maintaining mental health during covid - wellrx blog image

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

Prior to 2020, it may be fair to say that the only time we ever heard or uttered the word corona was in reference to an alcoholic beverage. Nowadays, we hear the word regularly. Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has made its way onto the global scene and has altered our existence in many ways. Faced with uncertainty and feelings of confusion, we must learn how to navigate our new normal as best as we can. For many of us, the changes brought by COVID-19 have us struggling to maintain our health and wellness.

Mental health and COVID-19

The changes and uncertainty that come with COVID-19 have caused an increase in stress for many people. Stress can negatively impact your life in various ways. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, stress can cause the following:

  • A change in sleep, including difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased use of mind-altering substances including alcohol and other drugs
  • A change in eating habits including overeating or undereating
  • Excessive fear and worry about your health or the health of loved ones
  • A decline in physical health

If you have noticed any of the above-mentioned changes, you are not alone. Changes in sleep, eating, and cognitive functions can be a sign that your mental health requires some attention. You can take specific actions to reduce stress and improve your mental health as you navigate these unchartered times.

Be strategic

With minute-by-minute updates, it can feel like the news about COVID-19 is unrelenting. It is important to be strategic and manage the amount of time you allow yourself to read and watch news about the virus. Plan a specific time of the day that you will allow yourself to watch the news or read about COVID-19. Make sure that it is not the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning because that can set the tone for your mental health for the rest of the day.

Also, limit the amount of time you spend informing yourself about the virus. We have all experienced moments where we became swept up in the latest information, and minutes turn into hours. Limit the amount of time by setting a timer; 10, 20, or 30 minutes is sufficient. When the timer goes off, take a break and switch to another activity. The news isn’t going anywhere.

Focus on physical health

Our minds and our bodies are inextricably linked. When one is struggling, the other is likely being negatively impacted. Focusing on your physical health can ensure you are supporting your mental health. The following behaviors can help improve your mental health:

  • Exercise regularlyExercise has been proven to improve sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, and lower stress.
  • Stay hydratedStudies show that even mild dehydration can have a negative impact on your overall mood, including increasing your vulnerability to fatigue and anxiety. This is especially true for women.
  • Maintain a healthy sleep regime. Sleep problems, including sleep deprivation, can make you more susceptible to developing various mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
  • Avoid mood-altering substances, including alcohol and drugs. These can exacerbate or cause mental health symptoms.
  • Eat healthy foods. Limit overly processed foods and foods high in sugar, which can worsen mental health disorders such as depression.
  • Take your medication as directed. Be sure to follow up with your primary care and mental health providers.

Skills to improve mental health

You can employ other actions or “skills” to regularly improve your mental health. These include:

  • Practicing mindfulness daily. Studies show that mindfulness can alleviate stress and anxiety. If you are new to mindfulness, you can look up free YouTube videos that explain mindfulness and provide free guided mindfulness videos.
  • Creating and following a new routine. With the change in your day-to-day life, now is a perfect time to alter your routine in a way that suits your new normal.
  • Engaging in a pleasant activity every day. Intentionally engaging in activities that generate positive emotions such as happiness, peace, calm, and joy can help reduce depression symptoms.
  • Building mastery. Building mastery means engaging in an activity each day that helps you feel more in control of your life. Clean out that closet bursting at the seams or complete that online training that you have been putting off for work. While such tasks may not always be enjoyable, when you are finished with them you will likely feel a sense of accomplishment and relief.
  • Staying connected with friends and family. Use online video platforms such as Zoom, Houseparty, FaceTime, and Skype to maintain connections during this time of social distancing.
Related content: 
Connecting with Friends and Family During Social Distancing

Free Virtual Conferencing Platforms

Conclusion

Above all, be kind to yourself. Show yourself patience, tolerance, and compassion. Know that you are doing the best that you can during a time that can feel overwhelming and uncertain. Try to find the positives in your reality, no matter how small they may seem. Remember, not only are you not alone, you can take action to help improve your mood and mental health.

Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.

Resources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2020/supporting-mental-health-during-the-covid-19-pandemic.shtml

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2020/supporting-mental-health-during-the-covid-19-pandemic.shtml

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/health-consequences-drug-misuse/mental-health-effects

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1974-07294-001

covid family active - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us into unprecedented circumstances: confined to our homes, we are working from home while also managing our children’s educations, attempting to maintain previous levels of productivity while simultaneously managing our anxiety over the virus, and worrying about loss of income and about our family members who are most vulnerable. 

It’s a lot to handle all at once, and it’s perfectly understandable if you find yourself gravitating toward comfort foods and Netflix binges. However, making an effort to maintain some healthy habits—or establish new ones—during these difficult times can pay off in big ways. 

Eating a healthy diet is essential for strengthening your immune system, and exercise is great for stress relief. Try implementing some of these quarantine activities that will benefit the entire family’s health—both physical and mental. 

Plan and prepare healthy meals together

Cooking for kids can be challenging enough, even when we’re not sheltering in place. And having to eat more meals at home means even more cooking.

Put together a meal plan that everyone can help with so the entire burden of planning and preparing meals doesn’t fall on one person. Get the family together and solicit meal requests. Focus on dishes that are easy to prepare, like one-pot meals or sheet-pan dinners. If you have an Instant Pot or a slow cooker, put a few favorite soups or stews in rotation. Then, on your next grocery outing or delivery order, buy only what you need for your menu plan. 

Make mealtime a family event and give everyone a job. Depending on your kids’ ages, have them help chop veggies or prepare ingredients for a stew. Assign someone to set the table and someone to load the dishwasher. If you’re used to being a family where everyone eats at different times or grabs something on the go, use this opportunity to reconnect with one another and instill a sense of team spirit. 

Get active

Being inside for days on end can make anyone feel like they need to blow off some steam. Moreover, your kids may have lots of energy to burn. Make a point of getting some exercise every day. If you can, take a walk around the neighborhood—just make sure to avoid other people and follow social distancing guidelines. 

Have a yard? Schedule a family game of catch, kickball, or soccer. Play yard darts or jump rope, or have a hula-hoop contest. Anything that gets you up off the couch and moving! 

If you don’t have an outdoor space, or the weather isn’t cooperating, try a family yoga video or make an indoor obstacle course. YouTube is a great source for family-friendly exercise videos. Or, find a video fitness game that you can all play together. 

