why am i nauseous - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

An upset stomach can strike at any time, and a sudden bout of nausea may have you racking your brain to remember what you ate or where you may have picked up a stomach bug. 

Nausea can be caused by many different things and is often a symptom of another medical condition. If you’re experiencing persistent nausea or nausea that makes it difficult to get the nutrition you need, you should see a doctor. If, however, you’re experiencing occasional or short-term nausea, one of these common causes may provide an explanation. While nausea can definitely be linked to something you ate or to a virus, many causes of nausea may surprise you.

1. Stress or Anxiety

Nausea is often a symptom of stress and anxiety. With many people currently experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it isn’t surprising if you’re experiencing unusual stomach symptoms as well. 

Stress triggers a cascade of physical symptoms throughout the body: it can have negative effects on cardiovascular health, blood sugar, hormone levels, the reproductive system, and—yes—digestion. The gut is lined with highly sensitive nerve cells. When you eat, these neurons sense that food has entered the gut, and trigger intestinal contractions that help move the food along the digestive tract. When you’re feeling stressed, the brain sends signals to those nerves, causing contractions beyond what’s required for normal digestion. The result can be intestinal problems such as abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea. 

If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal distress due to stress, you may want to consider therapy. Many therapists have started offering teletherapy during the pandemic to help people who need treatment during the current health crisis. Research has shown that for many people, online therapy is just as effective as in-person treatment. Practicing meditation can also help ease anxiety. 

2. Dehydration

Being dehydrated can cause symptoms such as dizziness, muscle cramps, weakness, and nausea. If nausea leads to vomiting, it can cause further water loss, making symptoms even worse. 

To prevent dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day. You may need to take in extra fluids if you exercise, spend time outside in the heat, or have severe diarrhea. 

Drinking alcohol can also cause dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes your body to expel fluids at a faster rate. If you’re drinking alcohol, it’s a good idea to drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. 

3. Migraine

While migraines are typically characterized by debilitating headaches, they can also cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. 

If you’re prone to migraines, keep a journal to see if you can identify your triggers. Common migraine triggers include dehydration, severe heat or other extreme weather conditions, stress, changes in barometric pressure, hormonal changes, intense physical activity, changes in sleeping patterns, and certain foods, including caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, cured meats, and foods containing monosodium glutamate. 

You may also notice certain symptoms that appear 1 to 2 days before a migraine hits. These symptoms often include depression, low energy, irritability, and frequent yawning. When you feel a migraine coming on, try taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication and drinking lots of water. If OTC medications aren’t strong enough, talk to your doctor about prescription migraine medications. 

4. Food poisoning

One not-so-surprising cause of nausea is food poisoning, which can be caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses transmitted through food. Symptoms of food poisoning may also include stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea, and gas. 

Most people with food poisoning recover with no issues, although it may take several days for the illness to pass. While you’re riding it out, be sure to drink plenty of fluids. 

5. Medications

Nausea is a common side effect of many medications, including birth control pills, antidepressants, vitamins, and OTC medications. Often, nausea is caused by taking pills on an empty stomach, which can irritate the lining of the stomach. 

If you’re taking any medications—even vitamins or supplements—make sure you follow the directions and take them with food if necessary. Even a small snack, such as some crackers, might be enough to ward off nausea. Just be sure to eat first; eating after you take your pills won’t usually help. 

6. Ear infection

Nausea accompanied by pressure in the ear could indicate an ear infection. Sensors in the inner ear help you maintain your sense of balance. An infection in the inner ear can affect the fluid levels in the ear, causing dizziness and nausea, as well as other symptoms such as ear pain, changes in hearing, headache, and fever. Antibiotics may be needed to fight the infection. 

When to See a Doctor

Many of the conditions above can be improved or prevented with home care. If you’re able to identify the source of your nausea, take steps to avoid it in the future. Avoid migraine triggers, drink plenty of water, and always cook food thoroughly. 

Also avoid anything that could further irritate the stomach lining, including alcohol or spicy foods. If you’re able to eat, stick to bland foods. Ginger has properties that may improve symptoms of nausea. Try drinking ginger tea or ginger ale, or chew on a piece of candied ginger. 

If you have nausea that lasts for more than two days—especially if accompanied by vomiting—it’s important to seek medical attention. Other signs that you should see a doctor include severe symptoms such as chest pain, blurred vision, confusion, or blood in your vomit or stool. 

Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.

References: 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/stress-and-the-sensitive-gut

https://www.healthandwellnessalerts.berkeley.edu/blog/quelling-anxiety-with-mindfulness-and-meditation/

https://vestibular.org/labyrinthitis-and-vestibular-neuritishttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818021/

cardiac risks of steroids - wellrx blog image

By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

Corticosteroids represent a potent class of anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medications, and they have a multitude of uses in the medical world. Recently, they have played a part in the conversation about therapies for COVID-19, particularly the corticosteroid dexamethasone.

While they are potentially beneficial, it is important to also be aware of the side effect profile of corticosteroids. Among other risks, they can negatively impact the cardiovascular system. Read on to learn more about corticosteroids and cardiac risk.

What Is a Corticosteroid?

Corticosteroids are a synthetic class of medications used to decrease inflammation in the body. Corticosteroids generally accomplish this by suppressing the body’s response to perceived threats; in doing so, they also have the effect of weakening the immune system. Corticosteroids closely resemble a hormone called cortisol that is naturally made by your adrenal glands.

Some commonly prescribed steroids include the following:

When Are Corticosteroids Prescribed?

Corticosteroids have a wide range of uses in medicine. They may be prescribed for the following conditions, and many others:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Allergic conditions such as hives
  • Asthma
  • Blood disorders
  • Brain swelling
  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Temporal arteritis

How Do Corticosteroids Impact the Cardiovascular System?

Medical scientists have been analyzing the impact of corticosteroids on the cardiac system for decades. Some studies have shown that users of corticosteroids in excess of 7.5 mg per day are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from an adverse cardiovascular event. Corticosteroids have been implicated in the following cardiovascular conditions:

  • High Blood Pressure: Researchers have found that higher doses of corticosteroids are associated with a greater risk of developing high blood pressure in people with chronic inflammatory disease. However, researchers are not sure what causes corticosteroids to increase blood pressure.
  • Fluid Retention and Heart Failure: One of the most common side effects of corticosteroids is fluid retention. For patients who have a medical condition that makes them sensitive to fluid overloads, such as heart failure, corticosteroids can worsen their condition.
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack): Corticosteroids may increase the risk of having a myocardial infarction (MI), which is also known as a heart attack. A study in the journal Rheumatology found, after analyzing hospital data of more than 200 patients, that current users of corticosteroids had a 68 percent increased risk of experiencing an MI. Other research has found that MI risk is increased with higher doses of corticosteroids.
  • Arrhythmias: Studies have shown that the use of corticosteroids, particularly in high doses, is associated with a greater risk of heart arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation. In this abnormal heart pattern, the heart beats irregularly, and the blood flow to the brain can be impaired, increasing the risk of stroke. Another abnormal heart rhythm, known as atrial flutter, has also been associated with corticosteroid use, with steroid use doubling the risk of developing this condition.
  • High Cholesterol: Corticosteroids are thought to variably affect the lipid cholesterol profile, in some cases raising a person’s LDL or triglyceride levels. Researchers suspect this may have to do with the interplay between lipids and insulin, given that corticosteroids are known to increase insulin resistance. The effect of corticosteroids on lipids may also be due to the propensity of corticosteroids to redistribute body fat, increasing abdominal obesity.
  • Sudden Cardiac Death: Case reports of sudden cardiac death have been reported with the use of high-dose intravenous infusions of corticosteroids. However, this is exceedingly uncommon.

