Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Symptoms and Treatment of the Common Cold

The Common Cold

Around this time of year, it seems like everyone starts to come down with a cold. However, there are a lot of different ideas about what causes colds and how to treat them. The following information will help you to identify and treat the common cold.


The common cold is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. It is the most common infectious disease among people of all ages. Although the common cold is benign and self-limiting, it can lead to secondary bacterial infections.

A cold can be spread two days before the carrier is aware of any cold symptoms. Usually, transmission occurs through airborne respiratory droplets and occasionally from objects contaminated with respiratory droplets. Children serve as the main reservoir for respiratory viruses. They commonly acquire new strains from schoolmates and pass them on to family members.

Signs and Symptoms

After a 1 to 4 day incubation period, the common cold produces symptoms such as:

  • sore throat and/or pharyngitis
  • nasal congestion
  • Burning, watery eyes
  • Fever (more common in children)
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Achiness
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
Secondary infections can result from a cold and need medical attention. A clinician should be seen if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • Chest pain that persists
  • Earache
  • Severe or long-lasting sore throat
  • Coughing up thick mucus or rust-colored sputum
Many sore throats are not serious and resolve in time. However, there are potentially serious types that require specific measures. The most potentially serious sore throat, strep throat, is fairly common. This type of pharyngitis has potential to develop into heart and/or kidney disease.


There is no cure for a cold because it is a viral infection. Primary treatment is purely symptomatic:

1. Rest.
Plenty of rest allows the body to use the energy it needs to manufacture antibodies for killing viruses. 
2. Fluids
Increase daily fluid intake to more than 1-2 liters. Liquids are needed to thin and loosen mucus secretions. Avoid milk and soda.
3. Proper Diet
Do not "starve" a cold. Eat light, well-balanced meals.
4. Gargles
Gargle deeply to cleanse and heal the throat 2-4 times a day. Dissolve 1/4 of a teaspoon of honey in half a mug of warm water.
5. Humidifier
Cool, moist air from a humidifier helps break up congestion and thins secretions. Warm baths and showers are soothing. A hand towel wrung out with hot water and placed over the eyes and sinuses can also be soothing.

6. Medications
Pain relievers (aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen), decongestants, and cough medications can all help relieve symptoms of the common cold.


To prevent getting sick, avoid close contact with sick people, maintain a healthy diet, and wash your hands! The proper way to wash your hands is as follows:

First, wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Place the bar soap on a rack and allow it to drain. Next, rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces. Continue for ten to fifteen seconds. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs. Rinse well and dry your hands with a clean towel. 


Student Health Center. Common Cold [Brochure]. Rexburg, Idaho: Brigham Young University- Idaho

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lower Back Pain

What to Do About Lower Back Pain

Four out of five adults will experience a bout of back pain at some time in their lives. You can ward off back problems by following the simple steps listed below. Even if you've injured your back before, you can learn techniques to help you avoid recurrent injuries. The good news is that most episodes of back pain last only a short time, and less than one percent of back problems require surgery.

Back pain can occur for no apparent reason and at any point on your back. Lack of muscle tone and excess weight commonly cause and aggravate back pain. Poor posture adds stress too. When you slouch or stand with a swayback, you exaggerate your back's natural curves. Any imbalance can stress muscles and joints, causing fatigue and injury from overuse.

From the simple backache to more serious back problems, common sources of pain include: muscle strains and spasms, sciatica, osteoporosis, injuries and accidents, and fibromyalgia.

Home Remedies

1. Rest
Lie on your side on a firm mattress with a pillow between your knees, or lie on your back with you feet up on a chair or with a pillow under you knees.

2. Ice
Ice can reduce pain and swelling. Immediately after any injury, apply ice several times a day but for no longer than twenty minutes at a time. Put ice in a plastic bag and wrap the bag in a thin cloth to keep a barrier between your skin and the ice.

3. Medication
Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines (like Ibuprofen or Advil) to reduce inflammation or use pain relievers like Tylenol (acetaminophen).

4. Exercise
Patients should begin mild aerobic exercise such as aerobic walking (preferably on grass or other softer surfaces) and stationary biking as tolerated. Exercise keeps the muscle tone intact and increases blood supply to the affected area. If sitting for a long period of time, get up and move around periodically and stretch.

Prevent Back Problems By...

Correcting Daily Posture

 When you sit, use a chair with lumbar support and a firm seat. While driving, have the seat close to the steering wheel. Keep knees flexed as much as possible and keep the seat tipped back slightly.
Don't stand or walk bending forward, and use leg muscles to lift and carry. Do not overload your back with a heavy pack, and make sure the weight is evenly distributed on both shoulders.
Don't slouch! Imagine a string is pulling you up from the top of your head, keep your core slightly engaged, knees slightly bent, and your tailbone tucked in.

Correcting Sleeping Posture

If you are sleeping in a position that puts undue stress on your back, it will have lasting effects, since your back is in this position for 6-9 hours every night. The positions with the least amount of stress on your back, as mentioned above, are on your side with a pillow positioned between your legs (to prevent you from rolling over onto your stomach and to help take the pressure off your spinal column) or on your back (firm bed) with a pillow under the knees.

For persistent pain, get professional care. In rare cases, back pain can signal serious medical problems. Contact your doctor immediately if your back pain is the result of a fall or blow to your back. Also, be on the look out for weakness or numbness in one or both legs.

