Good Dog!

Owning a dog may be good for your health.

If you’re a dog person, you are familiar with the warmth a pup can bring into a home. Dogs are always happy to see “their person” and provide endless affection and joy. It tuns out, they do all that and more – owning a dog may actually be good for your health. According to the CDC, some of the health benefits of pet ownership include: decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduced depression, and improved physical health. Owning a dog is not the sole answer to reducing heart disease or high blood pressure, but it may be a practical part of your overall strategy. So, how do those puppy dog eyes positively impact a person’s health? Read on for four ways a four-legged friend may improve your overall wellbeing.

Get and stay active. There are few things to motivate someone to get off the couch and take a walk like a whining dog. Dog owners are more likely to meet fitness recommendations each week than a person that does not own a dog. Whether taking the pup for a walk, or stepping outside to toss a tennis ball, dogs motivate their owners to get active.

Reduce stress. Dog are trained to be therapy or service animals for a reason. They have been found to reduce anxiety and blood pressure and increase serotonin and dopamine (neurochemicals that boost your mood and overall wellbeing).  

Improve your mood. Dogs may even help keep depression at bay. In addition to increasing serotonin and dopamine, they provide structure and meaning to their owner’s life (as an owner, you must get up in the morning to walk or let your dog out), encourage socialization and prevent isolation and loneliness. For some, having the structure and companionship of a pooch can help protect against cognitive decline and depression.  

Benefits for kids. There is evidence that exposure to a pet at a young age may lower the risk of becoming allergic to animals later in life. Little ones may even develop a stronger immune system. Dogs also present an opportunity for children to learn about responsibility, empathy and independence.


While dogs provide several health benefits, there are also risks associated with having a dog in your home. Dogs and other pets cause a number of falls each year, especially for older adults or people with mobility issues. If you’re considering adopting a dog, chat with your doctor first.

Cold Versus Flu

You know when it’s coming – that foggy feeling, muscle aches, sneezing. You’re getting sick. You start to consider your plan of attack, but first you need to know what you’re dealing with. Is this a cold or something more severe? Read on to learn difference between cold and flu symptoms.

What is the difference between a cold and flu?

Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense. Colds are usually milder than flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can have very serious associated complications.

How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu?

Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Special tests that usually must be done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu versus the symptoms of a cold?

The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Are you suffering from flu or cold symptoms? Still need to get the flu shot this season? Save your spot in line at an IHA Urgent Care near you.  

Forming a Healthy Habit

The key to making and keeping new healthy habits

With the new year comes a fresh start and for many people an opportunity to make some positive changes in their lives. With great intentions, they head off into the new year determined to make a go of this year’s resolutions. Too often, busy lives take over and resolutions are abandoned after just a few weeks.  Forming new, positive daily habits is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Read on for some advice on how to incorporate a new habit into your daily routine and make your 2020 resolutions stick!

Pick one goal.

Don’t spread your willpower too thin. Focusing on one goal at a time will increase your chances of actually achieving it.

Look at the small picture.

Rather than setting a resolution for the whole year, start with one month or even one week. Your goal should feel attainable with as little pressure as possible.

Make a sub-habit.

There are things you do every single day without even thinking about it: brushing your teeth, feeding the dog, walking into the house after work, you get the idea. Try setting your goal as a sub-habit of one of your already established daily habits. For example, “after I feed the dog, I will take him for a ten-minute walk” or “when I walk in the door after work, I will put my workout clothes on and run one mile”.

Take it one (baby) step at a time.

When forming a new habit, a low-level commitment is much easier to work into your day. Start with simple tasks that make it almost impossible to fail. Once you get started, you may find yourself doing more. Here are some suggestions for daily micro-commitments:

  • Take a 5-minute walk
  • Write one paragraph in your journal
  • Eat one serving of vegetables

Plan for obstacles.

Weather, time, cost or illness will no doubt present a challenge in achieving your goal of forming a new healthy habit. Plan ahead for challenges and be ready to work through them. Come up with “if-then” statements to help make it over predictable stumbling blocks;

  • If I am not able to sustain the cost of a gym membership, I will walk in my neighborhood or local mall
  • If I am not able to walk outside due to weather, I will do floor exercises in the basement for 20 minutes
  • If I’m not feeling well enough to walk or do a full work out, I will lift weights for 10 minutes

Hold yourself accountable.

We all have the friend that checks in at the gym every day on social media. Well, maybe they have the right idea. When your progress is monitored or witnessed by others, you are more likely to follow-through with your commitment. Consider creating or joining a group with similar goals, and post or text each other when you complete your daily goal. You may also want to tell your primary care physician about your goals and expect to follow-up next year or at your next exam.

