Health & Wellness Info

The Healthy Times information on:

Health Education

(common illnesses/injuries of college students):

Fever

Your body's temperature is a balance between heat production and heat loss. This balance is controlled by the hypothalamus in your brain, which acts as your body's thermostat to maintain a set body temperature. Fever occurs when the body's thermostat is reset to a higher degree. A variety of conditions can cause a fever, such as infection (either viral or bacterial), serious injuries (referred to as trauma), certain cancers, some drugs, and a few other disorders (seizures, arthritis, etc.).

When is a temperature considered a fever? Since each individual is unique there is no one specific number for normal or abnormal. Generally speaking, however, 98.6 F, plus or minus one degree, is considered a normal body temperature with a value of 101 F or greater being a fever. To check your temperature you need a thermometer. There are many different kinds of thermometers with a wide range in price and convenience. Disposable strips, glass, digital, tympanic (ear), even pacifiers for infants, are all good choices depending on your needs. If you don't have a thermometer, a good indicator that your temperature may be on the way up is if you are experiencing chills (that is, others around you seem comfortable in t-shirts and you have three sweatshirts on!) That's because chills result from the need for muscle activity to raise heat production and increase body temperature.

What should you do if you have a fever? Fever itself is not harmful, but it can be uncomfortable--Tylenol or Ibuprofen - two tablets every four hours - can be taken. Dressing lightly (multiple layers of blankets and clothing can trap heat and keep your temperature up), and/or a tepid bath may also be helpful in lowering a fever.

If you have a fever, when should you see your health care provider? Most fevers resolve within 48 hours. An elevated temperature for more than 4-5 days should be evaluated. Also, if you experience any of the following symptoms with a fever contact your health care provider: burning with urination, discharge from the vagina or penis, severe abdominal pain, severe headache, rash, sore throat or ear pain.

Sleep

Have you ever had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Then you're in good company because one out of three Americans experiences insomnia. So, why do we need a good night's sleep anyway? Sleep is an essential part of overall good health. Research shows that a lack of enough sleep results in tiredness, an increase in accidents, difficulties with concentration, poor work (school) performance and even increased illnesses.

Each night the body needs time to "recover" from the day's activities. While you're resting, your body and mind are actually quite active in an alternating pattern of REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep. The proper balance of REM and non-REM allows you to feel refreshed and well- rested for the following day. How much is enough sleep? Everyone is different--some people feel well- rested with only 6-7 hours of sleep, while others need 9-10 hours, but on average 8 hours per night is recommended. Several factors can interfere with sleep, such as lifestyle choices (varying bedtimes, changing work shifts, caffeine intake, smoking, alcohol, etc.), environmental factors (noise, lighting, temperature), physical conditions (sleep disorders, pain, etc.) and psychological elements (depression, stress, anxiety, etc.).

So, how do you know if you have insomnia and when is it a problem needing medical treatment? The symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently in the night, not feeling rested in the morning, feeling tired during the day, and restlessness/anxiety as bedtime approaches. Generally speaking, there are three categories for insomnia-transient (lasting only a few nights), short-term (lasting 2-3 weeks) and long-term (lasting more than a few weeks with poor sleep every night, most nights, or several nights per month). You should consider contacting your health care provider if your sleep has been disturbed at least several times over the past month, or if sleep difficulties interfere with the way you feel or function during the day.

A thorough physical exam and history by your health care provider, as well as possibly blood work or other tests, will be done to determine any physical causes of the insomnia. Treatment would then entail any of the following: treatment of underlying medical disorder, relaxation techniques, changes in diet, exercise, regular sleep pattern, or counseling.

The secret to a good night's sleep:

  • establish a regular bedtime and time to get up
  • exercise regularly but avoid strenuous activity three hours before bedtime
  • avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime
  • avoid alcohol one-two hours before bedtime
  • avoid smoking one-two hours before bedtime
  • avoid naps during the day
  • go to bed only when you are sleepy and use your bed only for sleep not to read, watch TV, etc.
  • if you can't sleep don't stay in bed tossing, after 15-20 minutes get up and do something else until you are sleepy
  • establish relaxing pre-bedtime rituals like a warm bath, listening to music, reading, etc.

*For more info visit the National Sleep Foundation's Web site at http://www.sleepfoundation.org

Is stress bad?

In some instances, yes. Research suggests that your stress level affects your immune system, nervous system, heart function, metabolism and hormone levels. Therefore, scientists believe that stress may affect your recovery from, as well as susceptibility to, illness. So, what exactly is stress? Simply put, stress is your body's natural response to change. Any event or circumstance that elicits a physical or emotional response can cause stress. Here's how the body works...when confronted with a stressful situation the brain sends out chemicals called hormones which initiate what is known as the flight or fight response. This response involves almost EVERY organ and body function, including the brain, central nervous system, heart, circulation, digestion and muscle function. The purpose of flight or fight is to help us deal with danger and although this response is not harmful, if prolonged, it puts the body in a state of overdrive.

