How to read your pathology report

Last week  I posted that you should always ask for a copy of your medical reports.

One of the downsides, of course, is that those reports are often written in medical language that can be confusing or alarming.

But in response to a more savvy patient population, the College of American Pathologists has made a video to explain how the system works and to encourage patients to be involved in obtaining and understanding their pathology reports.

You can watch the video here on the medical website KevinMD.

They also created a two-page educational brochure to guide a patient through … Continue reading

Water safety tips

water safety tipsA preventable tragedy

A children’s hospital in Texas just released a grim statistic for the not-yet-over month of June: 15 near drownings and two drowning deaths of small children.

“Can you imagine being a parent, sitting in the ED waiting room, praying that the life of someone you love so dearly is spared, especially since it was something that didn’t have to happen? No parent wants to be saddled with that guilt.”

Such tragedies aren’t unique to Texas. Near drownings and deaths are reported every spring and summer as the weather heats up, kids get out of school, and families … Continue reading

Zika virus – Protect yourself from mosquito bites

Zika virusBe repellent

The Zika virus spreads primarily by mosquito bites, so the best way to avoid getting it is to make yourself as repellent to mosquitoes as possible.

Related post: What attracts mosquitoes?

Unfortunately, there are companies that hope to make money off fear of the Zika virus and are selling mosquito-repellent products that just don’t work.

Most concerning to experts is the promotion of many “natural” mosquito repellents — sprays, wristbands, and patches that are touted as alternatives to the products containing synthetic chemicals known to be safe and effective at keeping mosquitoes away.

While mosquitoes in this … Continue reading

Always ask for your medical test results

An error of omission

A few weeks ago there was a lot of news about how medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease and cancer.

A medical error is defined as “an unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome.”

And now a Philadelphia paper is highlighting one very common mistake: when you and/or your doctor are not informed about a serious finding on a medical test.

The article explains that a well-known local musician (which is why this story is popular on … Continue reading

Why are EpiPens so expensive?

epipensEpiPens – lifesaving but costly

I’m allergic to bee stings, so I keep an EpiPen handy when I’m working out in my garden this time of year.

But my EpiPens are more than 3 years old now, and it’s time to invest in a new set.

Why do I say invest? Because EpiPens are incredibly expensive!

Related post: First aid for bee stings

I didn’t know that three years ago when I bought them. At that time, my health insurance did not include coverage for prescription medications (all ACA-compliant plans must now), so I paid the full price out of … Continue reading

Prevent a bunion from getting bigger

what is a bunionAn ugly problem with an ugly name—hallux valgus

Last summer I noticed I had the beginning of a small bunion.

Horrified, I wanted to find out if there was anything I could do to keep it from becoming bigger, uglier and more painful.

Anything except surgery. The last thing I want is foot surgery.

I also wanted to know how to prevent a bunion from developing in my other foot.

But I had to admit that I knew next to nothing about the lowly bunion, so I had to do a little research first.

Who gets bunions?

A bunion … Continue reading

Why shared decision making matters

As a nurse who worked for a surgeon, I had to spend a lot of time talking to patients and educating them about their proposed surgeries.

The surgeon talked to them first, of course, but often patients don’t remember everything the surgeon said. Or they think of questions after the consult.

If I couldn’t answer a question, or if I thought the patient really didn’t understand what the surgery entailed—why it was being done, other options to surgery, recovery time, etc.—I would ask the surgeon to please speak with the patient again.

If I was going to sign my name … Continue reading

“Pass on Packets” to keep kids safe

pass on packetsYesterday, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Doernbecher Children’s Hospital hosted a Twitter chat discussing the dangers of those oh-so-convenient laundry detergent packets or pods that many of us use.

I use them.

But here is a scary statistic: every month almost 1,000 children under the age of 6 suffer the ill effects of biting into a packet and being exposed to the toxic detergent.

