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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First aid for bee stings

yellow jacketHow do you react?

Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, and fire ants all belong to the same order of insects, Hymenoptera, so their venoms cause similar reactions if you are stung or bitten.

People’s bodies react in one of three ways:

  1. 85-90% experience a small local reaction—pain, redness and some swelling just around the sting site.
  2. 10% experience what is called a “large local reaction”—pain, itching, redness and swelling extending well beyond the sting site, 4 to 6 inches or more. (This is me! When I was stung in the hand last year, my entire arm swelled up.)
  3. 1-3%
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What is a dry drowning?

Dry drowning and secondary drowning

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about kids and water safety.

I want to add some information about two little known conditions called “dry drowning” and “secondary drowning.” They’re relatively rare, thank goodness, but can happen up to 24 hours following a near-drowning when parents think their child is no longer in danger.

Both a dry drowning and a secondary drowning occur out of the water, after a child inhales some water. He or she might look panicked and cough violently for a short time. Often these kids then feel well … Continue reading

Save money – Tips for healthy teeth

healthy teethPreventive care saves money

As anyone without dental insurance (like me!) can tell you, dental care is expensive. In a previous post I share some ideas for saving money at the dentist.

But the best thing you can do, and teach your kids to do, is take care of your teeth. Healthy teeth save money.

That means taking time to care for your teeth EVERY DAY.

Did you know that with proper oral care small cavities can heal themselves? If your dentist finds a small cavity, ask about watching and waiting for a few months to see if you … Continue reading

What is RIP Medical Debt?

rip medical debtDebt forgiveness

I recently found out about an intriguing non-profit—RIP Medical Debt.

I’ve posted many times about the high cost of healthcare, even for those of us with health insurance. Medical debt is still a leading cause of personal bankruptcies in this country.

What if those debts could just disappear?

For a lucky few, they can.

RIP Medical Debt, Inc., was founded in mid-2014 by two former collections industry executives, Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton. Having worked for decades in the medical field, the two were acutely aware of the number of Americans who shoulder the burden

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First aid for fireworks injuries

By July 5, most large communities have reported property damage—fires, mostly—and bodily damage—burns, missing fingers, blindness.

As a reminder to everybody to be careful around fireworks—my preference is to avoid them altogether—the San Diego Fire Department put together this great public service video demonstrating the danger of explosives fireworks.

If you want some pretty graphic reasons to stay away from fireworks, just go to YouTube and search for “fireworks injuries.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following tips to keep kids safe:

  • Fireworks can result in severe burns, blindness, scars, and even death.
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Home remedies for sunburns

sunburnsFew summer ailments are as common as sunburns.

Prevention is key, of course, and you can read my previous posts on using sunscreens and how to save money on them.

But if you or your kids get a sunburn, here are some simple steps you can take to stop the burning and promote healing.

You don’t need to buy a bunch of special products. I do keep an inexpensive bottle of aloe vera gel in my medicine cabinet as one of my basic first aid supplies.

Tips to treat sunburns

  • Cool the skin. Whether
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John Oliver on scientific studies

I love John Oliver and his show Last Week Tonight. Maybe because he frequently comments on or makes fun of our behemoth and costly healthcare system.

Related post: John Oliver mocks Big Pharma tactics

If you missed it, here’s the video of his show lampooning “scientific studies.” You know, the research mass media loves to package into scary sound bites (everything causes cancer) and healthcare corporations use to sell us something we probably don’t need.

TODD Talks

Especially funny is this skit that shows how those TV infomercials can beguile us into thinking their … Continue reading

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