good nights sleep - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Good sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. A lack of sleep can suppress the immune system; negatively impact mood and concentration; increase the risk of accidents; drive weight gain; and lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease and dementia. 

Sleep is closely linked to brain function. Our brains are engaged in restorative processes while we sleep, flushing out damaging substances that accumulate in the brain during waking hours. These substances include precursor proteins that can form into plaque which damages neurons, eventually leading to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Understanding Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and affects an estimated 5.5 million Americans. 

The human brain contains billions of neurons — cells that transmit messages to different parts of the brain and throughout the body. In someone with Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal clumps in the brain known as amyloid plaques disrupt this communication between neurons, leading to loss of function and death of brain cells. Brain damage often starts in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for forming memories. The result is symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgment, language problems, confusion, and mood changes. 

Amyloid plaques form when precursor proteins known as beta-amyloid build up in the brain. Beta-amyloid is a sticky protein fragment that clumps together to form small clusters, eventually leading to the amyloid plaques that play a central role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

How Sleep Reduces the Risk of Dementia

Our brains go through a sort of cleaning process while we sleep, according to research from Boston University. The study builds on previous research that demonstrates the changes experienced by the brain during sleep. 

During sleep, the glymphatic system flushes away proteins, toxins, and metabolic waste products, including beta-amyloid molecules, before they can clump together and form plaques. 

Poor or insufficient sleep makes the glymphatic system less effective, which may lead to neuron damage that can eventually contribute to Alzheimer’s. While more research is needed — it’s too early to say definitively that poor sleep causes Alzheimer’s disease — it’s worthwhile to take steps to improve the quality of your sleep, especially if you suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea. 

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

A good night’s sleep is about both quality and quantity. Adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. A common misconception is that older people need less sleep, but sleep needs do not actually decrease with age. However, it is common for sleep patterns to change as we age. Older people often have more difficulty falling asleep and wake up more frequently during the night. 

To experience the restorative benefits of sleep, the hours spent sleeping must be consecutive. That means they can’t be broken up between a few hours at night and a nap during the day. Several hours of consecutive uninterrupted sleep are needed to fully cycle through the different stages of sleep, all of which are necessary for good health. 

How to Improve Your Sleep

If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, it’s important to take steps to improve your sleep. Identifying the underlying cause of any sleep problems will help you to find the right solution. 

If you think you’re getting enough sleep, but you wake up feeling groggy or feel tired throughout the day, you could be experiencing sleep disruptions during the night. Certain medications, alcohol, or conditions such as sleep apnea can disrupt sleep. 

Stress and anxiety — which many people have been experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — can also cause difficulty sleeping.

Follow these tips to improve the quality of your sleep: 

  • Establish a consistent routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. 
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and remove any screens from your bedroom. 
  • Use blackout curtains and a white noise machine if necessary to block out light and sound. 
  • Keep your bedroom cool and use comfortable bedding. 
  • Wind down before bed with relaxing activities, such as taking a warm bath or drinking a calming tea. Chamomile tea and lavender tea are both good options to drink at night. 
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine in the evening. 
  • Reduce or eliminate your alcohol consumption in the evening. 
  • Avoid taking afternoon naps, which could keep you up at night. 

If you’ve tried all of these home remedies to improve your sleep and are still experiencing difficulty sleeping, talk to your doctor. Some medications can help treat insomnia.

If your doctor prescribes a sleep medication or other medication to help you sleep, such as an antidepressant, you can use a ScriptSave WellRx discount card to get the lowest price at a pharmacy near you. 

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:

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-alzheimers-disease

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6465/628 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/aging-and-sleep

glass of water - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

There is some debate regarding how much water you should drink every day to stay healthy and prevent dehydration. The standard rule for water intake is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. But this may not be enough. The Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults drink more fluids — between 78 and 100 ounces per day. Certain factors can also affect how much water you need, such as the weather, your activity level, and your overall health. 

Health Effects of Dehydration

While no exact formula exists for determining your ideal individual water intake, it’s important to stay well hydrated. Water makes up between 55 and 70 percent of our body weight and is necessary for many bodily functions. Research shows that even mild dehydration can lead to numerous health problems. 

Dehydration Impairs Brain Function

The brain is about 75 percent water. That means that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3 percent of your body weight, can have a major impact on brain function. One percent of body weight may not sound like a lot, but this amount of fluid loss can easily occur from normal daily activities. Factors such as high heat or exercise can lead to even more fluid loss. 

One study found that a 1.36 percent fluid loss after exercise negatively affected mood and concentration in young women. Participants who were dehydrated reported more difficulty performing certain tasks and were also more likely to experience headaches. 

Another study of young men demonstrated that mild dehydration led to increased anxiety and fatigue, and negatively impacted their concentration and working memory as well. 

Dehydration Triggers Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. If you’re prone to headaches, make sure you are staying properly hydrated. Research shows that drinking more water can help relieve headaches for some people. 

Dehydration Impairs Physical Performance During Exercise

Intense exercise can lead to significant fluid loss through sweat, and dehydration is common among athletes. Individuals who become dehydrated while exercising can experience increased fatigue, poor endurance, decreased motivation, and an impaired ability to regulate body temperature. 

How to Tell if You’re Drinking Enough Water

While some medical professionals may say you need to drink only when you feel thirsty, others maintain that once thirst kicks in, you’re already dehydrated. It’s best to drink water and other fluids throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. 