Despite these highlighted cardiac risks associated with corticosteroids, some of the data can be confounding because corticosteroids are commonly used to treat inflammatory conditions in which patients already have an underlying elevated risk of cardiac disease. A careful risk-benefit analysis, with attention to your personal medical history, is always the best course of action when deciding whether or not to take a corticosteroid.

What Else Should I Know About Corticosteroids and Cardiac Risk?

As with all side effects of corticosteroids, the shorter the duration of your prescription, the lower the chance of developing an unwanted side effect. An alternate-day dosing schedule or use of the lowest possible dose of the medication may also mitigate your risk; make sure to discuss both of these strategies with your medical provider.

Your cardiac risk while using a corticosteroid may also be altered by using a nonsystemic formulation, meaning a medication other than an oral, IV, or injected form. Nonsystemic options could include an inhaled or topical steroid. Generally, these types of steroids are only therapeutic in certain scenarios, such as when treating dermatologic, ophthalmologic, or pulmonary conditions.

If, after a careful conversation regarding the risks and benefits, your healthcare provider prescribes you a corticosteroid, make sure to use ScriptSave WellRx to get the lowest price at the pharmacy.

Libby Pellegrini is a nationally certified physician assistant. She has worked in numerous healthcare settings, including the rural United States, an inner-city Level I trauma center, several suburban acute care centers, and a boutique, personalized medicine clinic in Southeast Asia. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

References:

https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-dexamethasone-and-covid-19

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531462/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/PREDNISOLONE/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/METHYLPREDNISOLONE/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/Budesonide/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/dexamethasone/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/hydrocortisone/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/prednisone/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/kenalog/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/health-condition/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease/~default/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/health-condition/hives/~default/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15545676/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32392512/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15253953/

https://www.atherosclerosis-journal.com/article/S0021-9150(06)00273-5/abstract

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/410283

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19822824/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK326739/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/982545/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10787466/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/PREDNISONE/92614/?freshSearch=true

wear a mask - wellrx blog image

By Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR

There are over 16 million confirmed cases of coronavirus globally and more than 600,000 deaths from the virus, and these numbers are changing quickly. The current estimation is based on inconsistent diagnoses and reporting of acute illness, and likely underestimates the global scale of coronavirus infection.

COVID-19 is the designation of the novel coronavirus disease of 2019. This coronavirus is “novel” because it was never identified before its appearance in late 2019 in China. The “coronavirus,” as we know it, is actually one type of coronavirus, which has many variations. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2 for short, is the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.

A Hot Topic in Politics

What is to some a universal public health crisis has become to others a polarizing, highly political situation. The validity of the coronavirus and the means by which to reach a comprehensive resolution have stimulated discourse on issues of health, economy, individual rights, and social justice. Perhaps one reason is that, to a great extent, we still don’t know much about COVID-19 and its future. Another reason is that this disease has affected everyone. Whether it’s the transition to remote work, a canceled event or vacation, a retreat from social life, job or financial insecurity, or affliction with the virus itself, COVID-19 has, to some extent, touched all of our lives.

Transmission

Many epidemiologists believe that the spread of this coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, and it was potentially transmitted from animals to humans. Under a microscope, the virus most resembles two established coronaviruses found in bats. Since the outbreak in Wuhan, it has been transmitted mainly via person-to-person contact. The virus is believed to be spread via droplet transmission, where respiratory droplets suspended in the air from coughing, sneezing, and talking makes contact with another person’s mucous membranes, such as those in the eyes, mouth, or nose, thus infecting a new host. Droplets can also travel indirectly through contaminated surfaces that an infected person touches, such as thermometers and tabletops. Droplets rarely travel more than six feet.

Scientists believe that SARS-CoV-2 can also travel via the airborne route, where particles much smaller than droplets are suspended in the air. This can happen during certain types of medical procedures in the airway where an aerosol is produced, such as endotracheal intubation, bronchoscopy, and nebulizer treatment.

Data indicate that people with COVID-19 are most contagious at the earlier stages of infection, possibly before they even have symptoms if they develop symptoms at all.

Preventative Medications and a Coronavirus Vaccine

It was initially thought that hydroxychloroquine could be used to prevent infection after exposure, but data do not support this use. No FDA-approved postexposure prophylaxis for COVID-19 is available, although several clinical trials are underway. There is also no vaccine for COVID-19, but the World Health Organization has an increasing catalog of candidate vaccines and their stage of clinical evaluation.

Keeping Your Distance

The principle of social distancing is based on findings that the risk of coronavirus transmission increases as closeness and duration of contact increase among people. In most cities now, social distancing is sanctioned by local and regional government policies that prohibit or restrict access to nonessential public places where social proximity and crowds are likely, such as theaters, bars, and restaurants. In cities where such restrictions are not in place, individuals must use their own discretion when socializing. Even as restrictions lift, many choose to avoid public gatherings, particularly if they or a close family member is in a vulnerable state of health. Many essential services and organizations, such as public transportation and grocery stores, mitigate their inability to fully enforce social distancing by requiring masks, closing early to thoroughly disinfect, and, in some cases, restricting capacity.

Wearing a Mask

It is well established that wearing a mask over the nose and mouth largely prevents the inhalation of large droplets, such as those by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads. Historically, patients with upper respiratory infections, such as influenza, are advised—and required in healthcare settings—to use a mask. N95 respirators are different than cloth or surgical face masks in that they require fit testing to establish a seal around the nose and mouth. This allows the wearer to breathe only air filtered through the N95 mask, which can filter out very small airborne particles. N95 masks are not necessary for use outside of the healthcare setting, particularly in procedural areas, where healthcare workers are exposed to airborne and fluid hazards. Instead,  using cloth face masks is a prudent alternative in public spaces where social distancing is not feasible.

Hygiene and Lifestyle Practices

By protecting ourselves, we protect others. Social distancing and mask-wearing will protect us and others from spreading the virus, but there is more to protecting ourselves than our actions in public spaces. The importance of frequent handwashing and surface disinfection cannot be overstated. To many experts, having clean hands is the most important action to prevent the spread of any infectious disease.

High-quality nutrition and physical fitness are essential components of a healthy immune system, and scientists have made the case for both as protective factors against COVID-19. The availability of resources necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle varies among different communities; thus, the current pandemic has further highlighted health disparities. That being said, healthy lifestyle recommendations amid the coronavirus are essentially no different than any other time: stay home when sick, wash your hands, eat well, and exercise. The only difference is that now we see clearly these actions in light of both their personal and social impacts.

Related stories:

What Are Social Determinants and How Do They Impact Your Overall Health?

COVID-19 Family Health Activities

How to Improve Your Mental Health During COVID-19

Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR is a freelance writer and nurse researcher. She develops and presenting on initiatives in clinical settings, such as general healthcare, sustainability in surgery, and creating clinical teaching modules for nurses through CUNY Hunter in New York. NS also authors a blog on vegan and vegetarian topics. She is also a trained Epic EMR SuperUser.

Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#:~:text=A%20novel%20coronavirus%20is%20a,like%20the%20common%20cold.

