Get your hepatitis A vaccination!

hepatitis aHepatitis A outbreaks

This morning I read about a hepatitis A outbreak in Virginia. The source is apparently contaminated strawberries used to make smoothies. So far, 40 people have become sick.

This outbreak follows on the heels of another in Hawaii, where 168 cases of the virus have been linked to frozen scallops.

Let these outbreaks be a reminder or an incentive to anyone NOT vaccinated against the hepatitis A virus—get vaccinated!

The hepatitis A virus attacks your liver and causes varying degrees of nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice. It rarely causes long-term liver damage or … Continue reading

Vaccines and immunization schedules

immunization schedulesKids and vaccines

It’s that time of year when the days shorten, stores advertise trendy back-to-school clothes, and parents scramble to make appointments with their kids’ pediatricians for sport physicals and immunizations.

At least, I hope they do.

I am a fervent believer in vaccinations, even though I live in the state (Washington) with–sadly–the highest “opt out” rate  in the country.

In 1998 a medical journal published a paper by (now debunked and disgraced) scientist Andrew Wakefield. He implied a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. Since then, many parents have feared vaccinating their … Continue reading

Outrageous cost of EpiPens finally getting some attention

Wow. Talk about timing.

I just posted a few weeks ago about my dread of renewing my EpiPen prescription because of its cost—over $700 without insurance, and still over $600 with my insurance!

It seems other healthcare advocates, the media, Congress and even the presidential nominees are at last realizing how insane it is to charge that much for literally a few cents worth of epinephrine.

EpiPens are not even new to the market, like so many other high-priced drugs. It’s been around for a long time, so Mylan pharmaceuticals can’t claim it’s trying to recoup R&D costs. In fact, … Continue reading

View Prevnar 13 ads with caution

prevnar 13Prevnar 13: As seen on TV

I was watching TV the other evening and, as usual, was forced to sit through multiple back-to-back prescription drug commercials.

One that caught my attention was for Prevnar 13, which is one of the pneumonia vaccines. (13 because it protects against 13 strains of streptococcus pneumonia.)

The commercial stated Prevnar 13 was for adults aged 50 and older.

That statement’s true, but needs some clarification.

Yes, Pfizer did get FDA approval a few years ago to market Prevnar 13 to adults over the age of 50. Previously, the vaccine was only used for … Continue reading

How NOT to whiten your teeth

whiten your teethBad advice to whiten your teeth

I have a lot of fun on Pinterest and have been collecting different “pins” of home remedies for all sorts of minor afflictions. Some are commonly used, such as aloe for sunburn, but others can be pretty far out there, such as human breast milk to treat pink eye.

One by one, I research these remedies, and I am creating a “board” on my Pinterest page dedicated to the frugal home treatments I think have some benefit.

Mostly these home remedies do not have a great deal—if any—research to support their claims. University Continue reading

Doctors don’t know what healthcare costs

Heard on the golf course

I don’t want to reinforce the cliché that all doctors play golf, but my husband (not a doctor) plays with a lot of them.

Recently he shared with me a couple of conversations he’s had with his MD golf buddies about the cost of healthcare, specifically prescription medications.

A few weeks ago I posted about how much it costs to buy an EpiPen—over $700 for a pack of two, if you don’t have insurance. Even with insurance, it can cost well over $500.

My husband mentioned this to a friend, a urologist, during a … Continue reading

EHR – Electronic Hell Records

Healthcare Not Fair is a satirical YouTube video series created by a real-life physician, Dr. Waqas Khan, to highlight problems within our broken healthcare system.

Their latest video takes a stab at electronic health records, EHR—or, as they call it, Electronic Hell Records!

Other videos by Healthcare Not Fair:

I just saw my primary care physician a few weeks ago, and I can relate to the fictional patient’s experience in the video. Receptionists really do keep their eyes glued to their computer screens!

My physician isn’t that bad, … Continue reading

Everything is filthy – Wash your hands!

Germs and travel

I recently returned from a road-trip vacation with a nasty summer cold. It was my own fault—I didn’t heed my own advice to wash my hands as frequently as I should have.