If you've tried home remedies for several weeks but still have pain, your doctor may be able to pinpoint the source of your pain and may refer you to a physical therapist that can help you in several ways, including teaching you exercises that can help you stretch, strengthen, and protect your back.


Student Health Center. Lower Back Pain [Brochure]. Rexburg, Idaho: Brigham Young University- Idaho

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dangers of Inadequate Sleep

Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Health Problems

The end of the year is almost upon us, which means that this is the time that we begin to run around like crazy, trying to get everything done on our lists. Between gift shopping, holiday functions, traveling, and/or school finals, this is a busy time for virtually everyone. Many times, our sleep schedule suffers because of it.

Sleep is largely underrated. It's estimated that over a third of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep in a typical 24 hour period, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Sleep module. People think that skimping on sleep every once in a while isn't a big deal. Unfortunately, "once in a while" becomes a habit; and this habit could kill you.

Hazards of Insufficient Sleep

1. Motor Vehicle Crashes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 automobile crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths per year in the U.S., with the greatest problem being with people aged 25 years and younger.

2. Cognitive Impairment
Sleep plays a vital role in various mental processes. Lack of sleep hurts your ability to think and learn by impairing attention, concentration, alertness, reasoning, and problem-solving. Additionally, getting enough sleep is critical in long term memory function. If you don't get enough sleep, you won't be able to remember later what you learned that day.

3. Depression
Insomnia has a strong link to depression. A 2005 Sleep in America poll found that people diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to get less than six hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can lead to the symptoms of depression, and even make it harder to fall asleep, exacerbating the problem. On the other hand, improving sleep habits may help to reduce or reverse the symptoms of depression.

4. Premature Aging
Lack of sleep causes extra cortisol (a stress hormone) to be released in your body. Cortisol can begin to break down the collagen in skin when it is released in excess amounts. Therefore, chronic sleep loss can lead to dull skin, wrinkles, and dark under eye circles. Sleep also helps to repair tissues and other structures, so your body can't properly strengthen bones or increase muscle mass if you are sleep deprived.

5. Weight Gain
Lack of sleep may be connected with an increase in appetite and hunger. Shortened sleep is associated with an increase in the hormone that makes you hungry, and a decrease in the hormone that lets you feel satiated. As if that weren't bad enough, the foods you crave when you're tired tend to be high in fat and carbohydrates. All of this can lead to unwanted weight gain.

6. Disease
Lack of sleep is associated with chronic diseases and conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure
Tips for Successful Sleep

If you're having trouble sleeping, the following are some things that you can do:

  • Fix a bedtime. Be consistent with your bedtime. You will help to train your mind and body that it should be getting tired at a certain time, making it easier to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. The effects of caffeine may take several hours to subside, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise in the morning or afternoon can help deepen sleep. However, be weary of exercising before bed, as your body is active for a period of time even after you work out.
  • Make your sleeping environment comfortable. Use comfortable bedding, making sure the temperature is moderate and the room well ventilated, reserving the bed for sleep only, and blocking out excess noise.
  • Establish a pre-bed routine. This could include reading a book (not on your phone, as this stimulates the brain and may keep you from falling asleep easily), a personal hygiene routine, writing in your journal, etc.
  • Practice relaxation methods. Try meditation, deep breathing techniques, and/or stretching routines prior to going to bed or while trying to fall asleep.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What You Need to Know About Ebola

Everything You Need to Know About Ebola

The Ebola outbreak of 2014 is the largest in history, and there have been confirmed cases in the United States. About half of the people who have been diagnosed with Ebola in this outbreak have died, making it all the more important for you to know what you're dealing with.

The following are some important items of information that you need to know about the Ebola virus.

1. A person infected with Ebola can't spread the virus until symptoms appear. 
The incubation period for Ebola is, on average, 8 to 10 days. Signs and symptoms include: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

2. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. 
Bodily fluids including urine, feces, saliva, vomit, blood, and sweat, are the means by which Ebola is spread. Objects, like needles, that have been contaminated by these fluids are also a source of infection. Ebola is NOT spread through air, water or food.

3. There is currently no vaccine available to protect against Ebola. However, there are some things you can do to prevent infection:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do not touch the bodily fluids of a person who is sick.
  • Do not come into contact with items that have been touched by a sick person's blood or bodily fluids.
  • Don't touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola
4. You may be at risk for Ebola if you have traveled to an area with an Ebola outbreak and:

  • Had direct contact with blood or bodily fluids or items that came into contact with blood or bodily fluids of a person infected with Ebola.
  • Touched bats or nonhuman primates (like apes or monkeys) or blood, fluids, or raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Went into hospitals where Ebola patients were being treated and had close contact with these patients. 
  • Touched the body of a person who died of Ebola.*
If any of these points applies to you, you should check for signs and symptoms of Ebola for 21 days. Do this by taking your temperature, watching for other symptoms (listed above). Get medical care right away if you have a fever or any other of the signs and symptoms listed above. Be sure to call and explain your travel history BEFORE you go to the doctor's office or emergency room.

5. Despite what you may think or hear, U.S. hospitals and authorities are equipped to handle Ebola. They have the ability to identify exposed people and take the necessary steps to avoid spreading the virus further. Though even a single case of this highly dangerous virus is considered a threat, it is unlikely that this outbreak will turn into an Ebola epidemic.

*list taken directly from the CDC website



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