Your health means everything – protect it by getting vaccinated for flu season
Shorter days and cooler temperatures are tell-tale signs that autumn has arrived. Unfortunately, another sign of the season is the beginning of increased flu activity. Flu season can last from autumn to as late as May – peaking between December and February. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s flu cases were historically low, thanks in large part to widespread practice of safety measures to combat another widely-circulating respiratory illness – COVID-19 – including school closures, mask wearing and social distancing. With less common practice of those measures over the past several months, we could see an uptick in flu cases like prior years’ levels. That potential – along with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic – makes it even more important that we each do what we can to minimize our risk, protect our health and protect the health of those around us. Getting vaccinated against the flu is a vitally important way to fight it.
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and can cause mild to severe illness and even lead to death in certain situations. Everyone is susceptible to the flu, but individuals with a greater risk of developing complications from these viruses include children younger than five years old, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and blood disorders.
At Fauquier Health, one of the essential ways we’re Making Communities Healthier is making sure that our neighbors understand how to fight preventable diseases like the flu. As we have all learned during this time, our health means everything and it has never been more important to protect it.
And there are a few key strategies to protect yourself, your family and our community; prevent the flu from spreading; and even speed up your recovery if you do become ill:
First – and most importantly – get vaccinated. As we have witnessed this year with the safety and success of COVID-19 vaccines in decreasing transmission rates, similarly, flu vaccination is the single-best way to protect yourself from influenza viruses. While it is still possible to contract the flu after getting vaccinated, studies show that flu vaccinations will lessen the severity of symptoms if you do get sick. Getting vaccinated also affords you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are doing everything you can to protect yourself against the flu.
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone six months and older, with any age-appropriate flu vaccine. If you are considering a nasal spray flu vaccine, it is important to know that this option is approved by the CDC for use in non-pregnant individuals, ages two through 49, and there is a precaution against this option for those with certain underlying medical conditions. You should talk with your healthcare provider regarding which flu vaccination method works best for you.
Like COVID-19 vaccines, flu vaccines can take approximately two weeks to become fully effective, so you should plan to receive your flu vaccine before flu activity begins in your area. A good rule of thumb is to get vaccinated no later than the end of October.
And while we’re on the subject of COVID-19 vaccines, if you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, there’s no better time than now – especially as COVID-19 cases continue to spread and the potential for flu activity increases. You can even conveniently get both vaccines on the same day, to save you from having a second visit. If you have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, ask about getting it when you get your flu shot. Being vaccinated against both viruses is your best defense against becoming infected with one or both diseases.
You can visit a walk-in clinic or pharmacy, or your primary care provider’s office to receive a flu vaccination. If you don’t have a provider, we can connect you with one. Visit our website and browse our Find a Doctor tab FauquierHealth.org/find-a-doctor, or call 540.316.DOCS.
In addition to getting vaccinated, there are other simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family, and help prevent the spread of flu and other infections like COVID-19 during flu season and year-round, including:
- Washing your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol-based
- Wearing a face mask in indoor, public spaces
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Avoiding sharing food, cups or eating utensils
- Regularly disinfecting your home and belongings, such as doorknobs, light switches, children’s toys and play areas
- Staying home from school or work if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, your sleeve or elbow, and NOT your bare hands
- Calling your primary care provider with any questions
At Fauquier Health, we are taking additional steps to help prevent the flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses from spreading by:
- Implementing universal masking for patients, providers, employees, visitors, and anyone entering our facility
- Setting up stations stocked with alcohol-based sanitizers and hands-free trash cans throughout our facility
- Continuing stringent cleaning and disinfection protocols
- Encouraging all patients, staff, and visitors to get their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations
If you or someone you know notices symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever, or other upper respiratory symptoms, please see your healthcare provider right away. Many of the most common symptoms of flu are consistent with COVID-19, so it may be hard to tell the difference between them. Testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Limit your contact with others as much as possible when symptoms appear and stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care (If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to self-isolate for a longer period of time).