Stress is not all bad. We need a little stress in our lives to keep us motivated. Also, not every situation causing stress is bad. A new relationship, new job, moving to a new area, all these events are positive points in our lives but they do cause stress. So, when does stress become harmful? If physical symptoms of stress persist for more than a few weeks, you could be headed for trouble. Additionally, there are positive and negative ways to deal with stress. If you find yourself using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or violence in an effort to deal with your stress, you need to seek help.

Symptoms of Stress

  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Hives
  • Fatigue
  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Diarrhea/constipation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Irregular or missed menses
  • Muscular tension or pain (back or neck pain)
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Heartburn
  • Inability to concentrate

Tips for Dealing with Stress

  • Adequate sleep ( 6 - 8 hours per night )
  • Balanced Diet
  • Exercise
  • Spend time doing something you enjoy, such as a hobby
  • Use mediation or other relaxation techniques
  • Set realistic goals for yourself
  • Ask a friend, family member, or professional for help
  • Try to view change as a challenge, and not as an obstacle
  • Don't sweat the small stuff!

Emergency Contraception (ECP)

The condom broke, you had unplanned/unprotected intercourse, you were forced to have unprotected intercourse.....it may not be too late to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraception is designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Some people also refer to this as post-coital or morning-after birth control.

Emergency oral contraceptive pills, or ECP's, are birth control pills that are taken in higher doses than normally used daily to prevent pregnancy. Not all brands of birth control pills can be used in this way, but your health care provider can help you choose the right one for you.

So, how do ECP's work? ECP's prevent fertilization by inhibiting ovulation (release of the egg) and/or changing the way the sperm moves through the fallopian tube. It may also change the lining of the uterus so the egg can't "implant" or attach and grow. This is the same way in which birth control pills work when taken one pill per day throughout the month. Are ECP's a form of abortion? The medical community does not consider ECP's to be an abortion since it can't disrupt an already existing growing fetus. For some people, birth control methods used after fertilization may not be acceptable according to their personal ethics. Ultimately only you can decide if ECP's are right for you.

When can ECP's be used? ECP's can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. If more than 3 days have passed pregnancy may have already occurred and ECP's will not be effective. When used properly ECP's can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 75%. This is not a guarantee that pregnancy will not occur and ECP's may not prevent an ectopic or tubal pregnancy. In addition, ECP's do not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI's). Abstinence is the only 100% prevention for STI's and pregnancy. Can ECP's be used as a regular form of birth control? No. It is important to realize the effects of ECP's are only temporary and do not have long lasting contraceptive effects so, as soon as possible, a reliable method of birth control should be started.

Are there any side effects to using ECP's? Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of women will experience nausea. This is temporary and the symptoms can be eased with over-the -counter anti-nausea medications. What if a woman becomes pregnant while taking ECP's? Currently there is no reason to think that ECP's would harm an unborn baby, but since there have been no long term studies of the effects of ECP's during pregnancy, it is recommended that a woman not use ECP's if she is pregnant.

For more information contact your family doctor or the Student Health Center.

Influenza

Symptoms

  • fever
  • headache
  • aches & pain
  • fatigue
  • runny/stuffy nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • cough, chest discomfort
  • onset

Influenza

  • high (100.4); sudden onset
  • prominent, usual, often
  • quite severe
  • extreme (up to 1 month)
  • sometimes
  • sometimes
  • sometimes
  • can become severe
  • sudden (within hours)

Common Cold

  • rare
  • occasional
  • slight
  • mild
  • common
  • usual
  • common
  • mild-moderate
  • gradual

The height of cold/flu season is upon us and Lycoming College is no exception! Students, faculty and staff alike are all down and out with illnesses.

The best prevention, in general, is to stay in good health by eating properly and getting enough rest and exercise. Frequent and proper hand washing is essential to stop the spread of many illnesses, including colds and flus. An annual flu shot can also decrease your odds of getting the flu but will not help prevent other upper respiratory tract infections (URI's).

Whether it's the common cold or the flu, if you do find yourself unfortunate enough to get one of these "bugs", both are treated essentially the same. Since both are viral in nature antibiotics are not effective. Rest, plenty of fluids, Tylenol for fever/body aches and pains, Robitussin for the cough, Pseudofed for nasal congestion and Benedryl for itchy watery eyes/runny nose and sneezing will help reduce the severity of your symptoms until you are well. Most URI's, including the common cold and the flu, last on average 7-10 days.

If your fever lasts longer than 4-5 days or develops after the first 4-5 days of the illness; throat pain persists greater than 7 days or white spots are seen on the tonsils; cough persists greater than 10-14 days or you experience difficulty breathing; or nasal congestion persists longer than 10-14 days or you have facial pain or swelling, see a health care provider.

