Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Flu Vaccine – An Insurance Policy for the Whole Family

No, it’s not foolproof. But an annual flu vaccine is a great way to insure against the flu. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. It’s designed to protect against the three or four flu viruses most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season.1

For most people, a flu vaccine can protect you throughout the flu season, which typically lasts from October to May. The best policy? Get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available, ideally in October.1 


For young kids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children ages 2 through 8. For young children, it may work better than the flu shot (and be a little less scary, too). But if it’s not available early in the flu season, don’t wait. Go ahead with the flu shot.1

Remember: even healthy children are at risk of flu complications that are serious enough to land them in the hospital. Signs of pneumonia include chest pain and fast, difficult breathing. 2


If you’re pregnant.  In recent years, several studies have shown that the flu vaccine is safe and effective, no matter your stage of pregnancy. The flu shot protects both you and your baby. In fact, it is much more dangerous not to be vaccinated. In addition to pneumonia, the flu can lead to premature labor and other complications.

If you’re pregnant, just given birth, or are breast-feeding, however, don’t get the live (nasal mist) vaccine. You should have an inactivated version instead.3


If you’re over 65. As you age, the flu vaccine may not last as well as it does in younger, healthier people. If you’re over 65 or have a weaker immune system, you may not create as many antibodies. And, your antibody levels may drop more quickly.1 

A recent study has found that a high-dose flu shot is more effective in seniors than the standard dose. Approved for people 65 and older, the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine contains four times as much as the standard dose. With its use, the researchers believe that about 25 percent of flu cases in seniors could be prevented.4

The CDC doesn’t recommend this vaccine for all seniors, though. Be sure to talk with your doctor or me to see if it’s right for you or someone your love.


Where to get a flu vaccine. You can always see your doctor or go to a health or student clinic. But you can also take advantage of the Beacon Falls Pharmacy flu clinics.  Clinics are scheduled for Monday, Oct 20, 2:00 – 4:30pm and Saturday, Nov. 15, 11:am – 1:00pm.  The flu clinic is open to people ages 18 and over.  We are hosting the clinic, but the Naugatuck Valley Health District is actually running it.  They take the following insurances: Aetna, Anthem BC, Cigna, ConnectiCare, and Medicare B. The cost for all others is only $20 for the shot.  NVHD accepts cash, check, debit and credit cards (Visa or MasterCard only).  Beacon Falls Pharmacy offers these flu clinics as a free service to the community and does not accept any payment.



Other ways to stay healthy—and keep others healthier—throughout flu season?

·         Wash your hands regularly.

·         Stay away from sick people—as much as possible.

·         If you come down with the flu, stay home. 1 After all, your productivity won’t matter as much if you make everyone at your workplace sick!

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.





1.       CDC: “What You Should Know for the 2014-2015 Influenza Season.” Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2014-2015.htm Accessed September 2, 2014

2.      HealthDay: “When Colds, Flu Lead to Complications in Kids.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_147664.html Accessed September 2, 2014.

3.       HealthDay: “All Pregnant Women Need Flu Shot: Ob/Gyn Group.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_147938.html Accessed: September 2, 2014.

4.      HealthDay: “High-Dose Flu Vaccine May Better Protect the Elderly: Study.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_147843.html Accessed: September 2, 2014.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Helping Your Kids Form Healthy Eating Habits

Helping Your Kids Form Healthy Eating Habits

Every day you see another headline about the obesity epidemic in kids. One of the latest studies shows that obese children face not only long-term risks, but also more immediate ones. They're more likely to have problems such as asthma, learning disabilities, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD).1

                Yet kids (and adults) are surrounded—on television, on billboards, and online —by messages beckoning them to eat sugary, high-fat, often empty-calorie foods. It can feel like an uphill battle to get kids to make healthier choices—especially as they're heading back to school, and out of earshot. Sure, you aren't going to win all the battles. But you can have a huge impact. Here are a few important reminders:

                1. Control the flow. What are you bringing into the house (and what kinds of habits are you modeling)? Remember, you have some control over this until your kid is old enough to shop solo. For now, you have veto power. If you keep the junk out, it can't go in.2

                2. Look at labels. Of course, stocking up on healthy foods means you also need to check labels.2 You might be surprised at what you find. That tub of nonfat flavored yogurt you think is so healthy might be chockfull of sugar—containing even more than the kids' cereal you long ago shunned.

