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Spring Allergies- Common Activities to Minimize Symptoms

With the spring season here and pollen in the air, there are a few daily activities you can do to minimize allergy symptoms including:

Eat healthy foods- Improper eating habits aggravate many health problems, including asthma and seasonal allergies. Foods that contain antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables can help battle inflammation which helps with controlling allergies.

Reduce stress– When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones which sends signals to various parts of your body to prepare for actions. If this is a common occurrence in your body and there is not a physical release, the stress can affect your immune system. In addition, a weakened immune system increases your chances of allergic reactions.

Use your air conditioner– Having windows or doors open is a common way to bring allergens inside your home so instead close your windows and use an air conditioner.

Clean door mats– Cleaning your door mats prevents mites, mold, and fungus- all common allergens, from being tracked into the home.

Spring clean– Dust is a common allergen and cleaning in those tough to reach areas can help minimize allergy symptoms.

These are simple tasks you can do to minimize allergy symptoms, but if you still suffer from symptoms, seek treatment from your health care provider.

 

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C

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Spring Allergies- Symptoms and Treatment

Spring season brings the blooming of many plants and flowers and that means the blooming of spring allergies. What are allergy symptoms and how can you treat them? The most common allergy symptoms to look for are:

  1. Runny nose
  2. Watery eyes
  3. Sneezing
  4. Coughing
  5. Itchy eyes and nose
  6. Dark circles under the eyes

If you experience these symptoms during the spring allergy season, you should visit your primary care provider who can refer you to an allergist for tests. There are two forms of common allergy tests including a skin test, also known as a prick test or a blood test.

The skin test involves either a pricking of the skin with a tiny amount of allergen, or injecting a small sample of a diluted allergen under the skin of your arm and back. If you are allergic to the substance, a small red bump, also known as a hive, will form. The blood test is also another common option for an allergen test.

If the symptoms are caused by an allergy, there are over the counter prescriptions and medications that a provider can prescribe to ease the symptoms.

This is the 3rd part in a 4 part allergy series, be sure to follow for more!

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C

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Spring Allergies- Is it an Allergy or a Cold?

Spring is here and so are allergies but how do you know your child’s runny nose is from allergies instead of a cold?

Colds are caused by a viral infection, while allergies are caused by your immune system overreacting to harmless substances.  Several of the symptoms are the same for colds and allergies, however there are a few differences that may give you a clue to the true culprit.

  1. Length of symptoms. Colds last 1-2 weeks while allergy symptoms can go on for weeks or months.
  2. You will not get a fever, chills, or body aches with allergies, however these are common symptoms of colds.
  3. A common symptom of allergies is itching: itching skin, itching eyes, itching throat, and itchy nose.  This does not occur with a cold.
  4. Colds tend to develop thicker nasal secretions, while allergies tend to have clear watery discharge.

Understanding the differences can help you decide what steps to take to give your child the right treatment they need!

This is the 2nd part in a 4 part allergy series, be sure to follow for more!

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C

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Spring Allergies- What am I Allergic to?

Spring is officially here, flowers and plants are blooming and that means spring allergies are on their way but how can you prevent allergy symptoms?  The best way to avoid allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens (things you are allergic to).  The most common allergies are listed below with some tips on how to avoid them:

Pollen:  Try to avoid time outside when pollen counts are high.  Pollen is worse in the spring when flowers are blooming, on hot and windy days, worse in the morning, and better after rain and on cooler days.  You can track the pollen counts online.   Always keep windows shut to prevent pollen from entering your house.  Recirculate air in your car so the pollen outside doesn’t get inside.  Change clothes and take a shower after spending a lot of time outside to wash away any pollen.  Never dry clothes outside.

Dust:  Wash all bedding every 1-2 weeks in hot water.  Vacuum frequently and use a damp cloth to dust all flat surfaces (furniture, blinds, woodwork).  Remove carpet from the bedroom if possible.  Remove all stuffed animals from the bed.  Make sure your air conditioner has a clean HEPA filter.

Mold:  Keep humidity low in your house. Make sure to clean humidifiers frequently, and try to keep moisture from collecting anywhere in your house.  If you do notice mold in a small area, use bleach to try to get rid of it.  Avoid decomposing plants, such as jumping in leaves in the fall.

