where to go

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

We’re entering a 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.

man with cold or fluCommon 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 more than 70 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

smiling pharmacist gives flu shot

It 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.

According to the CDC, the timing, severity, and length of the season can vary from one season to another. Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time, flu activity peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May.

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.

Emory Healthcare

At Emory Healthcare, we’re here to help you find the care you need when you need it. With more than 2,800 doctors and 300 locations, including 11 hospitals, as well as primary care offices, urgent cares and MinuteClinics, we’re delivering specialized care across the region. Find a doctor near you to help you get and stay healthy.

Emory HealthConnection is 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).

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.

Related Resources

Poisonous Plants: How to Avoid Them and Treat Rashes from Them

woman with rash from poisonous plant

We all want to enjoy our time outdoors: hiking trips, taking a bike ride through the woods or getting our gardens ready. All of these activities are great, just remember to avoid the poisonous plants around you. It only takes a little sap to be zapped by a poisonous plant.

There are a variety of poisonous plants that you may come into contact with, such as poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. We want to give you some helpful tips to protect yourself and your loved ones when encountering any poisonous plants. Know where to go and how to treat the itchy rash and irritation some plants may cause.

How You Get Rashes from Poisonous Plants

Ever wonder how you got a rash from touching such a small plant? Each of the poisonous plants above secretes urushiol oil onto its roots, stem, and leaves. Once in contact with the skin, this oil often causes a combination of mild to severe rash*, itching, and blisters.

Each person has a different level of sensitivity to the urushiol oil and touching it more than once can also increase the chances of dealing with a more severe rash. Physical contact is not the only way to get this rash. Burning these plants could result in the oil spreading through the air and coating the soot. This coating could come into contact with your skin, but also areas that aren’t typically touched by the sap (eyes, nostrils, throat, or even inhalation into the respiratory system).

*These rashes are not contagious and cannot be spread person-to-person. While the oil will stay on any surfaces it has come into contact with (unless washed with water or rubbing alcohol), simply touching someone else’s rash will not cause you to get infected as well.

What Poisonous Plants Look Like

In the southeastern United States, poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac all grow in the area. The best way to avoid getting the rash and blisters is not touching the plant.

poison ivyPoison Ivy: Each leaf on poison ivy has three leaflets that appear glossy. The edges of these leaves can be either smooth or toothed. Furthermore, these leaves can also appear as different in color when in different seasons. During the spring, the leaves appear reddish in color, and during the summer the leaves are green. The leaves are even present during autumn and can be yellow, red, or orange. Also, poison ivy can grow as a vine or shrub that appears to trail the ground, or climb low plants, trees or poles.

 

poison oakPoison Oak: The leaves appear fuzzy and green and grow in groups of three. These leaves are deeply toothed with rounded tips. The plants typically grow as a low shrub; however, on the Pacific Coast, they have been known to grow in tall clumps or long vines.

 

 

poison sumacPoison Sumac: This poisonous plant grows as a small shrub in bogs or swamps. These leaves have clusters of seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets growing along the stem. Like poison ivy, these leaves can appear different in color depending on the season. During the spring, the leaves are orange, but during the summer they are green. These plants are also present in the fall and can be yellow, orange, or red at that point.

 

 

How to Treat Rashes from Poisonous Plants

After a few weeks, the effects of poison ivy will subside without any treatment. During that time, do not scratch the blisters as this could lead to infection. So, how do you calm the itching without scratching? Applying wet compresses or submerging the afflicted area in cool water can help. You can also get prescription oral corticosteroids or over-the-counter topical corticosteroids to alleviate that itching feeling. You may want to see a health care professional if you observe any of the following symptoms:

  • You have a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • There is pus, soft yellow scabs, or tenderness on the rash.
  • The itching gets worse or keeps you awake at night.
  • The rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, genital area, or covers more than one-fourth of your skin area.
  • The rash is not improving within a few weeks.
  • The rash is widespread and severe.
  • You have difficulty breathing.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, we recommend either visiting your nearest Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care location or MinuteClinic.

If you aren’t experiencing any severe pain, a MinuteClinic can be a good alternative to visit in order to help keep the rash down and prevent infection.

However, if you are in pain, going to a local Peachtree Immediate Care can help reduce inflammation and provide access to a medical professional who can treat the infection.

As always, if you feel you are in a life-threatening situation, go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to call your PCP or the Emory HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 and speak to an Emory nurse for assistance.

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go when you’re ill or hurt 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.

 

Kids Health: Common Back-To-School Illnesses and Injuries

children back to schoolGoing back to school can tax your kid’s health. Catching up with old friends and making new ones can be an exciting time, but one that puts them back in close contact with one another — with a result no one looks forward to: illnesses and injuries.

In the first few months of a new school year, there are lots of germs going around. They’re on desks, keyboards, in the classroom and on the playground where accidents also happen.

Over time, your child will become immune to many infectious diseases. In the meantime, teach her or him to wash their hands well—and often. If your child does come down with a bug, keep him or her home from school until they’re fever-free for 24 hours without medicine.

