where to go

Food Poisoning: What It Is and How to Prevent It

meat and vegetables on grillAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans will experience foodborne illness throughout the year. Contracting food poisoning is as simple as ingesting food that has been contaminated by some germ or toxic substance. This contamination could happen before the food is brought into a kitchen for preparation or during the food handling process. On the bright side, food poisoning is preventable and you can take steps to decrease the likelihood of you or your loved ones contracting it.

What is Food Poisoning?

Foodborne illness, foodborne disease and foodborne infection are other names for what is commonly known as food poisoning. According to the CDC, typical food poisoning symptoms are:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

These symptoms do not always develop immediately after eating the food and may take anywhere from several hours to a few days to become apparent.

How Does Food Poisoning Happen?

Food poisoning happens when chemicals or toxins contaminate a food source that is then eaten by an individual. Most cases occur when bacteria, such as staphylococcus or E coli, are ingested. There are a variety of things that may cause this to happen. The intestines of meat or poultry may spread bacteria during processing. The water that is used to grow or ship food has the potential of containing waste of animals or people. Consumption of raw, undercooked or improperly stored foods, or preparation of food with unclean hands or surfaces, greatly increases the chances of consumers getting food poisoning. Finally, germs can spread to food through improper handling or preparation at grocery stores, restaurants, or even at home.

How Can I Keep Food Poisoning from Happening to Me?

The CDC has stated that there are four steps to protecting oneself from food poisoning.

Clean: It’s important to clean your hands and surfaces often. Many of the germs that contaminate food and induce food poisoning are able to survive in many places around the kitchen. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be rinsed off, and hands need to be washed for 20 seconds with soap and water at multiple stages during cooking (before, during and after) and before eating. Finally, cleaning any tool used to prepare or eat the food with hot soapy water helps to protect from food poisoning.

Separate: Both foods that need preparation and those that are ready-to-eat need to remain separate to eliminate the risk of spreading germs. This means using separate cutting boards and plates for raw ingredients, keeping raw foods and their juices from coming into contact with other foods, and keeping all raw foods separated during refrigeration.

Cook: When cooking, the internal temperature of the food needs to increase enough to kill any of the germs that can potentially cause illness. The most effective and accurate way to assess whether or not food is cooked safely is with a food thermometer. Gauging based on the color or texture of the food is not an accurate way of checking if the food has been safely prepared. The following are internal temperatures some specific foods should be prepared at:

  • 145 degrees: Whole beef, veal and lamb, fresh pork, ham and fin fish
  • 160 degrees: Ground beef, veal, pork and lamb, and egg dishes
  • 165 degrees: All poultry (including ground chicken and turkey), stuffing, leftovers and casseroles

It’s also important to note that certain foods, such as fresh pork, fresh ham, steaks, roasts, and chops, should rest for 3 minutes prior to consumption.

Chill: Any perishable food items need to be refrigerated within 2 hours, unless the outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees, in which case the food should be refrigerated within 1 hour. The temperature of a refrigerator should remain below 40 degrees. While adhering to these guidelines is important, after a specific amount of time (it varies by food item), some food needs to be thrown out since it will no longer be safe to eat.

Usually, food poisoning is not severe enough to warrant a visit to your primary care physician. If you or a loved one has symptoms that have persisted for 3 days or are fairly severe, can’t keep fluids down 24 hours after having food poisoning, or your diarrhea or vomit has blood or mucus, you should visit your primary care physician immediately.

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go when you’re ill makes a big difference. But it can get confusing. Know where to go to get the right care at the right time. Your primary care doctor knows your medical history best, but the Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinics, hundreds of primary care locations and 6 ERs throughout metro Atlanta. Get the care you need wherever you need it. See our map to find the locations closest to you.

Talk to Our Nurses

If you’re not sure if a trip to the ER is needed, call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993, and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as medical director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and assistant clinical professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Surviving the Spring Pollen

Spring is in full swing! Before we get excited and bolt out the doors for warmer weather, it is important to remember that pollen production is high during this season. Spring allergies can be complex. So, where does pollen come from? How do you prevent the allergies? Here are some things to know.

Common Questions About Allergies

Allergies and asthma have an interesting relationship that can affect everyone in some way. See our “Surviving Allergies and Asthma” blog to learn more about the connection between the two.

pollen allergyWhere Does Pollen Come From?