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-epidemiology-virology-and-prevention?search=coronavirus&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1#H2513094760

https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/modes-of-transmission-of-virus-causing-covid-19-implications-for-ipc-precaution-recommendations

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/naming-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-2019)-and-the-virus-that-causes-it

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7191114/

https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/06/25/republicans-democrats-move-even-further-apart-in-coronavirus-concerns/

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2021209?query=featured_coronavirus

https://www.wellrx.com/hydroxychloroquine%20sulfate/drug-images/

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?cond=Coronavirus+Infection&term=exposure&cntry=&state=&city=&dist=

https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/draft-landscape-of-covid-19-candidate-vaccines

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2021264

https://www.vumc.org/coronavirus/sites/default/files/COVID%20Documents/Wearing%20a%20Mask%20During%20CV-19%20%28HC-2008%29%2005-2020.pdf

https://www.bryanhealth.com/app/files/public/4960/wear-a-mask_8-5×11-2.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.htmlhttps://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

history of american pharmacies - wellrx blog image

How They Started and Where They Are Today

By Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD

American pharmacies have come a long way from the years of colonial apothecaries to the modern automated pharmacies of today. Evolution in pharmacist education and changes in the legislature has shifted the roles of pharmacists. Read on for a brief history of pharmacies in the United States.

The Birth of American Pharmacy

In 1630, Governor John Winthrop, founder of Boston, hired British apothecary Robert Cooke to assist him in preparing remedies using herbs imported from England and other natural ingredients.

In 1729, the Irish immigrant Christopher Marshall opened one of the first apothecaries in colonial America. It was located in Philadelphia. For 96 years, the Marshall Apothecary served as a community pharmacy as well as a training ground for aspiring pharmacists. Marshall’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Marshall, took over the store in 1805 and became the second American female pharmacist. The first was Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf, who bought and ran an apothecary in Boston in 1727.

In 1821, almost 100 years later, the first pharmacy school, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, opened. Shortly after, in 1852, the first national pharmacy association, the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA), was established.

Changes in Education

Initially, the way into the profession of pharmacy was through apprenticeship. Someone interested in pharmacy would train under the tutelage of an established pharmacist. The opening of the first pharmacy school shifted education to formal institutions, and even these institutions underwent several changes over the years. Early colleges offered a Graduate in Pharmacy (Ph.G.) degree, which could be turned into a Pharmaceutical Chemist (Ph.C.) degree with an additional year of study.

By the 1940s, the Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (B.S.Pharm.) was introduced, and in 1997, the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) six-year program became the only accredited pharmacy degree.

The Role of the Pharmacist

Early American pharmacies were referred to as apothecaries, and pharmacists were often called druggists or chemists. The role of the pharmacist then included preparing and dispensing remedies and counseling patients. By the 19th century, Edward Parrish of the APhA standardized the name “pharmacist” for all pharmaceutical practitioners. Until the 1950s, pharmacists prescribed, made, and dispensed medicines and provided patient counseling.

The passing of the 1951 Durham-Humphrey Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 shifted the role of pharmacists. Until then, pharmacists were able to prescribe and dispense any medication except narcotics. The Durham-Humphrey Amendment restricted pharmacists to dispensing medications only with a physician’s prescription. Pharmacist recommendations were limited to over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and their role shifted to dispensing drugs and ensuring medication safety.

In the 1980s, a movement toward clinical pharmacy began to expand the role of pharmacists. By 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization gave pharmacists the ability to, once again, counsel patients on prescription drugs as well as OTC medications. The clinical pharmacy movement expanded the pharmacist’s role in the community pharmacy to include administering vaccines, counseling patients, and other patient care services. Pharmacists now can focus on disease and chronic condition management, medication management, health and wellness, and other services that help improve patients’ quality of life.

The Evolution of Community Pharmacies

The role of modern-day community pharmacies differs from that of the apothecaries of colonial America. Pharmacists of colonial apothecaries prepared most of the remedies that they dispensed. By 1900, the industrial revolution introduced new forms of medications, such as tablets, gelatin capsules, and enteric-coated pills. These medication forms were mass-produced and lined the shelves of pharmacies of the 1900s. However, compounded medicines, including liquids, creams, ointments, lotions, eye drops, and eardrops, were still common. Today’s pharmacies are largely automated, with robots that count and bottle commonly used medicines, and compounding has become less common.

Record-keeping in the pharmacy has also seen significant advances. Pharmacists have moved from handwriting all prescriptions to using systems in which prescriptions are transferred electronically directly from the prescriber’s office to the patient’s community pharmacy.

To keep track of patient records, pharmacists handwrote all the patients’ prescriptions on index cards that used carbon to transfer the information to receipts. Today’s pharmacies keep electronic patient records.

As the roles of community pharmacists have evolved over time, so have those of pharmacy technicians. The support staff of precomputer pharmacies consisted mainly of cashiers. The introduction of computers in the pharmacy shifted the pharmacy support role from cashier to pharmacy technician. Technicians now are responsible for more than ringing up sales at the register. They can input prescriptions in the computer, answer telephone calls, and assist the pharmacist in preparing medications and setting up immunizations.

Pharmacies today can include patient care areas where pharmacists can provide various clinical patient care services. Clinics with prescribing practitioners inside the stores are becoming more prevalent. The role of pharmacists in community pharmacies has come full circle from colonial times, but today’s highly automated and computerized pharmacies are quite different from yesteryear’s nostalgic apothecaries.

Rosanna Sutherby is a freelance medical writer who has been a practicing pharmacist in her community for close to 20 years. She obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She utilizes her clinical training in the pharmacy, where she helps patients manage disease states such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and many others. Dr. Sutherby reviews and recommends drug regimens based on patients’ concurrent conditions and potential drug interactions.

References:

https://aihp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/1-Early-Pharmacy-in-America.pdf

http://www.pharmacy.auburn.edu/about/pdf/history-pictures.pdf

https://www.aphafoundation.org/sites/default/files/ckeditor/files/WIP%20mural%20descriptions.pdf

https://brewminate.com/a-brief-history-of-the-pharmacy-in-the-united-states/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4821736/

https://www.stlcop.edu/practice/about.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6789634

https://www.pharmacytoday.org/article/S1042-0991(16)30677-6/fulltext

summer first aid - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Summer is well underway in North America, and after a springtime spent in isolation due to COVID-19, many people are venturing outdoors again. It’s more important than ever to be prepared for common summertime injuries and mishaps. Social distancing is still critical as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in many states. While you can still go to the ER for medical emergencies, many healthcare facilities are advising patients to use telemedicine for non-emergency health concerns when possible to reduce their exposure to the disease. 

Cuts, sunburns, poison ivy, infected bug bites, eye injuries, and broken bones often lead to emergency room visits during the summer. Whether you’re headed out to go camping, take a hike, or spend a day at the beach, be prepared by packing a first aid kit with a few healthcare essentials. 

Pack Your Own Kit

Store-bought first aid kits are a good start but don’t rely on them for everything your family needs, as they are often lacking some essential items. Build your own kit—and do so well before you need it—so you don’t risk forgetting anything as you head outdoors. 

It’s also a good idea to prepare a first aid kit for each family car. Keep it in the vehicle in case anyone experiences an injury while you’re away from home. Below are the items you should buy: 

Premade First Aid Kit

Store-bought kits are a great place to start because they often contain small quantities of essential items such as bandages, tape, and gauze. Choose a large kit with a sturdy case so you can add to it and customize it. You can also use a small backpack to hold all of your first aid supplies. 

Water Bottle

Any time you head outdoors, make sure you have plenty of clean drinking water. It’s important to stay hydrated in the heat, and you’ll also need clean water to clean out any wounds. 

