Pain Management – Methods to Help Reduce Pain

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 11:35 AM comments (0)

Reduce-PainDo you know the feeling of having pain and not being able to do much of anything to reduce or minimize it? Managing chronic pain can be difficult and frustrating, especially when over-the-counter medication just doesn’t seem to relieve symptoms.

James Grober, MD, Rheumatologist, suggests some methods for helping to reduce pain:

  • Exercise – Make an effort to get active and move around more. The endorphins your body produces during a workout can act as pain relievers.   Stretching properly can eliminate muscle and tendon tightness as causes of pain.  In addition, exercise may help reduce your risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and more.
  • Healthy Diet – Eat healthy and choose smart food options. Healthy eating, especially a low-fat diet, encourages improved digestion, circulation and weight control.
  • Sleep – Get a good night’s rest. This can help restore your energy and body functions. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Relaxation –Reduce the stress in your life and take time to relax (whether through meditation or scheduling time to unwind). We all get stressed out and lives get hectic, but tension, soreness and tightness may be reduced through relaxation techniques.
  • Alternative medicine – Look into trying additional therapy options, such as massage and acupuncture.

Chronic pain often cannot be cured, but when managed properly its effects on your body and lifestyle can be minimized. As with any change in your routine, please consult with your physician if pain worsens or persists.

What pain management techniques work best for you?

End of Life Decisions – Having a Plan is Key

Thursday, January 24, 2013 4:19 PM comments (0)

End-of_life_decisionsIt’s not a topic we like to think or talk about, but whether we plan for it or not, each of us will reach the end of our lives at some point. “I wish we knew” is a phrase that medical professionals hear all too often when loved ones are in the difficult position of making medical care decisions for someone who is unable to speak for himself or herself.

Rev. Nancy Waite, Chaplain, Director of the Spiritual Care and Music Therapy Department, provides the following tips on how to start thinking about and planning your end of life wishes and preferences:

  • Make your plan before you become ill. The best time to reflect on, discuss and plan for a time when you cannot make your own medical decisions is when you are healthy.
  • Talk with your family or loved ones about your wishes. Communication is the most important aspect to consider with regard to end-of-life-care planning. Schedule some time with your loved ones to talk about your desired plans.
  • Include your physician in your conversation.
  • Put your wishes in writing by completing either the POA document or the Living Will document.
  • Make copies of your completed Advance Directive, and give copies to your loved ones or tell them where your Advance Directive document is located.  If you complete the POA form, then it will be very important to give a copy of that document to your appointed agent.
  • Give your physician a copy of your Advance Directive and ask her/him to place it in your medical record.
  • Remember that Advance Care Planning is a process and that it usually is ongoing.  You may decide to change your end-of-life-care plan at some point.  If you do, then it is important to complete the POA document or the Living Will document again, and to destroy any previous Advance Directive documents.  It is also important to give your physician a copy of the new document, and request that he or she place it in your medical record and remove the old document.
  • If you complete a POA, it is vitally important to maintain ongoing communication with your healthcare “agent” so that he or she can participate fully as your advocate in the event that you are no longer able to communicate your preferences. (The POA goes into effect only when you become unable to communicate your preferences or speak on your own behalf.)

Do you have an Advance Directive?

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Advance Care Planning is the process of reflecting on, discussing  and planning for a time when, due to illness or injury, you cannot make your own medical decisions. This process is vitally important for the purpose of assisting your loved ones and your physician to provide you the best care when you cannot make your own decisions. Through this process you can create a plan. This plan is called an Advance Directive.  There are two main types of Advance Directives: the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and the Living Will.  Both are legal documents.

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, also referred to as a “POA”:  A document that allows you to appoint another person, referred to as your healthcare  “agent” or “proxy,” to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are not able to make your own decisions and speak on your own behalf.  The POA also provides you with the opportunity to provide written instructions.  For most adults, the best way to document your plan is to use a POA form.
  • Living Will: A document which informs your physician, if you are near death from an incurable or irreversible illness or injury, that you wish to be allowed to die rather than be kept alive by life-prolonging measures that may postpone death but will not restore health.  There is no “agent” in a Living Will. If you have also completed a POA, then the POA will override your Living Will.

