptoms of an allergic reaction. While rare, anaphylaxis can occur.

2. Celiac disease

This chronic autoimmune condition primarily affects the small intestine, which becomes inflamed if gluten is consumed. This results in gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. The condition can also cause systemic problems like chronic fatigue, depression, anemia, and in some cases, osteoporosis.

3. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)
This controversial and still poorly understood condition is currently only diagnosed when a patient’s issues with gluten are clearly not due to a wheat allergy or celiac disease. Its symptoms, which include headaches, eczema, and joint pain, manifest after ingesting gluten and subside once it’s eliminated from the diet. Because of its close association with fad diets and dubious claims made by self-professed nutrition experts, there’s been resistance to recognizing NCGS as a legitimate diagnosis.

If eating foods that contain gluten causes you to experience unusual symptoms, be sure to consult your doctor.

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