Antihistamines

Pack over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to treat allergic reactions to insect stings and plants. Include doses for children and adults. Benadryl can also be used to treat an attack of seasonal allergies. 

Hydrocortisone Cream

Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or ointments can treat almost anything that itches, such as poison ivy or insect bites. Soothing the itch can help prevent kids from scratching, which often leads to a secondary infection. 

Tweezers and Scissors

Tweezers will come in handy for removing splinters or anything else that can get caught under the skin, such as fishing hooks. A small pair of scissors allows you to cut gauze or bandages to the right size. You can also use them to trim fingernails or hangnails. You may also want to include a small magnifying glass. 

Note that tweezers are not the best way to remove ticks. Tweezers may remove the body but leave the head stuck in the skin. To remove a tick, cover it with a cotton ball soaked in soap for 30 seconds, or sterilize the edge of a credit card and use it to scrape the tick off. 

Alcohol Wipes and Soap

Use alcohol wipes to sterilize all your first aid instruments before using them. You can also use them to clean the skin. A small bottle of antiseptic soap can also be used to clean up wounds or remove ticks as mentioned above. 

Numbing Spray

Numbing spray can be purchased over the counter and can be used to soothe burns, sunburns, cuts, scrapes, and other irritations. 

Pain Relievers

Premade first aid kits will often contain some pain medications, but make sure to include liquid pain relievers for children if necessary. 

Sunscreen

Always use at least 30 SPF sunscreen if you’ll be outdoors for any length of time. Be sure to cover spots like the tops of the ears and the back of the neck. Even if you wear a hat or expect to stay in the shade, it can be easy to get burned when you least expect it. 

Bug Spray

Insect bites aren’t just annoying, they can also become infected if they’re scratched. Ward off bugs with a repellent containing 30% DEET. 

Clean Towel

A clean towel comes in handy if you need to set up a first aid station on the beach or in another outdoor area. If necessary, you can also use it to contain bleeding on larger injuries. Choose a microfiber towel that can be packed down and won’t take up a lot of space. 

Feminine Hygiene Supplies

In addition to their obvious uses, pads and tampons can also come in handy for treating wounds. A small tampon can be used to treat a nosebleed, and a maxi-pad can be used to control a bleeding wound. 

Prescription Medications

Be sure to include any prescription medications your family may need, including EpiPens or inhalers. 

When to Go to the ER

When your first aid kit isn’t enough, make sure you know the location of the nearest ER. A trip to the hospital may be necessary if anyone suffers a head injury or a fall without wearing a helmet, any loss of consciousness or altered behavior following a head injury, a broken bone, a high fever that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications, severe chest pain, or breathing problems. 

With some careful planning and preparation, your family can enjoy a safe and fun summer. Remember to wear a mask in public areas and practice social distancing as much as possible to reduce your risk of COVID-19. 

Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.

References: 

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/yes-you-can-and-should-still-go-to-the-er-for-emergencies-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/drug/diphenhydramine/~default/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/drug/hydrocortisone/~default/https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/from-insects-animals/Pages/How-To-Remove-A-Tick.aspx

advancements in aids treatment - wellrx blog image

By Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR

Hope for Those With HIV

The history of HIV treatment is one of continuous progress and, for many, a source of hope. Today, an HIV diagnosis is very different from what it was 30, 15, or even 10 years ago. Advancements in medicine and the establishment of HIV as a care specialty have made high quality of life with HIV a reality for many.

Being diagnosed with HIV is still, however, a life-changing and frightening experience. It requires lifelong diligence on the part of anyone with HIV, their partners, and their health care providers. If you are diagnosed with HIV, you may need to change your lifestyle and diet; adhere to consistent, lifelong treatment; and maintain proximity to your providers. Although the progress of HIV testing and treatment is promising, significant work still needs to be done on a global scale. It is estimated that of those infected, 81% are aware of their HIV status, and 67% are utilizing antiretroviral therapy (ART), the recommended treatment.

A Brief History of HIV Treatment

In the ’80s and early ’90s, an HIV diagnosis had a grim, fatal prognosis. The medical and science communities were baffled by what was then, and to some extent still is, a mysterious disease. In 1996, with the establishment of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) as the treatment of choice, HIV began to be considered more of a chronic illness. Today, if you have HIV and are on a consistent, supervised treatment plan, you can reasonably expect to have a high quality of life and, in general, a near-normal life expectancy. In fact, most treated HIV-positive individuals today do not die from AIDS-related causes. Even pregnant women can protect their babies from HIV transmission with ART. Furthermore, day-to-day treatment regimens are generally simpler and easier than they used to be. 

Antiretroviral Therapy

HIV is a retrovirus, so-named because of the method by which it infects our body’s cells. Hence, the treatment for HIV involves a drug class called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. Most HIV medications include a combination of two to three of the multiple types of ART. ART is a lifelong medication for people with HIV. Side effects and drug interactions are specific to each type of ART, and ARTs are chosen by health care providers in accordance with patient-specific needs and circumstances. The initiation of antiretroviral therapies normally consists of one to three pills per day.

The goals of ART are to suppress the virus, improve quality of life, reduce the risk of transmission, optimize immune function, and conserve future treatment options. The preservation of treatment options requires the avoidance of drug resistance. Resistance can occur when HIV mutates, thus rendering certain medications ineffective against the virus. Mutations can result from a multitude of causes, including inconsistency in treatment. When a virus becomes drug-resistant, the already-limited number of HIV treatment options is reduced.

Preventing HIV

PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is intended to protect people at high risk for HIV, such as those with HIV-positive sexual partners or those who inject drugs. If you are taking PrEP to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, safe sex practices, such as using condoms, are still advised because PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections.

Prep uses a combination of antiretroviral medications to prevent the virus from creating an enduring infection in a new host. The most widely researched and prescribed PrEP regimen is Truvada, a once-daily pill that combines two HIV medications: emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. Truvada is safe for most people and generally has minimal side effects, such as abdominal discomfort. If taken as directed, it can prevent transmission reliably and effectively in most cases. If you have kidney, liver, or bone conditions or are pregnant, Truvada may not be appropriate. In these cases, your provider can discuss alternatives with you.

PEP

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is intended to protect you if you’ve been exposed to HIV through sex, injection drug needle-sharing, or occupational exposure, such as that of health care workers. Similar to PrEP, PEP consists of antretroviral therapy or HIV medication. For PEP to work, the sooner it is taken, the better. The latest point at which PEP can be initiated effectively is 72 hours after exposure. PEP consists of a 28-day course of medication either once or twice daily. However, PEP is for emergency situations; it is not an alternative to PrEP. If you are at high risk for frequent exposure to HIV, PreP is a more appropriate option.

The Cost of HIV Treatment

HIV treatment is expensive, both from an individual and public health standpoint. For some individuals, the cost may prohibit them from pursuing treatment. Treatment and diagnostic pricing are highly variable, and they depend on insurance and government policies in your geographic area. It can be difficult for providers to navigate these systems and ensure optimal and cost-effective treatment. Fortunately, many ARTs either are or will soon become generic, and thus less expensive. Furthermore, discount prescription cards are available that can offer medication coupons and allow you to compare medication prices among local pharmacies.