Remember, items such as disposable thermometers and over-the-counter medications are available at the Health Center at no cost. Appointments for the nurse are recommended. Appointments for the college physician are required and are made through the nursing staff. There is no fee to see the nurse or doctor.

Smoking

Each year more Americans die of smoke related diseases than AIDS, drug abuse, car accidents and murder combined!!

Tobacco contains approximately 4,000 chemicals, 200 of which are known to be poisonous. Among these numerous chemicals is Nicotine, so highly habit forming it's been compared to heroin and cocaine addictions. Nicotine raises a chemical in the brain known as Dopamine, which initially stimulates then tranquilizes and sedates the user. This "hit" of Nicotine takes seven seconds to reach the brain and the first puff - two times as fast as heroin when injected into a vein.

So, other than becoming a nasty habit, what can smoking do to your body . . . ? A Lot! Smoking effects virtually every organ in the body. It increases heart rate; constricts blood vessels, which raises blood pressure, weakens the heart and increases the risk for stroke; dulls taste buds, causes bad breath and contributes to gum disease; causes impotence and decreased sex drive in men and increases infertility in women; causes reflux (heart burn) and stomach ulcers; causes premature facial wrinkling; leads to cirrhosis of the liver; and causes cancer of the lungs, mouth, esophagus, larynx, bladder, cervix and vertebrae. Also, individuals that smoke tend to suffer from more upper respiratory tract infections and have a longer recovery period. Mothers that smoke during pregnancy have a higher risk of miscarriage and still births, as well as low birth weight babies.

Tips to stop smoking:

  1. Set a date for quitting
  2. Remove cigarettes, ashtrays, matches, lighters, from your home, office or car
  3. Be prepared for physical withdrawal symptoms. You may choose a nicotine replacement product
  4. Put an end to the ritual, concentrate on breaking habits associated with smoking
  5. Keep a supply of low calorie snacks handy
  6. Spend more time in places that don't allow smoking
  7. Tell people you're quitting
  8. Plan what you do instead of smoking
  9. Call a friend or join a support group
  10. Remember to be patient. Different approaches work for different people. You may need to try several before you're successful!

The good news is if you stop smoking your lungs begin to heal immediately! If you remain smoke free for 5-15 years your risk of many diseases such as lung and other cancers, ulcers, stroke and heart disease are the same as those who have never smoked! Remember, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States!

Antibiotics

Webster's describes antibiotics as "a substance, such as penicillin or streptomycin, produced by organisms (fungi and bacteria), effective in the suppression or destruction of microorganisms, and widely used for prevention and treatment of disease." We describe antibiotics as those magic drugs that can cure anything and make us "all better" immediately. This unfortunately is a dreadful misconception. Antibiotics are very important in medicine but they do have limitations. One, and probably the most important for us, is that antibiotics CANNOT cure viral illnesses such as the flu or the common cold. They are only effective in treating bacterial infections. If such were the case, we would have zero illness because at first signs of sore throats, a runny nose or cough we would start our pills and be cured (dream on!).

Antibiotics are not risk free drugs. They do have some unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness. Most of these side effects are self limiting and not life threatening, but occasionally there have been drug reactions that have been fatal. Discretion should be used when prescribing antibiotics. Doctors limit their use because if these drugs are used indiscriminately they could cause more harm then good. Certain bacteria become resistant to antibiotic treatment and stronger more dangerous drugs would be needed.

So what is the moral of this story? If you have persistent symptoms lasting longer than 5-7 days, or severe symptoms such as fever greater than 103, severe headache, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately. Otherwise, wait out the symptoms. Remember antibiotics are not always your friends!

Meningitis

So, what is meningitis? Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can be viral or bacterial. Viral meningitis is more common and resolves without any specific treatment. Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand, is less prevalent but is more serious and even potentially life threatening if not treated promptly with antibiotics. The onset and progression of the disease can be very rapid. Early symptoms may mimic the flu but the most common symptoms include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, mental changes, rash, and nausea/vomiting.

Bacterial meningitis can be caused by a number of organisms but the most common affecting older children and young adults is Neisseria Meningitidis. Of the N. Meningitidis cases there are five major serogroups or strains (A, B, C, Y, W-135) that cause the disease. The disease infects approximately 2,800 individuals in the U.S. annually, leading to death in about 10-15% of the cases.

There is a vaccine to protect against meningitis (Menomune) which is 85-95% effective against 4 of the 5 N. Meningiditis serogroups (A, C, Y, W-135). This accounts for 65% of the N. Meningititis cases in the U.S. The effectiveness of the vaccine is thought to last at least 3 years. The vaccine has been used routinely for new recruits in the U.S. military since 1982. This has resulted in a decrease by 87% of sporadic cases and an elimination of outbreaks for the military. Because research indicates college students are at a greater risk of contracting meningitis due to lifestyle behaviors (such as dormitory style living, smoking, alcohol consumption), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American College Health Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommend routine vaccinations for college students. In addition, Pennsylvania state law requires students living in college owned housing to be vaccinated.

