Play it Safe

How to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure while playing youth sports

Many youth sports leagues are easing back into practice and in some cases competition. While it’s a much-welcomed change after a summer of quarantine, whatever you or your children play, you should play it safe. There are a number of steps you can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and reduce the spread while playing sports. The more people a participant interacts with, the closer the physical interaction, the more sharing of equipment there is by multiple players, and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Therefore, risk of COVID-19 spread can be different, depending on the type of activity. Read on for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Make a game plan to reduce risk

  • Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with members of the same household
  • Increasing Risk: Team-based practice
  • More Risk: Within-team competition
  • Higher Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area (e.g., city or county)
  • Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas (e.g., outside county or state)
  • If organizations are not able to keep safety measures in place during competition (for example, keeping participants six feet apart at all times), they may consider limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only
  • Similarly, if organizations are unable to put in place safety measures during team-based activities, they may choose individual or at-home activities, especially if any members of the team are at an increased risk for severe illness
Source: CDC

Prepare before you participate in sports

  • Bring supplies to help you and others stay healthy—for example, masks (bring extra), hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, and drinking water.
  • Prioritize participating in outdoor activities over indoor activities and stay within your local area as much as possible.
  • If using an indoor facility, allow previous groups to leave the facility before entering with your team. If possible, allow time for cleaning and/or disinfecting.
  • Check the league’s COVID-19 prevention practices before you go to make sure they have steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • If you are at an increased risk for severe illness or have existing health conditions, take extra precautions and preventive actions during the activity or choose individual or at-home activities.

Stay home if sick

If the participant has symptoms of COVID-19, has been diagnosed with COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, they should stay home and not participate in any sports.

Have smaller team sizes

  • Sports with a large number of players on a team may increase the likelihood of spread compared to sports with fewer team members.
  • Limit your team to a core group of participants, by restricting non-team players from joining when your team is short players and not adding new members during the season.

Reduce physical closeness between players when possible

  • Maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and your teammates, other competitors, and officials while actively participating in the sport.
  • Focus on building individual skills, like batting, dribbling, kicking, and strength training.
  • Avoid high fives, handshakes, fist bumps or hugs.
  • Keep space between players in the practice areas, including on the sideline, dugout, and bench.
  • Wait in car or away from the playing area until just before the warm-up period or the beginning of the game.
  • Avoid congregating in the parking lot or near the field before or after games.
    • If it is not possible to avoid congregating, practice social distancing by ensuring there is at least 6 feet between participants.
    • If social distancing is not possible, wear a mask whenever possible to reduce risk of virus transmission.

Space out spectators by 6 feet

  • Limit nonessential visitors, spectators, and volunteers. Ensure they wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Wear a mask if possible

  • Wear a mask if feasible, especially when it is difficult to stay less than 6 feet apart from other people or indoors, for example in close contact sports such as basketball.
  • Lower intensity sports: Emphasize wearing masks and practicing social distancing for lower intensity sports.
  • Higher intensity sports: People who are engaged in high intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a mask if it causes difficulty breathing.
  • If unable to wear a mask, consider conducting the activity in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where it is possible to maintain physical distance from others.
  • In situations where individuals might raise their voices, such as shouting or chanting, we strongly encourage wearing masks.
  • For youth athletes, parents, coaches, and sports administrators should decide if the kids need to wear a mask.
  • It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for masks.

Minimize sharing of equipment or gear

  • Encourage players to bring their own equipment if possible, like gloves, balls, and helmets.
  • Limit the use of frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface.
  • Bring your own water to minimize use and touching of drinking fountains.
  • Clean and disinfect shared items between use.
  • Don’t share towels, clothing, or any items used to wipe your face or hands.
  • Avoid sharing food, drink containers (e.g., coolers), and utensils.

Cover your coughs and sneezes.

  • When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Used tissues should be thrown away and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.

Wash hands

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
    • Before and after you play.
    • Before adjusting your mask—review information about proper use, removal, and washing of masks.

Limit travel outside of your area

  • Consider competing against teams in your local area (neighborhood, town, or community).

Checklist for coaches

  • Send a welcome email or call parents (for youth players) and/or players. Inform them about actions that the sports program will take to protect players. Remind them to stay home if sick or if they have been around someone who is sick.
  • Be a role model. Wear a mask and encourage family members, fans, officials, and sports staff to wear one during practices and games.
  • Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to players before and after practice/game and encourage them to wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Educate players about covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow. Discourage spitting.
  • youths practicing basketball
  • Encourage players to focus on building individual skills
  • Remind players about social distancing and identify markers (such as signage or tape on floor).
  • Encourage your players to focus on building their individual skills and cardiovascular conditioning, so they can limit close contact with other players.
  • Check with your sports administrator to make sure they are following cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on field, court, or play surface (such as drinking fountains) at least daily or between use.
  • Clean and disinfect shared equipment.