Practice mindfulness

Now is a great time to teach your kids some mindfulness techniques that will serve them well into adulthood. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety, and it even offers a number of physical benefits. Mindfulness can help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and relieve gastrointestinal issues. Taking a few minutes every day to practice mindfulness can help the entire family cope with the stress of cancelled events, an uncertain future, and social isolation. It can also help with attention and focus, and improve social skills in children and adolescents. 

Pick a time each day—maybe in the morning before you dive into the day’s activities—to sit quietly together for a few minutes. Instruct everyone to breathe deeply while focusing on their breath. 

If you have young children, create some fun mindfulness activities for them. For example, ask everyone to imagine they are holding a cup of hot chocolate or tea. Have them inhale deeply through the nose as if they are inhaling the scent of the hot drink, then exhale slowly. Next, ask them to pretend to sip their drink and savor the flavor. Repeat several times. 

You can also incorporate movement and posture into your mindfulness activities. For example, ask everyone to strike a superhero pose: feet wider than hip width, with hands on the hips. Power posing may help with self-esteem and confidence. Have your kids hold the pose for 30 seconds and ask them how they feel. See if you can work up to a full two minutes. 

Encourage communication

Your kids may be feeling confused or scared during this time. Let them know their feelings are valid, and create a safe space for sharing those feelings. Offer reassurance to help them cope, and explain the facts honestly in a way that children can understand. 

Take care of yourself

Finally, model good self-care for your children. They will pick up on how you respond to the situation, so try to stay calm. If more than one caretaker is in the home, make sure everyone gets a break and some time to themselves when needed. Get enough sleep and reach out to family and friends for support. Show your children how we can all work together to support one another and help them build a strong sense of community during these uncertain times. 

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.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm

https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities/

https://www.mensaforkids.org/teach/ted-connections/the-power-of-body-language/

pharmacies during covid - wellrx blog image

By Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD

Many people have questions and uncertainties during the COVID-19 crisis. Will my pharmacy have my medication? Will I be able to pick up my medicine at my pharmacy? Will my pharmacy close? How will I get my medications if I am in quarantine? Rest assured that pharmacies are essential businesses, and they will likely remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic with pharmacists available to address your concerns.

Community pharmacies are in the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis and are often the closest point of medical contact that patients have. To support the community during such a vulnerable time, pharmacies have taken measures to ensure that patients get the care they need.

Free delivery

As people are asked to stay home and shelter in place, many pharmacies are offering to deliver medications and other over-the-counter items free of charge. Additionally, many pharmacies have drive-through windows where you can pick up your prescriptions and, in some cases, select over-the-counter items. You can also take advantage of the pharmacy’s website for online shopping of over-the-counter items.

The following pharmacies offer free delivery:

Check with a pharmacy near you for delivery options.

Senior shopping hours

Many pharmacies have taken extra measures to ensure that seniors and those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak are protected if they need to visit the pharmacy. The following pharmacies have designated senior shopping hours:

  • CVS: Designated vulnerable/at-risk shopping hours are every Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. This time is reserved for those ages 60 and over, pregnant women, and anyone deemed vulnerable or at-risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Publix: Publix pharmacies are open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. for people ages 65 and over.
  • Rite Aid: Rite Aid stores have reserved every weekday morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. for those with weakened immune systems or those who are age 65 and over.
  • Walgreens: Walgreens stores are open every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. to seniors, their caregivers, and immediate family members.

90-day supplies and early fills

Retailers, including Rite Aid and CVS, are working with insurance companies to provide 90-day supplies of your medications and early fill approvals on some prescriptions. If your insurance does not cover your medication, you can use a free Rx savings card for the best price.

Expanded cleaning schedules and plexiglass barriers

To minimize the spread of virus between customers and employees, pharmacies are adopting rigorous cleaning regimens. Countertops and other high-touch areas are cleaned and disinfected on a regular schedule. Many retailers are also installing plexiglass barriers to protect customers and employees from droplets generated through sneezing or coughing.

Touchless pay and fewer signatures

High-touch items like pens and PIN pads carry the potential to spread germs from one user to another. Publix and Walgreens use touchless pay technology, which eliminates the need to touch card readers or PIN pads. CVS supports contactless mobile payments, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. In addition, CVS now requires fewer signatures on the PIN pads when you pick up your prescriptions.

Drive-through COVID-19 testing

Walgreens and CVS have each opened at least one drive-through COVID-19 testing site and intend to open more. Walgreens opened its first site in Chicago and has plans to open 15 more locations across seven states. New testing locations will be in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas. Testing will be free to patients who meet the qualifications specified by the CDC.

CVS currently has sites open in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Georgia and has plans to open more locations. Testing is free for those who meet CDC testing qualifications.

Walgreens and CVS both use the new Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test, which delivers positive results in five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.

Telemedicine visits

To minimize the spread of any contagious illness, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens offer telemedicine visits from the comfort of your home.

Through CVS Health’s Minute Clinic, you can access a healthcare provider 24 hours a day and seven days a week via a video visit. The cost per visit is $59, but Aetna members can use Teladoc free of charge through June 4, 2020.

Rite Aid recently launched RediClinic@Home video visits, which are available in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Most insurance plans are accepted, or the cost is $49 per visit.

Walgreens uses MDLIVE to provide telehealth visits with a doctor 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The cost per visit is $75.

Staying home and staying safe

The bottom line to staying safe and flattening the curve during the COVID-19 crisis is to stay home when going out is not essential. Fortunately, pharmacies near you are taking measures to make it easier for you to stay home. You can continue to compare prescription prices from your phone, laptop, or tablet at home and use prescription discount cards to obtain the lowest prescription price.

Remember that you can use prescription savings cards whether you have your prescriptions delivered to your home or you pick them up at your pharmacy’s drive-through window.