One of the best ways to tell if you’re getting enough fluids is to watch the color of your urine. If your urine is pale yellow, you are likely properly hydrated. Urine that is dark yellow usually means that you need to drink more water. If your urine is completely clear, it could mean that you are overhydrated. While overhydration is rare, it can be dangerous and is most common among endurance athletes. 

Keep in mind that some medications and supplements, such as B vitamins, can alter the color of your urine. 

Fluid needs also increase in certain situations, such as if you are breastfeeding or sick with an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. 

How to Increase Your Water Intake

Many people find it difficult to drink enough water. If you simply forget to drink water or find plain water boring, you’re not alone. Try these tips for increasing your water intake. 

  1. Add some flavor. Adding some lemon, orange, or cucumber slices to your water can add a lot of flavors. For best results, let your fruit soak overnight and refill your water bottle or glass when it’s half-empty so that some of the flavors remain. Beware of powdered water additives, which often contain artificial sweeteners or other unhealthy additives. 
  2. Eat water-rich foods. Many foods have a high water content, which can count toward your water intake. Try eating more water-rich foods, such as cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, and berries.
  3. Drink more tea. Whether you like it hot or iced, tea is a good source of beneficial antioxidants. Just refrain from adding too much sugar.
  4. Set a reminder. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to drink water regularly. Keep a water bottle or glass nearby to make it easier. 
  5. Drink before you eat. Thirst can often disguise itself as hunger. If you feel hungry, drink a big glass of water before you eat anything. Then wait 15 minutes to see if you’re still hungry. This can also help you avoid unnecessary snacking or emotional eating. 
  6. Drink water first thing in the morning. It’s normal to wake up feeling sluggish or with a slight headache because your body hasn’t taken in any water while you slept. Start the day by drinking a glass of room-temperature water. 

A final note: Watch out for coffee. There is some debate over whether caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea count toward your fluid intake. While these drinks do have a mild diuretic effect, research shows they don’t increase the risk of dehydration. Still, pay attention to how they make you feel. Too much caffeine may cause headaches or leave you feeling jittery. When it comes to hydration, water is your best bet. And if you drink alcohol, make a point of drinking a glass of water for each alcoholic beverage to reduce your risk of a hangover. 

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.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207053/

https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/68/8/439/1841926

https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/blog/archive/healthy-habits/your-brain-h2o

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/142/2/382/4743487

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/mild-dehydration-impairs-cognitive-performance-and-mood-of-men/3388AB36B8DF73E844C9AD19271A75BF/core-reader

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6282244/

https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27710146/ https://time.com/5192272/coffee-tea-dehydrating/

high medical bill - wellrx blog image

Medical care can be expensive, especially if you have had a major illness or injury. Those without insurance coverage often struggle with medical debt. Even those who have insurance may receive a medical bill that they simply cannot afford. What should you do if you are facing a high medical bill? Here are some steps to take.

Check for Billing Errors

When you receive a medical bill, check for potential errors. You may have to ask the hospital or doctor’s office for an itemized statement. Go through each item in the bill and compare it to the services that you actually received (you can request medical records to help you make this comparison).

If you notice a mistake, contact the healthcare provider immediately to dispute the inaccurate medical bill. Keep in mind that errors are quite common. In fact, one study from Medliminal found mistakes in 99% of 2018 medical bills. By disputing any errors in your bill, such as double charging, you will lower the total amount.

Verify Insurance Benefits

Sometimes, your insurance provider is the one who made a mistake. Contact your insurance company and ask them to walk you through your benefits and the amounts that were paid to your healthcare provider. Also obtain a copy of your insurance benefits. If you find that there is something listed on your benefits that was not covered on your bill, point it out to your insurance provider right away.

Don’t have insurance? Save money on your medications.

Appeal Your Insurance Coverage

If you are struggling with a higher-than-expected bill because your insurance company has denied coverage for a procedure, you can submit an appeal to reverse that decision. The first step is usually an internal appeal where you ask the insurance company to review its decision. If they still deny coverage, you have the right to file an external appeal. This means an independent third-party reviews the claim and decides whether your insurance company must pay it.

Work Out a Payment Plan

Most healthcare providers work with you. If you tell them you need a payment plan, they should offer a monthly payment you can afford. Don’t be afraid to negotiate if they ask for a monthly amount that is too high for your budget. And be sure to specifically ask for an interest-free payment plan; most hospitals offer this.

Ask About Discounts

Providers are often willing to give discounts, but you have to ask. They will usually take a percentage off of your bill if you pay all at once. This is called a cash discount or prompt pay discount. Usually, you can get it if you pay within 30 days.

Apply for Financial Assistance

Many healthcare providers offer financial assistance programs. You must qualify for the program by meeting certain income and other financial requirements, but it’s worth applying to see if you qualify.

Can Medical Bills Be Forgiven?

You can have your entire medical debt forgiven in certain circumstances. Those with a disability or other difficulty that prevents them from working can usually get medical bills forgiven. You will need to present documentation such as tax returns to prove that you cannot pay your debt. There are also foundations that help people with medical costs, like the Patient Access Network Foundation. There are even nonprofits that forgive medical debt, such as RIP Medical Debt.

What Happens if You Can’t Pay Your Medical Bills?

If you don’t pay your medical bills, they will eventually be turned over to a debt collection agency. This will hurt your credit score and may make it harder to negotiate. If you truly can’t pay your bills, you can get your debt discharged by declaring bankruptcy. However, this will do even more damage to your credit.

Consider Ongoing Medical Expenses

Even after you’ve paid off a high medical bill, you still need to consider what expenses you will have moving forward. If your bill was caused by an injury or illness, you will likely have follow-up doctor’s appointments and possibly new medications to take. It’s important to start looking for other ways to save on healthcare costs.