Sore Throat

Sore throats are one of the most frequent ailments we experience throughout our lifetime but, fortunately, they are also normally mild and self-limiting. Throat pain can result from a variety of causes such as infection (either viral, bacterial or fungal), environmental (such as smoke), or drainage (either post-nasal drip or refluxed stomach contents). Of all these causes, by far the most common is viral infection , which usually resolves within 3-5 days. In the meantime, Tylenol or Advil, as well as anesthetic lozengers or sprays can help decrease the discomfort. Antibiotics are not prescribed since they are not effective against viral illnesses.

A less typical, but potentially more serious cause, is bacterial infections -- the best known being strep throat. Strep throat is most common in children 5 to 15 years of age and occurs most frequently in the months of October through April. Symptoms may include fever greater than 100.5 F, enlarged glands, reddened and/or painful throat, and exudate ("white patches") in the back of the throat. Unfortunately, these same symptoms can also occur with a viral throat infection. So, how do we know if it's strep or not? A sample from the pharynx or "throat culture" must be sent to a laboratory for analysis. If the culture is positive antibiotics are prescribed to resolve the infection.

So when should you see a health care provider? Throat pain accompanied by a temperature greater than 101 F, or pain lasting longer than one week.

Skin Cancer

We all love that golden glow we can get from soaking up a few good rays, but did you know that the sun's rays can cause irreparable damage to your skin and eyes, such as premature wrinkles, cataracts and even cancer?! That's because the light the sun emits contains ultra-violet (UV) radiation which can damage or kill cells in your body. Tanning is your body's response to protect you from these UV rays. Tanning does not, however, prevent skin cancer and, as a matter of fact, one serious sunburn can increase the risk of developing cancer by as much as 50%. Also consider skin cancer can take a long time to develop so the sunburn you receive today might affect you in twenty years. What does skin cancer look like? The most common sign is a change on the skin such as a lump, growth or sore that won't heal. Also watch out for a change in the size, shape or color of a mole. A mole that oozes or bleeds or feels itchy, hard, lumpy, swollen or tender to touch should be looked at by a doctor.

Sun Exposure Index - Index Values Exposure Category

  • 0 - 2 Minimal
  • 3 - 4 Low
  • 5 - 6 Moderate
  • 7 - 9 High
  • 10+ Very High

These values are given during the weather forecast to indicate the amount of UV radiation that will reach the earth's surface during the peak hour of sunlight around noon.

Tips to reduce your chances of skin cancer:

  • Minimize sun exposure during the hours of 10 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Use sunscreen of SPF-15 or higher and reapply every two hours even on cloudy days
  • Wear clothing that covers body and face
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation, such as sunlamps and tanning parlors

Going to the ER

It's late at night, or during a weekend or holiday, and you feel really awful. Your usual health care provider/clinic is not open - what should you do? The emergency department of the local hospital is open, of course. Should you seek treatment there or wait to see your family doctor?

Illness/Injuries Not Considered Urgent:

  • Common Cold
  • Sore Throat
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Mild Vomiting
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Pain relieved by Tylenol/Advil
  • Minor cuts or scrapes
  • Fever < 4 days < 104F

No one enjoys being sick and it certainly can be anxiety producing to be ill and not know the cause or seriousness, but the ER isn't appropriate for EVERY health concern. One reason is continuity and quality of care. Your family doctor knows your medical history and is familiar with your health care needs and concerns. He is in a better position to provide any necessary follow-up care. In addition, you are comfortable with him and his recommendations for treatment.

Another point is that a visit to the emergency department can cost quite a bit more than a trip to your usual health care provider. Insurance plans vary from policy to policy in terms of amounts and services allowed, but generally speaking, most carriers will not pay for a non-emergent visit. Additionally, if your carrier is managed care (HMO, PPO, Health America), you may have to call your PCP (primary care physician, your family doctor), or the insurance company before going to the ER or shortly thereafter.

In general, the ER is reserved for people who are seriously ill or injured, but how do you know what is or is not serious? Some health systems offer free 800 phone numbers to customers on a 24-hour a day basis, with a nurse available to answer questions and offer recommendations. Listed below are some guidelines to follow in determining what types of illness/injuries need to go to the Emergency Department:

Illness/Injuries Considered an Emergency:

  • Severe pain unrelieved by Tylenol or Advil
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Head injury with loss of conscienceness
  • Fever > 104F
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sign of dehydration
  • Large cuts that may need stitches
  • Injuries where a broken bone is possible

So many pills!