The Future of HIV Treatment

Although great strides have been made in the treatment of HIV, work still needs to be done. People with HIV today are still more likely to develop health conditions such as kidney, liver, and heart disease, and cancer. They are also more likely to have age-related illnesses at a younger age than noninfected people. Research for an HIV vaccine has been ongoing since 1984; although it is still underway today, there is reason to hope that it may be available soon. At the 23rd International AIDS Conference in July 2020, the goals of 75% infection reduction by 2025 and 90% by 2030 were discussed at length, and new avenues of finding a vaccine, more effective prevention, and even a cure were explored. New milestones and next steps were announced in the progress of all of these areas, and scientists remain hopeful. 

Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR is a freelance writer and nurse researcher. She develops and presenting on initiatives in clinical settings, such as general healthcare, sustainability in surgery, and creating clinical teaching modules for nurses through CUNY Hunter in New York. NS also authors a blog on vegan and vegetarian topics. She is also a trained Epic EMR SuperUser.

References:

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/health-condition/hiv-and-aids-support/~default/

https://hivhistory.org/

https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/healthy-living.html

https://www.hiv.gov/blog/final-hiv-research-highlights-aids-2020

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/initial-treatment-of-hiv-beyond-the-basics

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hiv-and-pregnancy-beyond-the-basics

https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines/htmltables/1/7355

https://www.who.int/hiv/topics/drugresistance/en/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/administration-of-pre-exposure-prophylaxis-against-hiv-infection

https://www.wellrx.com/TRUVADA/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/health-condition/hepatitis/~default/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/health-condition/osteoporosis/~default/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/pregnancy-and-maternity/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/patient-evaluation-and-selection-for-hiv-pre-exposure-prophylaxis

https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/pep.html

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-health-care-personnel-exposed-to-hiv?search=pep&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~25&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines/html/1/adult-and-adolescent-arv/459/cost-considerations-and-antiretroviral-therapy

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/primary-care-of-adults-with-hiv

https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/hiv-vaccine-research-history

insulin resistance - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Diabetes is a serious health condition that affects more than 34 million Americans. More than 90% of people with diabetes have a form known as type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes most often develops later in life but can also affect children and teens. 

Diabetes is linked to serious health complications, including kidney disease, nerve damage, impaired wound healing, skin conditions, and eye damage. Severe cases can lead to blindness or limb amputation. Some long-term complications of diabetes can be life-threatening.

While type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition that cannot be cured, type 2 diabetes is linked to many different risk factors, some of which can be controlled. One of the first signs of type 2 diabetes is a condition called insulin resistance. As much as 50% of people with insulin resistance or prediabetes will eventually develop type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of diabetes.

Are you paying too much for your diabetes medications? 

What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance occurs when the body no longer responds well to insulin. A hormone produced by the pancreas, insulin is responsible for moving glucose, or sugar, from the food you eat into the liver, fat, and muscle cells, where it is stored for later use. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, it leads to high blood sugar, a condition known as hyperglycemia, which can become a serious health problem. 

How Do You Know if You Have Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance often doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms, so it’s possible to be resistant to insulin for years without even knowing it. You are at greater risk of insulin resistance if you are overweight, have high triglycerides, or have high blood pressure. Some people with insulin resistance develop dark patches of skin on the neck or in the armpits. 

If you think you are at risk of insulin resistance, talk to your doctor. There is no one test for insulin resistance, but your healthcare provider can monitor your blood sugar and check for symptoms of diabetes. 

How to Reverse Insulin Resistance

If you are starting to become resistant to insulin, you can make several lifestyle changes to improve your body’s response to insulin. Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with diabetes to begin adopting healthier habits. The earlier you start making changes, the better. 

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Exercise burns off excess blood sugar, which can lower your blood glucose levels and improve your body’s insulin response over time.

If you are mostly sedentary, start getting more activity into your day. Choose an activity you enjoy, and try to do it at least three times a week. That could be walking, swimming, yoga, cycling, or even dancing. Moderate activity is best, but any activity is good. Get the family involved by playing a game outside while the weather is nice or taking a walk around the neighborhood in the evening. 

Avoid Sugar and Simple Carbohydrates

Foods that are high in sugar will increase your blood sugar. This includes simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and baked goods. As much as possible, avoid foods with added sugars; instead, choose complex carbohydrates. 

When you go grocery shopping, get in the habit of reading the nutrition facts panel and ingredients lists on the foods you buy. Many packaged foods are loaded with sugar. Check the ingredients for words such as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, brown sugar, syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, cane sugar, and cane juice. 

You can also look for foods made with sugar alcohols, which don’t impact blood sugar the same way that sugar does. Common sugar alcohols include xylitol, maltitol, and erythritol. Use caution with sugar alcohols because they can cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. 

Choosing healthier foods may feel overwhelming at first, but eventually, you will find brands that you know you can trust. 

Eat More Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs, which include fruits and vegetables, have less of an impact on blood sugar. Make sure to get plenty of fresh plant foods in your diet. Ideally, every meal should include plant foods, protein, and a healthy source of fat. Instead of serving bread or rice with your dinner, choose another vegetable or a side salad. Including quality sources of protein and healthy fats in every meal will also help you avoid the energy crash that follows after you eat something high in sugar. 

ScriptSave’s Grocery Guidance app can help you find healthier alternatives to some of the foods you buy most often. Simply scan the barcode on any food package to reveal its WellRx Health Index and discover “better for you” alternatives. Download the app on the App Store or Google Play to get started. 

Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.

References: 

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891203/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/health-condition/type-2-diabetes/~default/

https://www.wellrx.com/grocery-guidance/

benefits of talking

By Stacy Mosel, LMSW

Talking to a counselor or therapist might not sound like your cup of tea, especially if you prefer to handle things on your own or you don’t like talking about or sharing your feelings. But everyone needs a compassionate ear sometimes. When things feel like they’re too much to handle, you might benefit from counseling or psychotherapy. The two are basically the same thing but with different time frames—counseling is usually short-term, while psychotherapy often takes place over the course of several months or even years).

Not only can a counselor or therapist provide an open and objective ear, but they can also help you develop deeper insight into your problems, help you work through issues, and even diagnose certain mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, if that’s relevant to your situation. If you’re still not convinced, keep reading about the top 6 signs that you could benefit from talking to someone. 

1. You Feel Overwhelmed

Let’s face it—life is not always easy, and everyone struggles with different issues from time to time. When responsibilities pile up or you start to feel overwhelmed by circumstances that seem out of your control (such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, job burnout, family strife, other health issues, or job loss), it could be a good idea to see a counselor or therapist to vent your feelings, obtain a different perspective, and get some advice on how to best cope with the circumstances, even if there’s nothing you can do to change external events.

2. You Think You Might Have a Mental Health Disorder

We’re all tempted to do this from time to time, but it’s honestly never a good idea to try to self-diagnose mental health conditions. Knowledge is power, but obsessively searching online for your symptoms may only make matters worse and even give you the impression that you’re suffering from a mental health disorder you may not even have. By visiting a mental health professional (meaning a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or other qualified therapist), you can talk about your symptoms and concerns and discuss whether you may have a diagnosable condition and what treatments might be best suited for your needs.

3. You’re Having Relationship Troubles

All relationships have their ups and downs. Most of the time, we think we’re able to handle things on our own and work through difficulties or struggles, which occur in even the best of relationships. When things get to be too much to handle on your own and you’re fighting all the time or you’ve lost a sense of intimacy with your partner, you might feel like throwing in the towel or imagining that things would be better with someone else. While this may or may not be the case, it’s often a good idea to get an outside perspective and talk things through with a nonjudgmental third party (i.e., counselor), who can listen objectively to both sides and help you see each other’s point of view.