For those struggling to pay routine prescription costs, ScriptSave WellRx can help. We offer a free prescription discount program that has saved some patients up to 80% on their medications. To see how much you can save, search for your prescriptions on WellRx.com.

eat to fight cancer

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Cancer is one of the leading causes of disease and death worldwide. While treatments for cancer — including surgery, radiation therapy, and medication — are continuing to become more sophisticated, the effectiveness of these treatments can be influenced by a person’s nutrition and metabolic health. Malnutrition and loss of muscle mass are common among cancer patients and can negatively influence treatment. 

What’s more, growing evidence indicates that certain dietary habits can increase or decrease a person’s risk of cancer. While no single food can prevent cancer, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way toward reducing your risk. 

Continue reading to learn more about the link between diet and cancer. 

Dietary Habits That Increase Cancer Risk

It’s difficult to say for certain that a particular food causes cancer. Observational studies that look at cancer risk must follow large populations of people for many years to find patterns in their dietary habits and prevalence of the disease. However, many large studies have found a link between certain foods and higher rates of cancer.

Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates

High-glycemic diets have been linked to different types of cancer, including endometrial cancerbreast cancer, and esophageal cancer

High-glycemic diets are high in foods that cause blood sugar to spike. These include sugar, as well as refined carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and baked goods. One study of nearly 48,000 adults found that those who ate a high-carbohydrate diet were almost twice as likely to have colorectal cancer than those who ate a low-glycemic diet. 

When you eat high-glycemic foods, the body must produce more insulin to transport glucose into the muscles, fat, and liver. Chronically high levels of insulin are believed to be a risk factor for cancer. In addition, high insulin levels may contribute to chronic inflammation, which is associated with cancer, as well as other chronic diseases such as heart disease. 

Processed Meats

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has stated that sufficient evidence exists to classify processed meat as a carcinogen. Processed meat is meat that has undergone processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation, such as curing, smoking, or salting. Some examples are hot dogs, sausage, and beef jerky. 

High-temperature cooking methods can also cause the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds that increase cancer risk. Avoid well-done, blackened, and barbecued meats, which have higher levels of HCAs. 

Dietary Habits That Reduce Cancer Risk

Cut Back on Refined Carbs

To reduce your risk of cancer, cut back on foods high in sugar, as well as refined carbs. This includes soda, sports drinks, candy, bread, pasta, and baked goods. Some other foods that are high on the glycemic index include white bread, whole wheat bread, white rice, couscous, corn flakes, and white potatoes. 

Choose low-glycemic alternatives instead. Use spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in place of pasta, and serve non-starchy vegetables in place of rice or potatoes. Riced cauliflower is a popular alternative to rice. 

Choose Foods That Can Lower Cancer Risk

Some foods contain beneficial compounds that help reduce the risk of cancer. Many of these same foods also help reduce chronic inflammation. Include plenty of these in your diet: 

  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cinnamon 
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, which contain important omega-3 fatty acids
  • Garlic
  • Nuts, such as Brazil nuts and walnuts
  • Olive oil 
  • Tomatoes
  • Turmeric

Read Food Labels and Ingredients

It’s also important to get into the habit of reading food labels. Many foods contain added sugars, which are often disguised by names such as corn syrup, cane juice, dextrose, fructose, maltose, sucrose, beet sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, or fruit juice. Look for foods that use natural sweeteners such as stevia. Sugar alcohols, such as erythritol and xylitol, are safe to consume because they do not impact blood sugar levels in the same way. However, sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal issues for some people. 

The ScriptSave WellRx Grocery Guidance app 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://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27637832/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22648201/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22760570/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24034571/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25403784/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22936542/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods

https://www.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Monographs-QA_Vol114.pdf

medicine during pregnancy - wellrx blog image

If you are pregnant or are planning to be, one of the first questions you’ll have is, “what medications can I take and which ones are not safe during pregnancy?” For the best answer to this question, start by having a discussion with your doctor. Discuss what medications you are currently taking and be sure to follow his or her advice. In general, here is a list of common drugs that are safe during pregnancy.

Over-the-counter Pain Medications That Are Safe During Pregnancy

If you have mild aches and pains during pregnancy, you can safely use Tylenol (acetaminophen). Be sure to avoid Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Taking an NSAID or aspirin early on in a pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects or even miscarriage.

What Cold and Sinus Medications Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Most over-the-counter cold and allergy medications are safe to take during pregnancy, including:

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin)
  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex)
  • Mentholated or non-mentholated cough drops
  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Saline nasal drops or spray

However, always talk to your doctor, and consider trying non-drug remedies first. Also be careful with multi-symptom relief drugs, or with Sustained Action (SA) forms of medications. NyQuil and its generic equivalents should be avoided since this medication contains alcohol.

How to Treat the Flu While Pregnant

It is usually safe for pregnant women to treat the flu with Tamiflu (oseltamivir). Keep in mind that a high fever can lead to birth defects or preterm birth, so your doctor may recommend Tamiflu to help lessen the effects of the flu. Always seek advice from a medical professional if you develop flu-like symptoms while pregnant, including:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Cough (dry or with phlegm)
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Stomach Medications You Can Take While Pregnant

If you’re suffering from constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or other gastrointestinal symptoms, you can use a variety of medications to relieve your symptoms.