Pollen comes from trees, shrubs, and grass. Every spring, summer, and fall, pollen is released from these plants for fertilization. These tiny grains are carried in the wind and can trigger the common symptoms we know of: runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes. To keep the allergies to a minimum, try avoiding these plant species:

Trees

  • Ash trees are commonly found in North America and produce large amounts of pollen.
  • Birch trees are found in almost every state. This species produces pollen when they flower.
  • Oak trees are found worldwide. There are more than 80 species of oak trees in North America.

Shrubs

  • Forsythia shrubs begin to bloom at the end of winter. The peak pollen production is during spring.
  • Holly shrubs bloom during spring. In the Southeast, the tree version is common and can grow up to 40 feet tall.

Grass

  • Zoysia grass is the worst pollen offender. Growing season for this grass is from early spring to late fall. To keep zoysia from producing high amounts of pollen, keep the grass short.

Tips to Surviving Spring Pollen

  • Allergy testing is one of the best ways to determine which species can trigger your allergies.
  • Consider removing any of the plant species above or strategically plant them farther away from the house/bedroom windows.
  • If you have outdoor plans, take allergy medication before leaving the house. Don’t wait for the symptoms to occur.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Adjust outdoor activities around high pollen counts. Pollen counts are the highest during midday.
  • For additional tips, visit http://emry.link/allergy10.

Know Where to Go

If over-the-counter medication is not aiding your allergies, consider visiting your primary care physician. Primary care physicians can help connect you with an allergen specialist. Both will work together to help keep your allergen episodes to a minimum.

If you are unable to get renewed prescriptions or unable to get in contact with your primary care physician, urgent care centers and MinuteClinics can provide help with allergies.

 

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 (door knobs, sink faucets, cutting boards). The best ways to keep things clean and virus-free is to:

  • Stay away from food prep areas if you’re sick or recovering.
  • Wash your hands with soap + 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, door knobs 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 like CVS MinuteClinics and Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care. Combined, these partners provide nearly 60 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties and puts 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.

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as Medical Director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Back-to-School Bugs & Beyond: Know Where to Go

Back to school bugsBack-to-school bugs mean your kids may soon be coming home sniffling, sneezing or showing other signs of battling a “bug.”

Your kid’s classroom can be just the kind of enclosed space that makes a great breeding ground for viruses and bacteria to multiply and spread. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elementary school children catch eight to 12 colds or cases of flu each school year.

Back-to-School Bugs

Back to school brings kids back in touch with lots of other kids. It can be a stressful time, even for kids who have the healthiest immune systems. Children returning to school may be exposed to:

  • Colds, cold sores, coughs
  • Pink eye
  • Stomach bugs

You can prepare your kids for battling any back-to-school bugs by strengthening their immune systems. Here’s how:

  • Get your kids back on a good sleep schedule
  • Boost diets with Vitamin C rich fruits & veggies
  • Make sure they stay hydrated

Healthy Habits

  • Hand washing: The best way for your child to stay healthy at school is to practice good hand washing. Teach your child to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. That’s how you know they’ll be washing for at least twenty seconds. And, your child should use soap. It’s more effective than hand sanitizers.
  • Clean water: Arm your child with a water bottle and teach them this is one thing that should never be shared. Hydration is important, but drinking fountains can be hot zones for germs. They aren’t cleaned and disinfected as often as school bathrooms are. If your child does use the water fountain, they should let the water run before drinking and keep their mouths from touching the fountain.
  • Healthy manners: Teach your child to always cough or sneeze into an elbow.

Allergy Alert

Here in Atlanta, ragweed pollen blooms in August and is at its peak in September. In addition to ragweed, tree pollens can also be blamed for allergies.

If your child suffers from allergies, prepare for back to school by pretreating with allergy medication before the peak of pollen season.

Symptoms of allergies include:

  • Asthma attacks
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy eyes, nose, and scratchy throat
  • Post-nasal drip, runny nose
  • Headache
  • Sneezing

Learn more about allergies here.

Know Where to Go When It’s Not Life Threatening

Primary care physician, family doctor or pediatrician: If your child does come down with a bug or an infection, start out by seeing your pediatrician, family doctor or primary care physician (PCP). They are already familiar with your child and know their health history best.