If you have questions or concerns about your child participating in sports this fall, make an appointment to talk it over with yout pediatric provider.

Summer Snacking

Thirst-quenching and healthy snacks perfect for hot days

We’re entering the final weeks of summer and no doubt soaking up as much time outside as we can before temperatures fall. All that time outdoors mean sweating which may put you at risk for dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as skin sensitivities. Eating fresh, in-season fruit is a great way to combat the effects of summer heat. Try one – or several – of these picks next time you head out(side).  

  • Watermelon: 90% water means it’s great for hydrating. Watermelon is also high in cramp fighting potassium, lycopene and immune-booster gluathione.
  • Grapes: At 90% water, grapes are the perfect summer snack. They are also a great source of vitamin K and manganese. Plus, with a bit of fiber, they keep you feeling full.
  • Blackberries: This powerhouse of a fruit contains a lot of polyphenols, chemicals that can help cut inflammation that leads to heart disease. They also help your lower intestine break down sugar which could lower your odds of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Bananas: Before you go bananas working out, be sure you have a banana on hand. They can help your body recover from tough workouts, and some cyclists said having a banana before they ride helped them go faster and recover faster than those that only had water.
  • Pistachios: Rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals, this small, but mighty snack is also high in antioxidants and may help with inflammation. Plus, about 20 of them is only around 80 calories and less than a gram of saturated fat. You may even burn a couple calories cracking them open!
  • Lemons: Not just a pretty garnish, lemons and limes are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids. Try one in your next glass of water.
  • Kiwis: This little fruit is mean, green, germ-fighting machine! Rich in vitamins C, E and K, high in fiber and contains lutein which may protect eyes from some diseases. Like the banana, the kiwi also has some potassium, a must have for heart, muscles, nerves and more.
  • Strawberries: This summer staple if full of vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants and folic acid.
  • Blueberries: When it comes to antioxidants, this is a blue-ribbon berry. They give the digestive system a boost, with up to 14% of your daily fiber intake and contain vitamin c you need to promote healing and give your immune system a boost.
  • Peaches:  You’ll feel peachy after you have one. A single peach can give you 10% or more of the vitamin C you need each day. A great way to boost your immune system and help your body’s ability to heal.
  • Pineapple: This fruit tray favorite is full of vitamin C, has some fiber to help your digestive track, bromelain, an enzyme that may ease inflammation, and manganese for muscle tone and bone health. Plus, one cup contains only 82 calories!
  • Avocados: Another great source of potassium. Avocados are full of heart-healthy fats and fiber, vitamins
  • Cherries: Delicious as they are healthy, grab a bag of cherries and you’ll get the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidant quercetin. Not to mention, help kill cancer cells, control blood sugar and help prevent heart disease.
  • Cantaloupe: Sliced, cubed or blended into a smoothie, the cantaloupe is rich in potassium, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Chilled, it’s the perfect summer afternoon treat.

Interested in learning more about how your diet impacts your health? IHA offers nutrition counseling services at many practice locations. Nutrition counseling is provided by IHA nutrition specialists/registered dietitians. Their expertise can provide you with the necessary knowledge to achieve all your individual and family dietary needs.

Learn more by contacting IHA Primary Care.

Hiring In-home services or repairs

Source: Centers for Disease Control

CDC offers the following tips for staying safe and slowing the spread of COVID-19 while scheduling services or repairs inside the home. This may include installation and repair of plumbing, electrical, heating, or air conditioning systems; painting; or cleaning services.

In general, the closer and longer you interact with others, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Limiting close face-to-face contact and staying at least 6 feet away from other people is the best way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, along with wearing masks and practicing everyday preventive actions. Before welcoming service providers into your home, consider these tips to help keep you, your family, and the service provider safe during in-home services or repairs:

Before the visit

  • Check with your local health department to see if there is a stay-at-home order in your state or local community that restricts non-essential activities or services. If a stay-at-home order is in effect in your community, consider if the service request is essential or if it can be delayed.
  • If you or someone in your home has COVID-19, has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, wait to schedule non-emergency services that require entry into your home until it is safe to be around others.
  • If you or someone in your home is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with underlying medical conditions, consider not being inside the home during the service, or find someone else who can be in the home instead.
  • Do as much of the pre-service consultation as possible before the service provider arrives, to reduce the amount of time the service provider spends inside your home. For example, discuss the details of the service request on the phone or by email, and send pictures ahead of time.
  • Discuss any COVID-19 precautions the service provider is taking, including the use of masks for the duration of the service visit, any pre-screening procedures (such as temperature checks) and using the restroom during the service call.