Pets:  Remove carpets because animal dander often gets trapped in carpet.  Keep the pets out of the bedroom.  Bathe your pets often.  Make sure to wash your hands after petting your animal.

If you have been avoiding allergens and your symptoms continue, talk to your doctor about possible treatments or to have allergy testing to determine the allergen your body is reacting to.

This is the 1st part in a 4 part allergy series, be sure to follow for more!

 

By Sarah Giomi, Communications Intern and Bill Bomberger, PA-C

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5 Things You Can Do To Prepare for Bloomsday!

How do you get prepared for Bloomsday? Training for any race takes dedication and hard work. With Bloomsday just around the corner, we put together a list of 5 things you can do to get prepped for the big race.

Bloomsday

  1. Get started on a running or walking program

There are endless options out there to improve your endurance when preparing for a long distance run or walk, so find one that best caters to your needs and goals. Interval training is a great way to get your heart rate up and give your body the boost it needs to keep running during steady periods of time. If you plan on walking, it’s a good idea to get into a weekly or even daily walking routine to prepare your muscles and joints for the 7 mile trek through Spokane streets—it’s also a great excuse to do some sightseeing as the weather begins to warm up!

  1. Join a team or get a partner

Exercising with other people can often be a lot more fun than just going by yourself. When we have a reliable teammate or partner to push us, we tend to reach past our own expectations and reach our goals for efficiently. Find someone who is going to give you that push you need and you may just build a lifelong exerciseship.

 

  1. Increase your water intake

It is recommended that the average person drinks between 5-8 eight ounce glasses of water a day. When preparing for the big race, it’s important to consistently drink water throughout the day and get in the habit of drinking water BEFORE you are even thirsty. Though Bloomsday doesn’t take place during a hot month, 7.5 miles often takes a lot of sweat—refuel and recharge.

 

  1. Visit your physician

Though Bloomsday participants run and walk at all levels, it’s a good idea to visit your health care provider before starting a training program to make sure your heath is not at risk. They can also let you know if your finish time goal is reasonable and give you tips for proper training.

 

  1. Start stretching regularly

It is always good to stretch before and after doing any strenuous physical activity, but daily stretching is great at increasing flexibility to prevent future injury. If you don’t have much experience with stretching, taking up a Yoga class or even finding a TV program that teaches stretching, Yoga or Pilates at home could be beneficial to your Bloomsday experience.

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Hoops and Health

Between Hoopfest and some amazing local teams (*cough* Gonzaga Basketball), it’s hard not to be a big fan of hoops in our neck of the woods. Not only is it great to watch, but it’s a blast to play. And – whether you are shooting hoops by yourself, playing a pick-up game or are on a competitive team, basketball is an incredible way to stay in shape – and have fun.

5 reasons why basketball is great for your health:

  1. It burns calories:

The obvious reason. Between running, jumping, dribbling and shooting, basketball is a calorie burning powerhouse! According to HealthStatus, a 200lb person burns 408 calories in an hour of shooting baskets, 744 calories in an hour of half-court basketball and 996 calories in an hour of full-court basketball.

  1. It’s great for cardio:

Basketball is an excellent sport in conditioning your cardiovascular system (your heart). It’s also an excellent form of high-intensity interval training. This works only if you are running around a half or full court (obviously full court will be better to get your heart pumping), if you are just shooting around, you may not get as much of a cardio benefit. One added benefit: it’s way more fun than a treadmill.

It helps build motor skills and coordination:

Free-throws, 3-pointers and layups are all incredibly helpful in training your hand-eye coordination and to develop those fine muscle memory skills to become better coordinated. Dribbling is another key ingredient in coordination on the court and helps to develop full-body coordination. Once this skill is mastered, it becomes second nature as a fine motor skill – letting you concentrate on your opponent versus visually making sure the ball is where it should be.

  1. It provides built-in strength training:

Basketball provides an excellent full-body workout and can help to develop lean muscle. Since it’s a physically intensive sport, there is an element of physical resistance training when an opponent may be pushing against you. Strong legs are built by shooting and running. Dribbling and shooting strengthen the arm, wrist and hand.

  1. It reduces stress:

Exercise (basketball included) is considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.

