Some tips for a safe and healthful summer outdoors

It’s a Jungle Out There!
Some tips for a safe and healthful summer outdoors

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Summer break is almost here, and many will be spending more time in the sun and outside. It’s time to brush up on your summer weather etiquette. Here are a few items to remember before you head out the door.

Hydration. Remember to keep water available at all times. Without proper hydration, you will be more prone to heat exhaustion, or even heatstroke (a life-threatening condition). There is also a milder version called heat cramps. You want to avoid all of these by keeping hydrated so your body can sweat and cool itself. Also, avoid alcohol, wear lightweight clothing, and stay in the shade. People who are more at risk are the young and the old (younger than four and older than 65), people on certain medications (such as diuretics, beta blockers, antihistamines, and more), obese people (those whose BMI is greater than 30), and people who spend most of their time in the air conditioning.

A good rule of thumb for how much water to drink is always drink 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day. Another calculation is one based on your weight: Take your weight number in pounds and drink 50 to 100 percent of that number in ounces. For example, someone who weighs 160 lbs. should drink 80 to 160 ounces of water every day. However, if you are in the heat, you will need to drink more!

Some signs of dehydration you might notice right away are headaches, muscle cramps, dry mouth, bad breath, fever, drowsiness, low blood pressure, high pulse, listlessness, sore throat and dark urine. Remember, if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated!

Sunscreen. There has been some controversy regarding sunscreen lately. Does it cause cancer? Does it block vitamin D production? Is it better to go without? The current consensus among healthcare professionals and the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) is that using sunscreen is better than not using it. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Website, using sunscreen has more benefits than detriments, since vitamin D can be obtained from food, and using sunscreen lowers the risk of cancerous and precancerous lesions. The FDA states on its Website, “…the risk of not using sunscreen is much greater than any potential risk posed by sunscreen ingredients.”

What are some tips for using sunscreen, then? Some sunscreen blocks out only UVB rays (which cause cancer), but not UVA rays (which age your skin), so make certain you pick a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that is at least SPF 15. (SPF 30 or higher is better.) It is best to follow the instructions on the label, as far as application and amount. Some suggestions are to use at least a “shot glass” (1.5 fluid ounces) of lotion at a time, not rubbing it in completely, and applying it 15 minutes before sun time. Reapply it every two hours, or sooner if it has washed or rubbed off due to swimming or sweating. Other suggestions are to apply sunscreen after you have been in the sun for a few minutes, thereby allowing your body its daily vitamin D allotment.

Another kind of “sunscreen” is clothing. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, along with long sleeves, will help reduce your exposure.

Keep in mind this thought: Tanned skin = damaged skin. It’s that simple. UV damaged skin cannot be completely reversed, no matter what the beauty industry tells you.

Eye protection. As important as sunscreen and hydration, is protecting your eyes. Make certain you wear sunglasses, even if it is cloudy out. When shopping for sunglasses, look for 99 to 100 percent UVA/UVB protection, large lenses, and wraparound protection. A wide-brimmed hat is beneficial, also. Protecting your eyes from the sun will help you avoid macular degeneration, cataracts, eyelid cancer, and other eye problems, as you age.

Sun time. The best time to stay out of the sun is during its most intense time, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but you can be burned at other times, too, depending upon the length of time exposed and if there is something reflective nearby, like a large body of water.

Drug interactions. Some drugs can increase “photosensitivity,” otherwise known as sensitivity to the sun. Some common drugs that do this include benzoyl peroxide, Benadryl, birth control pills, diuretics, naproxen (Aleve), tricyclic antidepressants, many antibiotics, St. John’s wort, and more. Some other substances that increase photosensitivity can be found in perfumes, skin-care products, and even some foods (such as citrus and artificial sweeteners. Products that remove the top layer of dead skin cells, such as chemical peels and exfoliating scrubs are also a no-no for pre-sun exposure. A list of common culprits can be found at http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/beware-of-sunburn-boosters#1.

Insects. Ticks and mosquitoes are considered “vectors” for some diseases, because you can contract Lyme disease from blacklegged or deer ticks. The Zika virus, formerly reported in two states (Florida and Texas), might still be a threat if you travel internationally. Do your research to avoid exposure to Zika, or other vector-spread illnesses in the region to which you are traveling.

As far as avoiding tick bites, just remember to wear long pants when you are in the woods, and try to tuck your pant legs into your socks. Have someone check you for ticks at the end of the day, just to be safe. If you find a bull’s eye rash anywhere, go see your doctor to evaluate for Lyme disease.

Bee stings are also a threat, especially to someone who is allergic. It is a good idea not to go barefoot where clover or other flowers are growing. Make certain to check underneath picnic benches before you sit down. Any place you visit can be a potential place for a bee nest, so look before you leap. Don’t forget to take along allergy medication, if indicated. Concerning the declining population of honey bees, remember that most bees are beneficial. So, don’t get out that can of Raid unless the bees are a threat to human safety.

Lastly, it is a good idea to wear bug spray when in the woods, or wherever mosquitoes live. According to Consumer Reports’ Website, the most effective repellents were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, and Off! Deepwoods VIII. Make certain to read all labels before use, to verify you are applying the repellent properly. Always wash it off at the end of the day with soap and water.

Another option that many may want to try is a “bug jacket.” These are simply mesh jackets with veils, which keep the bugs away, but offer ventilation for the heat. Many such jackets can be ordered online from Amazon (see link below) or many other retailers.

Summer Sports. Various summer sports require special gear. If you are out on the water, remember to wear your life vest. Did you know a concussion is a brain injury? Bicycling, dirt biking, motorcycling, horseback riding, skateboarding, and many other sports require helmets. Do not take a chance with yours or someone else’s safety. Make certain you wear all the recommended protective gear for your sport. If you are heading out on a hike, do not go alone. Always have a first aid kit in your backpack, along with other supplies, should you somehow end up stranded. Also, be aware of the forecast, and do not plan to be outside during dangerous weather conditions, like lightning storms. Some days are just better for staying inside.

Be prepared for the worst, and you may end up with the best! With these reminders in hand, have a safe and enjoyable summer!

 

For further information on outdoor summer safety, try these Internet resources:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Sun safety tips for men:
https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/tips-for-men.htm

WebMD.com, Sun myths and facts quiz:
http://www.webmd.com/beauty/rm-quiz-sun-myths-facts

WebMD.com, How to protect your eyes from the sun, video (appears after advertisement):
http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/video/protect-eyes-sun-damage

Skin Cancer Foundation, Does sunscreen cause cancer?
http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/ask-the-experts/does-sunscreen-cause-cancer

WebMD.com, What’s the best sunscreen?:
http://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/whats-best-sunscreen#1

EWG.org, Skin Cancer on the Rise:
http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/skin-cancer-on-the-rise/

FDA, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, OTC sunscreen requirements:
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/understandingover-the-countermedicines/ucm258468.htm#Q4_Does_FDA_believe

MayoClinic.org, Heat exhaustion
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/basics/definition/con-20033366

ConsumerReports.org, Zika mosquito repellent recommendations:
http://www.consumerreports.org/insect-repellents/mosquito-repellents-that-best-protect-against-zika/

Mayo Clinic, First aid for tick bites:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-tick-bites/basics/art-20056671

Amazon.com, Bug Jacket:
https://www.amazon.com/Coghlans-0057-Bug-Jacket-Medium/dp/B000NDWOH6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493998685&sr=8-1&keywords=mosquito+jacket

 

 

Healthy Habits: Wise choices for a successful life

by Kirsten Falcone, RNdownload.png

Healthy lifestyle advice bombards us daily. There is abundant information to weed through, and sometimes it can seem overwhelming. None of us wants to be unsuccessful. But success in life doesn’t just happen all at once or with only one step. It involves multiple baby steps that become habits. Wise choices in each moment lead to great habits. Good health is more than just physical; it is mental, emotional and spiritual, as well. As a nurse and mother, here are a few of my favorite habits.

