Archive for February, 2019

Surviving Allergies and Asthma

Allergies and asthma are often partners in crime. With pollen production now in high gear, here are some things you should know, including who to see and where to go if you need treatment.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 60% of approximately 25 million asthma cases in the U.S. are allergy related, making it the most common type of asthma. Other kinds include:

  • Non-allergic/Exercise-induced, which occurs during or after physical activity (see our Understanding Exercise-Induced Asthma blog for more)
  • Aspirin-induced, caused by a sensitivity to non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen
  • Cough-variant, where the chief or even the only sign is a constant dry cough that never produces mucus or phlegm
  • Thunderstorm asthma, which is a form of asthma that occurs when stormy winds and rain break pollen grains into particles small enough to be inhaled into airways (read A Perfect Storm in the Winter 2017 edition of Emory Medicine magazine for more)

What Is Asthma?

Regardless of the type or cause, asthma is a disease where the airways in the lungs get inflamed and narrow, making it hard to breathe. Allergic asthma is set off by substances that are usually harmless, but in people with allergies, their immune system attacks them as an invading threat.

Common allergens that trigger asthma:

  • Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds – notably, ragweed, ryegrass, oak, maple, elm, mulberry and – a southern favorite – pecan
  • Animal dander (tiny flakes of skin shed off by pets)
  • Mold spores
  • Cockroaches and dust mites (more accurately, the feces and body parts they leave behind)

Asthma Symptoms

Whether caused by allergies, exercise, stress, colds and flu, or other irritants, asthma signs are about the same:

  • Coughing (with a cough that’s usually dry and persistent)
  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when you breath)
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tightness in the chest

It’s important to recognize and treat the above signs to prevent a more severe asthma attack.

Symptoms of a Severe Asthma Attack

Call 911 or immediately go to the nearest emergency room if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Not being able to catch your breath, even when you’re sitting still
  • No relief or improvement after using a rescue inhaler
  • Problems walking, talking or any other typical activity
  • Loss of color, or blue coloring, in your face, lips or nails
  • Breathlessness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Swelling of your face, eyes, tongue, as well as your hands or feet
  • The skin between your ribs sucks in

Know Where to Go

If you think you have asthma, it’s important to see a physician for testing and diagnosis. Your primary care physician (PCP) can help manage mild and occasional asthma attacks with either Quick Relief or Long-Term Control medication.

But, if your symptoms are more frequent, moderate or severe, a PCP can help connect you with the right specialist, such as an allergist or pulmonologist. Your PCP and specialist should work together with you to keep episodes to a minimum. If you need care or prescriptions renewed and can’t get to your PCP, urgent care centers and MinuteClinics can provide help with asthma and help get allergies under control.

It also bears repeating: If you have severe symptoms or are concerned your life is in danger in any way, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Have questions or need to find the right care? Call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.

To find Emory Healthcare providers near you, please visit emoryhealthcare.org

Fighting Flu Symptoms? Know Where to Go to Get the Right Care

Since the flu virus is very contagious and can sometimes cause serious complications like pneumonia, knowing where to go can keep you and your family safe if the flu bug visits your home this season.

First, Know the Symptoms

Flu and cold symptoms can seem similar. While there’s no sure-fire way to tell the difference, one hint that it could be the flu is a very sudden onset of symptoms, such as:

  • Bad cough
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Feeling wiped out
  • Fever with chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting

Then, Know If You and Your Loved Ones Are Vulnerable

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who get influenza will recover within a few weeks. But it is possible to develop complications as a result of the flu virus, ranging from mild (such as upper respiratory tract or ear infections) to serious (such as pneumonia or inflammation of the heart).

The flu can hit anyone at any age, but some of us are vulnerable to developing complications, especially:

  • Young children
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease

Next, Know Where to Go

If Needed, Try a Clinic

If you can’t get an appointment at a time that works for you, or your doctor’s schedule is all booked up, you still have options.

The Emory Healthcare Network partners with CVS MinuteClinic locations throughout Atlanta, as well as Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care centers for more than 60 convenient locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding communities. This gives you access 7 days a week for most of the year—including flu season.

Find a CVS MinuteClinic or Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care location near you.