Diarrhea

You can safely use these medications after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and only for 24 hours:

  • Loperamide (Imodium)
  • Kaopectate
  • Parepectolin

Nausea

  • Emetrex
  • Emetrol (unless you are diabetic)
  • Vitamin B6 (100 mg)

Constipation

  • Citrucil
  • Colace
  • Fiberall/Fibercon
  • Metamucil
  • Milk of Magnesia
  • Senekot

Indigestion and Heartburn

  • Tums
  • Maalox
  • Mylanta
  • Pepcid

Are Antibiotics Safe During Pregnancy?

Yes, antibiotics are usually safe during pregnancy. However, tetracycline and doxycycline can cause discoloration of an infant’s teeth, so it’s safest to avoid them. Always follow your doctor’s advice for your own unique situation. Here are some types of antibiotics that are commonly prescribed for pregnant women:

  • Penicillins (amoxicillin or ampicillin)
  • Cephalosporins (cefaclor or cephalexin)
  • Erythromycin
  • Clindamycin

Are Yeast Infection Treatments Safe?

You can safely take Monistat, Gynelotrimin, or Terazol during pregnancy. However, avoid diflucan or fluconzaole oral pills. In some observational studies, pregnant women who took these medications had babies with birth defects.

Can You Take Antidepressants and Anti-Anxiety Medications While Pregnant?

There is mixed research about the safety of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications for pregnant women. Some risks have been identified. For example, benzodiazepines (Valium and Xanax) are not recommended because they may cause problems like orofacial clefts, hypotonia, apnea, and feeding difficulties. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) have been linked to birth defects in some studies, but not others. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) may cause preterm births and other complications.

However, there are also risks to leaving a psychiatric disorder untreated. Women with depression are at increased risk of certain medical conditions, and they may not properly care for themselves during or after pregnancy. It’s important for pregnant women to tend to their mental health so that they can properly care for the baby.

Can You Keep Taking Prescriptions for Chronic Conditions?

This question needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis with your doctor. The harmful effects of not treating a chronic condition will often outweigh the risks of birth defects from medication. However, only your doctor and you can make that decision.

Be Careful with Supplements

One more thing to note is that supplements are risky during pregnancy. Since dietary and herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA as food, not drugs, their effects are not fully understood. It’s best to avoid any supplements beyond what your doctor has prescribed.

Related: What to Know About Drug Interactions

Keep in mind that only your doctor can make the best recommendation for you. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you should make an appointment with your primary care provider and discuss what medications you should avoid.

How To Save On Prescription Medications

Whether you are insured or uninsured, pregnancy and birth can be expensive. If you take prescription drugs or have been newly prescribed a medication, ScriptSave WellRx can help you find the best cash prices.

Simply type your prescription into our easy-to-use price comparison search and we’ll show you the lowest cash prices at local pharmacies. You can also easily find savings on the go using the ScriptSave WellRx mobile app. Download the app and search for the best prescription prices anywhere, at any time. For even more features, like our virtual medicine chest and grocery guidance tool, create a free ScriptSave WellRx account!

Create Account

earache - wellrx blog image

By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

There’s nothing like getting an ear infection as an adult to increase your empathy for a wailing, feverish baby tugging at her ear in the middle of the night. Ear infections are painful. However, not every ear infection necessitates an immediate trip to your healthcare provider.

Read on to learn more about ear infections; how and when you can safely troubleshoot at home; and when it’s time to see a medical provider.

What Is an Ear Infection?

To understand ear infections, it’s helpful to understand a little about basic ear anatomy. The human ear has three distinct sections — the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. When we talk about ear infections, we are typically referring to infections occurring in either the outer ear or the middle ear. These two sections are separated by the eardrum, a structure also known as the tympanic membrane.

Outer Ear Infections

An outer ear infection, also known as external otitis or swimmer’s ear, involves the ear canal. These infections are commonly caused by water — from a swimming pool, lake, ocean, or even just routine bathing — becoming trapped in the ear canal, creating a perfect habitat for bacteria. The ear canal often becomes inflamed, and you may experience itching, pain, decreased hearing, and even drainage from the ear.

Middle Ear Infections

An inner ear infection, or acute otitis media, refers to an infection in the space between the eardrum and the cochlea (inner ear). This space is normally drained by a thin tube, known as the eustachian tube, that connects the inner ear to the back of the mouth. When this tube gets inflamed, viruses or bacteria can get trapped in the middle ear, resulting in an infection. To diagnose a middle ear infection, a healthcare provider will look inside the ear canal to visualize the eardrum; if it is red, inflamed, and bulging with fluid, a middle ear infection is likely.

Who Gets Ear Infections?

An ear infection can strike anyone at any time. However, children are more likely to contract middle ear infections, and adults are more likely to get outer ear infections.  

Risk factors for ear infections include:

  • Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • The practice of “bottle propping
  • Not being fully vaccinated
  • Poor hygiene
  • Not being breastfed
  • Sticking objects (such as a cotton swab) into the ear
  • Being immunosuppressed

How Are Ear Infections Treated?

The location of an ear infection determines your clinician’s treatment approach.

Outer Ear Infections

The key to treating an outer ear infection is to make the ear canal less hospitable to bacteria. Generally, this is accomplished by drying out the canal. However, once an outer ear infection has progressed far enough that the canal is severely inflamed and pus-filled, antibiotic ear drops are typically necessary. These may or may not be combined with a steroid to help with swelling and pain. Pain control, using medications like ibuprofen or Tylenol, is important as well. Depending on the degree of inflammation, a medical provider may also flush out the ear to remove inflammatory debris.

