First aid for itchy bug bites

I didn’t see them coming

Early one morning last week, while strolling a Florida beach looking for sea shells, I was attacked by the area’s notorious “no-see-ems”, or sand flies or biting midges. I didn’t realize it, however, until later that evening when the itching started – the agonizing, I-want-to-flay-the-skin-off-my-legs itching.  😡

After a sleepless night, I sped to the drugstore to buy something, anything, that might help. As usual, I was faced with an aisle of products all promising “fast” relief.

As miserable as I was (I had over 50 bites!), I doubted that any product would be … Continue reading

A taxing question

Before I left on vacation a week ago, one of the popular health-related news stories was that in a rare show of bipartisan support, Congress was set to approve a 75¢-per-shot tax on the flu vaccine. Critics of both government and vaccines in general jumped on this congressional tidbit, although for different reasons.

The more conservative media decried the tax, saying it was unnecessary and simply a sneaky way for Washington to grab money to fund our ever-increasing national debt.

Anti-vaccine activists saw the tax, which funds the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, as proof that vaccines are … Continue reading

Grapefruit vs. drugs

Florida. The Sunshine State. I am here on vacation enjoying some much-needed warmth and sun. I’m also enjoying the abundance of fresh oranges and grapefruit.

Luckily for me, I don’t take any prescription medications. I remember all the dire warnings in the media last fall that grapefruit juice is more deadly than ever—beware!

Of course, grapefruit has not suddenly turned evil. The problem is that there are so many medications on the market, more every year, that interact badly—yes, even lethally—with that ruby red fruit.

Grapefruit, as well as limes, pomelos and Seville oranges, contain chemical compounds called furanocoumarins, … Continue reading

First aid for sunburns

Continuing my frugal first aid series, this post is about treating sunburns—appropriate since I am writing this as I sit on a beach in Florida!

That’s right, I’m on vacation  😎

first aid for sunburnFor some, sunburns are a minor, seasonal annoyance and they don’t give them much thought. But if you’ve ever had a really bad sunburn, you know the days of pain and sleepless nights that follow. I’ve had a severe sunburn once in my life, in college, and I learned my lesson!

Sunscreen—Prevention is key

Use sunscreen! The American Academy of Dermatology says we don’t use nearly enough to be Continue reading

What’s in your medicine cabinet?

You might have missed it, but last Saturday, April 27th, was National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. (No, I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for that.)

Since 2007, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has partnered with state and local law enforcement agencies to sponsor prescription drug drop-off sites where unused drugs can be collected and disposed of safely and properly.

The effort is an attempt to get addictive prescription medications off the streets. I don’t know how many of the returned drugs are narcotics; maybe the officials don’t even sort them before disposal. I would guess the unwanted … Continue reading

New prescription? Ask for it in writing

I try to be as vigilant as possible when it comes to medical expenses, but I can still be caught napping on occasion.

Last summer while working in my garden I was stung on the ankle by a wasp. Within 24 hours, my leg from the knee down was swollen to twice its normal size.

Although technically not an allergic reaction, it was a severe local reaction. I wondered what would happen if I were stung on the face or neck. So, last month when I saw my doctor for my annual exam, I asked her if it might be … Continue reading

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”

dvd fat sick nearly deadSometimes drastic change is required

Last night I watched a truly inspiring documentary, a testament to the power of a healthy diet.

Fat Sick & Nearly Dead chronicles Australian filmmaker Joe Cross’s journey to health. Fat, fortyish, and suffering from an autoimmune disease, Joe spends 60 days traversing America. But no fast food stops for Joe—his mission is to drink only fresh fruit and vegetable juice (he travels with his own juicer) for the entire 60 days. Joe believes fasting on juice will allow his body to heal from the inside out.

We all know the typical American diet (and … Continue reading

First aid for cuts, scrapes and bruises

I suggested last week that taking a first aid class is a good idea. Buying a good first aid manual for reference is helpful, too.

But I thought I would supplement that advice by posting a few basic first aid tips for a variety of common injuries, and also provide a short—frugal—list of first aid items you might want in a first aid kit. Making your own first aid kit rather than buying one can save money because you only include the few items you really need.

Today’s post focuses on minor cuts, scrapes and bruises. Other than soap and … Continue reading

The high costs of medical mistakes

I mentioned in a previous post that three years ago my husband almost died from a series of medical, um, misjudgments, let’s say. I know sometimes things go wrong for no reason, but I also know his three-day ICU stay could have been prevented.

He never received a “mea culpa” from the doctors or hospital; all we got were the medical bills. Our insurance, a catastrophic/health savings account (HSA) plan, paid 100% of the costs after we met our deductible and out-of-pocket maximum ($10,000). At that point we stopped receiving bills, so I don’t know the exact total of … Continue reading

What’s in your toothpaste?

The other day I was in Target shopping for toothpaste, and I thought, “Wow, do Americans really need this many toothpastes?”

At first glance I couldn’t even find the toothpaste I normally use, no doubt because the packaging had changed. It’s probably “new and improved.” Aren’t they all?

Ignoring the hyperbole of “advanced”, “intense” and “extreme”, I started looking at the ingredient lists on the backs of the boxes. I know exactly which ingredients I want to see to get the most effective toothpaste at the lowest price.

For me, the most important ingredient in a toothpaste is fluoride. … Continue reading

Be prepared – Learn basic first aid

One of the advantages of being a nurse/mom is that I can tend to a wide variety of illnesses and injuries without seeking medical help. I have probably saved my family a lot of money over the years!

Anyone can learn the basics of providing first aid. I taught American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes for years, and I highly recommend taking a class, whether you are a parent or not. Even kids as young as 13 or 14 can take the classes.

Spring is a good time to sign up for a class. Once schools are out … Continue reading

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday I posted about the bomb blasts in Boston and questioned how the enormous medical bills would be paid.

Later, I was surprised to read an article on NBC News online that seemed to answer my question, at least in part: “Bomb’s medical costs could be in the millions, experts say.” The reporter gave an initial—and probably low—estimate of about $9 million.

According to a health economist quoted in the article, “It’s probably on the magnitude of $40,000, $50,000 (per person for emergency-room care). But for the people who will be hospitalized for weeks, you could easily be looking at Continue reading

Tragedy’s heavy toll

Like many others, I’m still trying to understand Monday’s horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon. Who did this, and why?

What I do know is that our emergency response and medical teams are the best in the world; I used to work in the OR of a large, level-one trauma center and have seen these teams in action. The injured will receive swift and highly-skilled care without regard to pre-existing conditions or insurance status.

However, a different team, the patient accounts personnel, will work quickly to document victims’ names, addresses and insurance carriers (if any).

It seems a second tragedy … Continue reading

Lights out for better sleep

Light triggers chemicals in our brains that wake us up. That’s why it’s so much easier to rise and shine in the summer than in the winter.

But I used to dread the long summer days when light would sneak into my bedroom and wake me up before 5 am. I couldn’t find curtains or blinds for my bedroom window that adequately blocked the morning sun. Finally, I invested in some heavy, black-out drapes, the kind used in hotels. They aren’t very decorative, but they help me sleep longer in the morning.

Artificial light also disrupts our sleep. It mostly … Continue reading

Should smoking be considered a pre-existing condition?

That is the opinion of the health exchange boards in Washington, D.C., California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont (so far).

Each state (and D.C.) that creates a health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has an exchange board that is responsible for establishing certain rules and guidelines. Some definitions in the federal reform law have proved to be ill-defined and open to interpretation, such as “pre-existing condition.”

Most insurers that sell individual health plans charge smokers higher premiums because smokers … Continue reading