The good news is that when you act on your symptoms, visit a provider and flu is detected early, prescription antiviral drugs can often help treat the illness and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.
For additional information about the 2021-22 flu season, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu or contact your local health department.
By Christine Hart Kress, Fauquier Health, Chief Nursing Officer
Staying well: Meditation can improve memory, concentration and more
Everyone knows that meditation can reduce stress. But researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital say it directly affects the function and structure of the brain. It increases attention span, sharpens focus, and improves memory.
With the aid of advanced brain scanning technology, one study showed that daily meditation thickens the parts of the brain’s cerebral cortex responsible for decision-making, attention, and memory.
The test subjects were Boston-area workers practicing Western-style meditation, called mindfulness or insight meditation. For 40 minutes a day, they focused on an image, a sound, or on their own breathing.
The Insight Meditation Society recommends just sitting in a chair. Close your eyes and follow your breath. Feel the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. If your mind wanders, that’s all right.
Watch what happens when your mind wanders. Notice it, observe it, then let it go and return to breathing. Be aware of what you’re thinking, but don’t get caught up in it.
With practice, you can develop a state called mindfulness, which is being aware of what’s going on as it arises without jumping to conclusions, judgments, hopes, fears, or plans.
Meditation also improves productivity and reduces absenteeism at work, probably because it helps prevent stress-related illness.
Meditation seems to aid with emotional regulation, which helps people get along better. It acts on emotional intelligence, which neuroscientists say is more important for life success than cognitive intelligence.
Collagen and greens: The truth about the hottest supplements
Ads for collagen supplements imply big benefits — youthful skin, stronger bones, and reduced joint pain.
Simply add a scoop to your morning smoothie or mix it with water to turn back the clock. While you’re at it, add a scoop of powdered greens. It’s easier than eating kale but gives you all the nutritional benefits. For just $99 (per month), you can combine the two supplements into a single, convenient product. It’s easy, and it works, right?
Maybe, researchers say. But then again, maybe not. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, more research is needed to determine whether collagen supplements can help humans grow new collagen, which diminishes as we age. And as the New York Times reports, while some studies have indicated that taking collagen for several months may improve skin elasticity, those studies were small and received their funding from collagen supplement manufacturers.
Greens powders — which usually contain some combination of dried and ground leafy greens and seaweed, grasses, probiotics, and herbs — fare somewhat better under scrutiny, but experts still encourage skepticism. According to WebMD, greens powders can be useful to supplement a healthy diet with additional vitamins and antioxidants. One study linked greens powders with improvements in blood pressure. But greens powder is not equivalent to whole foods — some nutritional content, like fiber, is lost in processing, and over-consumption of some vitamins can be harmful.
Another thing for consumers to consider is: The supplement market is largely unregulated, and poor-quality products with inaccurate labels are common. In an interview with The Cut, Evan Reister, a doctor of nutrition science at American University, advises consumers to look for brands that are USP or NSF-certified. These certifications require that manufacturers label their products accurately and submit to third-party lab testing for certain contaminants.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
You may have seen or heard the words “frontotemporal dementia” more often than usual lately, or maybe for the first time ever, thanks to the family of Bruce Willis, which recently announced the legendary actor’s diagnosis. According to his family’s statement, that was the goal: “…that any media attention can be focused on shining a light on this disease that needs far more awareness and research.”
Here are five key things to know about frontotemporal dementia, also called frontotemporal disorder or FTD:
1. Frontotemporal dementia is a catch-all term for a group of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which are associated with personality, behavior, and language, according to the Mayo Clinic.
2. FTD is one of the most common types of dementia among younger patients and affects men and women equally. Symptoms usually start between the ages of 40 and 65 but can also appear in younger or older adults, according to Johns Hopkins.
3. The two most common types of FTD are the frontal variant, which affects behavior and personality, and primary progressive aphasia, which has two subtypes. The first subtype, progressive nonfluent aphasia, affects the ability to speak, while the other type, semantic dementia, affects the ability to use or understand language.
