Flu update

It appears that the 2012-13 flu season is especially severe and has not yet reached its peak, which is when the maximum number of cases have been reported and we start to see a downward trend.

In early November, I posted about the advantages, health-wise and financial, of getting a flu shot.

It’s still not too late, and there is ample vaccine available.

FYI, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to reach its full effectiveness.

FN

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First sleep, second sleep

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report that 1 in 24 drivers admits to falling asleep while driving, and up to 33% of fatal traffic accidents may involve a drowsy driver.

Although frightening, this statistic is hardly news to those of us, myself included, who suffer from chronic sleeplessness. We can just add “death by fiery car crash” to the ever-expanding list of risks related to sleep deprivation, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer.

Such stories invariably conclude with the advice “health officials recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.”Continue reading

How much does it hurt?

Okay, pain isn’t funny, but this woman’s blog is. She posted a hysterical re-drawing of the universal pain chart that doctors and nurses use to help patients, especially kids, quantify their pain on a scale of 1-10.

She apparently found the Mr.-Yuk-type faces woefully inadequate, and I have to say I agree with her. I just never looked at it that way before.

Her drawings and accompanying descriptions will leave you laughing, and laughter is the best medicine, isn’t it?

FN

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Beware that bonus!

Two days ago I wrote a post about the proposed health insurance exchanges and the federal premium subsidies.

Beginning in 2014, if you buy health insurance from a state-run exchange, your estimated 2014 income will determine if you qualify for a subsidy.

You will need to supply that information to the insurance exchange when you sign up for health insurance. If you qualify for a subsidy, the exchange will then apply to the federal government for the extra funds to cover your premiums.

When you prepare your 2014 tax return (in 2015), you will discover how accurately you guestimated.

The … Continue reading

Sticker shock

My family does not have an employer-provided health plan, and we live in a state that will set up a state-run health insurance exchange, so I wanted to learn more about the exchanges and proposed subsidies.

Several recent articles have warned of “sticker shock.” Beginning in 2014, state exchanges must offer plans that cover all “essential health benefits” as defined by the government. In other words, there will be no more “catastrophic” plans with low monthly premiums and high deductibles. (Except perhaps for young adults under 30, but information on this point remains unclear.)

To make such comprehensive … Continue reading

The healing power of mahjongg?

For more than five years, one of my best friends has been battling ovarian cancer. A fierce fighter (and fabulous friend!), she has endured surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy to keep this grim disease at bay. Her oncologist monitors her condition with the blood test CA-125.

Early last summer, her CA-125 began creeping up into the “let’s watch it but not get too excited—yet” territory. She knew from past experience that she might be facing another round of chemo.

Then we began playing mahjongg. Or, more accurately, American mahjongg, which is a variant of the arcane Chinese game … Continue reading

Nightmare

Last night I dreamt that my husband was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma.

He was lying on an exam table for some reason when the nurse spied a large, red spot on his head (he’s not bald, but in my dream he was!) and said “Oh my, that doesn’t look too good.” The doctor then looked and said “It’s a melanoma. I’ll take it off.”

Immediately the doctor excised the melanoma as well as some cervical (neck) lymph nodes, which were also cancerous. The melanoma had spread.

As I watched the operation, I thought Oh, please let this be a dream. Continue reading

A picture worth a thousand words

Last week, the publication of three short health care reports caught my eye. Separately, each is a “bad-news-as-usual” snapshot of health concerns; spliced together, however, they create a bigger, grimmer picture of the health and financial future of our country.

First, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that between 1995 and 2010, the incidence of adults diagnosed with diabetes has almost doubled.

Part of the rate increase is explained by improved diagnosis and diabetics living longer, but the report’s authors concluded that the “major driver” is that “the increase in diabetes prevalence coincides with the increase in … Continue reading

Cure a cold with curry?

This morning as I scanned internet headlines, one caught my attention: How to beat a cold in just 24 hours.

Wouldn’t that be great if you could cure a cold in a day?

The information source for the article is a professor from the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, Wales. I never knew such a place existed! I glanced at its website, and it appears to have links to some useful research, so I’ll definitely look there again.

But what does the article suggest and what do I think? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Take a hot shower. Absolutely.
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How much does an MRI cost?

Sorry, wrong code

I read a story on Kaiser Health News this morning about the author’s struggle to be a responsible and informed health care consumer: How much for an MRI?

I can completely relate!

I had a similar experience with a heart ultrasound two years ago. It’s a cycle of frustration: You can’t get a price without a procedure code, but you can’t get the correct code until after the procedure is done. Classic.

Health care costs have long been kept hidden from the public—until after you get the bill.

And here’s a funny video put out by the … Continue reading

Save money – vitamin C vs. zinc

Vitamin C…

It’s cold season and products that claim to prevent or significantly shorten colds are flying off the drugstore shelves.

As I emphasized in an earlier post, frequent hand washing is your best strategy to avoid a cold altogether.

Still, the advertisements for such products are both pervasive and persuasive  But are they worth buying?

Vitamin C (1000mg) is the major ingredient of Airborne and Emergen-C. Both are made into fizzy drinks. Airborne also claims to have a “proprietary blend” of minerals and herbs, but it’s really about the vitamin C. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not … Continue reading

It’s not too late to get a flu shot!

A leading health headline today indicates that the 2012-13 flu season is off to an early and strong start.

Flu cases always peak at some point during the season, usually in January or February, but sometimes as late as March and sometimes, apparently like this year, as early as November.

However, it’s not too late to get your flu shot. Despite the early start, flu season will continue into March and April.

Also, this year’s vaccine is well-matched to the reported influenza virus, which means the vaccine is even more likely to protect you.

FN

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Hand washing 101

Germs are everywhere

Being frugal, I live by the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

One of the best ways to prevent nasty seasonal colds and flu (not to mention nasty intestinal ailments) is to wash your hands.

It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the gazillions of germs that are lurking on handles and door knobs and other surfaces that we—and others—touch multiple times a day.

Wash your hands often

Soap and water are the gold standards of cleanliness, but hand sanitizer has become increasingly popular over the last ten years.

I prefer … Continue reading

$48 for a gallon of milk?!

Yes, that’s right. And a dozen eggs would cost you $55—if the cost of food had risen as quickly since 1945 as has the cost of health care.

This information is provided in a visual tool by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the independent, non-profit health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

The graphics also reveal that of the more than 2.5 trillion dollars the US spends on health care each year, more than 30% is waste: unnecessary care, fraud, high administrative costs, and  prices that are simply too high.

The cost of health care in the United … Continue reading

Cold or flu?

Feeling sick? Sore throat? Runny nose? Fever?

How do you know if you or your kids have a normal cold or a more serious case of influenza, the ‘flu’?

In general, flu presents with more everything—a sorer throat, a higher fever, achier joints, a more severe headache. I have had the flu once in my life and I still remember how awful I felt. I’ve had dozens of ordinary colds and don’t remember them at all.

Treatment for both colds and flu is typically the same: rest, fluids and pain relievers for the aches and pains.

However, it is a … Continue reading