Common Kids Health Back-To-School Illnesses and Injuries Include:

  • “Backpack-itis”: Overstuffed backpacks can cause head, neck and shoulder pain, as well as lead to bad posture. Use your bathroom scale to figure out what your kid weighs with and without her or his backpack. Make sure the “locked and loaded” backpack doesn’t weigh more than 10 percent of his or her weight. Also, make sure your child wears both straps. A lightweight pack with wide straps and a padded back is a good choice.
  • Colds and flu: Colds are very contagious. If your child doesn’t have a fever, it’s probably okay to go to school. It’s important not to spread germs — so teach your kid to cough or sneeze into a tissue—or an elbow—and to wash her or his hands. When it comes to flu, prevention is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot for everyone age six months and older.
  • Impetigo: This skin infection is very contagious. Symptoms include sores and blisters on the face, neck, and hands. Keep any cuts clean and teach your child, not to scratch rashes and bug bites. Thorough handwashing helps prevent the spread of impetigo and also strep throat, which is related.
  • Lice: These tiny bugs live on the scalp, feed on blood and cause itching. Kids usually get lice by being in close contact with someone who has them. To keep your family lice-free, teach your child to avoid head-to-head contact and not to share hats, helmets, hair accessories, towels, or other personal things. Make sure students don’t share cubbies or lockers.
  • Pinkeye: This eye infection, also called conjunctivitis, is easily spread from one kid to the next in school. Signs include bloodshot eyes, itchy and burning eyes, and a yellow or green eye discharge from the eyes. If your child has pinkeye, a prescription for antibiotic eye drops is needed to treat it. Like other contagious diseases, the best prevention is good handwashing.
  • Playground injuries:  Common injuries are fractures, cuts, bruises, and sprains. But dislocations, broken bones and concussions can also happen. Most injuries happen on playground bars or climbers. Make sure the playground is supervised and that your child follows the rules.
  • Strep throat: Strep throat can spread through the student body pretty fast. In addition to a sore throat, symptoms may include a runny nose, high fever, and headache. If untreated, a strep throat could lead to rheumatic fever. It’s important to get a strep test and treat this disease with antibiotics. Teach your child to steer clear of anyone with a sore throat and to wash hands often. Your child should know not to share drinks, spoons, forks, knives or toothbrushes.
  • Stomach flu: This bug isn’t really the flu—but it is a virus and it’s highly contagious. It causes stomachaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Stomach bugs can lead to dehydration. Teach your child to always wash hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Your child should not share drinks, forks, knives, spoons, or toothbrushes.

Know Where to Go for Kids Health Issues

Your pediatrician or family doctor knows your kid’s health the best, but if your doctor isn’t available and you need health care right away or outside of your doctor’s office hours, minute clinics, and urgent care centers are good choices. Minute Clinics can treat minor illnesses. Urgent care centers also treat minor illnesses and can perform X-rays and more advanced treatment for kid’s health issues that aren’t life-threatening.

Know where to go to get the right care at the right time. Your primary care doctor knows your child’s 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.

When to Go to the Emergency Room

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 of mobility
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Broken bones that break through the 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.

Talk to Our Nurses

If you still aren’t 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).

The Difference Between Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke

woman with heat illness gets helped by manDehydration

One of the most important things you can do to prevent heat illness is staying hydrated. Without the right amount of fluid intake, your body can’t keep its temperature at a normal, consistent level. Dehydration happens when your body lacks the proper amount of fluids and electrolytes to keep working properly.

Dehydration symptoms include:

  • Thirst
  • Less frequent urination than normal
  • Darker urine color
  • Dry skin
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Headache

Signs of dehydration may be slightly different for younger individuals. In young children and infants, dehydration symptoms can include a dry mouth and tongue, crying without tears, an extended period of time (around 3 hours) without a wet diaper, high fevers, and an unusual amount of sleepiness or drowsiness.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a serious condition. Heat exhaustion happens when the body loses a great deal of water and salt (which is usually caused by profuse sweating). Cases of heat exhaustion are made much worse whenever there is a high level of humidity or physical activity involved. Notably, heat exhaustion can cause any pre-existing conditions to worsen or become more apparent. It is important to know the signs of heat exhaustion, as it could take place within a very short period of time.

Heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:

  • Muscle cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness and/or fainting

Someone with heat exhaustion may have cool or even slightly wet skin, which indicates the body is still working toward cooling itself; however, the individual will likely have a fast and faint pulse and exhibit quick and shallow breathing.

Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion left untreated may result in heat stroke. This is a life-threatening condition which can result in damage to the brain or other important organs. In some cases, heat stroke may cause multiple organ systems to fail and can ultimately cause death. During heat stroke, the body’s core temperature rises above 106° F within a time frame of 10 to 15 minutes. This rapid increase in body heat coupled with a failing sweating mechanism leaves the body without the ability to cool itself.

Heat stroke symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Altered mental state
  • Slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness
  • Hot, dry skin or extreme sweating
  • Seizure
  • Extremely high blood pressure

Treatment

If you find you are experiencing any of the symptoms from a condition listed above, follow these tips:

Dehydration – The only effective method of treating dehydration is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.

Heat Exhaustion – Remove all unnecessary clothing, including socks and shoes. The individual should take frequent sips of cool water, making sure not to take in too large a quantity too quickly as it may induce vomiting, which would further dehydrate.

Heat Stroke – Make sure someone is with the person at all times until medical services arrive, and ensure that the person experiencing the heat stroke is moved into a cooler, shaded area. Placing cold, wet cloths or ice wrapped in cloths on the individual’s head, neck, armpits, or groin may help as well.

Getting the right care at the right time and place depends on the kind of symptoms you’re experiencing — and their severity.

For milder symptoms, or if you’re not sure which kind of care you need, start with your primary care physician (PCP). Because your PCP knows your complete health history and how you respond to medication, he or she can develop the best course of treatment. If your symptoms warrant more advanced treatment, they can guide you to the right care facility.

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).

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).

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 (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.