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://cvshealth.com/newsroom/press-releases/cvs-health-response-coronavirus-outbreak

https://www.riteaid.com/corporate/news/-/pressreleases/news-room/2020/rite-aid-expands-services-in-response-to-covid-19

https://news.walgreens.com/press-releases/general-news/walgreens-takes-further-action-to-support-customers-during-covid-19-pandemic.htm

https://www.walmart.com/cp/pharmacy-home-delivery/1042239

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html

https://ww4.publix.com/publix-coronavirus-updates/reserved-shopping-hours

https://www.riteaid.com/covid19

https://news.walgreens.com/our-stories/covid-19-faq.htm#stores

https://www.supermarketnews.com/retail-financial/publix-deploys-contactless-payment-extra-covid-19-safety

https://cvshealth.com/newsroom/articles/cvs-pharmacy-protecting-and-supporting-our-customers-and-our-employees

https://news.walgreens.com/press-releases/general-news/walgreens-expanding-drive-thru-testing-to-15-new-locations-in-seven-states.htm

https://www.cvshealth.com/newsroom/press-releases/cvs-health-announces-opening-rapid-covid-19-drive-through-testing-sites?CVSTwitter&linkId=85909777

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html

https://www.cvs.com/minuteclinic/virtual-care/video-visit

https://member.teladoc.com/aetna

https://www.rediclinic.com/rch/https://www.walgreens.com/findcare/mdlive

immunie-boosting-foods-wellrx-blog-image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

A well-functioning immune system is essential for good health and survival. To perform at their best, the body’s cells require proper nutrition — and that includes the cells in the immune system. 

A healthy diet helps immune cells guard against harmful pathogens and resolve any immune response quickly. Although no one single food ensures good immunity, including certain nutrients in your diet can help strengthen your body’s natural defenses — as can avoiding certain foods that impair immune system function. 

If you’re interested in strengthening your immune system, you may need to change your eating habits. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is essential, and most Americans don’t get enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 10 percent of Americans are meeting the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption. 

How does diet affect the immune system?

Certain nutrients play very specific roles in immune system function. For example, vitamin A and zinc help control cellular division and are essential for rapid immune system response. 

Some nutrient deficiencies have been shown to suppress immune system function. Other foods, such as sugar, impair immune system cells that fight bacteria. Building a healthy immune system, then, may require adding certain foods to your diet and minimizing your intake of others. 

Moreover, when it comes to the effects of diet on the immune system, the importance of healthy digestion can’t be overlooked. Most of the immune system cells in the human body are found in the gut. That means if you have a condition related to digestive health, your immune system may not be functioning as well as it could be. Even common digestive issues such as constipation could be affecting the health of your immune system. 

Which vitamins and minerals are best for the immune system?

Some of the most essential vitamins and minerals for the immune system include vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. Certain amino acids, such as glutamine and arginine, also play an important role in immune system function. 

What foods are bad for the immune system?

Chronic inflammation is an underlying factor in many diseases, and the standard Western diet is a known risk factor for inflammation. The Western diet is typically high in inflammatory foods such as sugar, trans fats, processed foods, simple carbohydrates, chemical additives, vegetable oils, and omega-6 fats. 

Make an effort to reduce your consumption of foods such as white flour, soft drinks and sports drinks, baked goods, and fast food. 

Which foods boost the immune system?

Some of the best foods to eat for a healthy immune system are fruits and vegetables, which are naturally high in vitamins and antioxidants that help strengthen the immune system. The more colorful fruits and vegetables you add to your diet, the better. Fruits and vegetables get their color from phytonutrients, which are compounds that also provide different health benefits. 

  • Vitamin A can be found in orange foods, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, mango, and pumpkin, as well in green foods, such as broccoli, asparagus, kale, bell peppers, and spinach. 
  • Vitamin C is found in orange, lemons, acerola cherries, strawberries, yellow peppers, spinach, kale, kiwi, and broccoli. 
  • Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. If you spend a lot of time indoors or live in an area without a lot of sun, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D deficiencies are common in the United States. Some foods, such as milk and orange juice, are often fortified with vitamin D. It can also be found in some foods, such as fresh fish and mushrooms. 
  • Vitamin E is found in nuts and seeds, such as almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, as well as in avocados and salmon. 
  • Good sources of zinc include oysters, crab, beef, pork, chicken, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, cashews, and almonds. Some foods, such as breakfast cereal, are often fortified with zinc. 
  • Selenium is found in nuts and seeds, fish, beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and mushrooms. 
  • Probiotics and prebiotics are also important to help maintain healthy levels of gut bacteria that help digest food and fight pathogens. Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics are foods that feed gut bacteria. 
  • Probiotics are found in some foods, such as yogurt, kombucha, and kefir. They can also be taken as a supplement. Healthy prebiotic foods include garlic, onions, carrots, asparagus, and bananas. 

Making healthier food choices

It can be difficult to overhaul your diet all at once. If you’re used to eating a standard Western diet—and if you’re among the 90 percent of Americans who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables—start by making small changes. 

scriptsave wellrx food index image

Make sure that every meal includes a source of phytonutrients. Instead of sugary cereal or a bagel for breakfast, try a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit. Add more salads to your lunches and dinners, but watch out for bottled salad dressings, which can be high in sugar. 

Get into the habit of reading ingredients labels and choose foods that are low in sugar and additives. It may feel overwhelming at first, but in time you’ll learn which brands use the best ingredients—and which ones to avoid. 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.

Resources: 

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

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723551/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723

https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/the-role-of-the-western-diet-in-inflammation/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31747581/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8227682/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21310306/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5052746/

mental health connectivity - wellrx blog image

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

You may be feeling disconnected, isolated, and lonely. Being forced to stay within the confines of your home and avoid physical human interaction can take a toll on your mental health. Having your routine majorly disrupted can also cause the development of mental health problems. If you are struggling with your mental health during this time of uncertainty and social distancing, you are not alone.

Recognizing Your Symptoms

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is increasing feelings of fear, worry, stress, and anxiety among citizens. You may recognize you have an increase in these symptoms, and if so, you are not alone. As the landscape of society evolves and regulations change daily, your mental health may be affected. The WHO expects the following symptoms to increase during this time:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal behaviors and thoughts
  • Thoughts or acts of self-harm
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Loneliness

The Physical Impact

Loneliness can negatively impact your physical health and behaviors. Feelings of loneliness can lead to a weaker immune system, increased blood pressure, elevated cortisol levels (stress hormone), and disrupted sleep. In addition, loneliness can increase your risk of social withdrawal. Obviously, these consequences can be detrimental to your overall quality of life.

It should be no surprise that factors such as exercise, sleep, and healthy eating can positively or negatively impact your mental health. These three elements are considered emotional regulation skills. When done regularly, they can help improve your mood and overall mental health, as well as reduce your vulnerability to negative emotions such as anxiety and depression.

Maintain Your Relationships

Another factor that can significantly impact your overall mental health is your relationships with others. You may be wondering, exactly how important are relationships to your quality of life and overall mental health? The answer may be surprising to you. Yes, it’s fun to go out to dinner with your best friend, gossiping over a meal you don’t have to cook or clean up after. But what really is the value in having close connections with other people?