Middle Ear Infections

The large majority of middle ear infections are caused by viruses that the body will naturally fight off within a few days, without antibiotics. For this reason, healthcare providers recommend a practice called “watchful waiting,” which involves treating ear pain symptoms with over-the-counter medications and delaying antibiotic treatment for at least 48 to 72 hours. If the infection is severe, or if you or your child are in certain high-risk groups, antibiotics may be prescribed sooner.

Troubleshooting at Home

There are some home remedies for ear infections that may be useful to try before heading to a medical provider.

For an outer ear infection, some over-the-counter drop formulations marketed for “swimmer’s ear” have ingredients such as isopropyl alcohol and glycerin that can help dry out the ear canal, which may prevent it from becoming more severely infected. Home solutions using vinegar and rubbing alcohol may work as a substitute for over-the-counter drops; however, studies have not shown that drying remedies are more effective than prescription remedies for outer ear infections.

For middle ear infections, the watchful waiting approach is recommended by healthcare providers. In the meantime, you can use pain medications such as Tylenol and ibuprofen as home therapies to reduce the discomfort. Alternative therapy options, such as xylitol, phytotherapy, and probiotics, have shown variable results in clinical studies, and further research is needed for these treatment options to gain acceptance by medical authorities.

When to See a Healthcare Provider for an Ear Infection

If despite your home therapy, you continue to have persistent ear pain, it is important to follow up with a medical provider to prevent future complications.

Reasons that should prompt you to bypass home therapy and see a healthcare provider urgently include:

  • If you suspect there may be an alternate cause for the ear pain, such as a foreign body in the ear (children love to put strange things in their ears!) or barotrauma (if the pain started after a loud noise or pressure change)
  • If you are feeling very ill or are unable to hold down food or water
  • If you have other symptoms, such as fever for more than 3 days, a headache, neck pain, tooth pain, or sore throat
  • If the area behind your ear (toward the back of your head) is tender or swollen
  • If you are immunosuppressed
  • If your pain is not controllable with over-the-counter medications
  • If you have a blistering rash in or around your ear or on other areas of your face
  • If you have a history of recurrent ear infections, or previous ear or sinus surgery

If your healthcare provider does prescribe you or your child medication for an ear infection, 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.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279353/

https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/bottle-feeding/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi/ear-infections.html

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

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

https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/ear-infection.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Ear-Infection-Information.aspx

https://uihc.org/health-topics/otitis-externa-get-rid-swimmers-ear

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279352/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4753897/

https://www.wellrx.com/health-conditions/about/health-condition/recurrent-ear-infections/vitamins-and-supplements/

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

More than 2 million patients are hospitalized every year after they inadvertently mix their prescription drugs, while another 100,000 die annually. As such, an awareness of all your medications, herbal remedies, supplements and certain lifestyle & dietary choices can be essential for avoiding adverse medication interactions (including death). ScriptSave WellRx can help.

Drug Interaction-Alerts. A Quick-start Guide, from “ScriptSave University”

The FREE virtual Medicine Chest that’s available to all patients through the ScriptSave WellRx website and mobile app is able to flag a great many of the known interactions that exist for FDA-approved prescription medications.

How to Set Up Drug Interaction Alerts

  • Step 1. Create a free ScriptSave WellRx account or login to your existing account.
  • Step 2. Open Medicine Chest and enter details about each prescription you take. Be sure to save the medication details when you’re done.
  • Step 3. View medication interactions under the “Interactions” tab on Medicine Chest (see screenshot below). Click the drop-down arrows for details about each drug and its interactions.

Insider Tip:

If you’re concerned that you might be experiencing adverse reactions or side effects from any of your prescription medications, consider tracking your moods with the Mood Log feature from ScriptSave WellRx. Review the related Quick-start Guide to learn how to start using the integrated “Mood Logs feature. We also provide ScriptSave WellRx members with free access to our Ask A Pharmacist telephone support line – so please don’t hesitate to call the tollfree number of a free, confidential consultation with a licensed pharmacist.

More Quick-start Guides:

Starting new medications can be stressful. When prescribing a new medication, it’s common for doctors to ask patients to keep track of changes in mood, emotion, condition, etc. Fortunately, ScriptSave WellRx makes tracking your mood and any other changes simple with our free Mood Logs tool.

Tracking Side Effects. A Quick-start Guide, from “ScriptSave University”

Simply create your ScriptSave WellRx account and you’ll have completely free access to easy-to-use journals and Mood Logs. These tools make it easy to track and record changes. It’s then simple to relay this information to your physician or caregivers when needed.

You can access your personal, private journals by opening the “Mood Logs” feature from within your FREE virtual Medicine Chest. Keep reading to learn how to get started!

How to get started

Getting started with the ScriptSave WellRx Mood Tracker is simple! Just follow these steps:

  • Step 1. If you haven’t yet done so, create a free ScriptSave Well account.
  • Step 2. After creating an account, log in to access your customizable profile.
  • Step 3. Once you’ve logged in, you can begin tracking medications, including any newly prescribed ones. To navigate to the Mood Tracker, access your profile Dashboard from either the website or the ScriptSave WellRx mobile app.
  • Step 4. From the Dashboard, click “My Mood Log”.
  • Step 5. You can now select your mood for the day to easily track how you’re feeling across days, weeks, and even months!

Insider Tip:

If you discover that prescriptions medications have adverse interactions with the foods you enjoy, you can review the related Quick-start Guide to learn how to start using the FREE Grocery Guidance module within the ScriptSave WellRx platform. Use it to look for other foods that align with your health condition and wellness goals.