When to Go to the Emergency Room

Emergency departments should be used for just that  . . .  emergencies. The American College of Emergency Physicians defines a medical emergency as any severe health condition that has come on suddenly and may cause a person to think his or her health is in serious jeopardy. But even knowing that, it’s still sometimes difficult to spot the more subtle warning signs (and we’re afraid to be wrong).

Be prepared to head to the nearest emergency room should your child have any of these specific flu symptoms:

  • Bluish skin
  • Fast breathing/trouble breathing
  • Improvement followed by returning fever and worse cough
  • High fever with rash
  • Irritability/not wanting to be held
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting

In addition to the above, go to the ER immediately if your infant has:

  • A lot less wet diapers than normal
  • No tears when crying
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unable to eat

Seek immediate help from an emergency department if you or another adult has any of the following flu symptoms:

  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration (thirst, urinating less often, trouble keeping liquids down)
  • Dizziness
  • Flu symptoms improve but return with fever and worse cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

Always be prepared with important medical information for you and your family, should an emergency occur, such as a list of each of your current medications. Also be ready to explain when the symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever has lasted, who you’ve been in contact with and any other health concerns.

If you’re not sure, call your family doctor or call the Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.

What You Should Know About the Stomach Flu

Everyone on the planet has had or will have stomach flu. Would you be surprised to know that stomach flu isn’t really flu at all? It’s actually a virus (norovirus) — and it’s highly contagious.

Stomach flu spreads from infected feces or vomit. Yuck, right? The best way to protect yourself and your family is for everyone to wash their hands often and well. If you’re changing diapers or cleaning up after a sick kid, clean up after yourself, too.

This bug spreads easily and is often picked up when we touch hard surfaces used by many (doorknobs, sink faucets, cutting boards). The best ways to keep things clean and virus-free are to:

  • Stay away from food-prep areas if you’re sick or recovering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water — hand sanitizers don’t do as good of a job.
  • Wear gloves to do laundry.
  • Use disinfectant cleaners generously to kill viruses on hard surfaces such as counters, doorknobs and light switches.

Stomach Flu Symptoms

With a stomach virus, symptoms come on slowly over one to two days. Norovirus symptoms may include:

  • Cramps or aching belly
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms are similar to food poisoning symptoms. The easiest way to detect the difference is to note whether your symptoms came on fast or if they progressed slowly over a few days. If they hit fast, it could be food poisoning, which is caused by bad bacteria like salmonella.

Getting Better

The good news about stomach flu and food poisoning is they usually run their course in a day or two. But while you’re suffering, it’s important to stay hydrated. Replace the minerals lost through diarrhea and vomiting by drinking fluids that contain electrolytes — just steer clear of sports drinks that have a lot of sugar and salt.

Once you’re feeling better, keep your diet light for a few days with foods that are easy to digest.

Know Where to Go

If you or someone in your family has stomach flu symptoms for more than three days, visit your primary care physician (PCP). Other reasons to see your PCP include:

  • Bloody stool or vomit.
  • Lack of urine or dark urine, which may mean dehydration.
  • Oral temperature of over 101.5 °F.

Your doctor knows you and your family’s health history and can probably see you fast. Another plus to seeing your PCP? A low co-pay.

If a stomach bug strikes after doctor’s office hours or during peak flu time, you can get the care and attention you need at an urgent care center. Learn more about Emory Healthcare Network’s partnerships with organizations such as CVS MinuteClinics and Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care. Combined, these partners provide more than 70 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties and put convenient care where you need it, 7 days a week and no appointment necessary.

When to Go to the ER

It’s time for the ER if you or someone in your care is suffering with:

  • A temperature over 102 °F for more than 2 days that doesn’t respond to medicine.
  • Severe dehydration (symptoms include dark urine or lack of urine).

If you take your child to the ER, have key information ready for the nurse or doctor. Keep track of when symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever or rash has lasted, how often your child has gone to the bathroom, any medications, who they’ve been in contact with, and any other health concerns. Bring water, snacks and a toy for your child.

If you’re not sure, call your family doctor or Emory HealthConnection to speak to an Emory nurse at 404-778-7777.