Research has consistently shown the correlation between human relationships and mental health. Some of the proven benefits include:

  • Reduced levels of depression
  • Reduced levels of anxiety
  • A strengthened immune system
  • Quicker recovery from physical illness
  • Greater empathy for self and others
  • Increased levels of trust in others
  • A healthier sense of self and improvement in self-esteem

For older people, staying socially connected has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; provide higher life satisfaction and a stronger quality of life; and enable elders to require less domestic support. For teens and young adults, the physical risks of social isolation and lack of connectedness include a higher risk of inflammation, obesity, and blood pressure.

You can have three different types of connectedness with people in your lives, including:

  1. Intimate connections: These are connections you have with the people in your home, other close family members and friends.
  2. Relational connections: These include people you see frequently such as work colleagues and people who share the same interests as you.
  3. Collective connections: These are people who hold the same membership affiliations as you such as political views or spiritual values.

While you may be feeling helpless and trapped in a situation over which you have no control, remember that you do have control over some things. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. Technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and loved ones during social distancing.

Keep In Touch

FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom are free options available to help you stay connected with the people in your life. Zoom and Skype also can help you maintain relational connections with work colleagues, teachers, and others. For collective connections, many religious organizations are holding virtual prayer services, and many of your favorite celebrities are holding live concerts you can stream from the comfort of your couch. 

Engaging in activities such as playing board games, exercising, and crafting with the people in your home is a great way to strengthen the connections with your loved ones. Doing something kind for them, such as making them their favorite meal or completing their household chore, can also improve your own mood and mental health. Completing a household project together can generate feelings of productivity, empowerment, and connectedness.

During this difficult time, try to remember that we are all going through this together. We are doing the very best we can under extreme circumstances. If you are lucky enough to live with family members, make it a point to connect with them in some way each day. If you are alone, take advantage of the benefits that technology offers to help you stay connected and to help maintain your mental health.

Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.

Resources:

http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-technical-guidance/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-outbreak-technical-guidance-europe/mental-health-and-covid-19

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/Strong-relationships-strong-health

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/17/816504058/a-list-of-live-virtual-concerts-to-watch-during-the-coronavirus-shutdown

free virtual conferencing tools - wellrx blog image

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

We have seen a drastic change in the social landscape within the past several weeks. We are no longer allowed to engage in social activities for leisure or leave our homes unless it is absolutely necessary, and many of us are either laid off, furloughed, or working from home. These drastic changes have forced us to adjust rapidly in a situation where there are many unknowns and little to no guarantees.

Many people are afraid, worried, and confused regarding the global pandemic that has encroached upon our lives. Our reality has turned into something unrecognizable that we thought we would only read about in novels or watch on the big screen. Fortunately, available technology exists to help us adapt effectively to the current situation. There are free platforms available that can help improve your quality of life and keep you connected with friends, family, and coworkers.

Zoom

You’ve probably been hearing the word Zoom a lot lately. Zoom is a free virtual conferencing platform that has seen it usage increase since COVID-19 came into the picture. Daily users for Zoom have risen from 10 million in December 2019 to 200 million as of March 2020. Zoom can be used for one-on-one calls using either voice-only or voice and video. You can schedule meetings with more than one person, and it is available on your computer or mobile device. The free version of Zoom sets a time limit of 40 minutes per conference limits the number of people to 100.

Skype

One of the true originals of video conferencing is Skype. The basic version is free, although Skype for Business sets a fee. You can video or call up to 50 people on Skype; Skype also allows you to message and share electronic files. Microsoft, the owner of Skype, has seen a 70% increase in usage in Italy because of the coronavirus.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is another free conferencing tool that is built into your Gmail, YouTube, and Google Voice accounts. The apps are available for your cell phone (iOS and Android) as well as the web. Google Hangouts is appropriate for one-on-one meetings or virtual meetings of up to 10 people for a limitless amount of time. Connecting with people in Google Hangouts is effortless. All you need to do is click on the link generated from the creator of the meeting in their email or Google calendar. Until July 1, 2020, Google has made the premium features of Google Hangouts free to help schools, businesses, and other organizations continue to operate during the pandemic.

FaceTime

FaceTime makes the list due to its accessibility and security, as well as for its user-friendliness. You can use FaceTime one on one or add multiple people to your call and interact in real-time. One of the biggest benefits of FaceTime is that it is super secure; Apple can’t even access or view your chats due to its encryption. In fact, the United States government has recently lifted restrictions set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and has temporarily allowed the use of FaceTime for health-care appointments, such as therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments.

Cisco WebEx

With Cisco’s WebEx, you can have up to 100 people on a call. You can use voice-only conferencing or add the video element by using a webcam or downloading the WebEx app on your smart phone. The number of calls you can make is limitless. Also included in the free account is 1 GB of cloud storage; features include file and screen sharing as well as video recording.

Houseparty

Houseparty is a social networking application that can be downloaded on a smartphone or computer. Houseparty lets you video chat with people, and it alerts you when friends and family come online. You can modify your privacy settings to activate this feature, or people can wave to you to alert you that they are on and invite you to join in on their party. Houseparty limits calls to 8 people per group; however, you can switch between groups of people.

COVID-19 has changed the way we conduct ourselves personally and professionally. Lucky for us, all you need is a smartphone to take advantage of the free virtual conferencing platforms that are available. The variety of platforms available allows you to choose which option best suits you and your overall needs. You don’t have to spend money to stay connected with friends, family, and coworkers.

Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.

References:

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/03/how-zoom-rose-to-the-top-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/martingiles/2020/03/30/microsoft-cloud-service-775-percent-rise-covid-19/#625e19f56862

https://www.howtogeek.com/661906/the-6-best-free-video-conferencing-apps/

https://www.businessinsider.com/google-hangouts-video-conferencing-free-coronavirus-zoom-2020-3

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2020/04/04/zoom-alternatives-5-options-for-people-who-care-about-security-and-privacy/#10ae5394371f

https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/how-to-use-houseparty-app-group-video-chat

health insurance loss during covid-19 - wellrx blog image

By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

According to a report released by the Department of Labor, more than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits during the last full week of March. Coupled with the 3.28 million Americans who had filed for unemployment the previous week, this means that nearly 10 million Americans are facing sudden changes to their livelihoods.