                3. Go for staying power. Go for whole-grain breads, tortillas, pretzels, or cereals. Mix almond butter and celery, apples, or bananas. Try something new once in a while to broaden your kid's tastes. Maybe roasted soy nuts will be a hit. Or, sweet red peppers dipped in hummus. You'll never know unless you give it a try.2

                4. Make it easy. Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter or string cheese or bags of low-sugar, whole-grain cereal within reach. Just don't make eating too easy. In other words, restrict it to the kitchen or dining area. That can go a long way toward limiting mindless snacking in front of the TV or computer screen.2

                5. Watch the sugar. Oh, yes, I know. That's a tough one. Maybe even your sweet tooth gets its way more often than not. But sugar may do more than add extra pounds or cause tooth decay. New evidence links large amounts of sugar—separate from other factors—to the diabetes epidemic.3

                If you do nothing else, nix the sweetened drinks. That includes sodas as well as fruit, energy, and sports drinks. Children who drink them not only consume more calories. They are also more likely to eat unhealthy foods.4 Keep milk and water on hand, instead of fruit juice and sweetened drinks or flavored milk or drinkable yogurt.3

                Along with these five healthy habits, don't forget an insurance policy for your kids: vitamins. When you come into the store, I can advise you about this.




1.                   HealthDay: "Obese Kids May Face Immediate Health Woes, Study Finds." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_133190.html Accessed March 17, 2013.

2.                  Mayo Clinic: "Healthy snacks for kids: 10 child-friendly tips." Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/HQ00419/METHOD=print Accessed March 17, 2013.

3.                   Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH (2013) The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057873. Available at: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057873 Accessed March 17, 2013.

4.                  HealthDay: "Sweet Drinks Tied to Higher Calorie Consumption in Kids." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_134838.html Accessed March 17, 2013.

5.                  FamilyDoctor.org: "Kids: Passing on Health Habits to Your Children." Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/kids/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating/kids-passing-on-healthy-habits-to-your-children.printerview.all.html Accessed March 17, 2013.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Get The Wax Out of Your Ears!

Earwax Basics


Earwax. Great table topic, right? Maybe not, but earwax is a natural, normal part of your body. It helps clean and lubricate your ears. Without it, your ears would become dry and itchy and pretty uncomfortable.

             Earwax forms in glands located in the skin of the outer part of your ears. It traps dust and dirt, and gradually transports these "invaders," along with skin cells, to the ear opening. There, it flakes and falls out or gets washed out by you. When all goes well, you don't even need to clean your ear canals. Just wash your outer ears with soap and water when taking a shower or bath.1,2

            But if earwax builds up, it's time to take action. You may have symptoms such as a feeling of fullness, ringing, discharge, itching, odor, or partial hearing loss.1 Here's another clue: Your family members have started teasing, "Didn't you hear me? Get the wax outta your ears!"

            Start by cleaning the external ear with a cloth, but don't insert anything, such as a cotton-tipped applicator, bobby pin, piece of paper – or even your finger – into your ear canal. This does just the opposite of what you intend: It pushes wax deeper into your ear canal and can cause infection. You can also damage the ear canal or eardrum.2   Whatever you do, don't try a product called ear candles for extracting earwax. These involve inserting a cone-type device into the ear canal and setting the other end on fire! They can cause serious injury. 1,2

            What if you still have symptoms? In most cases, home treatments to soften wax work just fine. I can direct you to some possible options in our store.