Antibiotics: When You Need Them, When You Don’t

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 8:21 AM comments (0)

AntibioticsSome of the most common illnesses that send us to the doctor’s office can be easily treated with medications; however, there isn’t an easy, one-stop solution for every sniffle, cough or infection.

While antibiotics are one of the most frequently prescribed medications for a variety of conditions, they are not a cure-all for everything. In fact, for many common illnesses caused by viruses (flu, colds and sore throats), antibiotics are not recommended. So when do you know if an antibiotic will help relieve symptoms?

Dirk Killelea, Manager of the NorthShore Evanston Hospital Pharmacy, offers his insight on antibiotics, including when you should take them and when you shouldn’t:

  • Antibiotics are most effective in the treatment of illnesses caused by bacteria, which can include sinus infections and strep throat. They should not be prescribed or taken for viral infections such as the common cold, as this can lead to the build-up of a tolerance, also called resistance, within some forms of bacteria and will not improve symptoms.  This resistance makes it harder to treat bacterial infections later.
  • Follow prescription instructions. Make sure you take the antibiotic the prescribed number of times per day. It is also very important to take an antibiotic for the duration of the prescription time, even if you are feeling better. Stopping treatment too soon may not allow sufficient time to get the bacteria out of your system.   Additionally, not finishing the full course of an antibiotic prescription can lead to increased resistance among bacteria. If you are told by your physician to stop an antibiotic before it has finished, however, always dispose of them properly.
  • Don’t share medications. Even if you’re certain you have a sinus infection and someone in your family had a similar infection recently, don’t use their antibiotics. What you are experiencing may not be the same infection, or even an infection that requires treatment.  This can cause more problems related to bacterial resistance.
  • Ask Questions.  Let your pharmacist or physician know any concerns or questions you have before taking antibiotics.  If you have read information from an online source about an antibiotic, verify any questions with a healthcare professional. Make sure to tell him or her what over-the-counter medications you use as well as any new prescriptions that you may have started recently.
  • Do your part.  If you are feeling sick and are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to get plenty of rest, keep drinking fluids and eat a balanced diet. Antibiotics can only do so much, it’s up to you to keep yourself rested and help the medicine do its job.

How frequently do you take antibiotics?

Bed Bugs – Traveling Past the Sheets

Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:21 AM comments (0)

Bed-bugsThey may be crawling around in airport waiting areas, public transportation, department stores or hotel rooms before making their way into your home. Bed bugs—per their name most commonly found in, besides and near your bed—can be extremely hard to identify and costly to extinguish. While they don’t typically move far from their blood source, these bugs have become an increased problem in the United States.

Felissa Kreindler, MD, points out some ways to avoid bringing these pests into your home and how to identify a problem:

  • Check for bites. Bed bug bites typically resemble mosquito bites. Bites can often be found in linear groupings along the vein line. Rashes on the skin may also be visible.
  • Inspect luggage thoroughly before bringing it into the house after traveling. It’s recommended to vacuum out any luggage and run all clothes (clean and dirty) through the washer and dryer as extreme heat kills bed bugs. It can also be helpful to wrap suitcases in plastic wrap while traveling.
  • Clean up your home. Bed bugs like to hide in dark places and excessive clutter can help provide these pests with a home. 
  • Carefully inspect items before you bring them into your home.  If you buy new or used furniture, you’ll want to thoroughly check it outside for evidence of bugs before bring it into your home. The same holds true for clothing and other household items.

Have you or someone you know been affected by bed bugs? Are you surprised to learn of all the public places they may be found?

Know Your Poison – Safeguard your Home

Monday, January 14, 2013 3:09 PM comments (0)

Poison ExposureIt’s easy to overlook the potential dangers that everyday products in our home may have on our health. We get used to storing cleaning supplies in lower cabinets, leaving toothpaste out within reach and letting our medicine cabinets fill up—often not thinking about the potential risks many of these products can pose to our families. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the vast majority (nearly 90%) of all exposures occur at home.

Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicologist at NorthShore, provides a short list of some of the most dangerous household products and things that lead to exposure:

  • Cleaning supplies – Some of the most common offenders include: dishwasher detergent, bathroom cleaners, bleach and ammonia-based cleaners
  • Cosmetics – Perfume, nail polish remover, mouthwash and aftershave
  • Plants – It is not recommended to ingest any type of household plant, but the following may cause more extreme reactions: mistletoe, ivy, iris, holly, daffodil, etc. For a full list of poisonous plants, visit the Poison Center’s website.
  • Drugs – Prescription and over-the-counter medications, including sunscreen, lotions and insect repellents

Dr. Leikin recommends the following to help reduce your risk of exposure:

  • Use labels to mark which products are a poison danger.
  • Store products out of the reach of children and pets, and/or lock cabinets.
  • Discard unused items. Rather than stock up on cleaners and medications, only buy what you need to use. This will help limit the amount of potentially hazardous items in your home.
  • Install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in your home. If you already have these in your home, check them frequently to be sure they are working.  It is also a good idea to regularly check that all gas appliances are in working order.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to a poison, call the Illinois Poison Center immediately at 1.800.222.1222. For more information about poison prevention and exposures, visit the NorthShore Medical Toxicology website.

How do you safeguard your home to reduce poison exposure?

Flu Season is Already in Full Gear

Thursday, January 10, 2013 7:50 AM comments (0)

Flu-SeasonThere’s been more coughing, sneezing and sinus congestion this year than in years past, and it’s no surprise as the flu season has been off to a strong start since late fall. Hospitals and medical offices across the country have seen an uptick in office visits and confirmed cases. Over the last month, NorthShore has seen a significant spike in hospital admissions of patients suffering from flu or flu-like symptoms.

Despite the peak in flu cases, there are some things you can do to help reduce your chances of getting infected. Nancy Semerdjian, Chief Nursing Officer at NorthShore, offers the following suggestions to help beat the virus this season:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water multiple times throughout the day.
  • Refrain from touching surfaces that may be contaminated. This may include items in public areas, such as bathrooms, public transportation and waiting rooms.
  • Cover your mouth. If you have to sneeze or cough, be sure to cover your nose and mouth. This helps keep germs from spreading to others. It is also important to try to avoid coming into close contact with those who are sick.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Being well rested can help your body better fight illness.
  • Manage your stress. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day and be sure you are choosing healthy, vitamin-rich foods in your diet.

It isn’t too late to get a flu shot to help mitigate your chances of getting the flu; however, it is important to note that it may take a couple of weeks for the vaccination to take full effect.

What flu remedies do you have? Have you gotten a flu shot this year?

The Importance of Regular Pediatric Doctor Visits

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 8:31 AM comments (0)

Pediatric-AppointmentsDoes it seem like you make a lot of trips to see your pediatrician? Regardless of the reason—the sniffles, a high fever, an infection or something else—it is a good idea to make regular visits to the doctor. These appointments, along with any “back-to-school” check-ups, are not only important to your child’s well being, but also can help physicians identify health risks and preventive measures.

Alison Galanopoulos, MD, NorthShore-affiliated Pediatrician, identifies some of the common health concerns that a pediatrician can often identify during regular visits:

  • Behavioral Issues. Some behavioral issues may be hard for a parent to pinpoint. Something as simple as snoring, for example, can sometimes signal serious problems, such as sleep apnea, bedwetting and even ADHD.
  • Growth and Development. Your pediatrician can monitor patterns to help determine your child’s growth and development. He or she should also be able to ask the right questions during appointments to help identify any problems.
  • Obesity. Preventive health is key. With the rise of childhood obesity, having regular appointments that can track your child’s weight and height are essential to help determine a potential weight problem. Your pediatrician can work with you to establish healthy eating habits and promote exercise from a young age.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies. Many children have been found to be deficient in Vitamin D, which can lead to future health problems. The best way to combat this is to have your child (depending on age) eat 2-3 servings of calcium a day.
  • Vaccinations. There are many required immunizations, and it can be overwhelming for a parent to keep track of what is needed. You can work with your pediatrician to confirm your child is up to date.

How frequently do you take your child/children to the pediatrician?

