Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gifts that keep giving!

Happy Holidays! In this season of gift giving, we need to remember that there are gifts for the here and now, and other gifts that "keep giving" long after the holiday decorations come down. Despite being the author of Seductive Delusions- How Everyday People Catch STDs- in this case, I am not referring to the undesirable "gift" of an STD...
What am I talking about is a gift of HEALTH. How many of us have friends and family members who struggle with their weight, and we give them a gift of chocolate or other calorie laden treats? Or the friend who perhaps drinks too much, and we give them a bottle of wine or scotch? We justify these gifts because, well, it's what they really like! And hey, it's an easy choice.
Let me challenge you, however, to think a bit harder and if you really care about that person, give them a gift that will promote their health. Yes, it can still be something fun. (Forget the bag of celery with a bow on top.) No, it does not need to be a $3000 elliptical machine or treadmill (although if you happen to be wealthy, knock yourself out!) 
How about a pedometer? A new workout top or shorts? Fun workout socks? A person training session? A healthy cookbook? (My all time favorite is Cooking Light's 5-Star Recipes- available on amazon) A gift certificate for a massage or manicure? How about a lesson- ballroom dance, kayak, or martial arts?
No money? Make a gift certificate to be a walking buddy every Tuesday morning (or whatever).
Bottom Line: This season, show you really care by encouraging your loved ones in the universal quest for health, and not undermine their efforts with "easy" gifts that aggravate existing health problems. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Tis the season...

'Tis the season for many things-goodwill, peace, holiday parties, and...coughs and colds. What can you to prevent getting sick during this hectic time of year? As should come as no surprise, the best defense you can have against germs is a combination of staying healthy (see how it always comes back to good nutrition, exercise, and sleep!) and washing your hands. Use those wipes that many grocery stores  now provide and wipe down the handle before you place your hands on that shopping cart. Cough and cold viruses are easily passed from one person covering their mouth to cough or rubbing their eyes and then putting their hands on a door knob, stair rail, or yes, shopping cart-allowing the next person to touch that same object and then touch their own face/mouth and pass the virus. Washing your hands frequently and being aware of NOT touching your eyes, nose or mouth will help reduce your chance of catching these common germs.
 What about extra vitamin C and zinc? Well, best evidence medicine has indeed shown that extra vitamin C will reduce symptoms and possibly shorten the course of the common cold. Zinc lozenges have been proven to decrease susceptibility to these germs, but do not shorten the course of illness once you are infected.
If you do get sick, remember the things your mom taught you. Stay well-hydrated (which keeps the mucus flowing, rather than being dried up and sticky), take tylenol or ibuprofen for fever and aches and pains, and remember feel-good home remedies like old fashioned vaporub (menthol topical decongestant) or the newer versions where you place a menthol-releasing tablet in your shower. 
If your nasal mucus turns green, does that mean you need antibiotics? No, typically not! Viruses can turn snot green as easily as a bacterial sinus infection. See your doctor if your symptoms are worsening or persisting beyond several days, or you have localizing symptoms (such as one sided ear pain or teeth pain) which may indicate an ear or sinus infection that could possibly require antibiotics. 
What about OTC antihistamines and decongestants? Adults may find the benefits outweigh the side effects, so SHORT term use of a topical nasal spray or oral decongestant may relieve stuffiness, and antihistamines are helpful if you have copious runny nose or itchy eyes.
BOTTOM LINE: Emphasize prevention to avoid colds- good nutrition, frequent hand-washing, perhaps some extra Vitamin C and Zinc, and of course, the flu vaccine.  If you get sick anyway, remember green nasal discharge does NOT equal need for antibiotics!