More Quick-start Guides:

cdc image latest covid-19 research - wellrx blog image

By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

The COVID-19 pandemic has held the world in its grip for nearly eight months. As healthcare providers have learned and adapted to the nuances of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the scientific community has been racing to uncover the best prevention practices and to discover new treatments. An extraordinary amount of collaboration has paved the way for many exciting developments. 

Here’s the latest on research regarding COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

Preventing COVID-19 Infections

The most effective way to halt the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus is to stop its transmission. Several prevention strategies have demonstrated effectiveness:

Handwashing

When the novel coronavirus first emerged in the United States in mid-January 2020, there was a rapid public embrace of handwashing. However, researchers did not just take this recommendation at face value; they performed in-depth studies of handwashing’s effectiveness as it relates to COVID-19. Luckily, the message has stayed remarkably the same; research reinforces that handwashing is a highly effective method of preventing the spread of COVID-19 infection.  

Social Distancing

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we became intimately familiar with a new phrase: social distancing. Because the method of transmission of COVID-19 is largely thought to be via respiratory droplets, and these droplets generally cannot travel farther than approximately six feet, keeping your distance from others outside of your household has been broadly encouraged by public health authorities. Recent research into social distancing using mobile telephone data tracking has confirmed that this public health strategy effectively reduces the transmission of the virus. 

Wearing a Mask in Public Places

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidelines on August 7, 2020, noting that considerable emerging evidence from clinical studies supports the practice of mask-wearing in public places. Masks prevent a wearer from spreading viral particles to others, and may also have a secondary effect of shielding a wearer from large respiratory droplets. The most up-to-date research on homemade mask materials for preventing the spread of the virus shows that a double-layered face mask made of quilter’s cotton most effectively prevents the spread of viral particles. 

Prevention Strategies on the Horizon

One of the most lauded prevention strategies in modern medicine is wide-scale vaccination to protect against infection. Numerous trials for coronavirus vaccines are currently underway. In the United States, the pharmaceutical company Moderna was the first to enter into phase 3 level studies in its clinical vaccine trial. If a vaccine proves to be effective, it will represent a major scientific advance in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection. 

You can download a comprehensive list of current COVID-19 vaccine trials, published by the World Health Organization (WHO), here.

Other Forms of Prevention

Other COVID-19 prevention strategies, such as prophylactic medications – those that are taken to prevent infection with the virus in the first place – are also being actively researched, including recent clinical trials for monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies are genetically-engineered antibodies and are currently in use to prevent and treat a wide array of other health conditions.

Vitamin D has also been a hot topic when it comes to COVID-19 prevention. A recent article in the medical journal The Lancet discusses the use of vitamin D supplementation in the fight against COVID-19. Although more research is needed, the article authors conclude that reasonable daily supplementation with vitamin D has a very little downside for most people and a potentially large benefit. Other examinations of vitamin D and COVID-19 have echoed these findings. 

Additionally, prevention strategies such as oral rinsing to reduce virus transmission are currently being researched.

Treating COVID-19 Infections

As our understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has grown, the way that medical teams approach the virus has also changed. Clinicians have honed their understanding of ventilator use in severe cases and have incorporated other treatment strategies, such as placing patients in a prone position rather than flat on their backs. Research has validated the following therapies in the fight against COVID-19, which are now broadly recommended by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Remdesivir

Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that was on the scene early in the fight against COVID-19, receiving an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2020. The first clinical trial of Remdesivir showed that it quickened recovery from COVID-19 infection. More clinical trials involving this medication are currently underway, and the manufacturer of Remdesivir recently submitted an official New Drug Application (NDA) to the FDA for consideration. The NIH currently recommends Remdesivir’s use in hospitalized patients who require supplemental oxygen but are not using other specified modes of oxygen delivery.

Dexamethasone

New research on the corticosteroid known as dexamethasone has shown that it reduces mortality in patients with COVID-19 infection. As a result, dexamethasone, as well as other steroids, are now being widely incorporated into the standard of care for patients with severe COVID-19 disease.

Other Potential Treatments for COVID-19

In addition to being evaluated as a possible prevention strategy against the novel coronavirus, monoclonal antibodies are also being studied in clinical trials as possible therapeutics, both for patients with mild to moderate disease, and for those with more severe disease who have been hospitalized. Other treatment modalities, such as nanobodiesnasal irrigation, and convalescent plasma, are also currently being investigated. 

Clearly, the fight against the novel coronavirus is vigorous and ongoing. As new therapies for COVID-19 continue to emerge, we at ScriptSave® WellRx are devoted to helping you access the most affordable medications on the market. Make sure to use our app 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://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32232986/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32694481/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/5.0016018

https://investors.modernatx.com/news-releases/news-release-details/moderna-announces-phase-3-cove-study-mrna-vaccine-against-covid

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

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/clinical-trials-monoclonal-antibodies-prevent-covid-19-now-enrolling

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(20)30268-0/fulltext

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876034120305311

https://academic.oup.com/jid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/infdis/jiaa471/5878067

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30268-X/fulltext

https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/whats-new/

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-issues-emergency-use-authorization-potential-covid-19-treatment

https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/covid-19-clinical-research

https://www.empr.com/home/news/drugs-in-the-pipeline/remdesivir-veklury-gilead-new-drug-application-submitted-covid-19/

https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/whats-new/

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.22.20137273v1

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

https://files.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/guidelines/covid19treatmentguidelines.pdf

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04347538

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.08.238469v1

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/donate-covid-19-plasma

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/https://www.wellrx.com/discount-prescription-app/

benefits of stretching - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

One of the biggest benefits of regular exercise is its positive effects on heart health. Regular physical activity can improve many of the risk factors associated with heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and chronic inflammation. Exercise is a natural stress reliever, and it also promotes weight loss. 