Laws Behind Health Insurance Coverage (Your Rights)

With a job loss, a loss of income is not the only concern. Many people also experience the loss of other benefits, such as employer-sponsored health insurance. A loss of health insurance also comes with a loss of prescription benefits, which can take a hefty financial toll.

The landscape of health insurance can be confusing to navigate. Read on to learn more about the laws behind health insurance coverage, your rights when it comes to health insurance, and your options as a consumer.

What Are My Health Insurance Options?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that all Americans are covered by a health insurance plan throughout the calendar year.

If you lose your employer-based health insurance coverage, you may consider enrolling in a spouse’s or domestic partner’s plan. However, if this is not an option for you, you still have two other choices: 

1. COBRA coverage

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law that allows a person to stay on their employer’s health insurance plan for up to 18 months after a discontinuation of benefits. In order to accomplish this, you will likely have to pay for the plan (which can be expensive), and there may be other administrative fees.

If your company has more than 20 employees, you are likely eligible for COBRA, and your employer will have to inform you of this upon your termination. You can learn more about your eligibility for COBRA coverage by contacting your employer.

2. Health Plans through the Insurance Marketplace

As an alternative to COBRA coverage, you can research other available plans through the health insurance marketplace. If you have lost your job-related health insurance, you are entitled to a special enrollment period.

At the health insurance marketplace, you can answer a few questions to determine if you may be eligible for an insurance program such as Medicaid (this typically phases out at a certain income level), or another plan through the ACA. Even if you are ineligible for Medicaid, your children may still qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

Many health insurance programs are managed locally, by the state. If your state is listed on the health insurance marketplace, you will have to search for plans through the state website instead of the government website. You can also apply for Medicaid through your state, which may be a faster process than going through the federal government.

If you need assistance navigating the health insurance labyrinth, you can find help here.

Obtaining Affordable Prescription Medication after Losing Health Insurance

If you need to obtain a prescription medication before you are able to secure new health insurance coverage, consider using ScriptSave® WellRx. At ScriptSave WellRx, we are trying to do our part to help consumers save money, adhere to treatment plans, and stay healthy during the pandemic. 

Because we want to help in any way we can, and we know that many are losing their jobs and, potentially, their health insurance, we have put together a special invite code: Relief.

How Do I Use the WellRx.com Invite Code To Save on Prescriptions?

Anyone can enroll on WellRx.com and type in the invite code “Relief.” This enrollment will provide you with a free prescription discount card that can be used across all major pharmacies; more than 65,000 pharmacies accept prescription drug cards. Your free prescription discount card can be downloaded, emailed, sent to your phone via text, or downloaded via the mobile app. 

The prescription savings card will discount the cash price of a prescription by up to 80 percent, with average savings of around 60 percent. This will help you get the lowest prescription price. Even if you have health insurance, you can still save money using this free Rx savings card. 

Which Medications Are Discounted through WellRx?

At Scriptsave WellRx, we have worked really hard to focus our discounts on the top medications that healthcare providers commonly prescribe for chronic conditions, as well as commonly prescribed medicines for acute conditions. You can search for the price of medication right on the app or website. We also have tools on our app to help guide you toward healthy food choices in order to keep your immune system in premium condition during the pandemic.

On behalf of ScriptSave WellRx, we hope that everyone can stay safe during this unfortunate time. We hope that our service makes it just a little easier to adhere to your medical provider’s recommendations and treatment plans. We wish you all the best—stay healthy!

Libby Pellegrini is a nationally certified physician assistant. She currently works in emergency medicine where she sees and treats a broad spectrum of illnesses across all age ranges. She holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University.

References:

Department of Labor. Jobless Claims News Release.

Healthcare.gov. Coverage If You Lose Job-Based Insurance.

Healthcare.gov. The Marketplace In Your State.

Healthcare.gov. How to Qualify for Medicaid and CHIP Healthcare Coverage.

keto vs paleo - wellrx blog image

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Curious about adopting a paleo or keto diet? Proponents of these popular diets claim they offer numerous health benefits, including weight loss, increased energy levels, and a lower risk of disease. 

While they may look similar, the paleo diet and the keto diet are different in nature. With each diet, however, you can adapt the exact foods you eat to suit your individuals needs and preferences. 

Continue reading to learn more about these popular diets. 

What Is the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is intended to mimic the dietary habits of our Paleolithic ancestors, who lived thousands of years ago. It generally consists of whole, unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, and meat. Processed foods should be avoided, including grains, sugar, most dairy products, and legumes. 

The paleo diet also places a strong emphasis on food quality and recommends eating organic produce, wild-caught game, and grass-fed meat. The idea behind this way of eating is that our hunter-gatherer ancestors likely had lower rates of degenerative diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer. These “diseases of civilization” are often seen in higher rates in areas where people follow the typical Western diet, which is characterized by refined grains, processed meats, dairy products, sugar, and other high-glycemic foods. 

What Can You Eat on the Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is not an exact list of foods, but rather a set of general guidelines to govern how you eat. As long as you are choosing whole, unprocessed foods, you can adapt the diet to your personal preferences. 

As a general rule, avoid anything that looks like it was made in a factory. If it’s something that would have been available thousands of years ago, it’s fair game. 

What Is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is different from the paleo diet, although sometimes they may look similar. 

The keto diet, which is short for ketogenic diet, is intended to change the way the body uses energy. The main characteristic of the keto diet is that it is very low in carbs and high in fat. Keeping carbohydrates extremely low causes the body to use up its fat stores and begin using fat for energy rather than glucose. When this happens, the liver produces molecules called ketones, which the body uses for fuel. This is known as being in a state of ketosis. 

The keto diet is much more restrictive than the paleo diet. To keep carbohydrates within the desired range — typically 5 percent of total calories — certain foods must be avoided, including most fruit. 

The keto diet also requires an adjustment period during which the body adjusts to using fat as its primary source of energy. This period typically consists of a very low carbohydrate intake of roughly 20 grams per day and may last three or four weeks. 

Because the keto diet trains the body to use fat for fuel, it is often used for weight loss. However, keto advocates maintain that it can lead to other benefits such as increased energy and mental clarity, better sleep, clearer skin, better blood sugar control, and improved hormone levels and cholesterol levels. 

What Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?

A common misconception about the keto diet is that it is nothing but meat and eggs. In reality, the keto diet consists of roughly 75% fat and 20% protein. That means that plant-based fats should also be included, such as nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, coconut, and avocados. 

