Preparing for Spring Allergies

Jennifer Driver, M.D.

Spring routinely spells misery for allergy sufferers. A recent study revealed that most patients don’t try to manage their symptoms until it’s too late. Seasonal allergies are commonly referred to as hay fever. They cause the body to overreact to airborne pollen and mold. Birch, cedar, cottonwood and pine trees are big allergy triggers in the spring. They release pollen in the air, which can get in the nose of someone who’s allergic and cause a reaction. However, there are plenty of ways to ease allergy misery and keep asthma symptoms in check.

What are the common allergy symptoms?

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes

What are ways to minimize these symptoms?

  • Spring cleaning. Dust and cobwebs can accumulate over the winter. Mold can also build up in bathrooms and the basement, particularly in spring when humidity rises. Furry pets may also start shedding in spring, leaving more dander and hair around the house. Cleaning the house, vacuuming and washing upholstery can help remove allergens from the air and help ensure your nasal passages stay clear.
  • Consider asthma. Many people with seasonal allergies have asthma. If you have a nagging cough or trouble breathing, talk to an allergist. These specialists can diagnose asthma and help you manage your symptoms.
  • Clean the air. You’ll breathe easier if your air is clean. The best way to do that is with a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). If you have central air, change your air filters every three months and use filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Steer clear of ionic air filters, which make dust and pollen particles stick to whatever they touch. These air filters don’t provide much benefit to those with allergies, the asthma and allergy group cautions. They also produce ozone, which is a health risk.
  • Keep windows closed. In spring it’s tempting to open the windows and let in some fresh air, but this allows pollen to blow inside your home and settle in your rugs and furniture. This can cause allergy symptoms to flare up. Keep your windows closed and use air conditioning with a new air filter.
  • Stay inside. Try to stay inside between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. during ragweed season. Schedule outdoor activities for late afternoon when pollen counts are usually lower. Keep your grass short and wear a mask if you have to mow it yourself.
  • Consult an expert. Don’t rely solely on the Internet for expert medical advice. An allergist is a specially trained doctor who can help you identify the cause of your symptoms and determine the best treatment.

What are the over-the-counter allergy remedies?

  • Antihistamines – reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching by lowering the amount of histamine in your body.
  • Decongestants – shrink the blood vessels in the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling.
  • Nasal sprays decongestants – relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants
  • Eye drops – relieves itchy, watery eyes

Even though you can buy these allergy drugs without a prescription, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first to make sure you choose the right medication.

Click here to visit Touro’s Health Library to learn tips and more about dealing with spring allergies.

Jennifer Driver was born and raised in New Orleans. For undergrad, she attended University of New Orleans where she majored in biology. After college, she spent a couple years dabbling in research and received both a Master of Science in Pharmacology and her MD from Tulane. She loves Family Medicine for its breadth of scope of practice, emphasis on prevention, and continuity of care. She is currently a Family Medicine Physician for Crescent City Physicians, Inc.

Caring for Aging Parents

Vernilyn Juan, M.D.

Millions of Americans are juggling work and raising their family. Sooner or later, older loved ones such as our parents will need assistance. Americans are living longer but not in great health. If you’re facing this situation, it can be hard to figure out what’s best for your loved ones. To help you navigate through this complicated situation, here are a few tips:

Plan Ahead

It is always best to prepared. If you have siblings, talk to them about the best move for your parents. Also, plan a family meeting with your parents to discuss their future. In the meeting, you should discuss:

  • Making sure legal documents have been drawn up, which includes an up-to-date will, power of attorney, a living will, and a health-care proxy.
  • Researching housing options and services available in your parents’ community.
  • Discussing future housing, financial, and medical-care needs.

Most importantly, talk to your parents about growing old. Your parents may be having a tough time with the thought of needing assistance.

When should I take action?

One day, all the signs may point to the need for you to actively step in to assist your parents. These are some of the signs:

  • Loss of weight
  • Ignoring personal hygiene such as washing hair and clothes
  • Change in behavior
  • They no longer do things that they used to find pleasurable
  • Do not leave their house
  • Excessive drinking
  • Unpaid bills and mishandled finances
  • Untidy house and expired food
  • Walking unsteadily

What should you do?

