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Cold vs. Flu: How to read and treat your symptoms

fluCough, congestion, aches, chills. Cold and flu season is upon us. But which do you have? And why does it matter?

“Both the common cold and influenza (the flu) are respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by different viruses. In general, flu symptoms are more severe than the common cold and can lead to complications such as pneumonia or bacterial infections,” says Richard Menet, MD, a physician with Affinity Occupational Health.

Get the FACTS
While many cold symptoms can mimic the flu, there are five FACTS that generally point to influenza:

Food borne illness prevention tips

clean upMany food borne illnesses – which can be caused by a variety of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites – are caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. While most of the food in the U.S. can be considered safe, food can become contaminated at any point in its preparation.  There are many simple food safety rules that we can all practice in our home kitchens to keep our food safe. Here are a few:

Hand Hygiene

  • Wash hands when they are dirty. A good rule to follow is to wash your hands when you come home from being outside. (Just think of all the things you have touched when out shopping, running errands, etc.)
  • Wash hands before handling food, and before and after eating.
  • Wash hands after handling pets and other animals.
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Practice cough etiquette by coughing (and sneezing) in the crook of your arm.

Wash Surfaces

  • Keep kitchen surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards and other appliances clean.
  • Check your can openers and clean them after each use.
  • Wash dishcloths, sponges and towels often. Use hot water. *Tip: put sponges in your next dishwasher load to clean them.
  • Replace worn sponges frequently.

Cutting Boards

  • Whether you use wood, plastic, acrylic, glass or other type of cutting boards the key is to designate one strictly for raw meats and another for ready to eat foods such as breads, fruits and vegetables. Try using color-coded cutting boards. Designate a certain colored cutting board for vegetables and another colored board for meats to help you remember which one to use.
  • Keep cutting boards clean by washing them thoroughly in hot soapy water after each use; or place them in the dishwasher after each use. The safest way to clean ‘meat’ cutting boards is to wash them with hot water and then disinfect them with bleach or other sanitizing solution. Keeping a spray bottle with bleach by your kitchen sink may be convenient.
  • Discard cutting boards that have a lot of scratches or knife scars, cracks, crevices, splinters, etc.

Prevent Cross Contamination

  • When storing raw meats, place them on a plate and store them on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so their juices don’t inadvertently drip onto other foods.
  • If washing produce before use, store in clean containers not their original one.
  • Wash plates and other containers between use or use different plates to hold raw meats and other foods.
  • Use one utensil to taste the food and a different one to stir the food.
  • If you have a cut or other sores on your hands use gloves.

Proper Cooking Temperatures

  • Cooking food to proper temperatures is a reliable way to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses.
  • Using a food thermometer is important to ensure that food is cooked to a safe temperature.
  • To ensure that red meats, chops, poultry etc. are cooked to their proper temperature, insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the meat away from bone or gristle.
  • Insert thermometer in the inner thigh area near the breast, but not touching the bone when cooking whole poultry.
  • For egg dishes and casseroles, insert thermometer in the center or thickest area of the dish.
  • For ground meat foods, insert thermometer into the thickest area. You may have to insert it sideways to reach the very center of a burger patty, for example.
  • When cooking fish, cook until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Refrigerate Promptly

  • Make sure your refrigerator is set below 40º F.
  • Foods should not stay out of refrigeration for longer than two hours. In very hot weather, food should not stay out for longer than one hour.
  • When in doubt, check this website for more information about general guidelines about refrigeration leftovers: http://homefoodsafety.org/

Keeping your food safe once you bring it home is important to keep you and your family healthy.  For more information on home food safety visit: http://homefoodsafety.org

How to treat a sprained ankle

sprained ankle Ouch! A sudden jolt of pain just shot through your lower leg and now it feels like your ankle is being squeezed in a vise-grip. You might have been running down the court, taking a hike on rough terrain, stepped in a divot in your yard or maybe you tripped while walking. No matter how you did it, all ankle sprains will have some (if not all) of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Difficulty moving the ankle
  • Difficulty walking
  • Bruising
  • Warm to the touch
  • Increased pain to the touch Continue Reading »

Miscarriages: Causes, symptoms and advice

tips and adviceAs someone who serves on the front line of face-to-face care with families suffering from a miscarriage or stillbirth, I see how devastating losing a pregnancy can be for mothers. Miscarriage is not a topic women want to think about or discuss, especially if they are in their first trimester of pregnancy. In this blog post, I will help break down what a miscarriage is, the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage and some advice and tips.

What causes a miscarriage?
Many miscarriages are caused by a chromosomal abnormality that make it impossible for the baby to develop. Other possible causes include drug and alcohol abuse, exposure to environmental toxins, infection, problem with the body’s immune response and hormonal abnormalities. Continue Reading »

What to do after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer

breast cancerAs a nurse navigator for breast cancer patients, I connect with individuals just minutes after they are diagnosed. This is an emotional time and often I get asked, “What do I do now?”

Below are three suggestions I make to patients after they have been told they have breast cancer:

  • Utilize your Care Team

A lot of the time women turn to the World Wide Web for answers to their cancer questions. Yes, the Internet is a fast and convenient resource for information, but unfortunately, not everything online is reliable.

I encourage families to make a list of their concerns and questions to take to their Care Team.  Having questions ready to ask will help your team provide you with the information you need to feel secure in your treatment options.

Try not to compare breast cancer treatments with other breast cancer survivors. There are more than 15 different types of breast cancer, and each case may be treated differently. Hearing other peoples’ stories of cancer can just create more fear and confusion. Continue Reading »

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.