Different approaches to the keto diet exist. Some people adhere to a whole foods keto diet, which may look very similar to a paleo diet minus high-carb foods such as fruit and potatoes. 

Other people follow a “lazy keto” approach, which allows some processed foods and ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, as long as they don’t exceed the allotted carbohydrate intake. 

Some people choose to include cheese and other dairy products such as heavy cream, while others avoid dairy products due to their inflammatory properties. 

A keto diet can also include lots of non-starchy vegetables. The body doesn’t absorb fiber, so the fiber in foods such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, and other vegetables can be deducted from the total carb intake. The result is a figure known as net carbs. For example, one cup of spinach contains only 0.4 net carbs, making it an absolutely keto-friendly food. 

Making Better Food Choices

Adopting one of these diets may require a big adjustment to the way you shop for food. Both paleo and keto diets discourage consuming processed foods, which will mean buying most of your food from the outer aisles of the grocery store: meat, eggs, and produce. 

Both diets may also involve venturing into the center aisles for select foods such as coconut oil, olives, and nuts. Most foods in the center aisles, however, are processed and will be off-limits, although increasingly health food brands are offering foods that are paleo- or keto-friendly. If you do buy packaged foods, make sure to read the ingredients. Even foods that claim to be suitable for paleo or keto diets may contain ingredients such as sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other additives. 

This may be confusing at first, but you will eventually find staples you rely on and brands you can trust. Our Grocery Guidance app can help you find alternatives to the foods you buy most often and determine which foods on the shelf are truly good for you. Simply scan the barcode on your food package to reveal its WellRx Health Index and discover “better for you” alternatives. You can also create a list of your favorite grocery items and find foods that support your nutrition goals. 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.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6362881/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15148063/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4271636/

quarantine weight gain

By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

The coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives in ways that most people wouldn’t have imagined just a few weeks ago. Many of us are finding ourselves stuck at home for the foreseeable future — whether under quarantine or shelter in place order. 

While it may be tempting to abandon all of your good habits until you’re able to leave the house again, maintaining a healthy routine can help bring a sense of normalcy to these uncertain times. And, many of the same habits that support your weight and overall health can also help strengthen your immune system and alleviate stress and anxiety. 

Follow these tips to keep your weight and your health goals on track during a quarantine. 

Develop a Routine

It’s OK if your new routine doesn’t look at all like your old routine. The important thing is to develop a somewhat consistent schedule in order to foster a sense of normalcy even while you’re stuck at home. 

Try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule and get up at the same time every day. Don’t stay up too late or sleep too much. 

If you’re working from home, designate set work hours and stick to them as much as possible. It’s easy to allow work to overflow into non-work hours, and before you know it, spend all your time in front of the computer, either at your desk or on the couch. 

Set Up a Standing Desk

Speaking of sitting all day, that much sedentary time can be detrimental to your waist and your overall health. Even if you get in some exercise later, sedentary behavior is linked to obesity. One study found that obese individuals spent, on average, two more hours sitting than lean individuals. 

If you’re working from home, create a workspace that allows you to stand for at least part of the day. Work at the kitchen countertop or convert your desk into a standing desk with a laptop stand. 

Stay Active Throughout the Day

It can be difficult to work exercise into your day if you’re used to working out at the gym. How do you stick to an exercise routine when you don’t have weights, a treadmill, or a stationary bike? 

Be willing to change up your routine a little. There are plenty of things you can do from home that are still beneficial. The important thing is to move your body.

Have you been wanting to try yoga? Now is the perfect time. Find some beginner yoga videos on YouTube. Yoga can help relieve stress and anxiety, promote better sleep, improve flexibility, increase strength, and promote healthy eating habits that aid in weight loss. 

You can also do body weight exercises, such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks. If you have small hand weights, hold a weight in each hand while you do walking lunges.

Getting your daily 10,000 steps may also be a challenge during this time, but it’s not impossible. If you’re working or binge-watching your favorite shows, set an alarm to get up and walk around the house at least once an hour. And you can still go for a walk or a run outside — just stay at least six feet away from others. If the sun is out, you’ll get the added bonus of getting some vitamin D, which helps fight respiratory infections

Eat Mindfully

When you’re stressed and stuck at home, it’s easy to lose track of what you’re eating. Avoid falling into the habit of eating whatever you want, whenever you want. Plan and prepare meals just like you normally would.  

Get a handle on snacking by storing surplus food out of sight. If you have cookies, candy, and potato chips sitting out on the counter, it’s all too easy to grab some every time you walk by. When you do snack, put a single portion into a bowl instead of sitting down with the entire bag. 

Manage Stress

Chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which can cause weight gain, particularly in the abdominal region. It’s perfectly normal to feel stress, anxiety, and even grief in these uncertain times. Our lives have changed, and even though we know it’s temporary, we don’t know when things will go back to normal.

Make self-care a priority and give yourself some grace if you can’t accomplish everything you want to in a day. Yoga can help with stress, as can meditation. Sit in a quiet space and breathe deeply. If you’re feeling anxious, anchor yourself in the present moment by looking around the room and naming five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. 

Set aside some time every day to engage in an activity that helps relieve stress, whether that’s reading, journaling, or doing something creative. 

Refill Important Prescriptions

Don’t let important prescriptions run out during this time. ScriptSave® WellRx makes it easy to manage your prescriptions and save money on medications, even during a quarantine. Easily locate the lowest price for your medications at more than 65,000 pharmacies nationwide. Even pharmacies across the street from each other can have huge price differences. Our aim is to bring transparency to prescription medication pricing, helping consumers keep more money in their pockets. ScriptSave has been helping consumers save on their prescriptions for 25 years.

Creating a ScriptSave account is free and easy, doesn’t require a credit card, and you can cancel at any time. Learn more

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/15681386/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485681/

https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583

https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

peripheral neuropathy treatment - wellrx blog image

By Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN

Neuropathy is a disease or malfunction affecting nerves. Many people suffer the discomfort of neuropathy, which causes tingling, weakness, numbness, and even pain, due to damage to nerves. It can also lead to dysfunction in organs, causing issues with waste elimination and sexual function.

There are four classifications of neuropathy, but the one most commonly experienced is peripheral neuropathy, which primarily affects the hands and feet. While it can be caused by traumatic injury, infection, chemotherapy, metabolic issues, or even heredity, it’s most often caused by diabetes. The loss of sensation caused by neuropathy can result in problems with muscle tone in the feet or hands, and left untreated, can even result in infection due to inability to feel an injury. For this reason, people suffering from peripheral neuropathy need to inspect affected areas often.