Overall, basketball is an incredible sport. Whether you have never dribbled in your life or are a pro on the court, you’ll get a great full-body workout from it. Plus, with so many courts around our area, it’s a sport that is accessible to anyone – all you need is a ball.

We’re looking forward to this March Madness season – let’s go Zags!

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Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Did you know March is National MS Education and Awareness Month? Multiple sclerosis affects more than 2.5 million people worldwide and is an unpredictable disease.  I recently sat down with CHAS Health Chief Clinical Officer, Bill Lockwood to learn more about MS and how it affects the body.

What is MS?

A disease which affects mostly young adults – beginning at ages 20-40 and involves the brain and spinal cord. The underlying cause is a patient’s own immune system destroying the “myelin sheath” or insulation which surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This affects nerves ability to conduct electric signals as usual.

Who can get it?

It is usually diagnosed in people 18-40 years old and affects women approximately 3 times as much as men. There seems to be some genetic predisposition as it more often affects people of Northern European descent and is more common in family members of MS patients.  There seems to be environmental factors as well since it affects people who live in temperate climates more often than those in very cold or very warm climates.

There is no government mandated reporting requirements so estimates of total incidence may be inaccurate but in 2002 it was estimated that 400,000 people in the US had MS.

Symptoms

The damage to the myelin sheath can affect any nerve in the brain or spinal cord so the symptoms are highly variable and tend to come and go (one of the requirements for diagnosing the disease are symptoms separated by space and time. In other words, two or more discreet episodes affecting different parts of the nervous system at different times, for example, double vision which resolves, followed by arm numbness, which ultimately resolves.

Some of the symptoms include fatigue – the most common symptoms, tingling, visual changes (including double vision) balance problems, nerve pain, swallowing difficulties, trouble walking (due to imbalance or ) leg weakness), constipation, bladder problems (incontinence, or inability to empty), and cognitive (thinking) difficulties.

The symptoms tend to come and go early in the course of the disease but as time goes on, most patients will develop progressive disease, the course is different in every individual who has it.

Diagnosis

The disease is diagnosed by history and physical exam followed by an MRI and blood tests. Sometimes a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is required. Diagnosis is usually made by a physician who specializes in diseases of the nervous system (“neurologist”). Diagnosing the disease in its early stages allows early administration of “disease modifying drugs) which can slow the course of the disease.

Treatment

Overall care of MS is provided by a care team of physicians, nurses, mental health workers, and physical and occupational therapists. Besides social and physical supports,  there are a number of medications used to treat MS.

There are two main types of medications – disease modifying drugs, and drugs to treat symptoms.

The disease modifying drugs affect the immune system and slow the progression and reduce the number and severity of exacerbations (temporary worsenings) of the disease. There are currently 15 FDA approved disease modifying drugs and at least that many in clinical trials. A total of $870 million has been spent so far in MS research.

There are a number of drugs used to  treat the symptoms of MS (as described above) such as muscle relaxers, bladder relaxers, nerve pain medications, and steroids (used to treat sudden temporary worseinings of the disease).

by Matt Grebe and William Lockwood

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Importance of ongoing learning in a healthcare setting

Since inception, CHAS Health has positioned our patients at the center of every decision we make.  And in order to provide the best possible care for our patients, it’s essential that we provide learning and development opportunities for our valued staff. The healthcare industry is an ever-changing field that requires extensive skills and training. The development of a successful program is key to employee retention, competency, and the balance of work and personal life. There are many benefits that can be derived from a successful learning and development program for everyone involved.

Why is it important?

Learning presents a special opportunity to expand the knowledge base of all employees. Learning and development can increase employee retention, job satisfaction, and productivity. It’s a vital tool when implementing new policies, equipment, and/or employees.

Due to our complex and busy schedules, we’ve received feedback that the best way to ensure that adequate time is dedicated to learning is to provide carved-out and focused time for our clinic staff. That’s why the 3rd Wednesday of the month, we are dedicating learning time to our staff and we will open clinic hours slightly later at 9am.

Our newly developed dedicated learning time supports improved patient care, service to our community, and career development.  It’s often difficult to have quality learning time during the everyday work day, especially with how tight schedules can be. With this time carved out, employees will be able to access educational resources to better careers and patients’ lives.

Please note, the third Wednesday and the last Wednesday of every month, our primary care clinics open at 9am.

Spokane Urgent Care locations open at 9am on the last Wednesday of the month only.