Based on your talks with your parents, begin to identify local resources that can help your parents, like area agencies on aging, aging and disability resource centers, or aging information and referral services. Also, if you haven’t, talk to your parents’ physician to find what resources are best for them. Most importantly, manage your time well so you won’t become stuck in never-ending obligations. Divide and conquer each task with your siblings to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

  • Stick with that plan. If you decide you’ll visit your mother twice per week, help her manage her finances, and look into local resources, then that’s what you should do. Get help for other needs as they arise.
  • Accept help early on — from relatives, friends, neighbors, churches and synagogues, senior centers, or home-care agencies.
  • Take care of yourself. Get exercise, get enough sleep, pay attention to your diet, and go to support-group meetings for caregivers.

For more information on caring for your aging parents, visit Touro’s Health Library.

For support locally on caring for the elderly, visit the New Orleans Council of Aging.

Vernilyn Juan, M.D. is a Family Medicine physician with Crescent City Physicians, Inc., a subsidiary of Touro. Dr. Juan is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.

Avoiding Antibiotic Resistance

Dr. Jeffrey Coco, Chief Medical Officer (CMO)

Antibiotics have been used for the past 70 years to treat patients with infectious disease and kill bacteria. However, with the constant use of antibiotics, some infectious bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. According to the CDC, each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a result. This has become a major threat to our global health and food security.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance can happen when bacteria are treated with an antibiotic. The medicine kills most of these germs. But a small group may survive. The germs may:

  • Develop an ability to stop the medicine’s effect
  • Develop an ability to pump the medicine out of the cell
  • Change (mutate) so that the medicine no longer works

When bacteria become resistant, the original antibiotic can no longer kill them. These germs can grow and spread. They can cause infections that are hard to treat. Sometimes they can even spread the resistance to other bacteria that they meet. When you use an antibiotic, there is a risk that some of the bacteria will turn resistant. Therefore, you should only use these medicines when needed.

How does antibiotic resistant infections spread?

Resistant bacteria can spread in many ways as nonresistant bacteria. Someone infected can spread bacteria through physical touch or from touching an object, which is often through a cut on your skin. Some infections can spread in the air when a person sneezes or coughs, and it can spread through sharing food with an infected person. You can help prevent the spread of all bacterial infections by:

  • Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water
  • Not sharing food or beverages with others
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Using tissues to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Not touching other people’s wounds
  • Not sharing personal items such as razors, towels, or brushes

Plain soap is best for washing hands and shared surfaces. Soaps with antibacterial ingredients do not help to stop the spread of infection in a home setting, and it can contribute to resistance.

What can I do to prevent antibiotic resistance?

The best way to prevent antibiotic resistance is to use antibiotics properly. You should only take them when needed. Here are some of the ways to prevent resistance:

  • Don’t take an antibiotic for a virus.
  • Don’t save an antibiotic for the next time you get sick.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Don’t skip doses. Complete your full course of treatment even if you are feeling better.
  • Never take an antibiotic prescribed for someone else.

Click here to learn more about antibiotic resistance from Touro’s Health Library.

Dr. Jeffrey Coco, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), has been a member of Touro’s medical staff in Infectious Diseases since 1995 and currently serves as the President of the Medical Staff. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, he served as the Chief of Staff at Methodist Hospital in New Orleans East and as the Medical Director of HealthSouth Specialty Hospital. Dr. Coco attended Louisiana State University for undergraduate school and medical school. He completed his residency, internship and fellowship at Ochsner Clinic Foundation. As Touro’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Coco will serve as a liaison to the medical staff and the Medical Executive Committee. He will also have oversight of medical staff quality, peer review, graduate medical education and continuing medical education.

Ways to Shop Smarter at the Grocery Store

Sarah Newton, MS, RD, LDN and Ulrika Midner, RDN, LDN, CNSC

As we begin National Nutrition Month, we want you to make the most of your food choices through shopping smart at the grocery store. Grocery shopping is step one to fueling a healthy lifestyle. Choosing foods that are both nutritious and easy on the wallet are key components of making the most out of the grocery experience. Knowing how to shop smarter and how to store nutritious foods is essential.

Tips for shopping smarter, plan ahead by making a list, choose foods that will stretch your dollar, and shop seasonal for fresh fruits and vegetables. Begin your grocery experience by planning a menu for the upcoming week and creating a list of food items needed from that menu. One great tip is to plan meal ideas around food items that are currently in the pantry.

Making a list helps save money and time by focusing on the items in need and avoiding impulse purchases. Select food items that will stretch your dollar by buying in bulk, buying on sale and utilizing coupons. Buying in bulk helps stretch the dollar by preparing large batches of meals and utilizing freezer space. When shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, shop seasonal for maximum freshness and quality.