While aerobic or “cardio” exercises such as running, swimming, and cycling are often considered to be the best forms of exercise for the heart, any form of physical activity can improve cardiovascular health. Moderate physical activity, such as a brisk 15-minute walk, can lead to significant health benefits, including weight loss, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels. Research has shown that engaging in moderate exercise for just 15 minutes a day can add three years to your life. 

One form of physical activity that can deliver surprising cardiovascular benefits is a simple stretching routine. 

The Importance of a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Despite the tremendous benefits of exercise, fewer than 25 percent of Americans are meeting federal guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise, and heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women.  

One possible explanation for the low level of physical activity among many Americans is that some people confuse exercising for general health with the level of activity required for competitive fitness. We may think that exercise has to be intense and sweaty to be beneficial, when, in reality, this is not the case.

“The truth is that if you’re exercising for health,” says Dr. Harvey Simon, associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, “it takes very little effort to see enormous benefits.” When it comes to exercise, every little bit counts—even stretching. 

The Benefits of Stretching

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Milan in Italy found that participants who engaged in passive stretching for 12 weeks experienced significant improvements to their vascular system, including lower blood pressure, improved blood flow in their arteries, and less arterial stiffness. 

While the positive changes seen with stretching were not as great as those generally experienced with aerobic exercise, the study still has important implications for improving heart health. 

Poor circulation and hardening of the arteries increase the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart becomes blocked—most often due to a buildup of substances such as fat and cholesterol, which form plaque in the arteries. Similarly, a stroke happens when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked. 

Improvements in arterial flexibility are especially notable, since once arterial stiffness sets in, it can be hard to reverse. Arteries need to be able to expand to respond to an increase in blood flow to deliver more blood to the heart and muscles when necessary. When arteries are hardened, it can cause chest pain or pain in the legs. 

Study authors note that patients with vascular disease, in particular, may benefit from regular passive stretching in addition to aerobic exercise. 

What Is Passive Stretching?

Passive stretching is stretching in which an external force is applied to a body part to provide the stretch without any muscle contraction. This force can be applied by a partner, gravity, or a prop such as a strap or a wall. With passive stretching, you typically remain in one position for a set period of time and relax your body. 

Passive stretching is often used before and after workouts to prevent muscle soreness. Many forms of yoga incorporate passive stretching, especially restorative yoga. Active stretching, by comparison, requires more muscle involvement to achieve the desired stretch. 

A closer look at the benefits of stretching is particularly relevant now when many people continue to be confined to their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A regular stretching routine may be ideal for people who are in need of more physical activity but don’t have the means or the space for aerobic exercise. 

Improving Arterial Health

Losing excess weight, treating high blood pressure, and engaging in aerobic exercise can also help improve arterial stiffness. Cutting back on sugar also helps, as does eating a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, fatty fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil.

In some cases of vascular disease, medications may be prescribed to help thin the blood, lower blood pressure, and increase blood supply to the extremities. If your doctor gives you a prescription for a medication such as a statin or anticoagulant, our ScriptSave WellRx savings card can help you find the lowest price.

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.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/7-heart-benefits-of-exercise

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-much-exercise-is-optimal-for-heart-health

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr112.pdfhttps://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/JP279866

burned out man working late on computer - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Burnout is a widespread and serious problem. Heavy workloads and chronic stress—combined with a never-ending news cycle and the pressure to always stay connected to work—can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion, along with physical symptoms such as an impaired immune system, frequent illness, chronic headaches, and a change in appetite or sleep habits. 

Recent research shows that burnout may have more serious consequences than previously realized. A new study revealed an association between burnout and a higher risk for a dangerous heart condition. It’s important to learn the signs of burnout and take action before a serious health condition develops. 

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is defined as a state of excessive and prolonged stress that leads to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. 

Though traditionally associated with high achievers who work long hours and take on heavy workloads, burnout has become more widespread in recent years. A 2018 Gallup study found that out of 7,500 full-time employees, 44 percent reported experiencing burnout “sometimes,” while an additional 23 percent reported feeling burned out “very often” or “always.” That means that two-thirds of full-time workers feel burned out at work. 

And burnout isn’t limited to the workplace. Parents often experience burnout due to the chronic stress of parenting—a condition commonly referred to as mommy burnout, although it can affect dads as well. 

How to Identify the Signs of Burnout

Burnout is a term that often gets tossed around by people who are feeling emotionally or physically exhausted. And while it’s normal for a rough day or week to make you feel more tired than usual, it’s important for anyone who’s experiencing actual burnout to recognize the warning signs and know when to take action. The warning signs of burnout typically come on gradually and are often ignored. If unaddressed, burnout can lead to serious health consequences. 

You may be experiencing burnout if: 

  • Every day is a bad day 
  • You’re always exhausted
  • You constantly feel overwhelmed
  • You don’t have the energy to care about your work life or home life 
  • You feel like nothing you do is appreciated 

Health Effects of Burnout

Burnout can lead to both psychological and physical symptoms, including: 

  • Sleep disorders
  • Problems with memory and concentration 
  • Impaired decision making 
  • Impaired immune system 
  • Frequent colds 
  • Respiratory problems 
  • Back pain
  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Depression

A recent study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, also revealed that burnout is associated with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a type of irregular heart rhythm that can be potentially fatal. 

