Health Tips: College Edition

Health Tips: College Edition

Although going away to college brings promises of new friends, independence, and freedom from parental supervision, it also brings guarantees of extra stress and temptations.  Below are some quick tips to help you make it through the school year at tip top shape.

  • Healthy eating habits
    • College dining halls can offer lots of comfort foods, and without parents to supervise intake, it's easy to get caught up with poor eating habits.  Although you don't have to give up your favorite foods, it is important to consume all foods in moderation.  If counting carbs and calories isn't your style, try this simple trick instead to make sure you're eating a balanced meal.  By filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, on quarter of it with meat, and the other quarter with bread or grain, you can easily make sure each meal is a balanced one.  In addition to what is on your plate, you can also have a cup of dairy and a cup of fresh fruit off to the side to complete the meal.
    • Avoid fad and crash diets.  Fad diets often sport extreme results in a short time frame and claim to work by completely eliminating one or more food groups.  Examples of fad diets are the Atkin's diet and the South Beach diet.  Often times these diets are not based on healthy eating habits and are not any more efficacious for long term weight loss than normal diets.
  • Check out your school's recreational facility and activity based clubs
    • Most colleges will have a recreational facility that students can use for free.  Be sure to explore the facility as many schools will have pools, racquetball courts, and even rock climbing walls in addition to weights and treadmills.
    • Even if you weren't a star athlete in high school, there may be a club or intramural team that you can join to stay in shape and meet new friends.  While most schools will have traditional sports, your school may also have other teams such as ultimate Frisbee and maybe even inner tube water polo!
  • Learn to identify stress and know how to cope
    • Stress will present itself differently from person to person.  For example, while some people eat a ton when they are stressed, others will hardly eat anything.  Stress can take a toll on your health and prevent you from performing at your best.  To help decrease your stress levels try your best to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, exercise on a regular basis, and eat healthy.  Taking short, frequent breaks from studying will also help you feel less overwhelmed.
    • If you find that the stress seems to be piling up and you don't know where to turn, look into the mental health services offered by your school.  Your on campus student health network will have a team of professionals to help you work out any problems you may be facing.

Swimmer's Ear: What It Is and What You Can Do To Prevent It!

Swimmer's Ear: What It Is and What You Can Do To Prevent It!

Swimmer's ear is a common ailment caused by an infection to the outer ear canal.  The swimmer's ear infection causes pain and discomfort for all swimmers regardless of age.  Below are some tips to prevent swimmer's ear.

  • Keep your ears as dry as possible while swimming by using bathing caps, ear plugs, or custom fit swim molds.
  • Dry your ears immediately after swimming or showering using a towel.  Proper drying technique involves tilting your head to hold each ear facing down and pulling your ear lobe in different directions to help the water drain out.  If water still remains, you can try using a hair dryer to push air through the canal.  If you use the hair dryer, be sure to only use it on the lowest setting and keep the dryer several inches from the ear.
  • Don't put any type of object in your ear canal, such as Q-tips or fingers, or try to remove ear wax.  Ear wax protects the ear canal from infections, such as swimmer's ear.  Ear wax should only be removed by health care providers.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about using commercial swimmer's ear prevention ear drops after swimming.  It is important to take note that these drops should not be used by people with ear tubes, damaged ear drums, outer ear infections, or those with pus or liquid draining from the ear.
  • Be sure to see your doctor right away if your ears are itchy, painful, swollen, or have any drainage.
  • Check disinfectant and pH levels of pools or hot tubs regularly.  Pools and hot tubs with proper disinfectant/pH levels are much less likely to spread bacteria than those with improper levels.  If you are using a public pool, consider using pool test strips to check the levels yourself before going in.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/illnesses/swimmers-ear-prevention-guidelines.html

Prevention Measures Against Pesky Insects

Prevention Measures Against Pesky Insects

As people start getting more active as the weather gets warmer, insects also start getting more active.  While bug bites may seem to be only a mere annoyance, lethal diseases, such as malaria, can be transmitted as well.  If you plan on travelling abroad to tropical or equatorial regions, it is especially important that you take measures to prevent insect bites.  Below are some prevention measures to keep in mind if you plan on spending time outside domestically or internationally.