To receive the maximum benefit of fresh produce and to extend the shelf life, you must understand proper storing techniques. Knowing how to store fresh fruits and vegetables right is the key to not waste food and money.

Inside the fridge: Apples, berries, and cherries, Grapes, kiwi, lemons, and oranges. Melons, nectarines, apricots, peaches, and plums (after ripening at room temperature). Avocados, pears, tomatoes (after ripening at room temperature). Almost all vegetables and herbs can be stored inside the fridge.

Outside the fridge: Bananas, mangos, papayas, and pineapples: store in a cool place.  Potatoes / onions: store in a cool, dark place. Basil and winter squashes: store at room temperature— once cut, store squashes in fridge.

To keep celery crisp, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil, so the ethylene gas it produces can escape, then refrigerate, re-wrap tightly after each use. Store asparagus like a bouquet of flowers, trim a half-inch off the end of the stalks and then stand them up in a small amount of water (covered loosely with a plastic bag) in the refrigerator. They can last for four days this way.

Do you know how to use the humidity drawers in the fridge? If you set the humidity setting to low, the window in the drawer is completely open and if you set it to high, the window is completely closed.

In the low humidity drawer:
Store produce that are not sensitive to moisture loss and that are high-ethylene gas producers.

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Cantaloupes
  • Figs
  • Honeydew melons
  • Kiwis
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Pears
  • Plantains
  • Stone fruits (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums)

In the high humidity drawer:
Store produce sensitive to moisture loss and that are sensitive to ethylene gas.

  • Belgian endive
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Herbs (cilantro, dill, parsley, thyme)
  • Leafy greens (kale, lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress)
  • Okra
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash
  • Watermelon

Click here for more grocery shopping tips.

Click here for more information about Touro Infirmary’s Clinical Nutrition Services.

Ulrika Midner, RDN, LDN, CNSC is a clinical dietitian and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician providing medical nutrition therapy for both inpatients and outpatients at Touro. She graduated from Nicholls State University and completed her internship at Tulane University. Ulrika is also the President-Elect for the New Orleans Dietetic Association.

Sarah Newton, MS, RD, LDN is a clinical dietitian with an advanced degree in nutrition providing medical nutrition therapy for both inpatients and outpatients at Touro. She graduated from Louisiana State University and furthered her education with a Master’s of Science and internship from University of Southern Mississippi.

Tips to Avoid a Mardi Gras Concussion

Matthew Bernard, M.D.

Carnival season is underway, which means king cakes, parades and parties galore. However, this season leads to something unexpected: injuries and emergency room visits. The common injury during carnival season is concussions, which can be a result of falling off a float or having a Zulu coconut thrown to your head. Although they range from mild to severe, they’re all serious injuries that can harm the way the brain works.

How can you prevent a concussion?

  1. Don’t reach down to pick up beads, doubloons, etc.

You are not paying attention to what is being thrown and an object can hit your head. When it’s safe between floats, you can bend down to pick it up. Also, your fingers can easily be crunched by a parade-goer catching beads.

  1. Do not overdrink

Alcohol affects the brain and central nervous system, which hinders your movement and balance. This can cause you to fall and possibly injure yourself. If you are drinking on the parade route, try alternating between an alcoholic beverage and water.

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings

Be aware of any tripping hazards around you, such as a beads or trash. Also, try to stand away from the curb or end of the sidewalk to avoid falling.

  1. Don’t follow the float

You are more likely to only pay attention to the float and not watch where you are walking. You can trip over debris, such as an ice chest or another parade-goer.

  1. Dress comfortably.

Try wearing flat, closed-toes shoes to avoid losing your balance and falling.

  1. Practice Ladder Safety

If you have a Mardi Gras ladder, keep your younger children buckled in there as much as possible to avoid them from falling out. Kids love being able to see all the floats so you don’t have to worry about them wandering off.  When the child is buckled in the ladder, an adult must stand on the ladder to keep it from falling. Also, ladders must be at least six feet from the curb in case the ladder is knocked over unattended.

Signs of a Concussion

A concussion causes the head and brain to move back and forth quickly, resulting in a chemical change in the brain. Concussion signs can be physical, cognitive and emotional. However, a concussion will not show up on an X-ray like a broken nose, and it must be diagnosed with a careful exam.

Common immediate signs and symptoms of concussion include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Visual complaints
  • Confusion

Long-term symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty with memory and concentration
  • Chronic headaches
  • Psychological problems

How to manage a concussion?