AFib is a common condition that affects roughly 2.7 million Americans. In addition to an irregular heart rhythm, AFib is associated with chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, and blood clots. AFib increases the risk of stroke and doubles the risk of heart-related deaths, yet many people are unaware that it is a serious condition. Some people with AFib may not have symptoms and may not discover their condition at a regular medical checkup.

Burnout and Weight Gain

Burnout is also associated with weight gain. Chronic stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which causes the body to store fat cells, particularly in the abdominal area. Cortisol also promotes the development of fatty liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Research shows that burnout also leads to unhealthy behaviors that promote weight gain. People who are feeling the effects of burnout are more likely to engage in emotional eating, to eat without stopping, choose foods higher in fat, and neglect physical exercise. 

How to Manage Burnout

It’s critical to get a handle on stress and burnout before serious health complications develop. If you’re already experiencing work-related burnout, you may need to speak with your employer about setting healthy boundaries. If possible, avoid work email or other work-related activities after working hours. 

Focus on getting adequate, quality sleep. Good sleep goes a long way toward warding off mental and physical health issues, and being sleep deprived can further impair your focus and decision-making abilities. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, talk to your doctor about prescription sleep aids. If your healthcare provider prescribes you a sleep medication, our ScriptSave WellRx savings card can help you find the lowest price.

Make time to exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a short yoga session. In addition to helping control weight, regular exercise helps reduce stress, boosts the immune system, and lowers your risk of heart disease. 

Finally, consider seeing a therapist. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help change negative behaviors that develop because of stress and may also improve your sleep. 

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://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2047487319897163

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx

https://www.today.com/parents/stop-yelling-how-you-know-if-you-have-mommy-burnout-t127583

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation-afib-or-af

https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/FIYPYFT6TF3ZYPX7FVWH/full

https://www.wellrx.com/rx-discount-card/enroll/

pediatric eye health - wellrx blog image

By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

The gift of eyesight is precious, yet often taken for granted. The foundation for a lifetime of eye health and good vision is established in childhood. In honor of August’s status as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, here is what you need to know about pediatric eye health.

Why Is Eye Health Important In Kids?

Being able to see at full capacity is critical to a child’s learning and development. Vision has a critical role in a child’s world by aiding in language comprehension and the ability to discern nonverbal social cues. Having full visual ability also helps to keep children safe, allowing them to be alert to dangers in their environment.

How Common Are Eye Conditions In Kids?

According to statistics from the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, up to 1 in 17 preschoolers has an undetected vision disorder. Vision disorders are even more common in children who are in Head Start programs, with an estimated 1 in 5 of these children having an undiagnosed eye condition.

Some of the most common eye conditions in childhood include:

  • Refractive errors: Visual conditions such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism fall into this category, and they represent the most common group of visual conditions in children.
  • Strabismus: In this condition, there is a misalignment of the eyes, which can cause other vision problems. This condition, which affects 2 to 4 percent of the U.S. population, can be corrected with ocular therapy or surgery.
  • Vision Loss: This can include partial blindness (difficulty seeing fully, even with corrective lenses or glasses) and full blindness. It is estimated that more than 1 million children in the U.S. suffer from vision loss.
  • Amblyopia: Known colloquially as a “lazy eye,” amblyopia is the most common cause of vision loss in children. It occurs when communication between the brain and the eye is impaired. This disconnect can be due to a number of factors, including cataracts, retinal scarring, or strabismus and, if undetected, can lead to blindness.

Additionally, children are also susceptible to eye infections, eye injuries, and, more rarely, malignancies of the eye.

Should My Child Have a Routine Eye Exam?

Children with vision conditions benefit greatly from early detection because these conditions are often completely treatable. As a parent, it is important to know when your child’s vision should be evaluated, how often, and by whom. Fortunately, general exams and screenings are already integrated into the routine well-child checks that are conducted by your child’s pediatrician at regular intervals, depending on your child’s age. Eye evaluations begin at birth and continue throughout the school years.

Particularly as children approach school age, it is important that their vision is assessed by their pediatrician to ensure they are able to view the board and other important elements of a classroom. If your child does not pass a vision screening, then he or she should receive a referral for a full evaluation by a pediatric eye doctor. However, experts recommend against generalized annual comprehensive eye screening in children.

What Measures Should I Take to Protect My Child’s Eyes?

In addition to being proactive in the fight against eye disease and vision loss, it is also vital to take measures to prevent unintentional eye injuries. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, nearly half of all eye injuries that occur in children are the result of sports and recreational activities, so encouraging regular use of protective eye gear is crucial.

Other measures that you can take to protect your child’s eyes include the following:

  • Make sure your home is safeguarded with child locks to prevent accidental eye exposures to bleach and other household chemicals.
  • Limit screen time to reduce eye-straining and premature eye aging.
  • Encourage a balanced diet with vitamins that support eye health, such as vitamin A.
  • Encourage your children to wear sunglasses or a sun visor when outside during peak sun hours.
  • Discourage dangerous activities such as running with sharp items or playing with fireworks.
  • Familiarize yourself with eye safety first aid tips.

How Can I Learn More?

For more resources, make sure to check out the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health. You can also engage your kids by letting them partner with you in learning about their own eye health using these resources from the National Eye Institute.

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://nationalcenter.preventblindness.org/

https://preventblindness.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Snapshot-Report-2020condensedF.pdf

https://www.choosingwisely.org/societies/american-association-for-pediatric-ophthalmology-and-strabismus/

https://aapos.org/home

https://preventblindness.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/FS104_BlueLight.pdf

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

https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/nei-for-kids/first-aid-tips

https://nationalcenter.preventblindness.org/your-childs-sight/https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/nei-for-kids