Reward yourself!

Take time to celebrate your success! Having something to look forward to will motivate you along the way. Choose rewards that support your new healthy habit – avoid rewarding yourself with sugary treats or days off from your new habit. Instead, download new music for your workout routine, see a movie, or grab lunch with a friend.


Have you scheduled your 2020 wellness exam? Make an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss some health goals that may benefit your physical and psychological well-being.

Healthy Holidays

6 Tips for a healthy holiday season

There’s nothing like the holidays. For many people, the holidays mean reuniting with family and friends, lots of hugs, handshakes and – So. Many. Germs. (Of course, the holidays are in the heart of flu season!) We’ve pulled together some tips for staying healthy during the holiday season, so your New Year is merry too.

  1. Wash your hands every chance you get. This is great advice for adults and children alike. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Especially after greeting family or friends. You may want to bring along a couple travel size bottles of hand lotion. All that washing can dry your skin.
  2. Bundle up! Depending on where you are celebrating, wear weather appropriate clothing and outerwear. Doing your best to stay dry and warm will help keep you well.
  3. Don’t stress. Well, manage your stress. The most wonderful time of the year is often the busiest. Take time out for yourself and your family if you are feeling overwhelmed. Seek support from family and friends and get your sleep.
  4. Keep your eyes on children. When you’re hosting or part of a large gathering, it’s easy to lose track of kids. Keep potentially dangerous decorations, candles, drinks and food away from children. Work with the other adults in attendance to ensure someone always has an eye on the children in the group.
  5. Prepare and consume food safely. Remember these simple steps: Wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate foods promptly. If you aren’t sure about the hygiene of the kitchen or the length of time the food has been sitting out, don’t eat anything that can potentially get you sick.
  6. Take care of yourself. Get your annual exams checked off for the year or catch up on your vaccines over the holidays.

In spite of your best efforts, if you catch something other than the holiday spirit this season, don’t stress. IHA Urgent Care locations have holiday hours. Don’t spend your holiday waiting in a waiting room. Save your spot in line at an Urgent Care location near you, and wait at home.

Give Thanks

Create grateful hearts with a Family Thankful Jar

When we are consumed by the everyday hustle, it’s hard to stop and express gratitude to and for those around us. Thanksgiving presents the perfect opportunity to do just that. As the holiday approaches, consider making a family thankful jar to give everyone a chance to express what they are thankful for every day.

Here’s how you can make your own Family Thankful Jar:  

  1. Grab a jar, plastic container or old Easter basket. If they are up for it, have the kids decorate the jar.
  2. Cut up strips of paper & place near the jar with a pen
  3. Encourage the family to jot down a daily gratitude. If you have guests coming to dinner, have them add a note to the jar too!

Once Thanksgiving dinner is done, sit down together, open the jar and read through the notes of gratitude. Taking the time to appreciate each other can have an amazing impact on family dynamics. Thanksgiving is a reason to get started but continue to model and encourage gratitude all year long. Make opening your gratitude jar a monthly event, or have everyone express one gratitude at the end of each day.


IHA Urgent Care locations are open on Thanksgiving! Don’t spend your holiday waiting in a waiting room. Save your spot in line at an Urgent Care location near you, and wait at home.

Take 2: Type 2 Diabetes

Take a proactive approach to preventing Type 2 Diabetes.

Author: Tendai Thomas, MD, FACP

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects one in ten Americans today. Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high. In normal circumstances, your pancreas is able to produce a hormone called insulin which regulates and maintains normal blood sugar levels. However, with diabetes, this process breaks down, causing blood sugar levels to rise to concerning levels. Diabetics have problems with high blood sugars due to a lack of insulin, or because their body does not know how to use insulin well.  It is important to either avoid developing diabetes or keep your diabetes well controlled because diabetes increases your risk for several other conditions including heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, nerve damage, and circulation problems.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes often occurs in young individuals when the immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Subsequently, Type 1 diabetics need to take insulin every day to stay alive. Type 2 diabetes, which is much more common, tends to occur at an older age. Ninety percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. These individuals produce insulin from the pancreas, but it is not used effectively to regulate blood sugar levels.

The top 7 risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  1. Obesity
  2. Sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity or exercise)
  3. Unhealthy eating habits
  4. A family history of diabetes
  5. Increased age
  6. Hypertension and high cholesterol
  7. Diabetes during pregnancy

If you are at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, there are some steps you can take to delay or even prevent the diagnosis.