Researchers estimate that Americans suffer approximately one billion colds each year with the average person experiencing 2-4 colds per year. Unfortunately, to date, there is no cure for the common cold or flu. There is, however, a multi-million dollar industry out there with over 2,000 products designed to ease the symptoms. So, with all those choices (and all that money), how do you know which products to use? To start, identify the symptoms you are experiencing before heading to the drug store. Typical cold symptoms may include the following: sore throat, sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, stuffy ears, sinus pressure around the eyes and forehead, headache, mild fever (< 100.5), body aches, fatigue, and a dry cough or a cough producing phlegm. These symptoms usually last 7-14 days.

Cold/flu remedies come in two basic forms - single drug products and multi-drug products. Single drug products contain only one medication which usually helps to relieve one, maybe two, symptoms. Multi-drug products, on the other hand, contain a variety of medications so one dose will help alleviate several symptoms at once. Although multi-drug products such as Nyquil, Comtrex, Dimetapp, etc. are convenient in terms of taking one item in the hopes of hitting all the symptoms, it can also mean taking medication you don't really need (and getting some unpleasant side effects as well!!). For example, if you have a stuffy nose and take the popular multi-symptom preparation, Comtrex, you will not only be treating the stuffy nose you do have, but also the aches/pains, fever, cough, runny nose and sneezing you don't have, plus experience drowsiness unnecessarily!

Confused yet? After identifying your symptoms, the next step is to read the product labels so you can match the medicine with your complaints. Also keep in mind that all medications have a generic name as well as a trade name. For instance, Advil and Motrin are trade names for the generic name Ibuprophen; all three of these drugs are exactly the same. Generally speaking, generic brands are cheaper than trade brands.

  1. Decongestants (Pseudofed)- helps decrease nasal and ear stuffiness. Common side effect is jitteriness, insomnia.
  2. Nasal Sprays (Neosynepherine, Afrin)- helps decrease nasal stuffiness, fewer side effects and works faster than oral decongestants, but if used more than 3-4 days can cause "rebound congestion".
  3. Antihistamines (Benadryl, Chlortrimaton)- helps reduce sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes. Common side effect is drowsiness.
  4. Antitussives (Dextromethorphan )- helps to suppress a dry cough.
  5. Expectorants (Guaifenesin)- helps to loosen and thin mucous with a productive cough.
  6. Antipyretics (Tylenol, Advil)- reduces fever.
  7. Pain Relievers (Tylenol, Advil)- helps decrease body aches and pain.

Hand Washing

Our hands are our gateway to the world. Each day our hands help us to communicate with others, perform simple and complex tasks and explore our surroundings. Unfortunately, our hands can also be used to spread infections to one another! From a simple common cold or flu virus to salmonella, hepatitis, and even stomach ulcers, all can be spread by contaminated hands! Here's how it works, an infected person's hands come in contact with contaminated material (nasal secretions, feces, wound drainage, etc.) then he/she either touches another person or an inanimate object (telephone, computer keyboard, pen, etc.) which is then touched by someone else who then becomes infected and so on. You can break this chain of events simply by washing your hands. It's that easy! Hand washing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infection, simply put - IT CAN SAVE LIVES! So wash your hands properly and wash them often for a long and healthy life for yourself and those you love.

Always Wash Your Hands Before:

  • Preparing or eating food
  • Treating a wound or cut
  • Caring for someone sick
  • Inserting or removing contacts

Always Wash Your Hands After:

  • Using the bathroom
  • Handling uncooked food
  • Coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • Handling garbage
  • Caring for someone sick

Insurance Plans

There are many new kinds of insurance plans and so many new terms, it can be difficult to understand WHAT YOU SHOULD DO when you need health services.

When seeking medical services, with any insurance plan, you will need to identify the type of insurance you have and present your insurance card. Remember - if the insurance information is not given or is filled out incorrectly you will be responsible for any incurred costs.

Below are a few guidelines that apply to most insurance companies. Plans do vary so it is best to review the insurance information with your parents and/or insurance carriers:

  • HMO's (Health Maintenance Organizations) - A health plan that combines coverage of health care costs and delivery of health care for a pre-paid premium. Members receive service from personnel employed by or under contract to the HMO. HMO's generally require patients to select a PCP who coordinates the patient's care. Advantages: emphasizes preventative care, minimal out-of-pocket payment (co-pay), rarely a need to file a health insurance claim. Disadvantages: Restricted access to physicians, must go through PCP before going to hospital or specialists, to have additional services and for tests from specialist or hospital you must have a referral from PCP. If you do not use your PCP to access care, you may be responsible for the entire bill.
  • PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) - A network of independent physicians, hospitals and other health care providers who contract with an insurance entity to provide care at discount rates. Members are given incentives to use the PPO physician, but are always allowed to use out-of-network providers at a higher cost. Advantages: Can go out of network for care, minimal out-of-pocket expense with network health care providers, rarely need to file an insurance claim. Disadvantages: 20-30% increase in out-of-pocket expense if going out of network for care.
  • POS (Point of Service) - A mix between PPO & HMO's. Like HMO's, POS plans require you to choose. But, like a PPO, you have the option of seeing a non-participating physician and paying a larger share of the cost. Advantages: Emphasize both primary and preventative care, minimal out of pocket co-payment when in network care, can choose to see out-of-network physicians. Disadvantages: 20-30% increase in out-of-pocket expense to go out of network.
  • Traditional or Indemnity Plans (fee for services) - This type of benefit plan offers a wide range of health services and you may use the hospital and/or physician of your choice. The plan design will determine how much out-of-pocket expense you will pay to receive these services. Advantages: Can choose any physician or hospital for care, no need for referrals. Disadvantages: must complete and forward claim forms to insurance, may need pre-certification (pre-approval) if going to hospital or having surgery, out-of-pocket costs may be high.