Sleep. Nobody can function on too little sleep for very long. In fact, sleeping is one of the most important ways to take care of yourself. Everyone should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night (depending upon your individual needs). This is when your body repairs itself, when your immune system is strengthened, and your mind is restored. Here is a link to my article on sleep: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/01/understanding-the-importance-of-sleep/.

Exercise. Aerobic, strength and stretching are the three types. But aerobic is probably the most important for your cardiovascular health and circulation to all your bodily systems. Try and get at least 20 to 30 minutes of rigorous aerobic activity at least three times per week. Regular exercise can actually improve your immune system, lift your mood, keep all your systems in order, decrease the incidence of disease, and increase your life expectancy. People who are physically fit have the potential to do better in many areas, than their out-of-shape counterparts. They don’t need as many prescription or over the counter drugs, and they have far fewer doctor visits. Here is a link to my article on exercise: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/31/exercise-the-forgotten-pharmaceutical/

Nutrition. This includes eating the right things, and also controlling portion size. Good nutrition involves eating fruit and vegetables first, then meat, bread and cereal, dairy, and only a little fat. We all know what junk food is. Try and avoid it, and, while pizza and wings are convenient and popular, try not to eat them regularly. If you want to know more about nutrition, take a course, or read a nutrition textbook. The one I use is called Nutrition for Life, and can be ordered at this link: https://www.amazon.com/Nutrition-Life-2nd-Janice-Thompson/dp/0321570847/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1493227995&sr=8-3&keywords=nutrition+for+life

Hydration. Since water is responsible for so many functions in our body, and our bodies are at least 60 to 70 percent water, it is crucial to keep hydrated. Try to drink at least 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day or the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Another way to measure is to drink 50 to 100 percent of your weight number in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., drink 75 to 150 ounces of water every day. Keeping a bottle of water with you throughout the day is a great habit to adopt! Refill it, as needed. Here is the link for that article: https://community.hilbert.edu/2015/11/20/conquering-dehydrationbenefits-of-hydration/

Drugs, alcohol and smoking. Here is something simple to remember: Just don’t smoke. It’s that simple. And definitely don’t do illicit drugs. Alcohol is okay, in moderation (if you are 21 or older). One to two glasses of red wine daily has been shown to be healthful. But be aware of your family history of alcoholism. If there is any doubt, find alternatives to drinking. There is also more and more evidence that vaping is harmful. For more information, here is the link for that article: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/10/06/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-vaping-is-risky-behavior/

Changing addictive behaviors. If you are already addicted to alcohol, smoking or drugs, get help. Now. You won’t ever regret it. Of less rank, but still important, is to cut down on the amount of caffeine you ingest.  Caffeine is an addictive drug. For my article on “energy drinks,” click on this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2018/04/19/energy-drinks-or-stimulant-drinks/. Workaholism is also running rampant in our society. Don’t use work as an escape, and don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.

Learning something new. A life spent learning something new on a regular basis is a life unwasted. Studies show that people live longer when they are constantly learning and trying new things. Step outside your comfort zone, and take a course on public speaking, self-defense, or even knitting! It might open up new doors and give you fresh insight.

Money management. Take a course on money management. Stay away from habitually relying on credit. Highly recommended is anything by Dave Ramsey. https://www.daveramsey.com/specials/welcome?ectid=30.31.9014

Hygiene. Take your shoes off, and wash your hands as soon as you arrive home. Floss your teeth every day, and brush your teeth and tongue after meals and before bed. Here is a link to my hygiene article: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-winning-health-battles-with-proper-hygiene/

Sexual health. Let me put it this way. Sex, it has been said, is a great blessing in marriage, but a great curse outside of it. This is countercultural thinking, but it is good advice. Remember the question your mom asked you: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?” That is what many are doing when they choose to have sex too soon. Besides the all-too-real threat of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection), there is the spiritual aspect, as well. A broken heart affects every aspect of your health, not just mental and emotional.

Socialization, Family and Friends. It’s likely that busy college students have enough social interaction most of the time. But there are those times when some real connection with people is missing and important. Some things to try: church communities, small interest groups (such as can be found at https://www.meetup.com/), book clubs, study groups, a class not related to your major, a community education class, and more. If you have family nearby, it is important to keep in contact with them. If your family is far away, make sure you call home regularly, so you will still feel as if you are a member. If you live with your family, it is important to note that study after study confirms that eating regularly together is one of the best things you can do. Also, it is important to identify if somebody in your life is more toxic than healthful. If so, it might be a good time to look for better company.

Faith, prayer and meditation. Prayer is considered communication with God, and meditation is closely related. Your spiritual health is just as, or more important than, your physical health. Practicing faith and regular connection with your Maker will bring peace, focus and meaning to your life.

Time management. Newsflash! Your time is your life. Spend your time wisely. Make sure you make space on your calendar for the important items first. That way it is more likely to happen! Don’t overschedule your life; know your limits, and know when to say, “No.” Make certain you always show up for work, class and other obligations, and always on time. Finally, don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. You are important!

Moderation. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Purge perfectionism. If you make a mistake, admit it, and make a change for the better. Then move on.

Practicing morality. We wouldn’t get very far without morals. Basically, they are the Ten Commandments, which can be summed up by stating, “Love God and love people.” Also included in this category are integrity (doing the right thing when nobody is looking), sexual morality and the following:

  • The “Golden Rule.” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This works. Even if you don’t think somebody deserves it, do it anyway. It’s the right thing to do.
  • Refraining from gossip. You wouldn’t want someone to gossip about you (Golden Rule, see above), so don’t do it to somebody else. If there is any question what gossip is, ask yourself, “If the person I am talking about were standing right here, would I still be saying these things?” If you wouldn’t, then you are probably gossiping.
  • When we are generous, we don’t put ourselves first. We are not the center of the universe. It is a credit to us when we are generous to somebody else.
  • We don’t know what others’ lives are like. It is easy to criticize, give an opinion or offer unsolicited advice. But be kind. Listen, and don’t judge. You are not in that person’s shoes.