How Neuropathy is Diagnosed

Doctors look for common similar complaints related to neuropathy, so your doctor will want to do a thorough assessment and examination of your nerve reflexes. Being able to describe your symptoms clearly will help tremendously. There are additional blood, imaging, and nerve function tests that your doctor may order to obtain more information to help with diagnosis. Further testing may be done by obtaining biopsy samples of nerves or skin.

What Can Alleviate Neuropathy?

Once neuropathy is diagnosed, your doctor will want to determine the cause. If there’s no apparent underlying cause, they may want to wait to see if the neuropathy will resolve on its own. If the neuropathy is related to diabetes, your doctor will want you to stabilize your diabetes before treating the neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can’t be cured, but you can prevent it from worsening.

Natural Relief

Sometimes neuropathy responds to simple natural treatments, such as vitamin supplementation. The B vitamins are crucial for nerve health, as is vitamin D.

An ingredient in cayenne pepper, capsaicin, has been found to be helpful for some people in relieving various inflammatory pains. Some add cayenne to their diets, some take capsaicin supplements, and others use topical analgesic gels that are available over the counter.

Talk With Your Doctor

Regardless of the over-the-counter treatment you choose to try, it’s crucial to first discuss it with your doctor. Even over-the-counter medications and treatments can cause other problems for people with certain medical diagnoses, or interact with prescription medications. Although a substance may be “natural,” it can still have the potential to cause problems for some people, depending on their health history and prescribed medications.

Smoke Out

If you’re a smoker or a vaper, quitting smoking will improve your circulation. Smoking increases clotting in your blood, which can inhibit proper circulation and even cause dangerous clots. Smoking also causes diabetes to progress more rapidly in those who do smoke. Smoking causes your skin, organs, and other tissues to receive far less oxygen-rich and nutritious blood, leading to unhealthy looking skin, organ dysfunction, and other issues. And those suffering from neuropathy particularly need healthy blood circulation to supply their nerves with vitamins and pain medication, where applicable.

Warm baths and compresses can help with neuropathic pain as they stimulate circulation, thus reducing the discomfort. However, be careful with bath temperature if you’re not sensitive to temperature due to neuropathy; water that’s too hot can be harmful.

Neuropathy Treatment Options

Neuropathy is treated medically with a variety of medications. Some of those include:

  • Pain relievers, including nonprescription over-the-counter pain analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may offer some relief from the discomfort of neuropathy. For greater discomfort, your doctor may prescribe something stronger.
  • Medications containing narcotics can lead to dependence and even addiction, so doctors avoid prescribing these unless nothing else provides relief.
  • Anti-seizure medications, such as those developed to treat epilepsy, may help alleviate nerve pain.
  • Topical treatments, including capsaicin, as mentioned above, and lidocaine cream or patches may help with discomfort, but some people may not be able to tolerate them.
  • Antidepressants are being used more commonly to relieve pain with good results for many people.

Treatments and Therapies

Therapies for neuropathy include the use of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine. A TENS machine is a small device with electrodes that attach to the skin. There isn’t a tremendous amount of research on TENS use for neuropathy, and not everyone receives relief with this therapy, but those who do find it worthwhile.

Physical therapy can benefit neuropathy sufferers by reducing neuropathic pain and decreasing blood sugar. According to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, a comprehensive plan for exercise is best; it should incorporate aerobic, flexibility, strength training, and balance exercises.

Support for Neuropathy Sufferers

It can be helpful to speak with others who also have to manage neuropathic pain. Support groups offer an opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other people who understand your situation. You can search for groups in your area or learn how to start your own group.

Elizabeth Binsfield, RN, is a Richmond, Virginia, based registered nurse and freelance healthcare writer, who has more than 20 years of experience in medical-surgical acute care nursing, wound care, geriatrics, and home and hospice care. She received her nursing degree from Northern Virginia Community College.

References:

https://www.emedicinehealth.com/neuropathy/article_em.htm

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14737-neuropathy

https://www.everydayhealth.com/neuropathy/guide/symptoms/

https://www.emedicinehealth.com/neuropathy/article_em.htm#4_types_of_neuropathy

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/peripheral-neuropathy

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352067

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352067

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/peripheral-neuropathy

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-benefits-of-cayenne-pepper#section6

https://www.healthline.com/health/smoking/effects-on-body#1

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352067

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/acetaminophen/20986%20woodmere%20drive,%20leonardtown,%20md,%20usa

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/ibuprofen/20986%20woodmere%20drive,%20leonardtown,%20md,%20usa

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/capsaicin/20986%20woodmere%20drive,%20leonardtown,%20md,%20usa

https://www.wellrx.com/prescriptions/lidocaine%20plus/

https://www.patientcareonline.com/diabetes-type-2/tens-diabetic-peripheral-neuropathy-efficacy-and-drawbacks

https://www.foundationforpn.org/living-well/lifestyle/exercise-and-physical-therapy/

https://www.foundationforpn.org/

https://www.foundationforpn.org/living-well/support-groups/

erectile dysfunction - wellrx blog image

By Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C

When it comes to medications to treat erectile dysfunction, Viagra and Cialis are the consistent brand leaders. These medications were traditionally only available at extraordinarily high price points, in the range of $60 to $70 per tablet. However, as patents have expired and generic competitors have entered the field, they have become more affordable.

Read on to learn more about Viagra, Cialis, and their generic equivalents.

What Is a Generic Medication?

A generic medication is mandated by the FDA to possess the same active ingredients and to function in the exact same manner as its branded equivalent. In this way, generic medications and branded medications are essentially identical in terms of dosages, administration routes, quality, and performance. There may be subtle differences, such as the coloring or shape of the tablet, but these do not affect the function.

Despite the increased competition offered by generic medications, prices for prescription erectile dysfunction medications still tend to vary wildly. In fact, pharmacologic research has focused on the erectile dysfunction medication category specifically, as this class of medications is notorious for differential pricing.

Viagra or Generic Viagra (Sildenafil)?

In the case of Viagra, colloquially known as “the little blue pill,” its generic equivalent, sildenafil, is not blue-colored, but white.

Both Viagra and sildenafil affect the user’s response to sexual stimulation by inhibiting the breakdown of chemicals that relax the smooth muscle of the penis and increase penile blood flow. These medications do not cause erections, but they do prolong erections when they are achieved in the traditional manner.