You can also learn better communication methods, which is often the real struggle in many relationships. Consider seeking a therapist who offers Imago therapy, a specific type of couples therapy developed by psychologist and relationship expert Harville Hendrix, which is effective for helping couples work through issues, gain deeper insight, and learn how childhood issues affect present-day relationships. 

4. Your Family Life Is Suffering

Family life can be challenging, to say the least. Regardless of how you define family, any relationship situation that involves two or more people can present problems and struggles at times. When issues and challenges prevent your family from functioning in an optimal and healthy way, it could be a good idea to consult a family therapist. We all learn how to function in the world and operate in relationships through our primary relationships with our families, and when something is “off” or when your family experiences a setback or loss, it can be a strain on everyone. Family therapy can help you learn to communicate with each other in a more functional way, give everyone’s voice a chance to be heard, help you work through problems, and help you better understand each other.

5. You’re Using Substances (Drugs/Alcohol) to Cope

Using drugs or alcohol might seem to take the edge off when life gets difficult, but this can be a dangerous and slippery slope. Hiding from your feelings, masking them with substances, or using drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with stress can lead to addiction, which is a brain disease that can leave you powerless over drugs or alcohol. It’s better to nip the problem in the bud early on rather than let it progress to the point where things are no longer under control. A counselor can help identify the underlying issues, help you work through your feelings, teach you healthier coping skills, and refer you to a substance abuse treatment facility if necessary.

6. You’re Dealing With Life Changes

Whether positive or negative, life changes are almost always accompanied by a certain level of stress. Life changes can involve anything from marriage to divorce, expecting a new baby, the loss of a loved one, undergoing a career change or retirement, moving to a new state (or country), or anything else that feels like an important or challenging step in your life. A therapist can listen to your concerns and feelings, help you develop goals and a plan of attack (if applicable to your situation), and provide feedback to help you more easily navigate the waters of change.

These six reasons are not exhaustive, but rather are some of the most common reasons that people visit counselors or therapists. Suffice it to say that it’s generally a good idea to talk to someone anytime you feel you need support and a different perspective. You also don’t have to make a long-term commitment to therapy if you don’t want to; many types of counseling can provide at least some benefit after just a few sessions. Also keep in mind that it’s smart to research therapists and talk to them beforehand to ensure that you’re a good match because a positive therapeutic relationship is one of the most crucial factors for successful therapy. 

Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and substance abuse specialist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a Master of Social Work degree in 2002. She has extensive training in child and family therapy and in the identification and treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Currently, she is focusing on writing in the fields of mental health and addictions, drawing on her prior experiences as an Employee Assistance Program counselor, individual and family therapist, and assistant director of a child and family services agency.

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/debunking-myths-the-mind/201005/the-dangers-self-diagnosis

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/therapy-types/imago-relationship-therapy

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Shelley_Turner2/publication/248381591_The_Effectiveness_of_Family_and_Relationship_Therapy_A_review_of_the_literature/links/0deec51de0adf2e12d000000/The-Effectiveness-of-Family-and-Relationship-Therapy-A-review-of-the-literature.pdf

http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/stress-and-drug-abuse

https://www.family-institute.org/behavioral-health-resources/importance-relationship-therapist

vegetables and fruits - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Many common health ailments are linked to nutrient deficiencies. If you’re often tired, have dry skin, experience constipation, or suffer from irritability or depression, a change in your diet may help. In fact, many of the symptoms that we associate as a natural part of the aging process—such as higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis—are often due, at least in part, to poor nutrition. 

We all know we should eat our fruits and vegetables to be healthy, but a shockingly high number of Americans aren’t meeting the daily recommended intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Only 13 percent of Americans meet the recommendations for fruit intake, and only 9 percent of Americans meet the recommendations for vegetables, according to a report by the CDC

Continue reading to learn how nutrient deficiencies contribute to common health issues, and how you can improve your health by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. 

1. Fatigue

Many of us rely on coffee and energy drinks just to get through the day. While getting enough sleep and managing stress are both essential for optimizing your energy levels, nutrition plays a role as well. 

Multiple nutrient deficiencies can contribute to fatigue, including potassium, magnesium, protein, iron, vitamin C, and B vitamins. 

Dehydration can also leave you feeling sluggish. If you tend to drink soda for the caffeine boost, try switching to coconut water. It’s lower in sugar and will help you stay hydrated. 

2. Bone Loss

Loss of height and curvature of the spine are common symptoms associated with aging. Loss of bone and a higher risk of osteoporosis is linked to low levels of calcium and vitamin D. Low calcium intake can lead to weak bones and an increased risk of fractures as you age. 

Even if you’re making an effort to eat plenty of calcium, your body can’t absorb it without adequate levels of vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency is very common. More than 40 percent of people in the United States have low levels of vitamin D, and the risk is even higher for African Americans and Hispanics. 

Low levels of vitamin D can also weaken the immune system, cause fatigue, impair wound healing, and contribute to depression. 

Vitamin D is unique in that it isn’t found in many foods. Your body produces it when your skin is exposed to the sun. Unless you live near the equator, it’s unlikely that you are getting enough sun exposure year-round to produce adequate levels of vitamin D. For this reason, you may want to consider a vitamin D supplement. 

3. Dry Skin

We often blame the weather and harsh soaps for dry skin, but dehydration and a lack of fatty acids can also contribute to dry skin. 

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Drink extra water to counteract the dehydrating effects of caffeine and alcohol, which are diuretics.

Also, make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. This essential nutrient is a structural component of the skin and is necessary for healthy cell membranes. Low levels of omega-3 can lead to dry skin and other skin issues, including wrinkles, acne, and small bumps on the skin. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel. If you don’t get enough fish in your diet, consider taking a fish oil supplement. Nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens also provide small amounts of omega-3s. 

4. Constipation

Constipation is a widespread problem in the United States; Americans spend more than $700 million on laxatives every year

A healthy diet can go a long way toward preventing constipation and other digestive disorders. Drinking plenty of water can help, as can eating more fiber.  

Low levels of magnesium can also contribute to constipation. Magnesium is an important mineral that helps control many functions in the body. Without it, your nerves won’t send and receive signals, and your muscles don’t work properly. That includes the muscles in the digestive tract. Low levels of magnesium are also linked to muscle cramps and twitches, migraines, and mental disorders, including depression

How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Try to get fresh plant foods in every meal, like leafy greens, green vegetables, and berries. Rather than grabbing toast or a bagel for breakfast, try making smoothies. You can use endless combinations of berries, fruit, coconut water, and even spinach and avocados to make a nutrient-packed breakfast. 

Also, try to eat fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. Plant foods get their nutrients from phytonutrients, the same compounds that give them their vibrant colors. 

Orange foods such as oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, and pumpkin are good sources of vitamin A, as are green foods such as spinach, kale, bell peppers, broccoli, and asparagus. 

Citrus fruits, berries, and yellow foods such as lemons, yellow peppers, cherries, and strawberries are good sources of vitamin C. 

Potassium-rich foods include bananas, avocados, cooked spinach, coconut water, cooked broccoli, and sweet potatoes. Spinach, fish, quinoa, beans, and nuts are all good sources of magnesium. 