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is easier to do when you know that it is more for you than for the other person. When you forgive somebody, it is like a weight has been released from your own shoulders. Sometimes forgiveness is a long journey, but taking that first step is worthwhile. Remember, you are not perfect either, so why should you expect the other person to be? Conversely, it is important to forgive yourself. If you have trouble in this area, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a counselor.

Music, art and hobbies. Having an outlet for stress, like playing a musical instrument, following an artistic path, or diving into a hobby, has been shown to increase longevity and decrease depression.

Gratitude. Yes, there are many things about which to complain. But finding gratitude instead of complaining will make positive people want to be around you. Nobody likes a critic, but everyone is partial to being thanked and appreciated. In the morning, when your alarm goes off, choosing to be thankful you have another day, instead of grouchy because you couldn’t sleep in, will propel you to a better day. Make note of all the positive things in your life, and concentrate on them. Choose to see the glass as half full, and it may transform to overflowing.

Smiling and laughing. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and it is also contagious. Smiling at someone when he or she enters the room improvesyour relationship with that person. Becoming less critical is a skill worthy of acquiring. If you are short on joyfulness these days, buy a joke book, go to a comedy show, or ask your friends to tell you something funny. Finding the humor in most situations can turn a gray day sunny again.

 

For more information on healthy life habits, check out these sources:

MSN.com, Ten habits you’ll pay for in ten years:
https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/10-habits-you%E2%80%99ll-pay-for-in-10-years/ss-BB5cZrV

WebMD.com, Healthy Living: 8 steps to take today:
http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/healthy-living-8-steps-to-take-today#1

WebMD, How to keep healthy habits in mind:
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/remember-healthy-habits#1

Mayo Clinic, The 12 habits of highly healthy people:
https://www.24alife.com/advice/wellbeing/12-healthy-habits-by-mayo-clinic-professionals

Health.com, Healthy eating habits:
http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20934662,00.html

Feelhappiness.com, 107 healthy habits and behaviors for a healthier lifestyle:
http://feelhappiness.com/107-healthy-habits-for-a-healthier-lifestyle/

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), List of unhealthy behaviors:
https://www.cdc.gov/500cities/definitions/unhealthy-behaviors.htm

PsychologyToday.com, Toxic relationships:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-time-cure/201308/toxic-relationships

Don’t Let Deadlines Make You Sick!: How to Manage Stress

by Kirsten Falcone, RN,
Hilbert College Wellness CenterSlow-down-relax-de-stress.jpg

It is that time of the year again. School projects are in full swing, and finals are on the horizon. Many students are stressed, and most are losing sleep. Some have caught a “bug” and are now feeling behind. Stress is, according to Dictionary.com, “a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.” But, according to WebMD.com, it is more simply “what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to [handling].” Does that sound familiar? If so, read on.

Certainly, some stress can be a good thing. Some studies show that a little stress may make you more resilient in the long run. ­­­­The stress of a deadline approaching can also help you to hone all your attention onto that deadline. There is some evidence that short-term stress also provides the motivation to succeed. Once successful, one can reflect upon accomplishments, and this can actually be quite positive due to the reinforcement it provides! There is also some evidence that short-term stress can actually help ward off the common cold.

However, did you know stress also plays a role in most illness? That is because when we experience chronic stress, an overabundance of epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and cortisol (stress hormones) prevent many bodily systems, including the immune system, from functioning at full capacity. Even busy college students can take the time to benefit from some key lifestyle changes in order to stay healthy during a stressful time. Some of the ways you can lower the negative effects of stress are:

  • Get enough sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, and sleep at least seven to nine hours. For example, if you do well on eight hours of sleep per night, stick with that. Do not assume that seven will be enough. (For more information on sleep, read a recent Wellness Center article here: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/01/understanding-the-importance-of-sleep/.)
  • Make a list each day, and put the most important items at the top. Check them off as you go.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Get your homework or important task done right away, so you won’t prolong the worrying and the nagging in the back of your mind. Even just getting started on a long project will lessen the impact of the work that lies ahead.
  • Don’t skip meals, and keep healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and vegetables and low-sugar granola bars in your backpack. Conversely, avoid junk food, caffeine, and added sugar. Give your body the fuel it needs. (Here is the link to the Wellness Center article on what to eat at the campus cafeteria: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/12/07/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-how-to-avoid-the-freshman-15/.)
  • Drink enough water. This can range from eight 8-ounce glasses per day to an ounce for every two pounds you weigh. Drinking enough water will also help drive off the munchies, and it will increase your energy level almost immediately. (For my article on dehydration, visit this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2014/10/31/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-dehydration/.)
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and stop smoking and/or vaping. These put even more stress on your body by lowering your immune response. (Follow this link for my article on vaping: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/10/06/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-vaping-is-risky-behavior/.)
  • Take a brisk walk around campus twice, or work out in the campus recreation center. Do this at least three times per week. Look for any special programs that may be open to all students. (For the Wellness Center article on exercise, visit this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/31/exercise-the-forgotten-pharmaceutical/.)
  • Humor yourself. Find the humor in situations. Subscribe to a joke page on social media. Ask your friends if they know any jokes. There is scientific evidence that making yourself smile actually increases your happiness. It is true that laughter is often the best medicine.
  • Talk to a good friend or counselor. Bottled-up emotions come out in other ways. Venting with a friend also helps your friend connect with you.

Some other ways to manage stress are, in no particular order:


Journaling

Reading for leisure

Crafting, or following a hobby

Breathing exercises

Aromatherapy

Guided imagery

Progressive muscle relaxation

Positive thinking

Singing or playing uplifting music

Volunteering in the community

Caring for a pet

Relaxation time

Taking a nap

Worship/Reading the Bible

Massage

Bathing or swimming

Prayer

 

 

For more information on stress, check out these sources:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
https://www.cdc.gov/bam/life/butterflies.html

WebMD:
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/default.htm

Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

Psychology Today, Why some stress is good:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201612/why-some-stress-is-good-you

Health.com, Ways stress can be good for you:
http://www.health.com/stress/5-weird-ways-stress-can-actually-be-good-for-you

“Energy” Drinks or “Stimulant” Drinks?

Does anybody “need” them?

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Centerenergy-drinks-healthy.jpg

Energy! Think of that word and the concept of consuming extra energy. Energy is a good thing, right? Who doesn’t want to have more energy? This is the deceptive way the beverage industry frames their advertising for so-called “energy” drinks. “Energy” drinks can be found almost anywhere soda pop and bottled water are sold. Even with the increasing dire news events and warnings concerning their use, many statistics show that energy drinks are among the fastest-growing consumer crazes today.

Some best-selling drinks currently on the market are Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, NOS, Full Throttle and No Fear. Two locally popular brands are Mountain Dew Kickstart and Venom Black Mamba. Even if you have never tried these, their reputation precedes them.

Well, now, you might think having a little extra energy is a great idea! What could be so wrong with that? I wondered that, myself, so I went looking for more information. Even though I wanted to believe these drinks had some value, almost every respectable source I found stated that drinking “energy” drinks is not only not beneficial, but can be extremely harmful.

