Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quick tips for minor health emergencies

The last thing you want to do while on vacation is make a trip to a medical clinic or, heaven forbid, the emergency room.

Some vacation activities such as hiking or mountain biking contain risks of minor medical emergencies. But even a weekend camping trip can result in unforeseen medical problems.

"There's always sunburn, dehydration and food poisoning potentially," said La Vone Sopher, ARNP, FNP, at The Clinic at Wal-Mart at 3400 Singing Hills Drive, an affiliate of the St. Luke's Health System.

With a little planning and a lot of common sense, many minor medical emergencies can be prevented, Sopher said.

"Think about what activities you're going to be doing, think about what could happen and take the right stuff along," she said. "If you're going to go hiking, don't wear flip-flops."

Sopher had plenty of prevention and treatment advice for the most common vacation mishaps she sees.


If possible, swim in a swimming pool. Water in rivers and lakes may look clean, but it's full of bacteria and microbes. Swimmer's ear, an inflammation, and sometimes infection, of the ear canal, can result from swimming in any type of water.

Wear ear plugs or get a bottle of over-the-counter swimmer's ear drops. Using the drops after you're done swimming helps dry your ears out.


If you're boating or spending the day along the shore, the combination of wind and water puts you more at risk. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and other clothing to reduce sun exposure.

If you do get burned, stay out of the sun and wear loose clothing. Aloe vera lotion, various over-the-counter sprays or cool compresses can help take the sting out of the burn.

Heat illness

Symptoms usually include feeling really hot and tired. Getting out of the sun and drinking water or sports drinks will usually make you feel better.

If you're going to be out in the sun and heat all day, drink at least 64 ounces of water or sports drink during the day. Don't drink soft drinks or alcoholic beverages, the caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration.

Bee stings

Many bees leave their stingers in. If you've been stung, pull the stinger out with tweezers or use the edge of a credit card to scrape it out. Clean the area with soap and water.

If you're allergic to bee stings, make sure you carry EpiPen, or epinephrine, to counter a severe allergic reaction.


Apply cold water or an ice pack to the burned area to stop the heat process on the skin. If the burned skin blisters, leave it alone. Popping the blister can lead to infection.

Rashes from poison ivy, oak or sumac

Once you notice a rash, wash the area with soap and water to remove the plant resin. A cold compress can take away the itch or use calamine lotion or other over-the-counter, anti-itch creams. If you have a rash, don't scratch it. The resin can get under your nails and then spread to other areas of your body when you touch them. Wear long pants if you're out hiking in the woods. It doesn't hurt to tuck the pants into your socks.

Food poisoning

Keep food cold if it's supposed to be cold. If it looks or smells suspicious, throw it away. Wash your hands often. Don't drink water from mountain streams or other untreated outdoor sources.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Break your habits with expert tips

Experts reveal their tips for breaking common habits:


We all know the virtues of exercise but many of us fail to make it a long-term commitment. Health and the City author Caitlin Reid says it is often because of unrealistic goals, which only encourage failure.

"We then feel guilty about our slip-ups, and instead of getting back on the bike, we resort back to our old ways and forget about our well-meaning goals," she says.

Don't be vague with a "start exercising more" goal. A better one could be 30 minutes, three days each week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, starting on Monday, June 20, Caitlin recommends.

"Gradually increase your duration, frequency and intensity but only increase one at a time so that you don't overdo it. Push yourself too hard and you'll drop off," she says.

And find activities that suit you. "If you prefer being around people, then a group personal training session or a team sport is going to appeal more than a run on a treadmill."


If you've fallen into the habit of having a few too many wines after work, look at setting some reduction targets, counsellor Carolyn Midwood suggests.

Halve the number of wines you would usually have in an evening, or even attempt some alcohol-free days.

If the problem is when socialising with friends, she recommends catching up at a cafe instead of a hotel or even organising breakfast dates.

"By mixing things up a bit, you will get a different outcome," she says.

"Create new routines. Preparation, practice and commitment are essential, so you need to think about what it actually is that you wish to change, why you want to change, make the decision to change, and act on that decision."


It is common to procrastinate over dull tasks, but what if it is a goal we truly want?

Domonique Bertolucci, author of Your Best Life, says people often break off more than they can chew, creating an impossibly huge to-do list.

"They're not going to be able to do that in a lifetime, let alone in a day or in a week, so your subconscious recognises you're going to fail and loses all motivation and energy for it," she says.

If it all seems overwhelming, try visualisation. The Procrastination Equation author Piers Steel recommends starting by sitting quietly and thinking about the life you want.

Focus on just one aspect, such as your career or a healthy body. Concentrate on this image, or use a diary or collage of images to bring it to life. Then mentally contrast this future with where you are now.

"Focus on the gap. Put the same emphasis on vividly reflecting on this discrepancy as you did on imagining your idealised future," Domonique says.


Convinced cigarettes help alleviate anxiety and depression? Research suggests otherwise. A study from Rhode Island's Brown University found that smokers who abstained for the whole research period were the happiest.

Those who quit temporarily were happy while they were successful but, once they started smoking again, they reported feeling sadder than before.

Tellingly, those who never stopped during the trial were the least happy of all.
Carolyn Midwood's DIY practical tips:
• Look at why you smoke and why you want to stop
• Plan for what you can do when the urge to light up occurs
• Plan a healthy eating and exercise regime to prevent any weight gain

• If you think that alcohol increases the risk of smoking, then limit your intake or abstain.


Your moods could be the driving force behind those extra kilos. According to the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, sad people try to repair their bad mood with unhealthy food - which they then overeat, whereas happy people eat healthy food to maintain their pleasant mood.

Weight-management expert Rick Kausman, author of If Not Dieting, Then What? says there is not a lack of knowledge about eating more fruit and vegetables, but rather a lack of awareness about eating without being hungry.

Think how many times you have stood in front of the fridge, just for something to do.

"It's amazing how much eating people do that they're not being mindful of. It's good to say to yourself, 'I can have it, but do I really feel like it?'

"Just saying that gives them a bit of a pause to think 'you know what, I was walking past the kitchen and I was going to put that in my mouth just because it was there'."