Start by knowing your risk level. Take this quiz from the American Diabetes Association to find out where you stand: https://www.diabetes.org/risk-test

Lose weight and keep it off. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor preventing diabetes. Losing 5% – 10% of your body weight can make a big difference in reducing your risk of getting the disease. Once you achieve your weight loss goals, work to keep the weight off. 

Stick to a healthy eating plan. Reducing your daily calorie, carbohydrate and sugar intake is key to weight loss. Consume smaller portions at every meal, eat less processed and simple sugar filled foods, and avoid drinks high in sugar. Remember your food groups when meal planning for the week. A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from every group!

Exercise 5 days a week. Exercise provides many benefits to your health. Make a goal to get 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. You can also consider obtaining an exercise partner to help keep you focused and on target. If exercise hasn’t been a part of your routine, talk to your physician for ideas to start slowly and work towards your goal.  

Don’t smoke. Smoking can contribute to insulin resistance and many other health conditions related to diabetes. If you do smoke, please talk with your doctor about different approaches you can take that will help you quit.

Go at your own pace. When we make major changes to our diet or activity level, it’s easy to get frustrated along the way. Go slowly and create goals that are realistic for you and your body. Start with small steps and small changes and work your way up! 

Keep your physician in the loop. Make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your primary care physician. They will help determine what else you can do to reduce your risk for Diabetes, and if you have already been diagnosed, they can help prescribe and manage any medications necessary to keep you feeling your best!

If you have already been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, there are several treatments for managing your diabetes. For all individuals, nutrition is the key element for managing diabetes. In addition, since most people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight, lifestyle changes that include regular exercise and weight loss are extremely important. Other therapies include the use of oral medications, injectables, and insulin administration. Talk to your primary care physician to find the best treatment for you.

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Winterize Your Skin

Cracking down on dry hands.

Winter is just around the corner, and with it come fun winter sports, cozy sweaters, and a great excuse to stay inside and watch a movie. The not-so-fun side of winter includes dry and cracked skin on your hands.  The skin on your hands is thinner and has few oil glands than the rest of your body, so we’ve got some tips to help you be extra kind to your hands during the winter months.

  1. Dust off the humidifier. When the heat comes on, the skin dries out. To help replace some of the moisture in the air, pull the humidifier out of the closet and fill ‘er up!
  2. A lot of moisturizer. We wash our hands more in the winter months to avoid illnesses, and that coupled with the cold weather is hard on your skin. To avoid cracked skin on your hands, keep bottle of moisturizer on your sink, and apply lotion every time you wash your hands. Keep another tube of moisturizer in your car or with you in a work bag or purse and apply several times a day.
  3. Bundle up! Whether you prefer gloves or mittens, get a pair that you will wear, and protect the  skin on your hands from harsh temperatures and cold surfaces.
  4. Avoid super hot water. There are few things more comforting than a hot shower after being out in the cold, but super hot water actually dehydrates your skin. Keep your shower temperature on the warm side and buy a fancy pair of rubber gloves for doing the dishes.
  5. Know when to seek help. If you are diligent about skincare, but you can’t seem to stop the peeling or cracking, it may be time to see a professional. Persistent dryness could be a sign of a health condition like eczema, psoriasis or even an allergic reaction. Sometimes store-bought moisturizers won’t do the trick, so you may need to take a different approach to treating your dry skin.

It’s easy to schedule an appointment with your provider – simply visit our online appointment tool, scroll to find your provider, and click to schedule an appointment at a time that works for your family!

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Fall Back (without falling apart)

Helping your child adjust to the time change

Even though we gain an hour in the fall time change, it can have an impact on sleep schedules for parents and children alike.  The sleep periods don’t move, but the time does. So, a child that normally sleeps from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am, will now come bouncing out of their room at 5:00 am. Ouch. What can you do to help your child (and yourself) adjust to daylight savings time? Start with these 4 steps:

  1. Adjust schedules.

Put your child to bed a half hour later than usual, to prepare for falling back an hour. For a teenager, time changes can be especially difficult. Encourage them to stick to their original schedule and get to be an hour earlier than the clock reads (at their original time). Also, clear your schedule the day after a time change to make the transition a little easier on everyone in your house.

2. Get ready to get up!

You know your little ones are going to be ready to roll an hour earlier than usual. Do yourself a favor, and get to sleep at your normal bedtime, so you are ready to roll when they are (or as ready as possible).