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate “energy” drinks, and this is probably the main problem with these drinks. (More on this later.) Despite the lack of regulation, many companies have put labels on their products. If we trust that the labels are truthful, the basic ingredients are caffeine; another caffeine source called guarana; taurine, an amino acid that amplifies the strength of the caffeine; B vitamins; L-carnitine, an amino acid derivative; sugar; and sodium.

Caffeine

The main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine, and not just a little caffeine, but some sources state up to 500 milligrams in a 24-ounce can. Caffeine is unhealthy for people under 18, because people under 18 are still developing, and caffeine affects the absorption of calcium into bones and tissue. Caffeine has a proportionally larger effect on smaller bodies, and it causes even greater hyperactivity, mood swings and anxiety due to its effects on neurological and cardiovascular tissue. Caffeine also suppresses appetite, which would not be beneficial for growing bodies. It also constricts blood vessels, has diuretic properties (which is dehydrating), and makes any kind of cardiovascular exercise risky. Of great concern, also, is the fact that caffeine is an addictive drug.

For adults (or those who are done developing), caffeine should be limited to 200-300 milligrams or about two cups of coffee per day. According to the Mayo Clinic, most adults should consume no more than 400 milligrams per day.

Caffeine may be helpful for keeping alert. However, in mass quantities, and combined with the other ingredients in these drinks, there are some side effects worth mentioning. They include:

  • Heart palpitations, and increased heart rate,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Increased stress,
  • Upset stomach, and nausea,
  • Dehydration,
  • Leg weakness,
  • Feeling jittery and nervous,
  • Sleeplessness and sleep disruption, leading to fatigue and lower immunity against infection,
  • Mental confusion and difficulty concentrating,
  • Agitation, anxiety, and hyperactivity,
  • Increased risk-taking behavior,
  • Cardiovascular and nervous system damage in children,
  • Habit-forming or addictive characteristics.

Sugar Content

I decided to do a little personal research. At the local grocery store, I bought several cans of various “energy” drinks. They included Red Bull, Mountain Dew Kickstart, Monster Energy, Rockstar, Rockstar Pure Zero, and Venom Black Mamba. The added sugar in these drinks ranged from 20 grams in Mountain Dew Kickstart to 53 grams in Venom Black Mamba. To put this in perspective, this is as much as about 5 to 12 teaspoons of added sugar. Ingesting sugar is a problem for diabetic and prediabetic people. The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of added sugar is 36 grams or nine teaspoons for men, and 25 grams or six teaspoons for women. Keep in mind that this is not the only source of added sugar in most people’s diets!

This amount of sugar may sound like a lot, but, in contrast, a can of Coca Cola has 39 grams of added sugar, so one could easily downgrade this amount of sugar to nuisance status, compared to some of the other ingredients. Let’s keep going….

Calories

Of course, calorie content is sugar-related. The calorie content in the samples I bought (not including Rockstar Pure Zero, which has no calories) ranged from 80 calories for a 16-ounce can of Mountain Dew Kickstart to 240 calories for a 16-ounce can of Venom Black Mamba. The recommended daily number of calories for adults is between 2,000 and 2,500. If you are concerned about calories, you should be concerned about the empty calories in these drinks.

Sodium

Now we’re getting somewhere. Sodium seems to be a greater concern than sugar, surprisingly. In my samples, the sodium content ranged from 35 milligrams in regular Rockstar to 310 milligrams in Venom Black Mamba. The others were in the 105 to 180 range. It pays to read the label, since there are two servings in some 16-ounce cans, and only one in others. In a 16-ounce can of Monster, there are 360 milligrams of sodium! In comparison, our can of Coke contains 45 milligrams of sodium. The RDA for sodium is not as stringent as for sugar, but a general recommendation is set at 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day. Cutting out sodium from the diet has been a cardiologist recommendation for decades. When contemplating this gargantuan amount of caffeine and sodium, one begins to understand the solemnity of the potential health threat in these drinks.

B Vitamins

It is safe to say that B vitamins are definitely the only good thing about “energy” drinks. However, most nutritionists are skeptical about vitamin supplements, suggesting that most supplements are not absorbed into the body well, unless they are part of solid food. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins University, vitamin supplements are of no value. Therefore, the addition of B vitamins to “energy” drinks appears to be a gimmick to fool the consumer into equating these drinks with health, which has turned out to be the opposite of the truth!

No FDA Regulation

As mentioned, the FDA does not regulate “energy” drinks, so the companies who make them can put anything on the label that they want. All of the samples I bought had a label, but, according to some sources, the true amount of caffeine is rarely listed. Several of the ingredients in these drinks are known to enhance the effect of the caffeine, and some contain their own even stronger amount of caffeine. Bottom line: We don’t really know the exact amount of caffeine or other ingredients contained in them!

Flavor and Other Qualities of “Energy” Drinks

My personal research revealed a few things. I am a morning coffee drinker. I usually drink the recommended one to two cups brewed at home, and I add some cream or sweetened Coffee Mate (an indulgence I know I could edit due to the sugar in the Coffee Mate!). Though I was used to my caffeine drink tasting somewhat sweet, I didn’t care for the carbonated and syrupy, sickly sweet smell and taste of all of the drinks in my sample. In fact, I really felt they were true to their names—especially “Monster” and “Venom.” (At least that labeling is correct!) The flavor is definitely not why they are popular!

In lieu of coffee one day, I drank a Red Bull. In my opinion, there was nothing at all redeeming about Red Bull. On consecutive days, I drank Mountain Dew Kickstart, Monster Energy, and Venom Black Mamba. The best thing I can say about them is they are gone. The worst? They were revolting. I needed to brush my teeth thoroughly after what seemed like a sugar steep. I am happily a coffee drinker once again.

Marketing and Slogans

Marketing can be a good thing, but it can also be misleading. I worked in marketing before I was a nurse, so I believe that the marketing to the young generation is responsible for these ubiquitous drinks. The advertising and slogans printed on the cans might reveal a clue:

The Red Bull can states, “Vitalizes body and mind. Red Bull is appreciated worldwide by top athletes, busy professionals, college students and travelers on long journeys.” (Yes, it could definitely be a “long journey” to the Emergency Department! Mixing Red Bull and other “energy” drinks with an exercise routine is a bad idea.)

The Mountain Dew Kickstart label states, “New energizing original dew. Real fruit juice.” (In small writing, “Contains 5% juice.”)

The Venom Black Mamba label states, “When you want to stay razor sharp and are ready to take on the world, you need the venom of Black Mamba. Venom packs a powerful payload of strong fierce energy….Take on the world and OWN IT!”

The Monster Energy label states, “…athletes, musicians, anarchists, co-eds, road warriors, metal heads, geeks, hipsters, and bikers dig it—you will too. … Unleash the Beast!” (I daresay the “Beast” could represent the foolish choice of drinking Monster.)

As you can see, every can portrays language that praises the contents of the can, promising it will make you cool, energized, and ready to handle anything. The problem is, it couldn’t be further from the truth. “Energy” drinks are NOT health drinks. If they were health drinks, would almost ALL of them have warning labels? They do! All but Mountain Dew Kickstart had warning labels that stated, “Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine.” In addition, their warnings should say, “Do not use while exercising.”