Try to do most of your grocery shopping in the outer aisles of the supermarket, where you’ll find produce, meat and fish, and bulk foods such as beans and nuts. Avoid the inner aisles, which are packed with unhealthy processed foods. When you do buy packaged foods, look for products that contain fewer ingredients and less added sugar. Try the ScriptSave WellRx Grocery Guidance app, which can help you find healthier alternatives to the foods you buy most often. Simply scan the barcode on your food package to reveal its WellRx Health Index and discover “better for you” alternatives. Download it on the App Store or Google Play today.

Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.

References: 

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6645a1.htm

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21310306/

https://www.bluecrossnc.com/constipation

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25827510/

https://www.wellrx.com/grocery-guidance/

juvenile arthritis - wellrx blog image

By Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. An estimated 300,000 children in the United States have some type of juvenile arthritis (JA). The most common of these is juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

What Is Juvenile Arthritis?

Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that occurs in children 16 years or younger. This means that the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells. It is characterized by joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of motion. Symptoms can range from mild to severe enough to cause joint or tissue damage.

Some children may have one or two flare-ups in their lifetime, while others may have symptoms for years. The most common type of JA is juvenile idiopathic arthritis. “Idiopathic” means that the cause is not known.

Scientists believe that some children have a gene that makes them more likely to develop JA. Exposure to environmental factors, such as a virus or bacteria, triggers the disease to appear. Most cases of JA are not hereditary, which means that it does not run in families.

Prescribed a medication for Juvenile Arthritis?

How Do You Diagnose Juvenile Arthritis?

Diagnosing JA can be tricky because the symptoms resemble other conditions. The following tests help your child’s doctor rule out other disorders:

  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • MRIs
  • Medical history
  • Physical exam

To diagnose JA, the child must have arthritis symptoms for six consecutive weeks, and the symptoms must have appeared by the age of 16.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis?

Often, the first sign of JA is a morning limp that is caused by an inflamed knee. Other symptoms of the disease include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eye inflammation
  • Difficulty doing daily activities, such as walking, dressing, or playing
  • Fever
  • Rash

How Do You Treat Juvenile Arthritis?

The goal of juvenile arthritis treatment is to help your child maintain normal physical activity and social functioning. To do this, your child’s doctor will use a combination of treatments that reduce pain and swelling, maintain full movement and strength of the joints, and prevent complications or joint damage.

The most significant part of treatment for JA is medication. Commonly used drugs include the following:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Typical NSAIDs used to relieve pain and swelling include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve).
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): The most commonly used DMARD is methotrexate. Your child’s doctor may prescribe methotrexate if NSAIDs do not relieve his or her symptoms. Methotrexate may be used in combination with NSAIDs to slow the progression of the disease.
  • Biologic agents: Biologic agents, or biologic response modifiers, are a new class of drugs made from living cells. Some medications, such as Enbrel (etanercept) and Humira (adalimumab), work by blocking the action of tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF is a protein in your body that causes inflammation. Other biologic agents, such as Orencia (abatacept), Rituxan (rituximab), Kineret (anakinra), and Actemra (tocilizumab), work by suppressing your immune system.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may treat severe symptoms, such as inflammation of the sac around the heart. Steroids can interfere with your child’s growth, so they should be used only for a short time.

What Can You Do at Home?

Family members and parents can play a significant role at home in helping children live with JA. The following are ways in which you can be involved in your child’s treatment:

  • Make sure your child gets regular exercise to build muscle strength and maintain joint flexibility. Encourage them to participate in physical activities and sports, especially during symptom-free periods. Be sure to adhere to recommendations from your child’s doctor or physical therapist.
  • Apply a hot pack or have your child take a warm bath or shower to relieve stiffness, especially in the morning.
  • Maintain a healthy diet for your child. Some children may lose their appetite, and others may gain weight due to medication side effects.
  • Treat your child as you would treat other children in your household. Treating your child as normally as possible encourages responsibility and independence on his or her part.
  • Allow your child to express their feelings about having JA. Explain to them that the disease is not their fault.
  • Work closely with teachers and administrators at your child’s school to help develop plans for the best way for your child to navigate classes and assignments.

Will My Insurance Pay for My Child’s Juvenile Arthritis Medication?

Generic medications, such as methotrexate and prednisone, are generally covered by most insurance plans. Some plans may not cover medicines that are available over the counter, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Biologic agents, such as Enbrel, Humira, Orencia, Rituxan, Kineret, and Actemra, may be costly. Your plan may require prior authorization before covering them.

If your insurance does not cover your child’s medication or the cost is too high, you can use a prescription savings card to get the lowest prescription price at a pharmacy near you. Be sure to compare prescription prices and use your free RX savings card before filling your child’s JA medication.

Rosanna Sutherby is a freelance medical writer who has been a practicing pharmacist in her community for close to 20 years. She obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She utilizes her clinical training in the pharmacy, where she helps patients manage disease states such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and many others. Dr. Sutherby reviews and recommends drug regimens based on patients’ concurrent conditions and potential drug interactions.

References:

https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Juvenile-Arthritis

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/juvenile-idiopathic-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20374082

https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/juvenile-arthritis/advanced#tab-overview

https://www.wellrx.com/IBUPROFEN/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/NAPROXEN/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/METHOTREXATE/drug-information/?cultureCode=en-US

https://www.wellrx.com/ENBREL/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/HUMIRA/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/ORENCIA/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/RITUXAN/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/KINERET/drug-information/

https://www.wellrx.com/ACTEMRA/drug-information/

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allegra or claritin - scriptsave wellrx blog image

By Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD

Antihistamines, or allergy medicines, come in all shapes and sizes. Nearly all are now available over the counter (OTC). With so many choices currently available, you may wonder what the differences are among them.

Antihistamines fall into two categories: first-generation antihistamines and second-generation antihistamines. First-generation antihistamines are older products that are shorter acting and are more likely to cause drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects. Second-generation antihistamines were introduced in the 1990s and have minimal or no sedating side effects. These newer drugs are also longer acting and are generally dosed once a day. Allegra (fexofenadine) and Claritin (loratadine) fall into the category of second-generation antihistamines. The following is a comparison between the two.

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How Do Allegra and Claritin Work?

Allegra and Claritin work by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical that your body releases when exposed to allergens, such as pollen, ragweed, or pet dander. Histamine triggers symptoms such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes.

What Conditions Do Allegra and Claritin Treat?

Allegra is indicated for the treatment of seasonal and yearlong allergies in patients ages 2 years and older. It is also used to relieve chronic itching in patients ages 6 months and older.

Claritin is used to treat the symptoms of seasonal and yearlong allergies, as well as chronic itching in patients ages 2 years and older. Claritin has also been used off label (not FDA approved) to prevent exercise-induced asthma in patients with allergies.

How Long Do Allegra and Claritin Last?

Allegra generally starts working about 1 hour after you take it. The effects of a 60 mg dose last about 12 hours, and a 120 mg or 180 mg dose last about 24 hours.

Claritin begins to work about 1 to 3 hours after you take it, and the effects of a 10 mg dose last about 24 hours.

What Are the Side Effects of Allegra and Claritin?

The most commonly reported side effects for Allegra are the following:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Back pain
  • Pain in hands or feet
  • Stomach problems

The most common side effects associated with Claritin are the following:

  • Headache
  • Sleepiness
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Wheezing

If you have kidney problems, talk to your doctor about lowering your dose of Allegra or Claritin.

If you have liver problems, you can take the full dose of Allegra, but Claritin’s dose may need to be adjusted.

What Medications Interact with Allegra and Claritin?