During the visit

  • Do not allow service providers to enter your home if they seem sick or are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Ask the service provider to wear a mask before entering your home and during the service visit. Also, you and other household members should wear a mask. Consider having clean, spare masks to offer to service providers if their cloth face covering becomes wet, contaminated or otherwise soiled during the service call.
  • Avoid physical greetings, for example, handshakes.
  • Minimize indoor conversations. All conversations with the service providers should take place outdoors, when possible, and physically distanced indoors, if necessary.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from the service provider, and limit interactions between the service provider and other household members and pets.
  • During indoor services, take steps to maximize ventilation inside the home, such as turning on the air conditioner or opening windows in the area.


After the visit

  • If possible, use touchless payment options or pay over the phone to avoid touching money, a card, or a keypad. If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after paying.
  • After the service is completed, clean and disinfect any surfaces in your home that may have been touched by the service provider.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and need to be tested, Save Your Spot at Fever and Upper Respiratory Illness Clinic at an IHA Urgent Care near you.

IHA Lifestyle Medicine Fueling Friday

The IHA Lifestyle Medicine team is back Fueling Your Friday! Try this yummy Chickpea Avocado Dip this weekend – it’s like marrying hummus and guacamole.

Ingredients

• 2 small or 1 large ripe avocado
• 1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas-drained and rinsed
• 1 lemon-squeezed
• Garlic powder to taste
• Pepper to taste

Preparation

• Add all ingredients to blender
• Keep in tupperware in refrigerator


What is Lifetstyle Medicine? Lifestyle Medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a whole food, plant-predominant dietary lifestyle, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connection as a primary therapeutic modality for treatment and reversal of chronic disease.

Sun Safety: Protection is key for fun in the sun

Fifteen minutes. According to the Center for Disease Control, that’s all it takes for the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to damage your skin. When you’re on having fun outside, 15 minutes goes by quickly. It feels great to soak up those rays, but they are harming your skin and are putting you at risk for long-term skin damage and worse, skin cancer. Before you head out into the sun for the day, take some time and precautions to keep yourself and your family safe all season long, and you’ll be golden for some fun in the sun!

USE SUNSCREEN
It’s one of the easiest ways to prevent skin cancer. Look for a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB, an SPF of at least 30, and water resistant. When applying sunscreen, more is more. You want to be sure to get a thick layer of sunscreen on your skin in order for the SPF to do its job. For an average size person, remember the teaspoon rule, and adjust for all ages and body types: 1 teaspoon to the face/neck/scalp1 teaspoon for each arm1 teaspoon to the chest and abdomen, 1 teaspoon to the back, 2 teaspoons for each leg.

Sunblock lotions are the preferred choice, but if you are using a spray sunscreen, apply outside by holding the bottle close to the skin and spray on each area for approximately 6 seconds, or until the sunscreen is visible on the skin (typically, when it looks white). Then, rub it in. Don’t apply spray sunscreen directly to the face. Instead, spray generously into your hand and apply to your face as you would a lotion. Don’t forget to apply a lip balm with an SPF of 30, too!

Sunscreen will wear off throughout the day. Be sure to reapply every two hours and following exposure to water or sweat.

If you’re avoiding sunscreen because you don’t like how it feels on your skin or you had an allergic reaction, try another type or brand. There are a variety of choices by a variety of brands, so if you aren’t happy with one, try another until you find one that works with your skin. You may want to make an appointment with your primary care provider or dermatologist to discuss your individual needs. After all, the best sunscreen is the one you will wear!

AVOID EXPOSURE BETWEEN 10 AM AND 4 PM
Have you heard of the shadow rule? If your shadow is shorten than you are in real life, the sun’s rays are strong. During this time, you should avoid exposure or follow precautions to protect yourself and your family. For our region in the Midwest, the sun is most intense from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so you’ll want to be the most vigilante in protecting your skin during this time.