Alternatives to Caffeine

Instead of using caffeine, make these lifestyle choices/changes:

  • WATER, because we need to replenish our bodies, of which 50 to 70 percent is water! Drinking water will immediately energize you if you are dehydrated.
  • Proper nutrition, so your body has the correct fuel for all its processes,
  • Sleep, so your body and brain can heal and recharge,
  • Exercise, for your circulation, muscles, heart, brain, and more!
  • Avoid extra sugar, because we get enough in food,
  • Avoid or limit alcoholic beverages, and DO NOT mix them with energy drinks.

If you must imbibe caffeine, then regular coffee, one to two cups per day (allowing no other caffeine that day) is the safest caffeine you can consume. We know about the caffeine in coffee, but the lack of regulation on “energy” drinks should be a red flag.

 

In conclusion, does anybody “need” “energy” drinks? No. It is my opinion that these drinks should not be labeled “energy” drinks, but, rather, “stimulant” drinks. A stimulant is a drug, and that is what these drinks are. As with any addiction, it is best to break the habit.

 

For further reading, and more information on stimulant drinks, visit these Web sites:

CNN:
https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/health/energy-drinks-health-concerns-explainer/index.html

WebMD:
https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/whats-the-buzz-about-energy-drinks#1

National Institutes of Health:
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/energy-drinks

Mayo Clnic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/energy-drinks/faq-20058349

U.S. News and World Report:
https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/01/16/are-energy-drinks-really-that-bad

Energy Drinks Lawsuit:
https://www.energydrinkslawsuit.com/fda-regulate-energy-drinks/

American Heart Association, Sugar 101:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#.WtDqhIjwaUk

SFGate, FDA recommended sodium intake:
http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/fda-recommended-sodium-intake-1873.html

Healthline, L-Carnitine:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/l-carnitine

Caffeineinformer.com, 20 harmful effects of caffeine:
https://www.caffeineinformer.com/harmful-effects-of-caffeine

LiveScience.com, Is caffeine bad for kids?:
https://www.livescience.com/36164-caffeine-bad-kids.html

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Are vitamin supplements beneficial?:
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/is-there-really-any-benefit-to-multivitamins

The Sunshine Vitamin:

Benefits of Vitamin D

By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

As the medical world makes discoveries, often what we think we have learned flies out the window. An example that quickly comes to mind is the discussion regarding the amount of coffee to drink, or how much red wine is a good thing. Should you get a suntan or stay in the shade? Is avoiding fat in your diet always a good thing? What about sodium? It seems the experts are always changing their minds. But in the case of vitamin D, the optimistic discoveries keep adding up, and you may find them thought provoking.

What is vitamin D, and why do we need it? Your body needs vitamin D, a “fat-soluble” vitamin, to function properly. Fat-soluble vitamins need dietary fat in order to be absorbed into the body, and they are also stored in fatty tissues for future use. There are two kinds of vitamin D—vitamin D2 (found in food) and vitamin D3 (photosynthesized in the skin), but, for the sake of this article, we will refer to both simply as vitamin D.  Vitamin D is most well-known for helping your body absorb calcium and thereby keeping bones strong and healthy, but vitamin D also:

  • May lower the risk of respiratory infections.
  • Increases muscle strength.
  • Helps prevent certain types of cancer.
  • Plays a role in type 1 and 2 diabetes prevention.
  • May be helpful with some forms of arthritis.
  • Defends against aggressive breast cancer.
  • Lessens the symptoms of depression.
  • Helps protect against multiple sclerosis and its symptoms.
  • Protects against age-related bone loss.
  • May protect against cardiovascular disease.
  • Possibly contributes to successful weight loss in obese patients.
  • Helps improve cognitive health.
  • Helps relieve plaque-type psoriasis in some people, if used topically.

How can our bodies acquire vitamin D? Vitamin D can be acquired in three ways. One way is by exposing our skin to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This sets off a chain reaction involving skin cholesterol, the liver and the kidneys, until converting into a compound the body can use. This compound assists the electrolyte calcium in strengthening bones. The second way the body acquires vitamin D is in food.  Supplements are the third way, and they should be used as a last resort (see below).

Here are some tips for acquiring vitamin D:

  • When outdoors, apply sunscreen after about 20 minutes (longer for darker skin), so enough of the ultraviolet rays can be absorbed. (Vitamin D deficiency is higher in black Americans, according to a 2012 CDC report, estimated at 31 percent.)
  • Expose yourself to the sun when it is highest in the sky, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (Be careful to avoid sunburn, by putting on sunscreen after 20 minutes or more, depending on your skin pigmentation.)
  • Live closer to the equator. People in the northern half of the United States, and anywhere north of 40 degrees latitude are less likely to be exposed to enough ultraviolet light. (The 40 degree latitude line can be drawn horizontally across approximately the center of the United States.)
  • Eat foods, such as salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, beef liver, mushrooms, and fortified foods, such as cereal, orange juice and milk.
  • The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) for people up to 70 years of age, and 800 IU for those older than 71.
  • Vitamin D is considered a fat-soluble vitamin, which simply means it can be stored in your body for when you need it. You cannot overdose on vitamin D synthesized from sunlight or from food, but it is possible to overdose on supplements. Symptoms of a vitamin D overdose are weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and calcium deposit formations in tissues such as the liver, kidneys and heart.
  • Be aware that tattoos that cover a large amount of skin are capable of blocking the production of vitamin D. Tattoos also make it uncomfortable to sit in the full sun because they heat up faster than the surrounding skin, causing itchiness. Therefore, having a tattoo is contraindicated for people who wish to sunbathe or acquire vitamin D in this manner.
  • Blood tests for vitamin D are available through your doctor.

Widely known diseases caused by vitamin D deficiency are rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. Rickets can be found in children whose bones form improperly, due to lack of vitamin D. With osteomalacia, bones are weak, cause pain, and are more susceptible to fractures. In cases of osteoporosis, the bones become more porous and break easily.

We have been told that we should always wear sunscreen, and that fat in our diets is bad. But, there are times when using sunscreen is not to your advantage, and eating some fat is good for you!

 

For more information, visit these Web sites:

WebMD, slideshow on vitamin D:
http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-vitamin-d-overview

WebMD, Breast cancer link:
http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20110429/low-vitamin-d-linked-to-aggressive-breast-cancer#1

MedlinePlus:
https://medlineplus.gov/vitamind.html

CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) vitamin D nutrition report:
https://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/pdf/Second%20Nutrition%20Report%20Vitamin%20D%20Factsheet.pdf

Mayo Clinic, vitamin D overview:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792

Be Savvy. Be Safe.

Facts About Drinking Alcohol

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Seasonal changes are on the way, and that means many college students will find opportunities to enjoy outdoor festivities where they may be serving alcohol. But, since 21 is the legal drinking age, it’s worthwhile to look at some alternatives to drinking alcohol that could be equally as enjoyable or more so.

