DoctorSolve March 2011 Healthletter Edition                                                 (If you cannot read this, click here)
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On March 20th, Spring will be officially in the air. However, along with the singing birds and new leaves on the trees comes the terrible allergy season. More than one in six North Americans suffer from seasonal allergies such as hay fever or rhinitis. Have a look through some of the health tips in this Healthletter and fight back against seasonal allergies.

Please feel free to forward this Healthletter to your friends and colleagues who might benefit from or be interested in some of the information provided. You can also submit any feedback you may have to [email protected].

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Seasonal Allergies are on their Way

Millions of North Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, also commonly referred to as hay fever. Seasonal allergies occur during certain times of the year. In general, spring and fall tend to be harsher for victims of seasonal allergies. This is because of the high pollen counts present at these times.

The term used to describe the cause of an allergy is an allergen. Seasonal allergies differ from other allergies in that the allergen is only present for part of the year. Some effects that result when exposed to an allergen include: a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, itchiness, and nasal congestion. These seasonal allergy symptoms can be extremely difficult to bear with.

Here are some tips to help reduce exposure to allergens:

  • Keep all windows and doors closed and use air conditioning instead.
  • Purchase a dehumidifier to reduce the amount of moisture in your home.
  • Change your clothes as soon as you get home.
  • Wash your linens often.
  • Keep the house clutter free.
  • Machine dry laundry instead of hang drying it.
  • Limit pets to certain areas of the house.
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors in order to reduce irritation to the eyes.
  • Install hardwood floors and limit carpeting.
  • Avoid going out in the morning. This is when pollen counts are the highest.
  • Check local pollen counts before leaving indoors.

Although these are all great measures to take, avoiding pollen allergies completely is nearly impossible. There are, however, a wide range of medications available that can help control symptoms. These include: antihistamines, decongestants, and allergy shots. Often, treatment involves the use of more than one type of medication. Reactine, Allegra D, and Patenol are some examples. You can also try over the counter Claritin and see if it works for you.

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Poor Health Literacy is Hurting Seniors

Health literacy plays a pivotal role in health communication according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Health illiteracy is defined as the inability of a patient to access, analyze, and/or act on information given about their health, the medications they are taking, or any instructions they were to follow.

A recent study revealed that seniors are not taking their medications properly primarily due to low health literacy. In a recent study, researchers found that patients were taking medications up to fourteen times a day preferring not to combine dosages together. Up to one third of the patients were found to take two drugs at separate times despite the drugs being prescribed in the same manner (i.e. one pill every twelve hours). Although the majority of the patients were highly educated, nearly half were found to be lacking in adequate health literacy.

Cognitive decline is a common cause of health illiteracy in seniors. Taking prescription medications can be difficult when doctors do not sufficiently explain the dosage of a medication or whether it is safe to combine it with other prescription medications. DoctorSolve.com is an online pharmacy where patients can easily resolve any questions or concerns they have about their prescription medications. The patient services available at DoctorSolve allow patients to ask medical questions directly to a qualified doctor. Moreover patients that purchase their prescription medications from DoctorSolve are also able to speak with a pharmacist when unclear about the instructions provided with their medications.

Fear of accidental drug overdose or negative drug interactions also resulted in patients refusing to combine their medications. In general, doctors should be aware of all the drugs, herbal supplements, and vitamins their patient is taking in order to prevent any drug interactions. Doctors generally prescribe prescription medications that are safe to use together, therefore not endangering the health of the patient. Lastly, when you are in doubt about taking medication, it is always best to consult a doctor or pharmacist.

Zinc - The Cure for the Common Cold?

Although there is still no cure for the common cold, zinc seems to be the next best thing. The Cochrane Library published a new study that shows taking zinc helps reduce the symptoms of a cold in a shorter period of time. The common cold is one of the main causes of doctor visits and school absences.

Studies shows that ongoing use of zinc products such as throat lozenges, syrups, and tablets can reduce coughing, sneezing, cold headaches, and other cold symptoms.

Although the study shows the benefits of using zinc in the form of drugs, researchers are hesitant to recommend certain drugs. Zinc lozenges can have a bad taste and they can also cause nausea. The use of nasal sprays such as atravent nasal spray are fine, but doctors recommend not using zinc nasal sprays as it may cause people to lose their sense of smell.

Also, studies show that zinc may help to reduce symptoms for the following diseases:

  • Sickle cell disease
  • Stomach ulcers
  • ADHD
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Herpes Simplex
  • Wilson's Disease

Zinc is also used in the treatment for hair and nail growth, arthritis, skin problems, infertility, and infections. Although zinc can help reduce cold symptoms in a short amount of time it can still cause a bad reaction. Consult your doctor before taking any medication or supplements. When using zinc, speak to your doctor immediately if you experience any side effects.