If you are taking Allegra, be aware of the following potential interactions:

  • Antacids: You should not take Allegra within 15 minutes of taking antacids containing aluminum or magnesium
  • Ketoconazole: Ketoconazole may interfere with the metabolism of Allegra and cause the medication to build up in your body.
  • Erythromycin: Erythromycin may interfere with the metabolism of Allegra and cause the medication to build up in your body.
  • Fruit Juices: Fruit juices, such as grapefruit juice, orange juice, and apple juice, may reduce the effects of Allegra.

Claritin has fewer interactions than Allegra. You should not take Claritin with other antihistamines or allergy medications.

Can I Take Allegra or Claritin if I Am Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Allegra is classified as pregnancy category C, which means that you should use it only if the potential benefits of taking the medication outweigh the potential risks to your baby. Be sure to discuss your options with your OB/GYN.

Claritin is classified as pregnancy category B, which means that the medication is generally safe to use during pregnancy if it is clearly needed. Other medicines in category B include prenatal vitamins and acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Claritin passes into breast milk, and you should not take it while you are breastfeeding. Researchers do not know if Allegra passes into breast milk. Given the lack of information, you should not use Allegra if you are nursing. Antihistamines, in general, tend to dry up breast milk. If you are breastfeeding, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about safe options to treat allergy symptoms.

Which Is Better — Allegra or Claritin?

The choice between Allegra and Claritin depends on several factors. Allegra can be used by patients as young as 6 months, and you do not need to adjust the dose if you have liver problems. However, Claritin has fewer drug interactions than Allegra, and it is a safer choice if you are pregnant.

2001 study that compared Allegra and Claritin for the treatment of seasonal allergy symptoms showed that Claritin was better at relieving symptoms and worked faster than Allegra. However, after seven days, the effects of the two drugs were similar. Participants of this study took 10 mg of Claritin once a day or 60 mg of Allegra twice a day.

Another clinical trial in which participants took 10 mg of Claritin once a day or 120 mg of Allegra once a day showed that Allegra was better at relieving itchy, watery eyes, and nasal congestion. Allegra was also better at improving quality of life.

How Much Do Allegra and Claritin Cost?

Allegra and Claritin are both available OTC without a prescription. As of the time this article, the average retail cost for 30 fexofenadine (generic for Allegra) 180 mg tablets is about $15. The average retail cost for 30 loratadine (generic for Claritin) 10 mg tablets is about $11.

If your insurance does not cover Allegra or Claritin because they are available OTC, you can use the ScriptSave WellRx discount card for the best prescription savings at a pharmacy near you.

Rosanna Sutherby is a freelance medical writer who has been a practicing pharmacist in her community for close to 20 years. She obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She utilizes her clinical training in the pharmacy, where she helps patients manage disease states such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and many others. Dr. Sutherby reviews and recommends drug regimens based on patients’ concurrent conditions and potential drug interactions.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538188/

https://www.wellrx.com/FEXOFENADINE%20HCL/monographs/

https://www.wellrx.com/LORATADINE/monographs/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667286/#:~:text=A%20major%20advance%20in%20antihistamine,of%20the%20blood%E2%80%93brain%20barrier.

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2008/020872s018,021963s002lbl.pdf

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2000/20641s7lbl.pdf

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/406235_1

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10848909/

https://www.wellrx.com/prescription-discount-card/

acne medications - wellrx blog image

When over-the-counter acne treatments are ineffective, some people may visit their doctor or a dermatologist for a prescription acne medication. There are a number of effective, Rx acne treatments available for patients, which can range from topical gels or ointments, to oral medications like antibiotics.

However, not all acne treatments work in the same way, and not all of them affect people in the same way. This means there are a range of side effects that can occur from using a prescription acne medication. Symptoms can range from common and mild, to rare and potentially dangerous.

We’ll explore a host of acne medications side effects to watch out for if you or a family member has recently started taking one.

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Side Effects of Acne Medication

Side effects of acne medications depend on both the type and the strength of the treatment. For example, the most common side effects of topical acne treatments are skin dryness and irritation. While oral and topical medications can have differing effects, they may also share some common side effects.

Common Side Effects

Depending on the type of medication, common side effects of acne treatments include:

  • Dry, flaky, or peeling skin
  • Tingly or irritated skin
  • Skin redness
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun

These side effects apply to both oral medications and topical gels or lotions. Generally, these side effects are only temporary and will pass with time. However, speak with your doctor if any side effect that you experience persists or worsens.

Serious Side Effects

While rare, any medication, including those used to treat acne, can have serious, potentially life-threatening side effects. If you’re taking a newly prescribed acne medication, watch for symptoms of an allergic reaction, including:

  • Skin rash or hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • Severe burning or swelling of a treated area
  • Throat tightness
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Allergic reactions are medical emergencies. If you think someone is experiencing an allergic reaction, seek medical help right away.

However, Prescription acne treatments can cause more than allergic reactions. For example, Isotretinoin can:

  • Damage organs
  • Increase risk of depression and suicide
  • Cause ulcerative colitis
  • Lead to severe birth defects if used while pregnant

As a result, patients who are prescribed Isoretinoin are required to participate in a FDA approved risk management program.

Reporting Side Effects to Your Doctor

As with any medication report any side effects, including mild but persistent ones, to your doctor. In some cases, your doctor may adjust your dosage, ask you to stop taking the medication, or try an additional or alternative treatment.

Always speak with your doctor about potential side effects before beginning an acne treatment. Also share a list of other medications, both prescription and OTC, you are taking. 

Should You Take Acne Medication While Pregnant?

A woman’s body undergoes significant changes throughout pregnancy. As a result, skin changes are relatively common. Fortunately, a number of acne treatments are generally considered safe for most pregnant women. These can include:

  • Glycolic acid – A water-soluble alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) used topically to help exfoliate the skin.
  • Azelaic acidUsed topically to treat acne by killing bacteria that infect skin pores.
  • ClindamycinAn antibiotic medication used to treat bacterial infections, including those that cause acne and skin inflammation.

However, some acne medications are known to cause severe birth defects and other serious side effects. Acne medications that are known to be unsafe during pregnancy include:

  • IsotretinoinBrands names include: Absorica, Accutane, Claravis, Myorisan, and Zenatane.
  • TazaroteneBrand names include: Avage, Fabior, and Tazorac.
  • TetracyclineDerivatives include: doxycycline and minocycline.

Please note: this is not a comprehensive list. You should always consult with your doctor before starting an acne treatment, especially if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Some medications that are considered generally safe may be harmful to a developing fetus or if used by mothers who are breastfeeding.

How Do Acne Medications Work?

Medications treat acne in a number of different ways. For example, topical treatments can work by:

  • Reducing the amount of oil on your skin
  • Helping your skin heal quicker
  • Treating inflammation
  • Preventing bacterial infections

Likewise, oral medications often have a similar effect on your skin. However, some oral medications, like contraceptives, may be prescribed if acne is a result of hormonal changes. In this case, the medication is indirectly treating acne.

It’s important to understand that not every acne medication, topical or oral, works the same. As a result, it’s not unusual for doctors or dermatologists to prescribe two different medications depending on the type and the severity of your acne.

In these cases, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of both medications. Equally important is informing your doctor or dermatologist about any other medications, both OTC and prescription, that you’re taking. This will help to avoid potential drug interactions.

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Looking to save on your prescription acne medications? ScriptSave WellRx can help you find discounts on all of your prescription drugs!

Use our online Rx price comparison tool to find the lowest price on your Rx medications. Then, show your ScriptSave WellRx card to your pharmacist when you pick up your medicine.

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