First, let’s review a little about drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol is generally not healthful or smart. In fact, the only alcohol recognized as beneficial is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women (two for men). If you do happen to drink beyond what is considered healthful, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • One (serving-sized) drink per hour is all your liver can metabolize. If you damage your liver, contrary to hearsay, it does not always grow back to normal. (Think fatty liver and cirrhosis.)
  • Serving sizes: If you choose to drink alcohol, be aware of these serving sizes:
    • Beer—12 ounces
    • Liquor—one ounce
    • Wine—five ounces.
  • Stay hydrated. In order to prevent dehydration, drink eight ounces of water per hour. (This will also help ward off a hangover the next day.)
  • Don’t binge drink, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as imbibing five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in a two-hour period.
  • Designate a driver. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation.

Some reasons to avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol damages liver tissue, sometimes permanently. Brain tissue is permanently damaged by drinking alcohol (something to “think” about, if you are a serious college student). It can also lower inhibitions and make you act in a way you would not normally act. Alcohol is a depressant, and so somebody who drinks alcohol regularly is more likely to develop mental health side effects, such as chronic depression. Alcoholic beverages are also highly caloric, with very little nutritional value. If you put junk into your body, you will get junk in return. It is not the best choice for an ambitious college student. Also, many young people these days are on prescription medication, which is contraindicative for drinking alcohol.

So, then, what are some alternatives to drinking that cold beer? There are countless resources online. (A few are listed at the end of this article.) Here are a few good ideas both for social events and when at home:

  • Sip a non-alcoholic beverage if attending a party where alcohol is served. For example, have orange juice, instead of a screwdriver. Drink ginger ale, instead of a Moscow Mule. Or, have a V8 instead of a Bloody Mary.
  • Drink something new to you, like herbal tea, or a Thai latte.
  • Invest in a blender, and learn to make fruit smoothies!
  • Nonalcoholic beer or sparkling grape juice is a good choice for those who do not want to draw attention.
  • Club soda, with a lemon twist, will satisfy your thirst and your taste buds simultaneously.
  • Be conscious of why you are drinking. Is it an oral fixation? Are you stressed out? Are you drowning your sorrows? Or, are you celebrating something? If you are drinking for the wrong reason, then find an alternative.
  • Think about calories. Sometimes considering calorie content is enough to change over to water. If you are trying to trim your waist for the summer, then less is more.
  • Alternate each drink with water. That way you will be drinking only half the alcohol, theoretically, as you would have been before.
  • Get involved with an active group of people, such as a group at com. Or find a campus group that interests you. Since we become like the people we hang around with, it makes sense to choose healthy people.

Finally, you’ll be glad you resisted the temptation to drink because:

  1. It’s much more fun to be in control.
  2. You won’t have a hangover when you need to study.
  3. You will not be suffering from the consequences of decisions made when under the influence.
  4. You will actually remember the fun you had and the memories you made.
  5. Your waistline, liver, brain, and overall health will thank you.
  6. Making the right choices will empower you and not depress you!

 

For more information on enjoying an alcohol-free holiday, visit these Web sites:

Alcohol facts and statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

Fact sheet about alcohol and your health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

Narconon.org
http://www.narconon.org/blog/sobriety/twenty-drug-free-sober-activities/

Treatmentsolutions.com
https://www.treatmentsolutions.com/31-things-to-do-instead-of-drinking-alcohol/

Related news story
USAToday.com
http://college.usatoday.com/2014/03/17/st-patricks-day-emphasizes-need-for-collegiate-alcohol-abuse-recovery-programs/

Eating Healthfully in the Winter

Watch Your Weight!
Eating Healthfully in the Winter

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Have you found a little extra padding around your middle lately? You are not alone!

Many people find that wintertime eating is tricky when it comes to maintaining weight. This is due to many factors, including the types of food available, the need for “comfort food” in the dark winter months, and the availability of traditional wintertime favorites. The holidays, and their fattening menu have just passed, New Year’s resolutions are almost forgotten, and we are back to our old habits.

Here are a few tips that may help you reach the warmer days of spring, with your waistline intact:

Water. Instead of pop or sweetened drinks, substitute water. The dry winter air tends to dehydrate us, and what we mistake for hunger is often just thirst. Drinking a glass of water before you eat will hydrate you, help curb your appetite, and aid digestion. As an alternative, skim milk is mostly water, but also contains a good amount of calcium and vitamin D. (Vitamin D helps with seasonal depression, which many people encounter during the winter.)

Fruits and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to make certain half your plate is fruits and vegetables. Try to pass up anything with fat or sugar added, such as fruit compote or au gratin potatoes. Fresh fruit and steamed vegetables are your best bet. Eat your vegetables and fruit before you eat your main course, so that you acquire the nutrients you need and do not overdo it with the more highly caloric entrée. (No, French fries and potato chips don’t count as vegetables!)

Lean meats. Given a choice between a hot dog, cheeseburger, or a chicken breast, choose the chicken breast more often. It is lower in fat, and fat does tend to end up around your middle during the months you are not exercising as much.

Whole grains. Choose whole wheat or whole grain products instead of white bread. The fiber in a true whole grain product is better for your heart and digestion. In addition, whole grain products have not been stripped of their nutrients. If you read the label on a whole grain product, it should list at least three grams per serving.

Unprocessed food. Try to avoid quick fix solutions, like cereal bars, protein bars, and other foods in prepackaged containers. Whole foods are better and have fewer additives. If you are going shopping at the grocery store, the unprocessed whole foods are usually the ones you will find if you walk around the perimeter of the store. They include dairy, eggs, meat, produce, and more.

Eat just half. It is okay to eat only half of the food on your plate, or just use a smaller plate. Do not let your conscience guilt you into retaining your membership in the Clean Plate Club. Your mom is not looking over your shoulder.

Sample the fattening choices. Yes, it is okay to do this. Just limit it to a spoonful or two, so you don’t feel as if you have deprived yourself.

Junk food. Do not even think about it! Keep away from the bags of chips, cookies, popcorn, and other temptations. This is a good time to “just say no.” If you need something to munch on, go for the carrots, almonds, apples, bananas, and other easily tote-able foods.

Dessert. Save dessert for one day per week. This will take some doing, especially when in certain environments. Alternatively, make fruit your dessert daily. It really just takes a different mindset, and fruit can be a delicious end of the meal.

 

For more information on eating healthfully in the winter, visit these Web sites:

WebMd:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/control-your-winter-appetite#1

http://www.webmd.com/diet/food-fitness-planner/default.htm

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html

United States Department of Agriculture:
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

 

 

Staying healthy on Spring Break

Don’t Take a Break from Good Health!
Staying healthy on Spring Break

By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Spring Break is quickly approaching, and some college students choose to travel for much-needed warmer weather, sunshine, and relaxation. In order to benefit the most from a spring break away from home, there are some key health items to remember.