Both Viagra and sildenafil should be taken once daily as needed, about one hour before sexual activity. Neither should be taken if a user is taking any form of nitrate for chest pain. These medications may also be prescribed for other indications, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension, or even premature ejaculation.

There are no significant differences in the function of these two medications; however, there can be significant differences in the price of Viagra and sildenafil. The patent for Viagra, manufactured by Pfizer, expired in 2017, meaning that a flood of generic competitors entered the market, driving down generic pricing. At a single pharmacy, the cost for one pill of Viagra may be $70, whereas the cost for a pill of sildenafil is $4.

Don’t get overwhelmed by these stunning discrepancies. It can be difficult to navigate the prescription drug landscape, but you don’t have to do it alone. You can use a ScriptSave® WellRx savings card to find the lowest price for your medication, down to the level of your own zip code. On the ScriptSave WellRx site, you can easily compare the prices of these two medications, Viagra and sildenafil, to see which option may be more suitable for you.

Cialis or Generic Cialis (Tadalafil)?

Another population option in the treatment of erectile dysfunction in men is Cialis. In 2018, a generic version of Cialis, tadalafil, entered the US market, driving down the price of this blockbuster medication.

Both Cialis and tadalafil have the same mechanism of action as Viagra and sildenafil; they prevent the breakdown of the chemicals that are responsible for the smooth muscle relaxation and increased penile blood flow that trigger an erection during sexual stimulation. They have similar contraindications too, meaning that they should not be combined with nitrates for chest pain. Cialis and tadalafil may also be prescribed for other indications, such as pulmonary arterial hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Cialis and tadalafil differ from Viagra and sildenafil in their dosing. At a low dose, they can be taken daily, without specific regard to planned sexual activity. They can also be taken on an as-needed basis, at least 30 minutes before sexual activity.

If your healthcare provider prescribes you one of these two medications, make sure to visit ScriptSave WellRx. You can realize up to 80% in prescription savings by comparing the price of Cialis and tadalafil.

Some people save a little, and some people save a lot. But, for erectile dysfunction medications in particular, there can be vastly different prices—which means it is definitely worth your while to investigate prior to heading to your local pharmacy.

References:

US Food and Drug Administration. Generic Drug Facts.

Journal of Sexual Medicine. Variability in Prices for Erectile Dysfunction Medications-Are All Pharmacies the Same?

International Journal of Impotence Research. Sildenafil/Viagra in the treatment of premature ejaculation.

Libby Pellegrini is a nationally certified physician assistant. She currently works in emergency medicine where she sees and treats a broad spectrum of illnesses across all age ranges. She holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University.

covid-19 blog image

Due to the recent spread of COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus), people across the United States are being urged to stay home to help control this highly contagious disease. Social distancing and self isolation have led to concerns about accessing basic necessities, including prescription medications. 

Here’s what you need to know about getting your medications during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Medications to Buy in Preparation for Coronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a two-week supply of your prescription medications to prepare for potential isolation. Some healthcare experts suggest getting as much as a 90-day supply.

Ready.gov also advises everyone to have over-the-counter medications on hand while distancing themselves from the public. Consider buying OTC medicines that you might need in case of illness, such as pain relievers and cough and cold medications.

Obtaining an Emergency Supply of Rx Medications

Many people are concerned about running out of their medications while staying at home. In response to this, insurance companies are modifying their policies. Many insurers have waived their early refill limits on 30-day prescriptions. Some have also waived co-pays for certain services such as testing for COVID-19.

If your insurance policy hasn’t exempted you from the refill limit, ask your doctor to write you a 90-day prescription so that you have enough medication to last through an extended period of social distancing. Note, this may not be possible for certain medications such as opioids and other controlled substances. 

If you have a prescription that cannot be refilled early or extended, have a conversation with your doctor about getting an emergency Rx refill in case of COVID-19 quarantine.

Refilling your prescription? Don’t pay full price.

How to Get Your Prescriptions While in COVID-19 Isolation

If you are isolating yourself at home due to Novel Coronavirus and you need Rx medication, there are several ways to get your prescriptions safely.

  1. Have prescription drugs shipped to you. Some pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, are waiving prescription delivery fees amid the COVID-19 crisis.
  2. Order your medication from a mail-order pharmacy covered by your insurance plan.
  3. If your pharmacy doesn’t offer home delivery or mail-order services, you can transfer your Rx to a different pharmacy that provides these options.
  4. If you must physically go to the pharmacy for your medication, use the drive-through to minimize exposure.

Using Rx Discount Cards with Pharmacy Home Delivery

Patients utilizing pharmacy home-delivery services can still use drug discount cards on their Rx orders. To do so, simply provide the ID, BIN, PCN, and/or GROUP number displayed on your savings card when submitting a prescription request online or over the phone. 

Several major retail pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, are already offering medication delivery services to customers across the U.S. Some are even providing this service for free during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Use our drugstore locator to view a complete list of nearby pharmacies accepting the ScriptSave WellRx card.

What If I Need My Doctor to Write a Prescription While in Isolation?

In light of COVID-19, doctor’s offices are asking patients to call ahead if they have a fever or are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness. Many healthcare providers are advising patients to stay home if symptoms can be effectively managed at home. These new policies may disrupt some of your routinely-scheduled doctor’s appointments. However, you should still be able to obtain the prescriptions you need.

Call your doctor and ask about getting a new prescription if you need it. They can call the prescription into the pharmacy for you. Be sure to let your doctor know if you’ve switched pharmacies to take advantage of mail-order services. 

You could also use a telehealth platform to consult with a doctor over the internet. However, keep in mind that not all drugs can be prescribed via telehealth, and laws about telehealth vary by state.

Could Pharmacies Close Due to Coronavirus?

As of this article’s publication date March 22, 2020, there has been no news of pharmacy closures in the U.S. due to Coronavirus. In countries such as Italy where the confirmed presence of COVID-19 is more widespread, pharmacies have remained open along with grocery stores, as these businesses are considered “life sustaining.”

There have also been fears of drug shortages, especially for medications that are made in China or have ingredients from China. As of the writing of this article, the FDA has reported only one drug that is facing shortages due to Coronavirus. The FDA did not name the drug, but stated that there are alternatives to this medication available. The agency is actively monitoring the supply of prescription medications and medical devices.

Related: What to Know About Coronavirus


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