Health

Flu Fighters: Six Easy Ways to Avoid Getting Sick This Season

Written on January 21, 2015 at 11:00 am , by

Runny nose

Don’t let fevers, body aches, congestion and coughs creep through your front door! While flu activity is especially high this season—nearly 5,500 people have been hospitalized since October—and the CDC predicts it will remain elevated for the next few months, there are simple ways to stay protected. The vaccine offers your best defense, even if it doesn’t cover all strains. “A shot will still decrease your chances of getting sick, and it’s never too late in the season to get it,” says Keri Peterson, MD, an internal medicine doctor in NYC. In addition to getting vaccinated, shield yourself and your family with these strategies from Peterson.

1. Make Your Face Off-Limits.
“A big thing people forget is that they shouldn’t touch their eyes, nose or mouth, because that’s a direct entry point for germs,” says Peterson. Pretend there’s a glass table around your neck, meaning your hands cannot go above it.

2. Lather Up Often.
Scrub your hands with soap and water several times a day, especially if you’ve touched a potentially contaminated area like a subway pole, doorknobs, faucet handles, kitchen sponges or that pen on a chain at the bank. When you’re on the go, use hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes (try Wet Ones, from $2), which kill germs as well as remove them.

3. Stop the Spread of Bacteria.
A few easy tricks will help minimize the germs you disperse and pick up. Cough into your elbow instead of your hand, and fist-bump instead of shaking hands. At home, regularly clean surfaces—like counters, handles, faucets, your phone, laptop and mouse and the toilet—with a disinfectant product or a bleach-and-water solution. Finally, skip the office when necessary. According to a Vicks survey, 48% of us still head to work outside the home with cold and flu symptoms, which just ups the risk of infecting others.

4. Boost Your Immune System.
Help your body fight off ailments by getting enough sleep and reducing stress, whether by practicing yoga or reading a good book. Exercise will also help you stay healthy, so break a sweat when you can—just remember to wipe down equipment if you head to the gym. Also, munch on more immunity-boosting foods like green leafy vegetables, antioxidant-packed berries and vitamin C−filled oranges.

5. Bundle Up.
The old wives’ tale turns out to be true: You’re more susceptible to contracting an illness if you’re exposed to the pathogen outside in the cold. Chilly temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, and without sufficient blood flow to the back of the throat or the nose (where cold viruses live), your body can’t readily deliver immune system cells to those areas. This makes battling germs much more difficult.

6. Stay Away from the Sick.
If someone in your family does end up with influenza, get her to a doc. Antiviral meds should be taken within the first 48 hours to reduce the severity and duration of the condition. Then quarantine that individual to her room with instructions to cough and sneeze into tissues, drink lots of fluids, sip chicken soup (it has anti-inflammatory effects and loosens up mucus) and get lots of rest.

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7 Ways to Survive a Sleepless Night

Written on March 17, 2014 at 8:30 am , by

By Jessica Girdwain

 

What do you do when you’re lying awake staring at the alarm clock? Try these expert tips on how to survive a sleepless night.

 

1. Practice mindful breathing

Sit quietly and focus on taking deep breaths. When your mind wanders, return your focus to your inhales and exhales. Research shows this helps stop your mind from racing and lessens insomnia symptoms.

2. Try self-massage

Twice-weekly rubdowns helped the women in a Brazilian study drift off quicker, improve their sleep quality and wake up feeling more refreshed.

3. Read

Using as dim a light as possible, pick up a paper book or magazine (avoid e-readers, which emit blue light). Aim for a relaxing read, not a page-turner that keeps you wide-eyed.

4. Tidy up

Some light, monotonous cleaning (like dusting or straightening up your desk, not rearranging the fridge or scrubbing baseboards) can be soothing, making you rest-ready.

5. Do yoga

The relaxing practice is associated with better-quality sleep, according to new research. Get up and perform a few gentle stances, like the child’s pose or corpse pose, to unwind.

6. Relax your muscles

Starting at your toes, tense and release your muscles, working your way up to your face. This method, called progressive muscle relaxation, helped lull insomniacs to sleep in a study in the Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies.

7. Turn on tunes

In a Dutch study review, music helped participants relax enough to improve sleep quality. Light tunes before bed (think smooth jazz) cue your body to wind down.

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Should Your Kid Get the HPV Vaccine?