Your provider may want someone to stay with you at home for a day or 2 to keep track of your condition. While your recovering, avoid sports and activities, such as running and bicycling. Also, limit activities that require you to concentrate heavily, which includes doing tasks at work that require intense focus. You may also need to take rest breaks during the day.

As your symptoms go away, you may be able to go back to your normal activities. The time it takes to recover from a concussion can vary from weeks to months. In rare cases, symptoms can last for years. If you have symptoms or problems that last more than 3 months, you may have a problem called post concussion syndrome.

It has been shown that emergency room visits increase during Carnival season. Remember to practice these safety tips, and have a fun and safe Mardi Gras!

Bernard, MatthewDr. Matthew Bernard is a board certified Emergency Medicine physician and Director of the Touro Infirmary Emergency Department.  Dr. Bernard is a graduate of LSU Medical School in New Orleans, LA, and completed his Emergency Medicine Residents at Charity Hospital/University Hospital in New Orleans.

New Blood Pressure Guidelines

Randy Rossignol, M.D.

For the first time in 14 years, the high blood pressure guidelines have been redefined. As a result, the new guidelines will increase the amount of U.S adults having high blood pressure or hypertension from a third to nearly half of the population. These new guidelines by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology are aiming to decrease complications of high blood pressure and to increase early intervention.

New Definition for High Blood Pressure

Previously, normal blood pressure was under 140/90 mm Hg. The guidelines now state that normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg, which means high blood pressure should be treated at 130/80 mm Hg. The top number is systolic pressure, which refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The bottom number is diastolic pressure, which refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and is filling with blood. Both the systolic and diastolic pressures are recorded as “mm Hg” (millimeters of mercury). This recording represents how high the mercury column in the blood pressure cuff is raised by the pressure of the blood. These numbers are important in determining your risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

Blood pressure categories in the new guidelines:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Top number (systolic) between 120-129 and bottom number (diastolic) less than 80
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
  • Stage 2 hypertension: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120

Monitoring Blood Pressure

The new guidelines encourage additional monitoring with home blood pressure monitoring. This monitoring will help to eliminate masked hypertension or white coat hypertension. Masked hypertension is when your blood pressure is normal in a medical setting but high outside the medical office. White coat hypertension is when your blood pressure is high in the medical setting and normal outside the medical office. This additional monitoring can aid in diagnosing high blood pressure and treatment. However, make sure to follow directions while checking your blood pressure and make sure the cuff is validated.

Focus on Diet

The guidelines recommend diet as the first-line of treatment for high blood pressure, such as the DASH eating plan. DASH plan consists of:

  • Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
  • Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

The new guidelines also recommend decreasing salt, exercising and drinking no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men, and one for women. By changing your lifestyle, it can decrease your systolic by 11 points. Medication may not be needed if you are a stage 1 hypertension with no existing cardiovascular disease. However, if you have a significant risk of developing cardiovascular disease, medication and diet are both recommended.

Final Thoughts

If you do not have high blood pressure, it is still important to diet and exercise. A healthy lifestyle can decrease your risk of diabetes and other diseases. It is also important to consistently monitor your blood pressure and visit your physician annually for your checkup. You are in charge of your health.

Dr. Randy Rossignol is an Internal Medicine physician at Crescent City Physicians, Inc., a subsidiary of Touro Infirmary. After earning his medical degree from Louisiana State University(LSU) School of Medicine in New Orleans, he completed his residency at LSU Health Sciences Center in Baton Rouge. Dr. Rossignol joins practice with Dr. Lege and Dr. Occhipinti at Crescent City Physicians Primary Care Clinic on the campus of Touro Infirmary. For an appointment call 504-897-7999.

5 Easy Ways to Talk to Your Doctor

Andrew J. Siegel, M.D.

It is important to take a proactive approach to your health. One way to do this is to develop a relationship with your physician. Communication is key. Don’t be embarrassed or shy if you do not understand your diagnosis or treatment. You should be able to trust your doctor. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your appointment:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Many healthcare providers want you to ask questions. Don’t be shy to say, “I don’t understand. Would you please explain it to me again?”. Or, if needed, don’t be afraid to call back and ask to speak with your healthcare provider or nurse again. Also, it is often easy to forget questions you may have, so write your questions down before you go to your appointment. It is hard to remember everything you’re being told at each visit. Try to write down what your physician tells you or ask to record the conversation.

  1. Don’t withhold information.

Do not tell your physician that you’re just fine when you’re not. Your physician needs to know about any changes. Tell them if you’re having pain or any recent problems since your last appointment. All this information is important in helping your physician diagnosis you and give you the best medical care.