Some common terms used with insurance:

  1. PCP - Primary Care Physician - your pre-select family physician . Your PCP must first provide you with a referral to a specialist or for any medical testing or treatment in order for you to receive your maximum benefits.
  2. Referral forms - forms provided and completed by your PCP that enable you to access specialty physicians or hospital services.
  3. Co-pays - a method of payment where both you and your insurance company are responsible for a portion of the medical bills. Your co-pay will be due at the time of service.
  4. Participating hospital/physician - Physicians and hospital that agree to see patients who are enrolled in a given health plan. Your insurance company or employer should provide a listing of this "provider-network" participating in your specific area.
  5. Insurance forms - it is your responsibility to complete and send forms to your insurance company. Failure to send correct forms will affect the payment of your bill.
  6. Pre-certified Admissions - the approval you or your physician receives from your insurance company to provide you with specified hospital and/or physician services.
  7. Deductibles - the amount of money you must pay each year before your insurance will pay.

Alternative Therapies

In some instances the above may be a matter of opinion, but in other cases documented scientific evidence exists to support the benefits of alternative therapies. * The National Institutes of Health estimate that approximately one in three Americans utilize some form of alternative or complementary treatment such as herbal medicine, accupuncture, biofeed back, homeopathy, aroma therapy, hypnotherapy and more. Among individuals who see traditional health care providers one-third utilize herbal therapies. In addition, studies show that individuals seeking both traditional and alternative medicines tend to be more health conscious with increased exercise, improved diet, less alcohol/tobacco use and more compliance with prescribed medication regimes. * Seeking alternative therapies is clearly an individual decision but if you do choose non-traditional medicine here are some tips to keep in mind.

First, check credentials of all non-traditional (and even traditional) providers. Many states provide licensure for practitioners. Next, read all labels carefully. Just because the bottle states "all natural" doesn't mean the product can't be toxic when taken improperly. Always keep all medications (herbal and traditional) out of the reach of children. Also remember "let the buyer beware". Herbal remedies are not subject to FDA regulations and, hence, don't have to demonstrate purity or effectiveness. Finally and perhaps most importantly, always notify your doctor of any alternative therapies. Some herbal products and treatments are contraindicated with certain traditional medications, and in certain diseases or conditions (pregnancy).

Alternative/Complimentary Therapies:

  1. Accupressure - pressure is applied to particular areas of the body (accupoints) to relieve symptoms.
  2. Accupuncture - needles are inserted in certain areas of the body (accupoints) to relieve symptoms, especially pain, and maintain optimal health.
  3. Aroma therapy - the use of essential oils extracted from plants to encourage relaxation and alleviate symptoms. Oils can be added to baths, used for massage, worn as a personal perfume or dispensed into the air for inhalation.
  4. Chiropractic medicine - manual manipulation to realign the spine as well as other joints and muscles to bring the body back into balance. Helps to relieve symptoms, particularly pain.
  5. Herbal therapies - use of various plant parts (stems, leaves, flowers, roots, seeds) to form pills, beverages, ointments, and compresses to relieve symptoms.
  6. Massage therapy - various touching/rubbing techniques used to release painful muscle tension, promote circulation, improve flexibility and decrease physical/mental fatigue.

* Source: Professional Handbook of Complementary & Alternative Medicines

 

Breast & Testicular Cancer

The bad news is approximately 6,800 young men and 180,000 women will be diagnosed with testicular and breast cancer, respectively, each year. The good news is a simple five minute routine once a month can detect these cancers early so effective treatment can begin.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer primarily affects young men ages 15-35. Early signs may include a hard pea-sized lump, slight swelling in one testicle and a feeling of heaviness in the groin or scrotum. If found early the survival rate is close to 100%. So, how do you detect testicular cancer. Simply by examining yourself monthly. The best time is after a warm bath/shower when the scrotum is relaxed. Roll each testicle gently between the thumb and fingers of both hands. If a lump is found see your health care provider as soon as possible.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Although the risk factors for developing breast cancer include over age 40, family history of breast cancer, never giving birth or birth over age 30, 75% of cases diagnosed each year have no risk factors! The most common sign is a lump or thickening of the breast tissue. Other signs to look for are redness or soreness of the skin, swelling, dimpling or puckering of the skin or nipple. Although 4 out of 5 lumps are benign (not cancer) you should report any changes in your breast to your health care provider. The best time to examine your breasts is after your period. Lie down and place a pillow under the shoulder of the breast you are examining and place that arm behind your head. With the finger pads of the opposite hand, feel for lumps or thickenings. Then repeat on the other side. Also look at your breast in front of a mirror for any changes.