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

MinuteClinics and urgent care centers are good alternatives if you need to see a health care provider sooner than you can see your PCP, or if you need care outside of your PCP’s normal office hours. MinuteClinics can treat many minor illnesses and injuries and prescribe medications. Urgent care centers can treat serious, but not life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

When to Go to the Emergency Room

Unfortunately, playground accidents and back-to-school injuries can happen. In addition to bumps and bruises, your child might show signs of an urgent condition. Go to the ER for urgent conditions, including:

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain
  • Fainting, dizziness, weakness or lack mobility
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Broken bones that break through skin
  • Severe or persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Poisoning
  • Head or neck injury
  • Suspected concussion

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.

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go when you’re ill or injured makes a big difference. But it can get confusing. Know where to go to get right care at the right time. Your primary care doctor knows your medical history best, but the Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinics, hundreds of primary care locations and 6 ERs throughout metro Atlanta. Get the care you need wherever you need it. See our map to find the locations closest to you.

Talk to Our Nurses

If you’re not sure if a trip to the ER is needed, call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as Medical Director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Related resources

Do You Know the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu?

We’re in the midst of a bad flu season that may last longer than most. But do you know the difference between a cold and the flu? Both are respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms. Although there is no distinct way to differentiate one from the other, it is important to know the type of symptoms and severity each one can cause. Additionally, special tests can be done within the first few days to determine the type of illness.

Common Cold

  • Symptoms are gradual
  • Slight aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Milder conditions compared to the flu

Flu (Influenza)

  • Symptoms are abrupt
  • Fever/feeling feverish (chills)
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches and fatigue (tiredness)
  • Chest discomfort
  • Some may have diarrhea and vomiting (more common in children)

Just like how the common cold and flu have similar symptoms, they can both be treated with a lot of rest, fluids and over-the-counter medicine. However, the flu must also be treated with prescribed antiviral medicine.

Keeping the Flu and Colds at Bay

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following to avoid getting the common cold or flu:

  • Don’t get too close to people who are sick.
  • If you’re sick, stay at home.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Try not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you or those who may be sick around you have touched.
  • Practice prevention: get vaccinated – even now it’s not too late, get plenty of sleep, avoid stress, stay well hydrated, and eat nutritious snacks and meals.

Know Where to Go

If you or someone in your family has 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 the flu strikes after doctor’s office hours, you can get the care and attention you need at an urgent care center. The Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinics. Combined, these partners provide nearly 60 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties and put convenient care where you need it, 7 days a week with no appointment necessary.

When to Go to the ER

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

  • A temperature over 102°F for more than two 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.

When to Get a Flu Shot

Get the flu shotIt may be your best chance at preventing the flu—but do you know the best time to get your flu shot?

If you get it too soon, you might not be as well protected. But since it typically takes your body 2 weeks from the time you get the shot to develop immunity, you don’t want to wait too late.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season usually runs from November through the end of April, so it’s best to get the flu shot as early as possible prior to the season. October is a recommended time frame.

Who Needs a Flu Shot?

Everyone’s at risk of being infected with the influenza virus and can spread it to others. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against it every year, even if you’ve never had the flu.

If you have a less-developed or compromised immune system, a yearly vaccination is especially important (even critical). Not only are you more likely to get the flu, your body will have a harder time fighting it off or enduring the symptoms should you be infected with the virus. The flu can hit people hard, turn to pneumonia and cause other medical issues.

Flu shots are recommended for almost everyone 6 months and older, but are especially important for:

  • Adults age 65 and over
  • Kids age 6 months to 5 years
  • People with long-term health conditions (asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart or lung disease, HIV, cancer, and more)
  • Transplant recipients
  • Pregnant women

Even the healthiest of people should be vaccinated. If you aren’t convinced you need to protect yourself, consider the need to protect your family, friends, co-workers — even strangers. Some professionals, such as health care personnel, early education childcare workers, and school personnel, are even required to be vaccinated in order to be employed. Should you get the flu, everyone around you is at risk and some won’t be as equipped to fight off the virus as you are.

What’s In the Flu Vaccine?

Many people fear getting a flu shot can actually give them the flu, and some claim to have actually contracted the virus from the vaccination itself. But it simply isn’t possible —the flu vaccine is made of dead flu viruses. Since they’re dead, you can’t catch the flu from them. The flu vaccination can, however, cause side effects like headache, nausea, fever and muscle ache. Since these side effects mimic flu symptoms, people often mistake them for having the flu. But when you have the flu, you’ll know it — your symptoms will be much more severe and longer lasting.

These dead viruses teach our bodies what the flu looks like — so it learns, over time, to fight the illness. This is a process and can take up to 2 weeks for your body to be able to fight it. So, timing your flu shot is important.