USE SUNGLASSES
Your eyes will absorb those harmful rays much like your skin does. Look for sunglasses that block and absorb UVA and UVB light. The lenses should fit close to the skin and be large enough to cover your eyes and the surrounding areas. The bigger the better! Polarized lenses will help eliminate glare, which is great for driving or days in the water or snow.

DRINK MORE WATER
When you’re sweating, you are losing water. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially in hot weather to keep dehydration at bay. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Also, look for signs of heat exhaustion such as; feeling overheated, tired or weak. Nausea, headaches and dizziness are also indications that it’s time to get out of the sun, cool down and drink some water. Heat stroke is a more serious condition. If you or someone in your family stops sweating, has red and/or hot skin, a high temperature, confusion or is suddenly uncoordinated, seek medical attention right away.

GO LONG!: WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING
Long-sleeved shirts and long pants provide an extra layer of protection while spending time out in the sun. Look for clothing made with tightly woven fabrics. Those linen pants aren’t going to protect you from the sun, so be sure to wear sunscreen underneath. When playing the water, look for bathing suits that feature a sun shirt, especially for little ones.

HATS OFF ON!: WEAR A BROAD RIMMED HAT
Wearing a hat with a full brim is a great way to protect the scalp, ears, face and neck from exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Tightly woven fabric is the key to a good hat, straw hats are cute, but don’t provide the protection you need. When purchasing sun hats for the family, be sure to pick the correct sizes for each person. Kids will pull off a hat that slips down over their eyes.Seek the shade & avoid direct sunlight

Trees or shelters block the sun’s UV rays and provide ultimate protection. Seek out these spaces when spending time outdoors to help protect yourself and your family from painful sunburns and help reduce the risk of skin cancer. When you can’t find shade, make it! Invest in a beach umbrella or tent to shield your family from the sunlight.

BE CAUTIOUS OF REFLECTIONS
Your exposure to the sun’s rays increases when the sun shines onto and reflects off of bright surfaces, like water, sand or house paint, for example. When spending time near a reflective surface, ensure everyone is sporting sunglasses and sunscreen or protective clothing are being used consistently.

TANNING
Don’t. Tan skin is damaged skin and the impact can last or even shorten a lifetime. Tanning should not be part of a beauty regiment at any point in a person’s life.

PROTECTION 365 DAYS
Skin cancer prevention is not seasonal. Sure, we wear less clothing and spend more time outside in the sun’s rays during the summer months, but protection from those rays is just as important during the winter months. UV rays reflect off snow just as they do off of sand, water and concrete. Apply sunscreen to the face and any other exposed skin, wear sunglasses and lip balm every day. When it comes to sun safety, there’s a lot of information to soak in. Download this handy checklist and keep it in your beach bag to help ensure you and your family are covered for summer skin protection.

Sun Safety Checklist

For questions concerning dangers to your skin from the sun, consult with your dermatologist.


Did you kow you can schedule video appointments with your providers?

Originally published July 2019

An open letter to the communities we serve.

Who could have imagined the struggles that all of us would encounter from this unprecedented global pandemic? Not only has it brought our state and country great economic stress, but it also has changed how healthcare services will be delivered forevermore.

Early in the crisis, IHA’s healthcare providers and staff took multiple steps to help our community respond to the pandemic. Within a matter of days, our medical group opened drive-thru testing sites, implemented a free on-line COVID screening tool, and designated locations where patients with fevers and upper respiratory symptoms could be treated. Additionally, we rolled-out video appointments for all our patients and began piloting home care visits for our most vulnerable patients.

These are complicated times with rapidly changing standards, which is why IHA has been providing regular updates to our staff and providers, as well as our patients. In a matter of weeks, IHA has addressed the most significant and complex changes to face healthcare in our lifetime, but we are not done. We are moving toward what many are calling the “new normal.”

Staying safe in the “new normal”.
Video appointments continue to be our primary method used to treat patients. Since launching this service just a few weeks ago, we have
completed nearly 25,000 video appointments. The decline in new COVID cases is enabling IHA to reconnect in-person with patients whose
appointments, surgeries or outpatient procedures were cancelled. Over the next two weeks, our physicians and practitioners will slowly increase the number of in-person appointments they offer and surgeries they perform. As we reopen more offces, we want to assure you that we are committed to being both responsive and responsible, navigating these unusual times with everyone’s safety in mind.

Numerous safeguards and quality measures are in place across IHA to care for COVID and Non-COVID patients. These include our use of telehealth visits which are actively being embraced by our patients and our providers alike.