  1. Take a partner with you to your appointments and treatment.

Your partner can be helpful during these visits, and they may ask questions you didn’t think of. They can also ask the tough questions for you. It’s important to talk before the visit and work together as a team to make sure you know what questions or problems you want to talk about. Having a partner with you is especially important if you’re on medication or if you’re anxious or upset. After the appointment, talk with them to review the information and make sure you both understand the information. They can also take notes and write down other questions you may have.

  1. Avoid the urge to get upset with your doctor.

There is no good way to give someone bad news. It is important to keep in mind that your healthcare providers are doing everything they can to help you get well. As with all relationships in life, difficulties may arise, and talking about them can help. Be clear and precise in stating your concerns and listen to your physician’s response.

  1. Follow up with your doctor

If you have forgotten any information after your appointment or still confused, contact your doctor. If you can’t speak to your doctor, talk to a nurse. It is okay to follow up with your physician. If you still need more information, ask your doctor for reliable books or websites to help you better understand your condition.

Your relationship with your healthcare provider is one of the most important in your life. So make sure you do everything you can to get the most out of your medical visits.

Do you know your health numbers?

Cholesterol • Glucose • Blood Pressure • BMI/Body Fat % Screenings

FREE Health Screenings & Open House
Thursday, January 11 • 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Touro Infirmary
3700 St. Charles Ave., 4th floor

Join us for an evening of wellness that’s all about YOU! Take advantage of FREE health screenings including weight, BMI, cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure. Receive a physician consultation and visit with some of our favorite physicians.

>> CLICK HERE to register or call (504) 897-8500. 

Dr. Andrew J Siegel is an Internal Medicine Specialist in New Orleans, Louisiana. Andrew was born and raised in California and spent his undergrad years at the University of California. He graduated with honors from Tulane University School Of Medicine in 2016. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and child, being outdoors, cooking, or eating at one of the city’s many tasty restaurants.

New Year, New Approach to Self-Care

Randy Rossignol, M.D.

As we start off the New Year, we tend to make unrealistic health resolutions that are hard to stick with. Try to take a different approach and make your resolution overall health, both physically and mentally. Here are five simple steps for better self-care:

Practice Healthy Eating

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best weapons for fighting obesity and diseases. Here are a few recommendations that will reduce your risk of developing health problems:

  • Eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables every day. Vegetables and fruits of different color are a good source of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber.
  • Cut back on high-fat foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fat, and saturated fat. Use liquid vegetable oils in place of soft or hard margarine or shortening.
  • Go lean with protein. Choose low-fat or lean cuts of meat and poultry. Also, vary your protein by choosing more vegetable sources, such as beans, lentils, peanuts and soy.

Visit Your Physician

It’s important to see your doctor for a regular wellness visit, which is typically a yearly check-up. A wellness visit is designed to improve your health and prevent diseases or uncover them as soon as possible, when they’re easier to treat. Some of the most important numbers to know include your blood pressure, lipid profile, blood sugar and BMI. You may be feeling healthy, but there are usually no signs of pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol without being tested.

Get Screened Regulary

Regular cancer screenings help with early detection and prevention of cancer. Screenings check your body for cancer before you have symptoms. Common screenings include mammography, colonoscopy, prostate specific antigen, pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV). Be sure to talk to your physician about which screening is appropriate for you based on your age, overall health, and medical history.

Move Your Body

To be fit, you do not have to exercise intensely for a long time . Experts recommend just 30 minutes of physical daily activity, can radically improve the way you look and feel, both physically and mentally. Start slowly and gradually build up to 30 minutes a day.  Choose an activity you enjoy, such as walking your dog or hiking.

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress as well as depression. It can help you better manage anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. The idea of mindfulness is that life should be lived in the present moment. Research shows it can boost your well-being and improve quality of life. Mindfulness changes the concentration of gray matter in areas of the brain involved in learning, memory, regulating emotion and more.

There are several ways that you can practice mindfulness.

  • Body scan—slowly guide your attention through each part of your body and notice the sensations that you feel.
  • Mindful yoga—a type of yoga that combines gentle stretches and movements that are linked with your breath.
  • Mindfulness meditation—while seated, notice your breath and expand your awareness to your senses (sounds, sight, taste) as well as your thoughts, emotions, and other feelings in your body.