When we talk about the flu vaccine, we usually refer to it as “the flu shot.” But in reality, it is also available as a nasal spray, although there is some concern that it isn’t as effective as the shot. Also, if you’re considered high risk for the flu, there is also a high-dosage version of the flu shot available. This offers stronger protection and is usually recommended for those age 65 and older.

Know Where to Go

Your pediatrician or primary care doctor knows your medical history best. But if your doctor isn’t available, or if it’s easier for you to get your flu shot outside of your doctor’s office hours, minute clinics or urgent care centers are good choices for your flu vaccine.
Emory Healthcare Network partners with Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinic. Combined, our urgent care and minute clinic partners provide nearly 60 locations throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties. This puts convenient care where you need it, 7 days a week for most of the year.

Learn more about these partnerships

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993, and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as medical director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and assistant clinical professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Related Resources

Sunscreen 101

It’s time to enjoy the sunshine. After all, you deserve it! But don’t forget, your skin deserves some protection. The skin is a living organ system that interacts with the external environment while protecting our internal organs. Thus, it is important to know about proper sun protection for your skin.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for sun protection factor, meaning there is an extra layer of protection that an individual receives from the application of sunscreen. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the recommendation is to use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and labeled as “broad-spectrum SPF.” The American Cancer Society recommends sunscreens with SPF 30 when engaging in outdoor activities.

What exactly do these numbers mean?

A broad-spectrum sunscreen that has SPF 15 means that particular bottle of sunscreen will offer sun protection against both UVA and UVB rays 15x longer than without sunscreen at all.

UVA vs UVB Rays

UVA and UVB rays are two types of radiation from sunlight that, in excess, can be harmful to the skin. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper than UVB rays and are the ray responsible for skin aging, wrinkling, and tanning. UVB rays damage the outermost layers of the skin and are primarily responsible for sunburns and reddening of the skin.

Which SPF Sunscreen is Right for Me?

When considering which level of SPF to use, it is important to know that an SPF of 30 does not necessarily offer twice the protection of an SPF of 15; while higher SPF sunscreens offer more protection, it is not a linear scale. The higher the SPF the greater percentage of harmful rays are prevented from reddening the skin.

  • SPF 15 protects against 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30 protects against 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 protects against 98% of UVB rays

Applying Sunscreen

Picking the right sunscreen is just as important as applying the sunscreen correctly. If you are going to be using insect repellent and sunscreen, be sure to apply the sunscreen first and wait at least 30 minutes before applying the insect repellent. Apply the sunscreen liberally and be sure to follow the directions listed. To get a sense of how much sunscreen you should apply, the recommended amount is at least two tablespoons.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, no sunscreen is waterproof. Some sunscreens may have water or sweat resistance. These water/sweat resistant sunscreens should detail a specific amount of time the labeled SPF level of protection lasts for an individual when swimming or sweating. Finally, it is important that you reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, regardless of the level of SPF.

Protective Clothing

Protective clothing is another way to ensure your skin is optimally protected against UV radiation. Long sleeve shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats protect against just that. If the clothes are tightly woven or dark, it’s even more protection. Sunglasses with lenses that protect 100% against UVA and UVB radiation are also strongly recommended. If you have a history of skin cancer or increased risk of getting sunburns, protective clothing is very important and should be worn whenever exposed to sunlight. These clothes help to keep rays from harming skin.

How to Treat Sunburn

Sunburn is defined as a sign of skin damage from spending too much time outdoors without wearing a protective sunscreen, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. If you find yourself with a sunburn, taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen or aspirin) and applying cold compresses or ice packs aids the pain relief. Additionally, taking cool baths or showers frequently may help. After the bath, gently pat yourself dry but leave some water on the skin and apply a moisturizer. The use of moisturizing creams and lotions (including aloe) will also help prevent drying and cracking. If a blister does form, leave it intact for a faster healing process. If you have a sunburn, stay out of the sun for a few days in a cool, shaded, or indoor space and drink plenty of water.

Sun poisoning is when an itchy, red rash has appeared on the skin after being exposed to sunlight, also known as a sun allergy. It may take only minutes for signs of sun poisoning to appear after exposure to the sun. These signs are redness, itchiness/pain, elevated red patches, blisters, scaling, or even bleeding.

Summer is a great time to relax and have some fun in the sun. Keeping your skin properly protected allows for you to enjoy this time frequently and safely. If you are in the sun often, it is beneficial to do self-screenings at least once a month to make sure everything is all right.

