Tag Archives: family health

Double Trouble: Flu Season and COVID-19

By: LAUREN BOND, CRNP

The annual flu season is expected to begin this month with the onset of cold weather. And for the second year, COVID-19 is likely to be spreading at the same time, making this flu season an especially dangerous time.

Flu – short for influenza – is a common virus that infects millions of Americans each year. For most people, the flu isn’t dangerous, but people over 65, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions are at greater risk for serious complications, such as pneumonia and sepsis.

The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. This season, all flu vaccines are designed to protect against the four strains of the flu virus that are expected to be the most common. The vaccine is not 100% guaranteed to prevent the flu, but it greatly lowers your risk. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older get the shot before the end of October.


See the CDC Influenza Map to track the severity of flu in Maryland.


Flu and the Coronavirus

It’s not possible to be sure what will happen in the fall and winter, but the CDC says it’s likely that flu viruses and the coronavirus will both be spreading at the same time. With COVID-19 prevention measures (such as stay-at-home orders and mask mandates) being relaxed, this may result in more COVID-19 cases during flu season.

It’s possible for a person to be infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, and the results can be very serious, especially for people older than 65 or with certain medical conditions. Flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses and share some of the same symptoms ‒ such as a fever, cough, and runny nose ‒ so testing may be necessary to tell which disease a person has.

The best way to prevent a double flu/COVID infection is to make sure you are vaccinated for both the flu and COVID-19. MPCP can give patients the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time for the best possible protection.

Next steps

  • All MPCP offices now have the flu vaccine, so make an appointment to get your shot.
  • Think you may have the flu? Check your symptoms.
  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. They can’t cure the flu, but they can make your illness milder and shorter. Ask your doctor about antiviral drugs.

Lauren bond, CRNPLauren Bond, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, cares for patients in MPCP’s Queenstown office. She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Family Practice.

Do These Four Things to Keep Your Eyes Healthy

By: ERIN YATES, CRNP

Many people are fortunate enough to take good vision for granted, however, there are more than 4.2 million Americans 40 years and older who have low vision or are legally blind.

The leading causes of blindness and low vision are these age-related conditions:

  • Macular degeneration: Disease of the retina – the light-sensitive membrane lining the inner eyeball ‒ resulting in the loss of central vision.
  • Cataracts: Clouding of the eye lens, the transparent section in the front of the eye.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: Disease of the retina caused by uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Glaucoma: Damage to the optic nerve ‒ which connects the eye to the brain ‒ caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye.

Four Ways to Protect Your Vision

  1. Find out if you are at risk for eye disease

Your risk for eye disease is higher if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Have a family history of eye disease
  • Are African American, Hispanic or Native American

Talk to your primary care provider about ways to lower your risk.

  1. Take care of your health

Healthy habits like eating well and being active can lower your risk for conditions that can lead to eye or vision problems, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Follow these tips to support your vision health:

  • Eat healthy foods. Be sure to have plenty of dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. Eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids ‒ like salmon, tuna and halibut ‒ is good for your eyes, too.
  • Get active. Being physically active helps you stay healthy. It can also lower your risk of health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which can cause vision problems.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, and it can harm the optic nerve. If you are ready to quit, talk to your primary care provider about methods and support.
  1. Protect your eyes

There are ways to protect your eyes from things that may harm them.

  • Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses, even on cloudy days. Be sure to look for sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Safety glasses and goggles are designed to protect your eyes during certain activities, like playing sports, doing construction work, or doing home repairs.
  • Give your eyes a rest. Looking at a computer for a long time can tire out your eyes. Rest your eyes by taking a short break from looking at the screen every 20 minutes.
  • If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent eye infections. Always wash your hands before you put your contact lenses in or take them out. Be sure to disinfect your contact lenses and replace them regularly.
  1. Get an eye exam

Even if your eyes feel healthy, you could have a problem and not know it. That is because many eye diseases do not have any symptoms or warning signs. A complete, dilated eye exam is the only way to detect certain eye diseases early and early diagnosis can often make these diseases easier to treat.

If you are generally healthy, you should have a complete eye exam at age 40. This is the age when some vision changes and eye diseases are likely to start. If you are 60 or older, have your eyes checked every 1 to 2 years.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you are at higher risk for diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss. Everyone with diabetes should have yearly eye exams as a part of their diabetes management. MPCP offers screening for diabetic retinopathy in our offices, so ask your provider about setting up an exam.

Erin Yates, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received her Master of Science in Nursing degree from George Washington University in 2018. She cares for patients in the Columbia office.

I Recovered From COVID-19. Why Am I Still Sick?

BY: VICTOR M. PLAVNER, M.D.