A pediatrician at OHSU writes:

If ingested…the highly concentrated packets can lead to vomiting, oral burns and swelling, respiratory distress and even respiratory failure – not to mention the neurologic impacts such as seizures,

Continue reading

First aid for heat stroke

first aid for heat strokeHere comes the sun!

Once again, the Seattle area is experiencing record-breaking temperatures and it’s not even summer yet! This seems like a good time to re-post some sun safety tips. People can die from excessive heat, so here are some tips to protect yourself and those most vulnerable to the heat—the very young and very old. Sláinte, Frugal Nurse

This post was first published June 26, 2015

Living in the Pacific Northwest,  we rarely have to worry about heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses.

In fact, it so often rains through the Fourth of July, we joke that summer … Continue reading

A homeopathic parody

A friend sent me a YouTube link to a hilarious comic sketch that parodies homeopathy: Homeopathic A&E.

It’s by a pair of British comics, David Mitchell and Robert Webb. A&E stands for Accident and Emergency, the British equivalent of ER.

To understand why it’s so funny, you need to know that homeopathy’s alternative-reality medicine is based on a belief that “like cures like,” with remedies prepared into extremely diluted solutions.

I love the pub scene at the end!

There are plenty of scientists and physicians who have spoken out against homeopathy and provided scientific evidence … Continue reading

Rats, cell phones and cancer

rats, cell phones and cancerScary headlines sell news

Last week the media blitzed us with headlines that linked cell phones with an increased risk of brain and heart cancers.

Don’t believe everything you read in a headline!

That news story was based on a study out of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that looked at the effect of cell phone radiation on rats.

Most journalists, if you bothered to read the entire article, did point out that the study was not perfect and it did use rats, after all, and not humans.

However, if you just read the headlines or skimmed … Continue reading

How to prevent osteoporosis

prevent osteoporosisMay is National Osteoporosis Month

I can’t let May and the NOF’s awareness campaign pass without giving a shout out to the best way to prevent bone loss or osteoporosis.

It’s not taking enormous calcium supplement tablets every day or occasionally choking down a couple of chalky TUMS.

It’s a combination of eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and exercising every day.

Actually, no one can prevent bone loss altogether. That’s like saying you can prevent wrinkles. As we age our bones lose strength and flexibility. But we can slow the process down and prevent it from turning into significant Continue reading

How accurate is your Fitbit?

fitbitIt’s OK for steps, but not much else

I was feeling really good about myself the other day when I came home after finishing a 6,000 step walk that burned—according to the Fitbit Zip in my pocket—720 calories.

Woo!

I boasted about this to my husband, who immediately burst my pride bubble by saying, “There is no way you burned that many calories in a 40-minute walk. Think about it.”

He was right. I knew in the back of my mind that 720 calories was just too high. Have you ever run on a treadmill for 15 minutes and felt … Continue reading

Dormant Butt Syndrome

dormant butt syndromeDo you suffer from DBS?

As far as I know, Dormant Butt Syndrome (DBS) isn’t really a disease, but rather a phrase coined by a physical therapist at a medical center in Ohio.

Millions of Americans (myself included) suffer from knee, hip and/or lower back pain. Therapist Chris Kolba, PT, PhD, MHS, blames too much sitting, which is weakening our gluteus or butt muscles.

The entire body works as a linked system, and a lot of times when people come in with knee or hip injuries, it’s actually because their butt is not strong enough. The rear end should

Continue reading

Obamacare premium increases for 2017

Up, up and away!

Does anyone’s income go up as fast as their health insurance premium? I wish.

11.6%. That’s how much more my current health insurance provider wants to charge for my bronze high-deductible health plan in 2017.

And although 11.6% seems like a lot to me, another company in my state is requesting a 19.9% average increase on all its plans, with a 28% increase on its gold plan!

So far, the rate increases that have been made public in other states are all pretty high, averaging well into the double digits. So at least I’m not … Continue reading