Mono

What is Mono?

Infectious mononucleosis or mono is a viral infection frequently affecting adolescents and young adults. Mono is most commonly caused by a virus known as the Epstine-Barr virus (EBV).

What are the Symptoms?

Once a person becomes infected with the virus it can take 3-7 weeks for symptoms to begin. Some people may have no symptoms at all but most typically fatigue, fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat and enlarged glands are experienced. If, after completing a health history and physical exam, a health care provider suspects mono a blood test will be done to confirm the diagnosis.

How is it Treated?

  • Medications: Treatment for mono is aimed at alleviating symptoms. Since it is a viral illness antibiotics are NOT useful. If, however, a secondary infection develops, such as a strep throat or sinus infection, then antibiotics are needed. Tylenol or Advil may be used for fever, body aches or throat pain.
  • Activity: Extra rest is highly recommended. Although the worst of the symptoms usually resolve in one to two weeks, it may take several weeks to months to fully recover. In the meantime, students may attend classes as tolerated. Contact sports are not recommended for 4 weeks since the virus can also affect the spleen causing it to become enlarged. If an enlarged spleen is hit or strained it could rupture causing severe bleeding. Additionally, mono may cause liver inflammation. It is, therefore, important NOT to drink alcohol since this could further damage the liver.

How Is It Spread?

Mono is usually spread through infected saliva which is why it is called "the Kissing disease". Although transmission probably requires repeated and prolonged contact with infected saliva, few people can identify their source of the infection. It's also important to realize that people with mono may continue to be infectious for many months even after recovery! So, the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to not kiss or share food, drinks or eating utensils with an infected person. Once a person has been infected with the Epstein-Barr virus it stays in the body even after recovery and although that individual could develop mono again this is not common.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

What is conjunctivitis?

One of the most common causes of a red, irritated eye is conjunctivitis, a condition commonly known as pink eye.

How does it occur?

Conjunctivitis is usually caused by a virus similar to the virus that causes the common cold. You may get cold like symptoms before, during, or after conjunctivitis. Sometimes conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria instead of by a virus.

How is it treated?

Like a cold, viral conjunctivitis is very contagious. You can spread the infection by coughing or sneezing. Sharing makeup, towels, or anything else that touches your eye may also spread the infection. Washing you hands frequently and avoiding rubbing your eye can help decrease the risk of spreading the infection to others.

Conjunctivitis usually gets better in a few days. Occasionally, it can last up to four weeks. When you return to work or school will depend on the severity of your infection and whether you can avoid direct contact with other people.

Pharyngitis (Sore Throat)

What is pharyngitis?

Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the throat. It can be caused by prolonged shouting/screaming, allergies, viral or bacterial infections. Symptoms include a scratchy or sore throat.

What to do to feel better?

  • Tylenol or Advill for pain relief
  • Throat lozengers to help decrease minor pain
  • Warm salt water gargles to decrease swelling in the throat:
    • One teaspoon or two small packets of salt in 8 ounces of warm water.
    • Gargle 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, spicy food, acidic foods and smoking which may further irritate the throat
  • Antibiotics will only help if the source of the pharyngitis is a BACTERIAL INFECTION

When should I see a health care provider?

  • Fever 100.5 F or greater for more than 2 days
  • Extremely red throat
  • White patches in the throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Sore throat persisting greater than 5-6 days

Common Cold

What is a cold? The common cold, also referred to as an upper respiratory infection (URI) is caused by any one of more than 200 viruses. Most colds last anywhere from 7-14 days. Symptoms can include:

  • scratchy/sore throat
  • coughing
  • ear congestion
  • achiness/tiredness
  • sneezing
  • runny nose or nasal congestion
  • watery eyes

How is a cold spread? Although colds are spread in droplets expelled by an infected person when he/she coughs or sneezes, it is more commonly spread by direct hand-to-hand contact. Colds ARE NOT brought on by cold feet, going outside with wet hair or becoming chilled. Being overly tired or stressed can make a person more vulnerable to any viral illness, including colds.