4. The first symptoms are usually unusual behavior and difficulty with speech and language, according to UCSF Health. Later, many patients develop movement disorders or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
5. The cause of FTD is unknown, but researchers believe a genetic component may exist. There are no treatments available that can slow or reverse the progression of FTD, but medications and therapies may relieve symptoms and help preserve function.
May is National Arthritis Month: How to reduce arthritis symptoms
The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint disease wear the protective tissue on bones wears down over time. It causes pain and inflammation.
If you are beginning to have pain in joints, like knees, one of the best things you can do is lose weight. Weight loss reduces joint stress. With weight loss, some joint pain may disappear completely.
In other cases, weight loss may have a moderate impact on pain.
If you already have osteoarthritis pain, increasing water intake often improves the condition after about four weeks, the time needed to rehydrate the joints. Drink half your body weight in ounces each day. If you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces or ten eight-ounce glasses per day.
Eat foods that fight inflammation, such as fish and nuts. Limit animal fats, which can trigger inflammation. Take a multivitamin.
Researchers have found that walking, riding a bike, tai chi, or swimming can help with pain and preserve some flexibility.
One of the keys is to do as much as you can. No one with arthritis likes getting started, but remember that walking can help reduce pain and inflammation. See arthritis.org for stretching exercises and advice on walking programs.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are often taken for arthritis, but there have been mixed results in clinical studies. Some studies say the supplements seem to have little effect on mild to moderate arthritis. In cases of moderate to severe arthritis, however, some users report reduced pain.
How to remove a tattoo
You’re on a motorcycle. Shades. Sleeve rolled up over your bicep. That screamin’ eagle tattoo says you are ready to rumble.
Of course, 15 years later, maybe you don’t want to rumble anymore.
With tattoos making a big impression these days, doctors who offer laser removal are making big bucks taking the impressions off. By one estimate, there are 23 million Americans with tattoo regret. Young women, in particular, often come to regret the permanent reflection of their adolescence marked in living color on their shoulders and hands.
Laser treatments can permanently remove up to 95 percent of a tattoo, but they are very expensive and take several treatments. The laser works by shooting short bursts of light into the tattoo pigment. The laser breaks up the pigment, and the body removes the leftover tiny pigment particles.
With laser treatments, tattoo ink color matters. Black is the easiest to remove since it readily absorbs light from the laser. Green is harder to remove. There are lasers specifically designed to remove various tattoo colors, but the more obscure the colors in your tattoo, the harder it will be to remove.
While a medium-sized tattoo can cost $200, removing it could cost $1200. Laser removal costs $200 per treatment and can require from six to eight treatments, although results vary.
If laser treatment doesn’t work, there are other, more invasive permanent options. The tattoo can be sanded off (dermabrasion), cut off (surgery) with or without skin grafting, or burned off (chemical peels).
What your nails say about your health
Did you know your fingernails can provide hints about your overall health? Here are five things to keep in mind about your nails.
1. Changes in the lunula. The lunula is the white half-moon shape at the base of your nail, just above the cuticle. This feature’s change in color or size may indicate an underlying disease, like cirrhosis, chronic renal failure, or congestive heart failure.
2. Pitting. Nails that are dimpled or pitted can point to psoriasis, eczema, alopecia, or joint inflammation.
3. Dark streaks. Dark-colored streaks running the length of the nail could indicate melanoma. However, black lines under the nail bed can also be caused by an injury.
4. Discoloration. Yellow discoloration of the nails can appear in people with chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases. A fungal infection can also turn the nails yellow and thick.
5. Clubbing. When the ends of your fingers swell and the nail becomes curved and rounded, it can sometimes be a sign of liver or kidney disease. Clubbing can also occur in conditions related to the lungs and gastrointestinal tract.
If your nails change or look abnormal, talk to your doctor or see a dermatologist to determine if you need treatment.
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