IHA is following CDC guidelines and has put additional cleaning and screening processes in place to keep anyone entering an IHA building
safe. These processes include requiring all staff and patients to wear masks and having their temperature checked before entering a practice. Along with maintaining appropriate social distancing, items such as hand sanitizer and tissues will be prominent in every location.

Saving lives, improving quality of life.

Our difficult journey is not over, but we must look to the future. Children need to maintain their immunization schedules, older adults or those with complex medical issues need their health and medications regularly monitored, and further delaying surgeries or exploratory procedures may cause serious harm or lead to other health problems. The steps we are following to reopen are being implemented with extreme care and will be constantly evaluated. As a member of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, we are working together on safety and security protocols. We have developed COVID-Free Zones, areas where we provide care only for people not known to have COVID-19 or COVID symptoms. We wish to assure the community that our healthcare delivery system is working closer than ever to keep your health and wellness at the center of everything.

Over the past two months, no one industry has learned more than healthcare about the need to change and adapt quickly in order to
care for those we serve. Our lives have drastically changed but fulfilling IHA’s mission of healing will remain with us forever. Please know that we stand ready to care for you. IHA’s motto “our family caring for yours” has never meant more to us than it does today.

We encourage you to call your provider’s office or visit ihacares.com today to learn about the many ways we can connect and safely provide the care that you need. IHA is here for you.

Mark LePage, MD | IHA CEO

Cindy Elliott, RN | IHA President & COO

Coping with Stress

Helpful reminders for when you feel stressed

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Even the most laid back, easy-going people feel stressed sometimes. And considering our current situation, a pandemic and all, stress pretty much goes with the territory. Luckily, the CDC has some important reminders to help manage stress and support yourself.

Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to the news.

The news is everywhere, it’s so hard to escape. If your stress levels are up, then an escape may be just what you need.  Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

Take care of your body.

When you feel like stress is taking over, take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.

Make time to unwind.

Make a list of the things you enjoy most. What can you do right now? What can you plan to do in the future, to help give you something to look forward to? If you’re a person that creates a daily schedule, include some time to do what makes you happy. You may also try setting an alarm or reminder on your digital calendar to stop and take a few minutes for yourself.

Connect with Others.

Consider who you trust in your life. Who do you think would best understand your current concerns? Seek out people in your life that can help you navigate stressful feelings and lighten your load. With social distancing rules currently in place, you may need to be creative in how you connect with others, phone and video calls work great!

Know when it’s time to seek medical care.

If your stress is keeping you from your daily activities or social interactions, reach out to your healthcare provider. They will be able to help you find a solution and get you feeling like yourself again!

Boost Your Immune System

Lifestyle Medicine tips for a stronger immune system

Source: American College of Lifestyle Medicine

In the last few weeks, the immune system has been brought into the spotlight. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and distinguishes them from the body’s own healthy tissue, according to Merck Manuals. A healthy immune system could be the difference between getting sick and staying healthy. Read on for tips on strengthening your immune system focusing on Lifestyle Medicine. Increasing your body’s immune response is not a guarantee against infection, but it’s a good start.

Mind Your Stress

Pause. Take a few seconds to consider your breathing, listen to a favorite song, or watch a funny video. The stress hormone, cortisol, suppresses immune response. Being mindful, even in small doses, reduces stress and as a result, cortisol production.

No Smoking

Avoid smoking, vaping, or inhaling any substance, which can be toxic to the lungs.

Healthy Eating

What you eat makes all the difference! For strong immunity, consume a wide array of fiber-filled, nutrient-dense, and antioxidant-rich whole plant foods at every meal. Choose a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, eat your beans, consume whole grains, and use a variety of herbs and spices to enhance flavors. Stay hydrated with water!

Purchasing fruit and veggies is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Commit to the piece of produce you choose. Try not to manipulate
    the produce items by touching them and placing them back.
  2. Wash your hands with clean water and soap for a minimum of 20
    seconds after returning from the grocery store. Hand sanitizer for 60
    seconds can also be used.
  3. Produce items should always be washed thoroughly with cold water prior consumption.

Quality Sleep

Aim to sleep for 7 to 9 hours. Develop a routine: Set an alarm for when to go to sleep and when to wake up. Make sure your room is cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Avoid screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime. Practice a “wind down” ritual, like listening to soft music, writing in a journal, or reading a book.

Activity

Regular, moderate physical activity is vital to keeping the immune system strong! While Physical Activity Guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week, as little as 20 minutes can suppress inflammation and support immunity.