A Sugar High – Knowing When Too Much is Too Much

Thursday, January 03, 2013 11:01 AM comments (0)

It’s hard to avoid the temptation of having something sweet—whether it’s an after- dinner treat, a mid-afternoon snack or something you indulge in to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. Like most things, in moderation, sugar shouldn’t lead to any long-term health concerns. However, when consumed in excess—both in its natural form and processed form—sugar can lead to some very serious health conditions.

Mary Bennett, RD, LDN, CDE, a diabetes educator at NorthShore, identifies some of the health concerns that excess sugar can lead to:

  • Obesity – Sugary foods are usually higher in calories and can leave you not feeling full. A diet high in sugar can lead to excess daily calories, and if not burned off through exercise can lead to increased weight.
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart disease – A diet high in sugar doesn’t necessarily lead to the onset of diabetes, but it can increase your odds. The same holds true for developing heart conditions, as a diet high in sugar can often increase cholesterol and fat levels (triglycerides) in the blood.
  • Added calories – Sugar adds calories and displaces nutritious foods. It is important to note that there is no difference between honey, maple syrup and molasses. Sugar is sugar.

The American Heart Association has set a limit for consumer consumption of sugar, which includes:

  • 9 teaspoons daily (150 calories) for men  
  • 6 teaspoons daily (100 calories) for women

How do you control your cravings for something sweet? What is your favorite alternative snack?

Start the Year Off Right – Set Reachable Goals

Thursday, December 27, 2012 9:03 AM comments (0)

Reachable-GoalsI am going to work out for an hour every day. I will lose 20 pounds in the next three months. I’ll be back down to my weight in high school by the end of the year. Do any of these goals sound like your own for the year?

If so, and you have a thoughtful plan on making it a reality – good for you! If you tend to say the same thing every year and don’t see the progress you’d like, this year try to set an attainable goal with key milestones to keep you on track and motivated.

Thomas Hudgins, MD, a physician at NorthShore and a triathlete, gives the following suggestions for setting health and weight goals you can stick to this year:

  • Choose activities and exercise routines that you enjoy. You will find that you’ll be much more likely to stick to a routine if it involves doing something that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy running, choosing a weight-loss routine that focuses heavily on running probably isn’t going to be something that you’ll stick to long-term. Remember, activities as simple as walking and going up the stairs can help get you on track.
  • Don’t stress out about the numbers. While it is good to check your progress on a scale from time to time, don’t let the numbers rule your success. Getting into shape may involve weight loss, but it also involves muscle strengthening and toning.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to change things up, if needed. It’s great to have a reachable goal in mind, but it’s just as important to be able (and willing) to make adjustments to your routine to help you get there.
  • Partner up. Working out with someone else can help keep you motivated. If you don’t have a family member or friend that can join you, consider participating in a class or group workout activity.
  • Set short-term goals. While keeping your long-term goals in sight, don’t forget to set short-term goals and reward yourself periodically for reaching those closer milestones.

What goals do you have this year? How do you plan to stick to them?

Bundle Up, Avoid Getting Frostbite

Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:21 PM comments (0)

Avoiding-FrostbiteBlustery winds, snow banks and icy paths don’t always make for pleasant trips outdoors to run errands, participate in winter sports or shovel. And, although there isn’t anything we can do to change the outdoor temperatures, we can be sure to dress appropriately when outside to avoid getting too cold or suffering from frostbite.

Ernest Wang, MD, Emergency Department physician at NorthShore, provides his insight on how to stay warm and safe this winter season:

  • Cover your head and ears by wearing a hat. You lose a lot of your body’s heat from your head, so wearing a hat will help keep you warm and comfortable.
  • Dress in layers. Wearing layers will allow you to change and remove clothes if necessary. On particularly cold days you may want to consider wearing long underwear. Don’t forget to put on gloves or mittens.
  • Know the signs of frostbite and when to seek medical attention. These signs include:
    o    Pain – stinging, burning, throbbing or aching
    o    Numbness
    o    Discoloration of the skin—often appears gray, white or yellow
    o    Blistering of the skin
  • Limit the amount of time you’ll be outside on very cold days. If you are starting to get very cold, go indoors and warm up. If your face, hands or feet start feeling numb it may be a sign that you’ve been outside too long.

What are some of your favorite outdoor winter activities? What do you do to stay warm?

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