 

Dr. Randy Rossignol is an Internal Medicine physician at Crescent City Physicians, Inc., a subsidiary of Touro Infirmary. After earning his medical degree from Louisiana State University(LSU) School of Medicine in New Orleans, he completed his residency at LSU Health Sciences Center in Baton Rouge. Dr. Rossignol joins practice with Dr. Lege and Dr. Occhipinti at Crescent City Physicians Primary Care Clinic on the campus of Touro Infirmary. For an appointment call 504-897-7999.

5 Daily Habits to Reduce Chronic Pain

More than 100 million Americans are living with chronic pain. That’s more than the number of Americans affected by cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. What’s worse, it is three to four times more likely that someone with chronic pain is also suffering from depression.

Chronic pain can last for weeks, months and even years. Sometimes chronic pain is caused by an injury, infection, or an ongoing condition like arthritis or cancer. By not managing chronic pain, it can lead to deepening depression, poor sleep, agitation, and loss of concentration.

Chronic pain is uncomfortable. If you are living with chronic pain, you can find relief. There are many resources and solutions available to you  that can help you live a happier, healthier life – despite your pain. For starters, try these strategies:

Get out of bed

Although it may be tempting to go on bedrest while you’re in pain, staying active daily will help keep your body and mind in better shape. Avoid movements that would make your pain worse, but try low-impact activities that minimize the risk for further injury. Your doctor can suggest the safest activities for you.

Relax

Certain relaxation techniques, such as meditation or breathing exercises, have proven to be helpful in managing chronic pain. Plus, going to your own “happy place” can distract you from any physical pain.

Take the right medication for your pain

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Acetaminophen (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be purchased over-the-counter and effectively relieve you from muscular and bone pain. Antidepressants may help control pain as well as any emotional toll you may be experiencing due to chronic pain. Muscle relaxants, another prescribed option, are often used to reduce pain caused by muscle spasms. Talk with your doctor about what the best fit for you might be.

Yoga

Yoga can be key in preventing or even reversing the mental effects of chronic pain. Depression or anxiety caused by chronic pain can lead to loss in brain tissue – which can then lead to memory impairment and emotional problems. Research shows that regular yoga practice has the opposite effect on the brain – a major point of encouragement to roll out your mat.

Feed your body good

Certain foods can fight inflammation, make your bones stronger, and therefore help alleviate your pain. The best foods for arthritic pain, for example, include fish, soy, and olive oil because they contain anti-inflammatory properties like omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, a healthy diet can help life your spirits.

In addition to these strategies, be sure to talk with your doctor about self-care solutions that are tailored to your own chronic pain.

Five Common Flu Myths

Randy Rossignol, M.D.

You can decrease your chances of getting the flu this season by taking one simple step: Get a flu shot. The flu, also called seasonal influenza, is caused by one of several strains of influenza virus (type A or B), which infects the nose, throat, and lungs. Unfortunately, some people believe that getting a flu vaccine is too much trouble or costs too much. Most of these myths about the flu shot are untrue and can deter people from getting the shot.

Here are 5 common myths about the flu shot:

#1 Healthy people do not need the flu shot.

It is recommended that everyone receives the flu shot. Individuals six months of age and older should be vaccinated for the flu as soon as the shots become available. It is important to get the vaccine if you, someone you live with, or someone you care for is at a high risk of complications from the flu.

#2 The flu vaccine causes the flu virus.

No, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu virus. The shot or nasal spray vaccine may cause short term side effects such as soreness or swelling, low grade fever or aches. While the nasal spray vaccine may cause runny nose, wheezing, or headache.

#3 The flu shot works immediately.

No, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way. The flu season usually begins in October and peaks anywhere from late December to early April.

#4 Flu vaccine is your only protection against the flu virus.

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. However, you should still practice good health habits.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy food.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

#5 I do not need to be vaccinated every year.

The main reason you should be revaccinated each year is that the flu virus is constantly changing and evolving into new strains. Each year the CDC tries to figure out which flu strains will be predominant. The CDC works with vaccine manufacturers to make the specific vaccine that will fight the predicted strains for that year.

Dr. Randy Rossignol is an Internal Medicine physician at Crescent City Physicians, Inc., a subsidiary of Touro Infirmary. After earning his medical degree from Louisiana State University(LSU) School of Medicine in New Orleans, he completed his residency at LSU Health Sciences Center in Baton Rouge. Dr. Rossignol joins practice with Dr. Lege and Dr. Occhipinti at Crescent City Physicians Primary Care Clinic on the campus of Touro Infirmary. For an appointment call 504-897-7999.