Related post: Hand washing 101

Our hands are responsible for bringing a lot of germs into our bodies. We touch our nose, eyes or mouth, or our food, and voilà! the germs have found a nice, new home.

Although we usually associate colds with the winter months, germs for colds and other common viral illnesses are all over objects we touch every day, year round.… Continue reading

Zap Zika

Last week Florida health officials announced that Zika is “actively circulating” in certain parts of the state. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has even gone so far as to issue a travel warning to advise pregnant woman not to travel to these areas.

Related post: Protect yourself from mosquito bites

The CDC has been really proactive in educating and updating the public about the Zika virus—what it is, where it is, and how we can protect ourselves.

In addition to their Zika virus homepage, they also have a great series of short videos called Zap Zika.

What is the UV Index?

uv indexClouds don’t protect you from the sun

On a cloudy summer day it’s easy to forget that the sun’s skin-damaging ultraviolet or UV rays aren’t blocked by the clouds. We still have to use sunscreen, wear hats and sunglasses, or stay out of the sun to protect ourselves.

Related post: Be informed – What is SPF?

UV rays not only cause sunburn, but also skin cancer and cataracts. And there aren’t enough beauty creams in the world to undo the premature aging effects of the sun, either.

Watch this video to see the sun’s “invisible” damage to the … Continue reading

Skin cancer screening guidelines

skin cancer“Insufficient evidence”

Many years ago I had a primary care doctor who used to perform a total body skin examination (TBSE) on me every year as part of my annual exam.

Of course, those all-inclusive physicals are a thing of the past. I haven’t had a physician perform a TBSE for a long time.

I often wondered about that. A TBSE seems like a relatively easy and harmless way to quickly screen for skin cancer. The goal, of course, is to find a melanoma, the deadly skin cancer, when it’s small and possibly curable.

Related post: A must-watch video about Continue reading

The high cost of healthcare in America

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the online news site Vox recently sought to open Americans’ eyes as to how much more we pay for healthcare compared to other countries.

America’s healthcare prices are out of control. These 11 charts prove it.

I can’t copy their charts, but basically they are bar graphs. The bar that shows how much patients in the US pay for similar drugs and services towers over the others like a skyscraper over a neighborhood of single-family homes. Like this:

healthcare costs graph

Vox got its information from the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP)Continue reading

Prevent kidney stones

kidney stonesAnd save money!

If you’re interested in how much a kidney stone costs, read this blog post from the Costs of Care website. The author of the post gives an accounting of her physician visits, diagnostic tests and medications:

  • At least 5 sets of blood work, with CBC and chemical profiles, parathyroid studies
  • Several urine tests, including urinalysis and urine culture, and two 24 hour urine tests (a third 24 hour urine test was recommended but I declined)
  • 2 CT scans
  • 1 MRI
  • 4 specialist visits, 2 primary care visits, 2 ER visits (involving IVs, pain meds, lab studies)
  • Prescriptions
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Use Pepto-Bismol with caution

pepto-bismolThe FDA issues a warning

In my last post about treating heartburn, I mentioned Pepto-Bismol as one of several inexpensive and readily available over-the-counter treatments.

I also said that anyone who is allergic or sensitive to aspirin should not use Pepto-Bismol because it contains salicylic acid, or aspirin.

Aspirin is a blood thinner and can cause bleeding in the stomach. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a consumer warning that anyone sensitive to aspirin, or anyone taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, should consider other options to treat heartburn.

Read the label and

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Home remedies for heartburn

heartburnImmediate relief

The other day a family member asked for my advice on treating heartburn. It’s a common problem and fortunately there are many lifestyle changes and simple products to try before spending money on doctors’ appointments and prescription medications.

For the occasional case of heartburn following a large meal, or eating too late at night, or being more stressed than usual, try a herbal product or one of the inexpensive over-the-counter antacids.

  • Chamomile has a mild healing and protective effect on the digestive tract. Choose a good-quality tea bag and enjoy a cup after a meal.
  • Peppermint also has
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