Protect yourself from the sun. The shortened daylight associated with the winter months has taken its toll on all of us by this time of year. But that is no reason to forget to protect yourself from sunburn. Use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 (preferably much higher) and reapply often, wear cover-ups and a hat, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and wear sunglasses. If (but preferably before) you notice a sunburn, get out of the sun, and keep hydrated. Mild sunburns can be soothed with over-the-counter pain medications and cool compresses. Avoid any more sun exposure until the current burn has resolved.

Checklist for being in the sun:

  • Sunscreen >/= SPF 15, reapplied often
  • Cover-ups
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Highest risk between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Avoid sunburns by moving to the shade.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • OTC pain medications and cool compresses to soothe sunburn
  • Stay out of sun until burn has healed.

Be smart when drinking alcohol. The healthiest choice is one glass (five ounces) of red wine per day for women and two glasses per day for men. The liver cannot process more than one ounce of hard liquor, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer per hour. In addition, drink one eight-ounce glass of water per alcoholic drink, if at all possible, to prevent the effects of dehydration. Make sure one person is a designated driver, or arrange another mode of transportation. Also, be aware of people who might prey on unsuspecting tourists.

Checklist for drinking alcohol:

  • Drink only five ounces of red wine,
    one ounce of hard liquor,
    or 12 ounces of beer per day, to be healthy.
  • One drink per hour to avoid liver damage
  • One eight-ounce glass of water per hour to combat dehydration
  • Designated driver or another mode of transportation
  • Watch out for human predators!

Be aware of diseases and health risks. The CDC no longer lists Zika as a travel alert for Florida and Texas on its website. However, if you are traveling anywhere else on the globe that is on the CDC’s high-risk list, (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html), you will need to use mosquito repellent especially during the daylight hours in order to reduce the likelihood of Zika mosquitoes transmitting the virus to you.

Many travelers also come down with “Montezuma’s revenge” (food poisoning), but there are tips on avoiding that, too. The CDC has an app called “Can I Eat This?” For more information, go to this link: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/apps-about. When you go to the link, you can also download other helpful travel apps.

Checklist for disease avoidance:

  • Visit the CDC website to familiarize yourself with the region you are visiting.
  • Download traveler apps specific to your needs.
  • Find out which vaccinations you may need well in advance of your international trip.

Wherever you plan to go, near or far, have a safe, relaxing and healthful Spring Break!

 

For more information on enjoying a healthful Spring Break, visit these Web sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Alcohol:
http://www.cdc.gov/family/springbreak/
Destination Information:
https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), handling food safely:
https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/food-safety-tips-for-college-students/

Baylor University, Top 10 Ways to Not Become a Crime Victim (pdf):
https://business.baylor.edu/Steve_Gardner/Britain/NoCrime.pdf

 

I’m Sick! What do I do now?

I’m Sick!
What do I do now?

 

By Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

Are you feeling sick, even though you may have followed all the precautions for avoiding illness? You are not alone. Many people are coming down with something this year. In fact, it is one of the worst flu seasons on record. So, here is a list of some actions you can take, now that you may be sick.

Do not assume you are sick, if you have only one symptom.

If you have only one symptom, you might not really be sick, or you may be able to shorten your illness. For example, if you have a sore throat, do not give into the temptation of thinking you are getting sick. Sometimes you will come down with something. However, if you are vigilant about taking care of yourself (e.g. brushing your teeth, drinking plenty of water, sleeping, washing hands, eating healthfully, exercising, etc.), a sore throat may be the only symptom you will experience.

Stay home, and keep your distance from people who live with you.

On the other hand, if you have a fever or cannot contain your coughs and sneezes, just stay home. As you know, there are countless immunocompromised people in the world (the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, and people with certain illnesses), and you would not want to be responsible for passing a deadly virus to them! The CDC recommends staying home for 24 hours or more after your fever “breaks” or ends.

Stay home also to avoid infecting classmates. Professors are usually sympathetic toward students who call or email them beforehand when they will miss because of illness. (If you need an excuse note, come and see me, the Hilbert Wellness Center nurse, on duty Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the back of St. Joseph Hall.)

Keep up with your hygiene.

Proper hygiene will help keep germs from multiplying. Brush your teeth and tongue two to three times per day (when you wake up in the morning, after meals, and before bed). Brushing after vomiting is essential to protect your enamel from stomach acid. Brushing your teeth helps you feel better, but it also helps prevent the spread of your illness into your lower respiratory tract. Floss once per day.

Keep clean. Wash your hands often. It is the best way to avoid getting sick! Do not touch your face, nose, ears, eyes, or mouth, with soiled hands. Conversely, do not touch your face with clean hands and forget to wash your hands afterward. Take a warm bath or shower regularly; the moist air will help to clear your sinuses and lungs, and it will help you feel relaxed enough to try to sleep it off.

Keep hydrated (i.e. drink water!)

Since water is responsible for so many functions in our body, and our bodies are at least 60 to 70 percent water, it is crucial to keep hydrated. Try to drink at least 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day or the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Another way to measure is to drink 50 to 100 percent of your weight number in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., drink 75 to 150 ounces of water every day. Keeping a bottle of water with you throughout the day is a great habit to adopt! Refill it, as needed.

If you are feeling nauseous, I recommend sipping tepid (room temperature) water. If you try to drink cold water, it could shock your stomach, causing more vomiting. Alternatives to water include unsweetened tea, ginger ale, and Gatorade. (Just remember that anything with sugar in it will require you to brush your teeth.)

Go to bed, and sleep!

Sleeping 7 to 9 hours every night is important. Here are some reasons. While you sleep, your brain is forming pathways for learning and storing memories. Your body is building up its immune system and healing damage caused throughout the day. Hormones called cytokines, which are produced during the night, are crucial for your immune system to fight infection and inflammation. During the day, a compound called adenosine is built up, and it is only broken down again by getting enough sleep. If you miss a few nights of sound sleep, the adenosine will build up and cause sleepiness during the day. Another substance, a hormone called melatonin, makes you naturally feel sleepy at night, but that can be reversed to daytime sleepiness, if you do not fulfill your nighttime sleep requirements.

Lacking sleep undoubtedly compromises college students’ immune systems. When you are sick, it is important to listen to your body, and sleep as much as possible—even during the day.

Track your temperature.

An elevated temperature is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a fever will actually kill off many of the invading microorganisms. The problem comes in when your body overcompensates and starts killing brain cells. It is helpful to know that letting your fever rise is usually okay. According to Mayo Clinic, adults can withstand temperatures up to 103 degrees. (It is a good idea to obtain an oral thermometer as part of your personal first aid kit, but the Wellness Center nurse can also take your temperature, if needed.)

For a fever higher than 103 degrees, call your doctor. He or she may guide you through steps to reduce your fever, such as using cold compresses, taking a tepid bath or shower, or taking an antipyretic medication (one that helps lower your temperature). (Common antipyretics include aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen.) If none of these measures works, the doctor may direct you to visit a local emergency room. However, remember that many illnesses thrive in emergency rooms, and you should use that as a last resort!

Remember to stay in bed, or away from people, for an additional 24 hours after your fever has subsided. A normal temperature is around 98.6 degrees.