3. Be patient.

Gaining an hour is much easier than losing one, but we still feel a stress on our minds and bodies. Be patient with yourself and your kids.

4. Routines rule!

Kids do well with routines, especially when things are changing around them. Keep consistent and stick with your typical routine to help them adjust mentally and physically to their new schedule.

If you have concerns about your child’s sleep schedule, don’t lose sleep! Reach out to your pediatrician or pediatric provider for some help.

It’s easy to schedule an appointment with your pediatric provider – simply visit our online appointment tool, scroll to find your pediatric provider, and click to schedule an appointment at a time that works for your family!

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Halloween Safety

Starting November 1st every year, most children begin their countdown to the next Halloween. And why wouldn’t they? Costumes! Candy! Late bedtimes! While there’s so much fun to be had, there are also safety concerns. Read on for safety reminders to ensure your Halloween night is delightful, not frightful.

  • Trick-or-treat in groups or individually with a trusted adult.
  • Be sure drivers can see you walking or crossing the street, Wear glow sticks or add some reflective tape to the costume.
  • Bring a flashlight along, so you can see where you’re going and avoid falling.
  • Walk. Don’t run.
  • Look both ways when crossing the street and use crosswalks when possible.
  • If you’re driving, go slow and keep your eyes open for trick-or-treaters.
  • An adult should look over the candy haul before anyone digs in. Factory wrapped treats are the safest. Homemade treats from strangers are not safe. Pay close attention to any ingredients that may trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Approach well-lit homes only, and never enter a stranger’s home.
  • Do not accept a ride from stranger. Ever.
  • If heading out in a group, plan the route ahead of time, and share it with a trusted adult.
  • Pumpkins are hard to carve, even for adults. Use a knife with a rounded tip and be sure a grown-up does the carving or oversees the activity.  
  • Use caution if candles are part of your décor. Look for fire-resistant costumes and place open flames in a safe spot (away from little hands, claws, paws…) Battery operated, or LED candles are the safest choice.
  • Accessories can make or break the costume. Be sure they are short, soft and flexible.
  • If makeup or face paint is part of you or your child’s costume, test it on a small part of your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin, before applying it on Halloween night.

If you’re faced with a Halloween boo boo or illness, don’t go batty. IHA Urgent Care locations are open late and are ready to treat you and your pumpkins.

Wait in line at home, click below to save your spot in an IHA Urgent Care close to you.

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Flu Shot FAQs

What are the benefits of the flu vaccination?

Receiving the flu vaccines reduces flu illnesses, sick appointments or hospital stays, and missed time from work or school. It can also be life-saving for high risk patients like children or seniors.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. However, you may experience some minor side effects like, soreness, redness or swelling at the shot site, a low grade fever, and some aches.

For those that receive the nasal spray, the viruses are weakened and do not cause severe symptoms often associated with influenza illness. Side effects from the nasal spray may include, runny nose, sore throat, cough, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, or fever.

Who should get vaccinated this season?

Everyone six months of age and older should receive a flu vaccine at the beginning of the flu season, typically every fall.

Who should not be vaccinated against seasonal flu?

A patients age, health or allergies may determine they should not receive the flu vaccine. Talk with your physician to ensure you or your children should receive the flu vaccine.

Why should I get my child vaccinated?

The flu is dangerous for all people, but children under five years old are at an especially high risk when they get sick with the seasonal flu. The flu vaccine is your and your children’s best defense against contracted and spreading the flu.

When should I get a flu vaccine?

For people receiving one dose of the flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that people get the flu vaccine by the end of October. If your child requires two doses, they will need to be given four weeks apart, so chat with your pediatrician on the best time to give the first dose. Getting the vaccine in the summer months may result is reduced protection later in the flu season, especially for high risk patients.  There are benefits to receiving the flu vaccine later in the season, so it’s never too late to be vaccinated!

How effective is the flu vaccine?

The patient’s age and health status will determine the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, as well as how well the flu in the vaccine matches the flu circulating in your community. The CDC estimates that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population, when the seasonal flu circulating is well-matched with the flu vaccine. 

Besides vaccination, how can people protect themselves against the flu?

Getting the flu vaccine every year is your best defense against the flu. People should also take preventive actions every day. These include, frequently washing hands, covering coughs using the inside of your elbow, not your hand, and avoid having contact with people who are sick (even if they haven’t been diagnosed with the flu).

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

This year’s flu shot is available at IHA Primary Care practices and pediatric doses are available at IHA Pediatric practices. Adults and children may receive the flu shot at any IHA Urgent Care location. Click below to schedule your flu shot.

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