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Be a Smart Woman – Get The Test

Did you know that since the creation of the cervical cancer screening in the 1950’s (AKA “pap test”), there are now 70% fewer cervical cancer fatalities per year?

 

It’s true:  when pre-cancers and early cancers are found during a pap test, the chance of preventing future cancer is simply amazing.

 

With such a great cancer-prevention track record, you would think all women ages 21-65 would take advantage of such a fantastic test.  Unfortunately, the national average is only around 56%.  Some women think that if they are too old to have children, or if they’re not having sex anymore, they don’t need a pap test.  Not true!  Many things can trigger possible pre-cancer, so your best bet is to Get The Test.  And here’s the best part:  after a normal pap test result, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three whole years until your next one.

 

The pap test only checks for cervical cancer, while different types of cancers (ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar) require different tests.  No need to get all of them at one time – let your doctor guide you.  When cancer cells are discovered in the early stage, you don’t even know they exist.  That’s why getting the pap test is so important – to find those silent cells.  As you know with all parts of your body, if anything seems “different” than usual, talk about it with your doctor.  They’re used to answering questions, and you know there’s nothing they haven’t already heard.

 

After you get your pap test, your doctor will call you with the results.  If your test comes back “abnormal”, don’t panic – there are many reasons why test results may not be considered “normal”.  It usually doesn’t even mean you have cancer.  Call your doctor, get the information you need, and take the next step.  Your doctor will explain any details or treatment, and guide you all the way.

 

If you are 30 or older, you can also choose to add an HPV test to your pap test.  The two tests are done by your doctor at the same time, and if your pap/HPV “co-test” comes back normal, your doctor may let you wait as long as five years, before your next one.  If you are over 65, have had normal pap test results for many years, or had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions (like fibroids), your doctor may tell you that you do not need to have the pap test anymore.

 

Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, as long as you remember to get your pap test and follow up with your doctor regularly.  So take action, Smart Woman.  Get The Test.

 

 

If you’re ready to learn more about this amazing cancer-preventing test, here’s some information about Test Results, and a fun graphic information poster, from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

 

Test Results:  https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/test-results.htm

Infographic poster:  https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/infographic.htm

 

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Why get a flu shot?

CHAS Health recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get an annual flu shot to lower the risk of getting the flu, and limit flu exposure to others.

Did you know that even though the new year has started and spring is just around the corner, it is still officially the cold and flu season?  Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May, in some regions.  Adults and children alike can still catch the flu, and no one wants to expose anyone to illness-causing germs.  Parents of ill children are still faced with the decision whether or not to send them to school, and adults are concerned they might spread illness to their co-workers.  We all want to help minimize missed school and work days.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, but there are some different symptoms with each illness:

Fever

Often the flu includes a fever, while a cold does not. A fever is the body’s way of fighting off infection.  It is the most common reason adults stay home from work, and why parents keep their children home from school. The definition of a fever is a temperature of 100.4 or higher, though some schools and daycare centers will have their own rules. The general rule of thumb is to stay away from work or school until the fever is gone and temperature has returned to 98.6 degrees.

Upper Respiratory

Adults and children may have several different cold viruses each winter.  Typical cold symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, and cough, and most people can usually participate in school without any restrictions. Coughs may linger for several weeks after the other symptoms have resolved. It is important to remember the importance of coughing or sneezing into an elbow or a tissue, and to practice proper hand washing techniques to limit the spread of germs.

The flu is similar to a cold, but is accompanied by high fevers and body aches. It can also include extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or anything else that causes the lack of ability to function normally. If an adult or child has the flu, they should stay home until their symptoms have disappeared.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

When the flu brings vomiting and diarrhea, both adults and children should stay home until these symptoms have resolved. Adults and older children with only mild diarrhea, who are able to use the toilet and wash their hands on their own, may go to work and school if they don’t have any other symptoms.
Illnesses are a normal part life for both adults and children, but they’re no fun to go through. We can’t keep ourselves or our children home for every sniffle and sneeze, and we want to minimize the spread of germs to others.  That’s why getting an annual flu shot is so very important.

If you have any questions about whether or not you or your child should stay home due of any illness, talk to your healthcare provider.

For more information about the 2016-2017 flu season, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2016-2017.htm