Medicines to take

Guidelines for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines vary according to the symptoms you are having and whether you have any problems tolerating them. Some should be taken with food (such as ibuprofen). Others (such as acetaminophen) can easily be overdosed because they are contained within many different products. Always read the label before taking any medication.

If you have just contracted the flu within the last couple of days, you could be a good candidate for some antiviral medication. However, these medications are less effective after three days or more.

(Note: Antibiotics will not work with the flu virus, since they kill bacteria, not viruses. Never accept a prescription for an antibiotic unless you have been diagnosed with a bacterial-related illness.)

When to call the doctor

Chances are your illness will run its course in a few days to a week or two. According to the Mayo Clinic, call the doctor when your fever climbs higher than 103, and is accompanied by:

  • Severe headache
  • Unusual skin rash that is rapidly worsening
  • Unusual sensitivity to bright light
  • Stiff neck and pain when turning your neck
  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting more than a couple of times
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Abdominal pain or pain during urination
  • Convulsions or seizures

If nauseous…

As previously stated, sip tepid water. Do not force yourself to eat full meals, especially on the first day. Instead, eat as much as you are comfortable eating. Do not stuff yourself. It is even okay to skip a meal or two to let your stomach settle down. Once you are able to handle food again, go easy. Avoid spicy, fatty foods, and opt for the “BRAT” diet. The BRAT diet is an acronym that stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These are all bland-tasting foods, and that is the idea. Stick to foods that have little or no flavor.

Clean and disinfect.

When you are finally out of the woods, a good idea is to clean and disinfect, so others do not catch what you are sharing!

  • Clean. First, wash surfaces with an appropriate cleaner and warm water, to remove dirt and grime. Use paper towels or washable rags. Always disinfect rags or sponges before reusing them, or toss them out. Dust, open windows to ventilate, and open the window coverings to let in the daylight.
  • Disinfect. After cleaning, use a germ-killing solution, such as a bleach or vinegar solution, to sanitize surfaces, such as doorknobs and handles, countertops where food is prepared, faucets, and anything that is handled frequently. Remember to also disinfect your bathroom.
  • Do not share personal care tools (e.g. toothbrush, nail clipper, comb, towels, glasses, cups, utensils).
  • Trash: To reduce odors and discourage the spread of germs, take out the trash.

 

For more information, follow these links:

Hilbert College Wellness Center:
“Steps for Avoiding the Flu,” (https://community.hilbert.edu/2018/01/22/steps-for-avoiding-the-flu/

Hygiene: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-winning-health-battles-with-proper-hygiene/

Hand-washing: https://hilberttoday.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/remember-to-wash-your-hands/

Sleep: https://hilbertcommunity.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-the-importance-of-sleep/

Mayo Clinic, Information on Fevers:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20352759

 

How to Keep Active During the Winter Months

Don’t be a Couch Potato!
How to Keep Active During the Winter Months

by Kirsten Falcone, RN
Hilbert College Wellness Center

If you are like me, I keep active during the warmer months, but when the cold hits, it’s difficult to resist cocooning in my space and waiting it out until spring. But, did you know that lack of exercise is one of the biggest causes of mental health problems like depression and anxiety, and physical health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer, and much more?

On the flip side, regular exercise can actually improve your immune system, lift your mood, keep all your bodily systems in order, decrease the incidence of disease, and increase your life expectancy. Physically fit people do not need as many prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and they have far fewer doctor visits. You are not in college to not do well, so it is a benefit to you to take care of yourself, because proper exercise can help you in every area of your life, including your grades!

There are three main categories of exercise. They are aerobic, strength training, and stretching. Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate. Some of the common ways you can achieve this are by walking briskly, jogging and swimming. (During the winter, though, it is difficult to safely go for a walk or jog, and it is challenging to find a swimming pool.) Strength training is usually done by lifting weights or performing “body-weight” exercises, such as push-ups. Stretching is important to increase flexibility and range of motion, as well as increase the blood circulation to your muscles and joints, thus reducing injury.

Here are some ideas to help you pull through the winter months:

  • Find an accountability partner. On days when you just have no ambition to burn some calories, an accountability partner can help you resist the urge to wait until tomorrow. Conversely, you can help your accountability partner in the same area. Pick someone who has the same goals as you do, such as losing 10 lbs. by Easter, or simply because it makes you feel healthier.
  • Visit the gym. On Hilbert Campus, that is located at the Hafner Recreation Center. http://www.hilberthawks.com/sports/2013/9/9/Facilities_0909135001.aspx?tab=weightroom.
  • Do calisthenics in your dorm room. Youtube has many exercise videos available, but you can start out with one like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHyGqsPOUHs.
  • Run up and down your dorm stairs for 20 minutes, 3 times per week.
  • Park on the far side of the parking lot, and walk the extra distance (provided your footwear has good treads to tackle icy conditions).
  • Take up a winter sport, such as cross-country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing or sledding.
  • When the conditions are good, you can still go for a brisk walk. 20-30 minutes, three times per week is a good start.
  • Extend the warm-weather sports you enjoy, but wear a couple extra layers of clothes.
  • If you can’t make it to the gym, invest in some dumbbells, and use them in your dorm room. Or you can use ordinary everyday objects, such as water bottles.
  • Jumping rope is a great aerobic activity. Here is a good beginner video you can try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NIvRAaOdlQ
  • Use an exercise ball. An exercise ball is large enough to be used in place of a desk chair, so sitting on it will improve posture. Plus, there are many great strength-training exercises you can learn. Many people swear by these for keeping their core strong.
  • Perform crunches, lunges, chair dips, push-ups and more in the privacy of your dorm room.
  • Take a yoga class. Yoga combines strength and stretching exercises, and many swear by it for its calming effects.
  • Use an exercise app. Most smart phones come with one of these. Find out how to use it, and it will help you set and meet your goals.
  • Finally, don’t overdo it. If you feel pain, just stop! Pain is a warning sign that you will injure yourself, and an injury is counterproductive to further fitness.

What does the nurse do for fitness? With smart phone in pocket (so I can track how far I went), I take my dog for a walk around the neighborhood for half an hour when the weather cooperates, and I use an elliptical for the days when I cannot face the elements. Every morning I stretch before I do anything else. Strength training will be the next adventure for me. I did not develop these habits overnight, but they have become part of my healthy “couch-potato-less” lifestyle. If I can do this (at my age!), then you certainly can, too!

For more information on keeping active during the winter months, click on these links:

Everyday Health, Exercises you can do anywhere anytime:
https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness-pictures/exercises-you-can-do-anywhere-anytime.aspx?pos=1&xid=nl_EverydayHealthWomensHealth_20180129

WebMD, Lack of Exercise is More Deadly than Obesity:
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20150114/lack-of-exercise-more-deadly-than-obesity-study-suggests#1

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Benefits of Physical Activity:
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

Money Crashers, Strength Training without Equipment:
http://www.moneycrashers.com/strength-training-exercises-women/

Mayo Clinic, How to Stretch:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/stretching/sls-20076840

WebMD, Exercise Ball Moves:
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/10-fun-moves-to-reshape-your-body-with-exercise-ball-workout#1