Know Where to Go When it’s Not Life Threatening

Go to your primary care physician, family doctor, or pediatrician if you have concerns about your sunburn, or for questions regarding over-the-counter remedies, contact your primary care physician.

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

MinuteClinics are good alternatives if you need to see a health care provider sooner than you can see your PCP, or if you need care outside of your PCP’s normal office hours. MinuteClinics can treat many minor illnesses and injuries and prescribe medications.

When to Go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Room

In some cases, sunburns can be bad enough to require advanced care. Go to urgent care or the ER if your symptoms include:

  • Severe pain
  • Severe blistering
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Faintness or dizziness

Those with a severe burn who also suffer from a serious health condition – such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes – should seek emergency care.

If you’re not sure if which type of care you need, call your family doctor or HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 and speak to an Emory nurse for assistance.

To learn more about getting the right care at the right time and in the right place, or to find locations, visit emoryhealthcare.org/wheretogo.

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as medical director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy, and assistant clinical professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Drowning and Water Safety

Summer is finally here and it’s time to spend some time in the water cooling off whether it’s at the pool, lake, or beach. As we’re enjoying this weather near the water, injuries are not the first thing many people think of, but it should be. It is important to make sure that you, your family, and friends are staying safe in the water and not increasing your risk of drowning.

You may be thinking, “This won’t happen to me,” or “I know how to swim, I’ll be fine.” While you or others may be excellent swimmers, it only takes a few seconds for an individual to drown. It is important to confirm that everyone in the group has basic swimming skills and to have a designated supervisor while at any body of water, especially if there is not a lifeguard on duty.

Who is at risk for drowning?

There are many factors that may increase a person’s risk of drowning. Here are the five most common risk factors as outlined by the CDC.

  • Swimming Ability: There are many adults and adolescents who lack swimming ability but still enjoy being near the water. Not being able to swim makes drowning an unfortunate, but more likely, reality.
  • Barriers: Without fencing, or other barriers to bodies of water, children may wander into a pool area and could fall into the water.
  • Supervision: Drowning may take place quickly and quietly anywhere that there is water. It’s important to pay attention constantly to people around any body of water.
  • Location: Depending on the age of the individual, the likelihood of drowning may change with the location. For example, children under four have a higher likelihood to drown at in home swimming pools, while those fifteen and older tend to drown in natural water settings.
  • Alcohol: The use of alcoholic substances is involved in nearly 25% of an Emergency Department visit due to drowning, and 70% of deaths due to recreational use of water.

What are some tips to keep drowning from happening?

  • Learn CPR: Mere seconds can be the difference between greatly improving and influencing the outcome of a drowning incident.
  • Always swim with a buddy!
  • “Water wings” and other toys designed for water are no substitute for a life-jacket. Wearing one greatly reduces the risk of drowning.
  • If you are going to the beach, know what each of the different colored flags indicates (these may vary by beach) and obey all warnings.

What to do if someone is Drowning

  • Use anything around you to try and bring the drowning victim in from the water without putting yourself at risk.
  • Call others for help.
  • Lie the victim on their back, and move their head and chin backwards to try and clear their airway.
  • Pinch their nose as their head is tilted backwards and breathe into their mouth with yours to function as a rescue breath.
  • After five rescue breaths, begin performing CPR.
  • After performing CPR for at least one minute, and if no one around you has already called 911, do so.
  • Continue performing CPR until the ambulance arrives.

What is dry drowning?

“Dry drowning” or “secondary drowning” is when a serious amount of deterioration take place after nearly drowning and also after a period of appearing relatively fine. This is when an individual essentially inhales water through the nose and/or mouth. The water provokes a spasm that impacts breathing, by slowly closing the airway (this is different from drinking a lot of water, as the process the body absorbs it is different).

Symptoms of Dry Drowning

Although symptoms of dry drowning typically occur after a water incident, symptoms can also appear up to 24 hours after a near drowning experience. It is important to watch for these signs:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Cold or bluish skin
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vomiting

Know Where to Go

If an individual is coughing profusely, sputtering and showing other signs of respiratory distress as listed above, it is best to contact your healthcare professional, call 911 or go to an emergency department immediately.

About Nick Colovos, MD

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993, and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a very unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as Medical Director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinic Strategy. Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta Georgia.

 

Or call HealthConnection at 404-778-7777.