What can I do to feel better? Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics WILL NOT help since they fight bacterial not viral infections. Treatment is aimed at symptom relief so it is best to choose those medications specific to your symptoms:

  • Tylenol or Advil: helps alleviate aches/pains and fever
  • Pseudofed: helps to decrease nasal and ear congestion
  • Chlor-trimaton: helps decrease sneezing, itchy watery eyes and runny nose
  • Robitussin DM: helps to suppress cough and liquefy secretions
  • Throat lozengers: alleviates minor throat pain and irritation
  • Warm salt water gargles: helps reduce swelling in the throat

Additionally:

  • Get plenty of rest to allow your body to recover
  • Drink plenty of fluids (especially hot liquids) to help soothe the throat and liquefy secretions
  • Avoid Alcohol which can cause dehydration and slow recovery
  • Avoid Smoking which can cause further irritation to the respiratory tract and increase the risk of pneumonia or bronchitis.

When should I see a health care provider?

  • cold symptoms persisting longer than 10-14 days
  • bloody nasal mucus
  • pain or tenderness around the eyes
  • enlarged neck glands
  • difficulty breathing
  • white patches on the throat
  • fever greater than 100.5 for more than 2 days

Strains & Sprains

What is a Sprain?

A sprain is an injury to the supporting ligaments surrounding a joint that usually follows a sharp twist. Symptoms include local pain (especially with joint movement), swelling, loss of mobility and black and blue discoloration.

What is a Strain?

A strain is an injured muscle or tendon. It can be acute or chronic and is caused by overuse or overstress. Symptoms include sharp pain with rapid swelling at time of injury followed by muscle tenderness and black and blue discoloration several days later.

What To Do To Feel Better?

Sprains

  • Immobilize the injured joint with an elastic bandage to promote healing
  • Control swelling by elevating the joint 48-72 hours
  • Apply ice intermittently for the first 24-48 hours to help decrease the swelling
  • Tylenol or Advil for pain relief

Strains

  • Rest to the affected muscle or tendon
  • Apply ice intermittently for the first 24-48 hours followed by heat
  • Tylenol or Advil for pain relief

When To Go To The ER?

  • Severe pain in the injured extremity
  • Pallor (pale, dusky blue color) at the injured site
  • No pulse in the extremity
  • Loss of movement to the injured limb
  • Numbness of the extremity
  • Coldness in the extremity
  • Deformity of the limb

An x-ray is the only way to know for sure if an extremity is broken.

Gastroenteritis

What is Gastroenteritis?

An inflammation of the stomach and intestines with many possible causes, such as: bacteria (responsible for acute food poisoning), parasites, food intolerances, drugs (antibiotics in particular) or most commonly viral infections. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramping and/or pain and a general feeling of tiredness.

What to do to feel better?

Treatment is based on patient history. If symptoms are related to food intolerances or drugs---stopping the medication or avoiding the food allergen will usually result in clearing of symptoms within 24 hours. Generally, a fever is not associated with drug/food intolerances.

Treatment for viral symptoms (which can include all the above symptoms) should be: a modified diet-nothing to eat or drink for 2 hrs. after vomiting to allow the stomach to rest, then progress to sips of clear liquids (water, ginger-ale, 7Up, Kool-aid, Jello or broth). After 24 hours progress to a bland diet (dry toast, crackers, clear soups, applesauce, bananas etc.). Avoid spicy or fatty food as well as MILK PRODUCTS and FRUIT JUICES until feeling better. Advance to regular diet as tolerated. Also, Pepto-Bismol for nausea and Kaopectate for diarrhea may be used.

When should I see a health care provider?

  • Temperature greater than 100.5 F
  • Blood noted with vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 4 days
  • Unable to keep any FLUIDS down for more than 24 hours

Hepatitis B Fact Sheet

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Although most people recover, Hepatitis B is an unpredictable disease that may incapacitate a person for weeks or months and can lead to life-long complications such as cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and death. Although there is no cure for the disease there is a safe and effective vaccine to protect you from getting HBV.

Hepatitis B fast facts

  • HBV is 100 times easier to get than HIV
  • 75% of all reported cases of HBV are people between the ages of 15-39 years
  • More than 1.25 million Americans are infected with HBV
  • There are approximately 5000-6000 deaths annually from HBV
  • Up to 40% of adults cases of HBV have no known risk factors
  • 1 out of 20 Americans has been infected with HBV with 200,000 new infections each year
  • The Hepatitis B virus can live on a hard surface for up to 1 month

Transmission of the disease is through blood and body fluids, which includes:

  • Sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex
  • Blood transfusions
  • Sharing razors
  • Sharing toothbrushes
  • Sharing washcloths
  • Sharing needles
  • Needle stick injury (primarily health care worker)
  • Tattooing
  • Body piercing (including ear piercing)

The vaccine is recommended by the following organizations:

  • The American College Health Association (ACHA)
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health (Gov. Ridge signed into law in March of 1996 that all school children will be immunized).
  • The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP- a sub-committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The Hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective. It was licensed for use in 1986 and universal infant immunization was adopted in 1991. The most common side effect from the vaccine is soreness at the injection site.