  • Insect netting can be used to protect against mosquitoes, biting flies, spiders, and ticks.  It comes as personal body netting, equipment netting, or as a hanging net.  Permethrin treated nets are the most effective.  Keep in mind that 200-600 holes/inch will help with mosquitoes, however if you need protection against smaller insects (like sand flies), you will need a net with 600+ holes/inch.
  • The CDC recommends DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus as the most effective repellants and can be used for protection against aggressive international mosquitoes.
    • DEET
      • Apply only to exposed surface areas, such as the face and hands being careful not to apply to broken or irritated skin.  Washing hands after use is recommended and it is also advised to wash the product off when no longer needed.  Remember to reapply based on the product, activity level, and environment.
      • Products that are 10-35% DEET are the most effective.  Any product that is 50%+ won’t provide any stronger of protection, but they will last longer than lower percent products.
      • DEET is safe for use on children.
      • Avoid combination products with DEET and sunscreen.  The SPF value in the sunscreen can be decreased by 33% if applied simultaneously with DEET.  Apply sunscreen first, wait 1-2 hours, then apply the DEET for maximum protection.
      • If overnight protection is needed, look for sustained release products.  These products will have a lower percentage of DEET, however because of their special formulation they can last from 8-12 hours.
    • Picaridin
      • Can provide up to 4 hours of protection at 20% concentration.
      • Some advantages over DEET include: non-greasy, odorless, won’t dissolve plastics in clothing.
    • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (PMD)
      • A concentration of 30% PMD is equivalent to 20% DEET
      • This product needs to be applied more frequently (at least every 3-4 hours) than DEET.  This could pose problems for people who need overnight protection.
      • This product has not been specifically tested on aggressive international mosquitoes.  If traveling abroad, it is advised to consider using DEET or picardin instead.
      • A hallmark characteristic of this product is that it is slightly sticky, but has a pleasant odor.
    • Premethrin is an insecticide that is effective against lice, ticks, fleas, mites, mosquitoes, and other arthropods.  As mentioned previously, soaking insect nets in this product provides the most protection if using an insect net.  This product can also be sprayed or soaked on clothes.  This product will not work if applied to skin, only to fabrics.  This product is a good compliment to use in combination with a repellant, especially if traveling to an area with known dangerous insects.
  • The CDC does not recommend using garlic, vitamin B1, electronic repellants, citronella candles, or anything that you strap to your wrist for effective insect protection.  Simply put, these products are not effective at repelling insects.

How To Beat Poison Ivy

How To Beat Poison Ivy

While summer is an excellent season to spend outdoors with family and friends, it is also a prime time to be exposed to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.  Unless you’re living in Alaska or Hawaii, all parts of the United States are regions where one or more of these three poisonous plants can be found.  Listed below are some important facts and tips to keep you up to date on how to avoid these plants and what to do if you encounter them.

  • Prevention
    • Wash your garden tools regularly and be sure to wear long pants tucked into boots and long sleeve shirts while working in the garden.
    • Wash your pets with water and shampoo if you know they will be around poisonous plants.  While many pets are not sensitive to the plants, the poisonous oil on their fur could be spread to humans.
    • Consider purchasing “Ivy Block” before coming in contact with known poisonous plants.  This product is FDA approved to block contact with oak, ivy, and sumac oils.
  • Treatment
    • Wash the affected area in cool water as soon as possible after contact.  This will ensure that the oils are removed and prevent further spreading.
    • Avoid scratching at the rash and blisters.  Bacteria from your fingernails can cause an infection.
    • The rash and blisters will go away on their own in several weeks; however, you can relieve the symptoms by applying a cool wet compress, corticosteroid cream, or calamine to the affected area.
  • Tips to Remember
    • The rash produced by coming in contact with these plants is not contagious!  The only way that the rash can spread is by coming in contact with lingering oils on surfaces such as gardening tools, pets, clothing, etc.  Be sure to wash all surfaces with water or rubbing alcohol as the poisonous oils can linger for several years.
    • Although the rash will clear up on its own, you should contact your doctor if…
      • You have a temperature of >100 degrees
      • If there is pus, yellow scabs, or tenderness on the rash
      •  The itching gets worse or keeps you awake at night
      • The rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, genitals, or covers more than one-fourth of your body

Source:  http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049342.htm

Have you had your shingles vaccine yet?

Have you had your shingles vaccine yet?

 If you haven't received it yet and you're an adult age 50 or older, what are you waiting for?  Since Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes the chicken pox, those who had the chicken pox when they were younger are susceptible to the reactivated virus.  In addition to viral reactivation, you can also contract the shingles by being around someone with the blistering rash.

    The Shingles vaccine is a "live virus" vaccination, meaning whole parts of the virus are included in the vaccination, not just proteins.  While this won't pose a problem for healthy adults, if your immune system is compromised or you are on medications that compromise your immune system, you should not receive the vaccination until you are off those medications.  Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure about your immune status.  

    If you've never seen anyone with Shingles before, the symptoms can be quite unsightly and very painful.  Common symptoms include a rash that blisters, crusts over, and becomes flaky.  The rash can take up to 30 days to heal.  After the rash goes away, the virus can cause post herpetic neuralgia, which presents itself as extreme nerve pain described as sharp, shooting, and throbbing.  Being that 1 in 3 people will get Shingles in their life time, it is imperative to receive the vaccination before it is too late.  

    The Zostavax vaccine is FDA approved to prevent contracting Shingles.  In the state of Pennsylvania, both doctors and pharmacists can administer this vaccination.  Depending on your prescription insurance plan, you may be able to get this vaccination covered upon your visit to the pharmacy.  In other cases, you may be able to submit your receipt for reimbursement.  If you are interested in receiving or learning more about the Zostavax vaccination, stop by Young's any time and ask to speak to one of our pharmacists.