Don’t fall for flu myths: get your flu shot early


Woman with flu bunlded in blankets, sipping a hot beverage

We tend to think of the flu as a winter illness, but October is the start of flu season in the United States, continuing on through May and generally peaking in January or February. It’s not too early to think about getting your flu shot now, and if you need a good reason, the Chicago Tribune reports on some news about the toll of last year’s flu season:

“More than 80,000 people died from the flu last season in the United States, according to early estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it’s far lower than the almost 700,000 people who died in the U.S. during the so-called Spanish flu pandemic that hit worldwide 100 years ago, last season was a “record-breaking” death toll, the highest since at least the late 1970s, according to the CDC.

The flu deaths last season were nearly 10,000 higher than the estimated number who died from drug overdoses and almost double the number of those estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes. An estimated 900,000 plus were hospitalized, the public health agency said. In Illinois, more than 2,300 were admitted to intensive care units for flu-related illness.”

Apparently, that isn’t evidence enough to convince people to get vaccinated – less than half of the population gets a shot each year. If you are a flu shot skeptic, the Harvard Medical School shoots down 10 common flu myths – check out the article to get the facts.

  • Myth: You can catch the flu from the vaccine.
  • Myth: Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated.
  • Myth: Getting the flu vaccination is all you need to do to protect yourself from the flu.
  • Myth: The flu is just a bad cold.
  • Myth: You can’t spread the flu if you’re feeling well.
  • Myth: You don’t need to get a flu shot every year.
  • Myth: You can catch the flu from going out in cold weather without a coat, with wet hair or by sitting near a drafty window.
  • Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.
  • Myth: Chicken soup will speed your recovery from the flu.
  • Myth: If you have a high fever with the flu that lasts more than a day or two, antibiotics may be necessary.

Learn about who is most vulnerable to the flu from the CDC: People at High Risk of Developing Serious Flu–Related Complications. Get more facts about prevention, symptoms, treatments and more from flu.gov.

Today, there’s no excuse – it’s pretty easy to get a flu shot on the fly, you don’t even need to make a doctor’s appointment. You can get a flu shot at most major pharmacies and drug stores. If you’re unsure where to get a shot, check the vaccine finder. Here are some tips for getting free or cheap flu shots.

Tick season is here and expected to be an active one!


Now that the New England drought is under control, tick numbers are on the rise, with experts projecting that 2017 will be especially bad for Lyme-disease ticks. Great. And as if regular old ticks aren’t bad enough, the Lone Star tick can trigger a red meat allergy in humans. These ticks were primarily found in the southwest – named after the Lone Star state of Texas – but in recent years, they have been moving north. They are an aggressive species that targets humans and pets and a single bite can trigger a lifelong allergy to meat.

According to Popular Science, “Rising temperatures have turned previously inhospitable northern states like New Hampshire and Minnesota into tick-friendly zones. And now, folks in those regions have started reporting cases of alpha-gal syndrome.” They offer more information about the dread Lone Star tick, the allergy, and other nasty diseases that it  can carry.

The University of Rhode Island is your go-to source for all things tick related (they produced the video we used in this post). Check out the site called the TickEncounter Resource Center, with lots of great information on tick identification and removal, as well as tips for your protection, for treating your yard, and protecting your pets. It has a lot of information about the various types of ticks and diseases that they carry.

They suggest a springtime tick control to-do list:

  • Spray all outdoor shoes with Permethrin
  • Make sure pets are protected
  • Have yard treated with effective tick killers
  • Be especially vigilant about doing daily tick checks
  • Send off kids’ camp clothes to be treated

They also list higher risk TickEncounter activities as:

  • Golfing
  • Walking dog
  • Camping
  • Gardening
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Playing outdoors near wooded edges
  • Nature walks

 

Do you know the signs & symptoms of a heart attack?


 


Every year, almost three-quarters of a million people have a heart attack – that’s about one every 43 seconds. About two-thirds of those attacks are first time episodes, and about a third are repeat occurrence. And one thing many people don’t know – about 1 of 5 heart attacks is silent. Damage occurs, but the person is not aware that the attack occurred.

The best thing that we can all do is to know common signs and symptoms of a heart attack so that we can get immediate help from 911 either for ourselves or for anyone around us suspected of heart failure. Time is of the essence and can be life-saving. The American Heart Association suggest that you should become familiar with where your closest area hospital with 24-hour cardiac emergency care is located and keep emergency phone numbers on your mobile phone and near your home phone.

Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease but that is far from the truth – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., causing about 1 in every 4 deaths for both men and women.

However, men’s and women’s symptoms can sometimes differ.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

But the CDC says that heart attack symptoms for women can differ: some women have no symptoms, others experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

What’s your risk?

Want to learn your risk? Try these interactive heart calculators.

The American Heart Association offers these tips to help in lowering your risk of a heart attack:

  • Don’t smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Treat high blood pressure if you have it.
  • Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt) and added sugars.
  • Be physically active.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
  • Get regular medical check-ups.
  • Take medicine as prescribed.

Learn more about heart attacks

The American Heart Association

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Medline Plus

Mayo Clinic

What you need to know about the Zika virus


The Zika virus has been much in the news as public health concern, but unless you were traveling internationally, there is a good chance you didn’t pay too much attention. But now that some “homegrown” cases were identified in Miami recently, many folks are wondering if they should be concerned.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tracks the number of Zika cases in the U.S. As of August 3, they report 6 cases that were locally transmitted and another 1800+ travel associated cases in the U.S. Some reports put the Miami cases as high as 14, but all cases appear to be confined to a very narrow geographic area. The cases prompted the CDC to issue an advisory for pregnant women about travel to Florida:

Because the virus can have devastating consequences for a fetus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged pregnant women to avoid traveling to the area, and for pregnant women who live and work there to make every effort to avoid mosquito bites and to get tested for possible exposure during each prenatal visit. It also advised women to use protection during sex, because the virus can be transmitted sexually.

Furthermore, the CDC is advising that all pregnant women should be asked about travel to Zika-infested areas during routine prenatal visits. Any pregnant women who have traveled to Zika areas — including this area of Florida on or after June 15 — are advised to talk with their healthcare providers and get tested for Zika.

This CDC page offers information about everything you need to know about the Zika virus – including the helpful infographic below. . Here are a few other useful links.

cdc-zika-page-001

 

 

Do your heart good: try these heart health calculators


Heart health

February is Heart Health Month and the resounding theme is that simple changes can make a big difference. The CDC suggests:

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor to talk about heart health
  • Add exercise to your daily routine
  • Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least 3 times each week and make your favorite recipe lower sodium
  • Take steps to quit smoking
  • Take medication as prescribed

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. We’ve gathered some tools – a few of them interactive – that will help you focus on heart health!

calc

heart attack risk

blood pressure risk

Here are a few more useful heart-health tools:

First, it’s a good idea for everyone to know how to recognize signs of heart trouble – whether for yourself or a loved one, the earlier you get help, the better: Warning signs of a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest

Blood pressure: What do the numbers mean

Here’s a tool for tracking your blood pressure – Blood Pressure Wallet Card (PDF)

Questions to ask your doctor

More on men’s heart health and women’s heart health