            At home, lie on your side and deposit a few drops of one of these products in your ear. If this alone doesn't work, you can try ear syringing. This involves suctioning the wax out of year ears. Again, I can help you find these ear syringes here in our store. They work best if you put water, saline, or wax dissolving drops in the ear canal about 15–30 minutes beforehand.1

            Before trying any of these products, it's best to discuss it with your doctor.2 If you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, perforated eardrum, or tube in your eardrum, a doctor should manually remove any built-up earwax, using special devices such as graspers and suction. A special ear, nose, and throat doctor called an otolaryngologist may be the best person for the job, especially if you have a narrow ear canal. 1 Occasionally, you may also need antibiotic eardrops for an infection.2

            New nickname, Shrek? No worries. Some people make more earwax than others.2  If needed, you can see your doctor for preventive cleaning as often as every 6 to 12 months. 1 

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.



1.                  American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery: "Earwax." Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/earwax.cfm. Accessed April 18, 2012.


2.                  Nemours Foundation: "Dealing With Earwax." Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/earwax.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle. Accessed April 18, 2012.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Children and the Importance of Exercise

Exercise Makes the Grade
Want your child to do better in school? Make sure exercise doesn't get the short end of the stick. A review of 12 exercise studies recently underscored how important exercise is for the brain, not just the body. It found that children who regularly exercised tended to do better in school.1
                These were a few of the research findings:
  • Middle school kids who exercised vigorously for at least 20 minutes, three days a week, achieved higher grades over two semesters than students who did not intensely exercise.
  • Elementary school children with good aerobic fitness were more likely to excel in reading and math.
  • Overweight children who exercised 40 minutes every day for 15 weeks scored better in tests of executive function – the "conductor" of cognitive skills – than overweight kids who only exercised 20 minutes.1
                More research may be needed to reinforce results like these. But researchers point to several possible reasons for these promising findings. For one, physical activity increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. And, as you may already know, exercise boosts endorphins. These are hormones in the brain that improve mood. They may give kids an extra lift for tackling academic challenges. Exercise also promotes development of a protein that acts a little like Miracle-Gro for your brain. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is found in areas of the brain that are critical for learning, memory, and higher thinking.2
                Unfortunately, many children today aren't getting the physical activity their bodies and brains so desperately need. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that children and teens need a minimum of 60 minutes of mostly aerobic, physical activity each day. Aerobic activities are the ones that get your heart beating faster, such as fast walking or running.3 
                What if your child isn't into sports or shuns the idea of physical exercise altogether? Then, it's up to you as a parent to help make exercise become a habit. Here are some ideas:
  • Do what you can to set a positive example.
  • Find fun activities you can enjoy together as a family. Hike, jump on a trampoline, or play hide-and-go seek.
  • Give gifts that promote physical activity, not just sedentary ones.
  • Help your child find physical activities he or she enjoys. Remember: it's not the same for everyone. Some like team sports. Others enjoy individual activities such as swimming or skating.
  • Set up an electronics-free time each week.4      
                With teens, exercise may be an even tougher sell, but remember that exercise doesn't have to be just for jocks.  There are countless ways to hook a kid into being more active. Think of potentially more popular activities like the video game, DanceDance Revolution. Or maybe hip-hop, martial arts, or mountain biking is the way to go.
                Want to learn more? Check out the fitness articles in our online Wellness Library at HealthMart.com.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

1.                   Singh, A. et al. "Physical Activity and Performance at School: A Systematic Review of the Literature Including a Methodological Quality Assessment." Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(1):49–55.  Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Physical%20Activity%20and%20Performance%20at%20School%3A%20A%20Systematic%20Review%20of%20the%20Literature%20Including%20a%20Methodological%20Quality%20Assessment. Accessed March 21, 2012.
2.                    Edutopia: "A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind." Available at: http://www.edutopia.org/exercise-fitness-brain-benefits-learning. Accessed March 21, 2012.
3.                   CDC: "How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?" Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html. Accessed March 21, 2012.
4.                   CDC: Available at: "Making Physical Activity a Part of a Child's Life." http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/getactive/children.html. Accessed March 21, 2012.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ban the Burns