Written on February 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm , by

By Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood

Recently, a friend asked me about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. She had heard that the virus can “clear up” on its own, so wanted to know whether the vaccine was really necessary for her child. Another friend wondered whether her daughter, a high school senior, should get the vaccine, though she may not have had sex yet.

These are common questions and concerns about the HPV vaccine among parents. I’d like to put them to rest and tell you why I advised both my friends to be sure to get the HPV vaccine for their kids. Vaccinating our children against HPV is one of the most effective things parents can do for their kids’ health. It helps protect against the types of HPV that can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis and throat, as well as genital warts.

Here are a few more frequently asked questions about the HPV vaccine.

How does the HPV vaccine protect against cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV, a very common sexually transmitted infection. In many cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally, but certain strains of HPV can lead to cervical and other cancers. Given in three separate injections over six months, the HPV vaccine protects against two HPV strains that cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases.

Is the vaccine safe?

Studies show that the HPV vaccine is extremely safe. It is FDA-approved and routine vaccination is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society and Planned Parenthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it be given to girls and boys ages 11-12.

Should my son get the HPV vaccine?

Yes, the HPV vaccine benefits boys as well as girls. For boys, it can prevent genital warts and some cancers of the anus, penis and throat, as well as prevent the spread of HPV to his future partners.

When should teens be vaccinated?

It’s recommended that preteens get the HPV vaccine when they’re 11 or 12 for maximum effectiveness, but for teens and young adults the vaccine still offers some protection against HPV and cancers associated with HPV, especially if given before a person becomes sexually active. The closer to age 11 or 12 it’s given, the better. At age 13 or older, the vaccine is considered a catch-up.

Does it cost a lot?

Under the new health care law, HPV vaccines are covered at no cost. Millions of Americans who are uninsured can enroll in new, more affordable health care plans right now. For additional information, check out PlannedParenthodHealthInsuranceFacts.org. There are also programs that allow some people without insurance to access the vaccine at reduced or no cost, based on income.  The staff at Planned Parenthood can help with accessing these programs.

Will giving my child the vaccine give him/her permission to have sex?

No, having the vaccine does not promote sexual activity among teens. Research shows that young people who get the HPV vaccine are no more likely to have sex than those who have not been vaccinated.

As parents, we certainly want to protect our kids from cancer—and this vaccine can do that.

 

Leslie Kantor is the vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. You can find her on Twitter at @LeslieKantor.

5 Things Every Teen Should Know About Sex

Written on October 2, 2012 at 10:44 am , by

 

 

 

In our November “Sex Talk” feature, we offered up dozens of ways to get that important dialogue going with your kid. Looking for more conversation starters? Try these five  things every teen should know about sex.

1. You’re not the only virgin. Less than half of all high school students have ever engaged in intercourse.

2. It won’t make him/her fall in love with you. Sex and love don’t necessarily go hand in hand. If you’re looking for something to bring you two closer together, consider how you’d feel if it actually pulled you apart.

3. You can get pregnant the first time. Birth control prevents the sperm and egg from meeting up—not how often you have sex.

4. Two condoms are not better than one. Doubling up condoms increases friction and decreases effectiveness. The only 100% effective form of birth control is abstinence.

5. You can tell if someone has an STI. Not always. And remember, not all sexually transmitted infections have cures and many can impact your fertility or overall health.

Sources: CDC.gov, PlannedParenthood.org and KidsHealth.org

What do you wish every teen knew about getting intimate? Post a comment below and tell us!

Read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.

Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.

April is Autism Awareness Month

Written on April 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm , by

And today is World Autism Awareness Day. If your child or someone you know is on the spectrum, check out these resources:

AutismSpeaks.org
Funds research, increases awareness and advocates for people with autism and their families.

AutismSafety.org
Addresses bullying, mistreatment and suicide prevention.

MyAutismTeam.com
A social network connecting parents of kids with autism with 30,000 autism-friendly service providers.

TheMiracleProject.org
Enables kids with special needs to express themselves through music, dance, acting and writing.

IANproject.org
Links researchers with the autism community and encourages parents to get involved in scientific progress.

Plus, hear from real moms who fought for their autistic kids and taught them to be independent adults:

“How I Fought for My Autistic Son,” by Joanne Corless

“Letting Go: How I Taught My Autistic Son to Be Independent,” by Glen Finland

All month long, we’ll be posting more dispatches from the ASD community. Find them all here.

Share your experiences with autism, or raising an autistic child, in the comments below.

Heather Eng is web editor of FamilyCircle.com.