Connectivity

Physical distancing is essential when contagious disease risks are high, but not at the expense of being isolated or lonely. Connect with friends and family via FaceTime, Zoom sessions, texting, and phone calls. Positive emotions, which are shown to improve immunity, arise from even brief, virtual social connections.

What is Lifetstyle Medicine? Lifestyle Medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a whole food, plant-predominant dietary lifestyle, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connection as a primary therapeutic modality for treatment and reversal of chronic disease.

Learn more about Lifestyle Medicine at IHA.  

Itching for Relief

April showers bring spring allergies.

By Susanna Lin, MD

It’s that time of the year – trees and gardens “wake up” from hibernation with beautiful blooms and scents filling the air. They also bring runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats. It is allergy season. Allergies can (and do) happen all year, but for many people, when spring starts and trees and grass grow they start feeling allergy symptoms.

Common environmental allergies can be due to dust mites, animals, pollen, grass and trees, just to name a few. Each of these allergies can happen more often in different times of the year. Grass and trees are often bothersome to people in spring, whereas pollens are in the late summer. Dust mite allergies can be found all year round.

When symptoms are bad, many people turn to medications for help. There are some things you can try prior to using medications. For example, for dust mite allergies you can try using dust mite covers on your pillow and bed. Staying in air conditioning may help symptoms when the pollen count is high. You can also flush out the allergens by using a netti pot (follow safe-use guidelines) or saline eye drops.

If you’re ready for medications, decongestants and antihistamines can be the most helpful to allergy sufferers. Decongestants help relieve nasal congestion symptoms once they have started. Antihistamines block the histamine reaction and help prevent symptoms from happening. They often must be taken several days to weeks prior to exposure to the allergens. Nasal steroids can also help decrease nasal congestion symptoms and work right at the source of the congestion. For itchy, water eyes, try allergy eye drops.

If you are having allergy symptoms that are not improving with over the counter medications, it is time to see your primary care doctor to discuss next steps. There may be another reason for your symptoms or other medication or treatments to consider. Allergy testing may also be needed to figure out what specifically you are allergic to so that you can avoid the allergen.

This article was originally published on March 20, 2015, and was updated on April 16, 2020.

Caring for Someone with COVID-19

Recommended precautions for household members, intimate partners, and caregivers of COVID-19 patients

Close contacts of COVID-19 patients should follow these recommendations:
• Make sure that you understand and can help the patient follow their healthcare provider’s instructions for medication(s) and care. You should help the patient with basic needs in the home and provide support for getting groceries, prescriptions, and otherpersonal needs.
• Monitor the patient’s symptoms. If the patient is getting sicker, call his or her healthcare provider and tell them that the patient has laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected. Ask the healthcare provider to call the local or state health department for additional guidance. If the patient has a medical emergency and you need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that the patient has, or is being evaluated for COVID-19.
• Household members should stay in another room or be separated from the patient as much as possible. Household members should use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if available.
• Prohibit visitors who do not have an essential need to be in the home.
• Household members should care for any pets in the home. Do not handle pets or other animals while sick.
• Make sure that shared spaces in the home have good air flow, such as by an air conditioner or an opened window, weather permitting.
• Perform hand hygiene frequently. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• The patient should wear a facemask when you are around other people. If the patient is not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), you, as the caregiver, should wear a mask when you are in the same room as the patient.
• Wear a disposable facemask and gloves when you touch or have contact with the patient’s blood, stool, or body fluids, such as saliva, sputum, nasal mucus, vomit, urine.
• Throw out disposable facemasks and gloves after using them. Do not reuse.
• When removing personal protective equipment, first remove and dispose of gloves. Then, immediately clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Next, remove and dispose of facemask, and immediately clean your hands again with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid sharing household items with the patient. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items. After the patient uses these items, you should wash them thoroughly (see below “Wash laundry thoroughly”).
• Clean all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
• Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
• Wash laundry thoroughly.
• Immediately remove and wash clothes or bedding that have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
• Wear disposable gloves while handling soiled items and keep soiled items away from your body. Clean your hands (with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after removing your gloves.

• Read and follow directions on labels of laundry or clothing items and detergent. In general, using a normal laundry detergent according to washing machine instructions and dry thoroughly using the warmest temperatures recommended on the clothing label.
• Place all used disposable gloves, facemasks, and other contaminated items in a lined container before disposing of them with other household waste. Clean your hands (with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after handling these items. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
• Discuss any additional questions with your state or local health department or healthcare provider. Check available hours when contacting your local health department.

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