According to a new study, risky sun exposure increases as children age.  Not exactly news for those of you with teens, is it? Looking at the sun behaviors of 360 fifth graders in 2004 and again three years later, researchers found this: More than half the kids had had at least one sunburn by age 11. And, although half the kids used sunscreen at age 11, only a quarter of 14-year-olds did.1,2
            Maybe you're thinking, what's the big deal, in the whole scheme of things? Or, how can I ever get my teen to use sunscreen, especially when she and her friends are competing for the "golden glow" award?
            Well, I'm here to tell you it's worth a try.  Here's why: Sunburn is a sign of skin damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Repeated sunburns increase your risk for skin cancer.3 That risk is even higher in people with lots of moles and freckles, very fair skin and hair, or a family history of skin cancer.4 One type of skin cancer (melanoma) is on the rise.5 Although once a cancer of older people, cases are now also showing up in young adults and teens. This could be due to their increased use of tanning beds and sun lamps.5
            Too much UV exposure can also cause other types of cancer, cataracts, and a weakened immune system.6 And it can lead to wrinkles, age spots, and leathery skin, making you age before your time.5 (Perhaps this will get the attention of those "invulnerable" teens!)
            Of course it's not realistic – or right – to ask your kids to stay out of the sun altogether. So do you best to encourage respect for the sun, not sun worship.  Buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen, blocking both UVA and UVB rays, with at least SPF 15. And encourage your teen to:
  • Wear sunscreen or a moisturizer with at least SPF 15 every day.
  • Apply the sunscreen thickly.
  • Reapply every couple of hours after swimming or sweating.
  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.
  • Remember that both water and snow reflect UV radiation and can increase the risk of burns.
  • Avoid tanning pills that claim to speed up tanning.
            And, by the way, plenty of UV rays seep through sunscreen to help your body get enough vitamin D. So that's not a reason to avoid sun protection.5
            If your teen still insists on getting a tan, suggest trying sunless self-tanner, which contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Available in sprays, lotions, moisturizers, and towelettes, these products gradually stain dead cells in the skin's outer layer. The effect can last up to a week. 5
            You can find many sun-protection products in our store.  If you can't find what you're looking, don't hesitate to ask for help.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

1.                  MedlinePlus: "Only 1 in 4 Young Teens Uses Sunscreen Regularly, Study Finds." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_121079.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.
2.                  Dusza, SW et al. Pediatrics. 2012 Feb; 129(2):309–17. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22271688. Accessed March 12, 2012.
3.                  MedlinePlus: "Sun Exposure." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sunexposure.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.
4.                  Nemours Foundation: "Sunburn." Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/sheets/sunburn_sheet.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.
5.                  Nemours Foundation: "Tanning." Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/tanning.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.
6.                  EPA: "Health Effects of Overexposure to the Sun." Available at: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvandhealth.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Links Between Childhood Asthma and Obesity

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to become inflamed. Does your child have this disease? If so, you're no doubt familiar with symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing. Today, a whopping nine million children under age 18 have asthma – or have had it in the past.1
            But with rates of childhood obesity climbing faster than a ten-year-old scrambling up a tree, this number could quickly skyrocket. Why? Because children who are overweight or obese are more likely to have asthma than children of a healthy weight. The strength of this link varies by race and ethnicity. It hurts Hispanic children the most.2
            Extra weight isn't considered a cause of asthma, simply a contributor. But what, then, accounts for the connection between the two ? One theory is that a hormone found in fat tissue increases the body's chronic inflammation. And this may increase the risk of asthma. 3,4
            Overweight or obese children have double the risk of asthma as their normal-weight peers if they become or remain heavy in their early school years. But, parents, listen up. Here's the good news: If children slim down by age seven, they may wipe out that increased risk. It's not quite as easy as erasing a string of numbers from a blackboard. But it's way more powerful. That's especially true given that childhood obesity is not only linked to asthma, but to a whole host of other health problems, including diabetes and high cholesterol.4
            Extra weight also sends kids with asthma to the doctor and emergency room more often and requires higher doses of asthma medications.2 In fact, a recent small study found that overweight and obese children needed about twice as much of a commonly used asthma medication (an inhaled corticosteroid) as healthy-weight kids. These findings are similar to those reported on earlier in adults. The response to the medication decreased as weight and body mass index (BMI) rose, according to study researcher Pia Hauk, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO.3
            If your child has asthma, don't forget that I'm here to help you and your child manage this condition as well as you can. Remember that your child's asthma management plan may be different than another child's. I can help guide you in understanding how and when to use asthma medications. Getting the right care by a knowledgeable allergist is also key. This is someone who has special training and experience in figuring out whether a child has asthma, what is triggering it, and how to move forward to treat it effectively.  Together, we can form an awesome team!5