Some people have recovered from COVID-19, but months later they still have symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, a racing heart and trouble thinking.

If you are one of these unfortunate “long haulers,” you may continue to be sick even though you have recovered and tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Most people who get the disease make a full recovery, but it’s estimated that 10%-30% of patients continue to experience symptoms months after their initial diagnosis.

Anyone can be a long hauler

Even young people and those who had only mild cases are affected. About one in five young adults reports prolonged problems, and some people who were never hospitalized can’t climb stairs, get winded easily, and need oxygen for shortness of breath.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes these drawn-out symptoms, but an inflammatory response may be responsible. COVID-19 makes your body’s disease-fighting antibodies overreact, attacking healthy cells and damaging tissues and organs. If this inflammatory response continues, the outcome could be “long Covid” that lasts for weeks or months.

First steps toward treatment

It is not yet well understood how to treat long Covid, but anti-inflammatory drugs may be one answer. Also, doctors are finding that a program of rehabilitation can help. People with lingering fatigue can benefit from gradual exercise, including breathing exercises to increase lung capacity. And those with cognitive issues can recover with the help of a neuropsychologist. Ask your doctor about possible treatment plans.

Since COVID-19 is a relatively new disease, its long-term health effects aren’t fully understood. One thing is certain, however: the best way to avoid complications is to prevent COVID-19.


Common ‘long Covid’ symptoms

If you continue to suffer any of these symptoms after recovering from Covid-19, you may be a Covid long hauler:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Changes in smell: food may smell bad
  • Confusion, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating

 

Victor Plavner, M.D.Dr. Plavner is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner, is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, and practices at the MPCP Arnold office. He earned his medical degree at the University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium; and at George Washington University Medical Center.

Tips for Dealing With Isolation During Covid-19

By: Ariel Warden-Jarrett, M.D., FAAFP

People are meant to be together. Relationships and community are an important part of our lives, and we need meaningful connections to be happy and healthy.

To stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been forced to cut ourselves off from some of our normal connections: family, friends, coworkers and social activities. This enforced social isolation is more than unpleasant, it can result in emotional and physical problems.

The Health Effects of Isolation

Changes to our daily lives can be unsettling, and the extended isolation we’re experiencing can lead to negative health effects, such as:

  • Sadness: Being deprived of our regular routines and social contacts can cause feelings of loss and sadness.
  • Depression. Being isolated and lonely can lead from sadness to depression, and depression can, in turn, make you want to withdraw further from others.
  • Anxiety. Loneliness and isolation can cause anxiety, and if anxiety increases you may suffer from irrational fears.
  • Lack of sleep. Socially isolated people tend to have more restless sleep, insomnia, or not enough sleep. This leads to fatigue, lack of focus and concentration, irritability and mood swings.
  • Heart disease and stroke. There is a strong link between emotional and physical health. Isolation can result in heart disease or stroke due to the lack of support to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

 

Tips to Maintain Connections

Quarantining is necessary during the pandemic, but there are simple things you can do to maintain your social connections and stay healthy. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make a call. Have daily check-ins with close friends and family. Make a list of people to call, text or video chat. Try iPhone Facetime, Skype or Google Hangouts for face-to-face chats.
  • Use Zoom or another platform to have a “party” with friends. Zoom allows you to connect with several people at once, so it’s ideal for occasions such as happy hours or birthdays.
  • Get the popcorn. Watch your favorite shows or movies with family, or with friends over video platforms.
  • Share a meal. Make time to connect as a family over dinner. Or schedule a time to eat with a friend via video chat.
  • Take up a hobby. Hobbies can fill the hours while enriching your life. Rediscover an old interest, such as art, music, writing or try something new. There are many hobbies you can do with a family member or while Facetiming with a friend.
  • Exercise. Exercise is a great way to release natural endorphins and relieve feelings of anxiety. Take a walk with a family member or socially distanced friend. There are also many free online workouts you can do indoors with someone else. See the article in this issue to get started.
  • Give back. Think how you can support neighbors, friends, family, your community or coworkers. Make a contribution to your local food pantry. Clean out your closet and set aside things for donation. Bake something or make a meal for a friend and drop it off at their front door.
  • Foster a pet. Having a furry friend keep you company helps ease anxiety and depression from isolation. If you already have a pet, make time for walks and play. If not, check with your local animal shelter to learn about fostering or adopting.

Being quarantined hasn’t been easy for any of us. If you find that your feelings of loneliness and sadness are interfering with your life, reach out to your MPCP provider. We can help with advice or treatment to see you through the hard times.

 

Ariel Warden-Jarrett, M.D.Dr. Warden-Jarrett is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She holds her medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and sees patients in the Bowie office.