1.                  MedlinePlus: "Asthma in Children." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/asthmainchildren.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
2.                  MedlinePlus: "Obesity Linked to Asthma in Children." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122445.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
3.                  MedlinePlus: "Heavy Kids May Not Respond as Well to Asthma Meds." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122575.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
4.                  MedlinePlus: "Overweight 7-Year-Olds Face Higher Risk of Asthma." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_120071.html. Accessed March 5, 2012.
5.                  American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Childhood Asthma: Tips to Remember." http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/childhood-asthma.aspx

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Reason for Your Sneezin'

The Reason for Your Sneezin'
Written March 2012

Winter was milder than usual in many parts of the country this year. Warmer weather has brought earlier pollination of trees and – you guessed it – an earlier hay fever season as well.
            If you suffer from hay fever, buckle your seat belt. You and about 35 million other people may be in for a rougher ride not only this year, but also in years to come.1 That's because recent studies suggest that rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels from climate change are behind earlier and longer hay fever seasons.2
            But what exactly is hay fever? And how can you know for sure whether your sniffles and sneezes are due to a late winter cold or an early hay fever attack? Hay fever is a nasal allergic reaction to airborne particles such as pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. It's more likely to be hay fever than a cold if your symptoms last longer than a week or so and your nasal discharge is clear.  Also, colds can cause body aches and fevers, but allergies don't.3
            The symptoms of hay fever may include:
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing, along with postnasal drip
  • Itchy eyes, nose, and throat
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Sore throat or hoarse voice
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Fatigue4,5
            You can do many things to ease the discomfort of allergies. First, track pollen counts in your area. In general, it may help you to know that pollen levels tend to be highest in the morning during ragweed pollen season (late summer and early fall). They tend to be highest in the evening during grass pollen season (spring and summer). And, as you probably already know – sunny, windy days are often the worst.6
            One easy way to find pollen counts in your area is to visit the web page of the National Allergy Bureau. Here, you can also sign up for free email alerts with daily pollen and mold reports.7 Then, try to stay inside on high pollen-count days. Also:
  • Keep house and car windows closed. If necessary, use air conditioning instead.
  • Avoid outdoor chores such as yard work or mowing grass.
  • Wear a facemask that filters pollen out if you can't avoid being outdoors.
  • Take a shower and wash your hair right after being outdoors.2,6    
            See me if you need help selecting over-the-counter allergy medicines such as nasal sprays and rinses and oral medication. I can also answer your questions about any prescription medications you might need. And if your hay fever is really wreaking havoc, ask an allergist about whether you're a good candidate for allergy shots. They can provide long-term relief by making you less sensitive to pollen.4


1.                  American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Outdoor Allergens: Tips to Remember." Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoor-allergens.aspx. Accessed March 8, 2012.

2.                  American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Climate Change and Outdoor Allergies » " Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/rhinitis.aspx.

3.                  MedlinePlus: "Mild Winter Heralds Early Sneezin' Season." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122249.html. Accessed March 8, 2012.

4.                  MedlinePlus: "Hayfever." Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hayfever.html. Accessed March 8, 2012. 

5.                  UpToDate: "Allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) (Beyond the Basics)." Available at: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/patient-information-allergic-rhinitis-seasonal-allergies-beyond-the-basics?view=print. Accessed March 8, 2012.

6.                  FDA: "Itching for Allergy Relief?" Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm153549.htm#AvoidPollen. Accessed March 8, 2012.

7.                  American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: " National Allergy Bureau." Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts.aspx. Accessed March 8, 2012.

8.                  MedlinePlus: "Mild Winter Heralds Early Sneezin' Season." http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122249.html