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Shingles: Are you at risk?

You may have heard that if you have had chickenpox, you are at risk of getting shingles. But what are shingles and what are the other risks in developing them?

A surprising one million cases of shingles occur in the United States every year. Though it mostly affects people over the age of 40, it can develop in anyone, including children. One out of two people who live to age 85 will get a case of shingles.

Shingles (herpes zoster) is an outbreak of rash or blisters on the skin that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox — the varicella-zoster virus.

Symptoms and stages of shingles:

  • Burning or tingling pain (which can be severe).
  • Numbness or itching, usually on one side of the body.
  • Two to three days after the pain begins, small bumps and strips of inflamed patches across the back, around the waist, and sometimes near the eye will appear.
  • Three to five days later, a rash or fluid-filled blisters (similar to chickenpox) appears on one side or area of the body.
  • Two to three weeks later the blisters fill with pus, break open, and crust over.
  • At week four to five, the crusts fall off, the pain and itching stop, and the blisters begin to heal (usually without scarring).

For some people the pain continues long after the blisters have cleared, due to a complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).  PHN can last weeks, months, or even years and occurs in up to half of untreated people who are 60 years age or older.

Shingles treatment

Antiviral medicines such as acyclovir often help shorten the length and severity of shingles. Antiviral meds must be started as soon as possible to be effective, so if you think you or someone you love has shingles, call your doctor.

Other treatments such as using wet compresses, calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths can help reduce pain and itching. Some over-the-counter pain medicine may help, but check with your doctor to be sure you are taking the right one.

Shingles prevention

While shingles is not contagious, meaning that the shingles virus cannot be transmitted, a person in the early stages of shingles before the blisters crust over can transmit the virus that causes chickenpox. Tips for prevention:

  • Keep the rash covered with non-stick bandages.
  • Do not touch or scratch the rash.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Avoid contact with pregnant women, infants, and people whose immune systems are compromised by other diseases.
  • Vaccination: Either the chickenpox vaccine or the shingles vaccine.
    • Chickenpox vaccine: Routinely given to children aged 12 to 18 months, the chickenpox vaccine is now also recommended for adults and older children who have never had chicken pox. It doesn’t provide 100 percent immunity, but it does considerably reduce the risk of complications and the severity of the disease.
    • Shingles vaccine: Experts recommend this vaccine be given to everyone over 50, whether or not they’ve had shingles before. So get vaccinated! There are exceptions regarding who should get the vaccine, including people with immunosuppressive diseases such as HIV or those receiving cancer treatments that can weaken their immune system, so again, make sure your doctor is aware of any other health conditions. We offer the shingles vaccine at both of our pharmacies.


Sinus Trouble Do’s and Don’ts

Between the ups and downs of the weather, and what seems to be the early arrival of spring, you’ve probably had at least one cold or at least experienced some sinus pressure this season.

If you have pain in your forehead, or between your eyes,. If your face feels full and your nose is stuffy. Or if even your upper teeth hurt — you could be experiencing sinusitis.

These are common complaints that send people to the pharmacy or doctor’s office to find relief.

Most people have four sets of nasal sinuses:

  • Two in the forehead above the eyes
  • One inside each cheekbone
  • A group of them, called the ethmoid sinuses, behind the bridge of the nose
  • Another group behind the nose and underneath the brain called the sphenoid sinuses

What Is Sinusitis?

It’s inflammation in your sinuses. In healthy sinuses, tiny, hair-like structures called cilia move mucus across sinus membranes and toward an exit. All of your sinus cavities connect to your nose to allow a free exchange of air and mucus. With a sinus Infections or allergies, the sinus tissue is inflamed, red, and swollen and make it difficult to breathe through your nose.

Sinusitis usually starts with inflammation triggered by a cold, allergy attack, or irritant. But it may not end there. There’s usually a nasal discharge that may be yellow, green, or clear. You may also have fatigue, trouble with sense of smell or taste, cough, sore throat, bad breath, headache, pain when you bend forward, and fever.

Inflammation of the sinuses that lasts for more than 3 months is chronic sinusitis. Bacteria can make their home in blocked sinuses, but they aren’t the only cause. Anatomy, allergies, polyps, immune system problems, and dental diseases may also be to blame.

If your sinuses remain inflamed, sinus membranes can thicken and swell. The swelling may be enough to cause grape-like masses called polyps. They can jut out from the sinus into the nasal passage and block your nasal airway.

How do you treat it?

Nasal sprays open swollen nasal passages and allow your sinuses to drain. But you should use these drugs only for a few days. After that, there’s a kickback effect, making your nasal passages swell shut again. Nasal steroid sprays, or saline sprays or washes, may be other options. If symptoms don’t stop, see your doctor.

Antibiotics don’t treat viruses, so they won’t help the sinus symptoms of a cold. Your cold should be over in a week or two. Usually, cold-related sinusitis goes away then, too.

If you have allergy induced sinusitis, you may want to try irrigation with saline solution, either with a neti pot or squeeze bottle. Nasal steroid sprays might help, too. Antihistamines could also come in handy, especially if you’re sneezing and have a runny nose.

Yellow or green mucus can mean a bacterial infection. Even then, it usually clears up in 7 to 14 days without antibiotics. But if you keep feeling worse, your symptoms last and are severe, or if you get a fever, it’s time to see a doctor.

Worst case scenario, an operation called FESS (functional endoscopic sinus surgery) can bring some relief, if nothing else works. But start with the simplest solution first: Avoid things that irritate your sinuses, and then work with your doctor to see if medicines help.

Can You Prevent Sinusitis?

Unfortunately, no. But you can do these three things that help:

  • Keep your sinuses moist. Use saline sprays, nasal lubricant sprays, or nasal irrigation often.
  • Avoid very dry indoor environments.
  • Avoid exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke or strong chemical odors.

Does your life have to stop because of sinusitis?

Here are some do’s and don’ts.


  • Go to school or work. It’s not contagious, so if you feel well enough to do your normal activities, you can do so without worry of giving it to someone else.
  • Choose OTC drugs carefully. You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help the pain. Decongestant nasal sprays can open up your stuffy nose, but don’t use them more than a few days, or over time, they may make your symptoms worse.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Herbal tea and other hot liquids can help break up the stuffiness in your head.
  • Use warm compresses. The moist heat can relieve your sinus pressure, open up the blocked passages, and ease the pain. Hold a wet towel against your face or breathe in steam through a hot cloth. A hot shower can also help loosen up mucus.
  • Use a humidifier. The cool mist can make you feel less stuffy. Be sure the water and tank are clean before you refill it. Clean it once a week with diluted bleach or vinegar to keep the mold and bacteria away.
  • Rinse your sinuses. Ask your pharmacist or pharmacy tech for a special squeeze bottle that is sold specially for this purpose, or use a neti pot. Be sure to use distilled or sterile water or boiled water after it’s cooled down.
  • Keep working out, if you feel well enough. Sinusitis can cause dizziness and problems with coordination, so don’t lift weights until your symptoms improve. If you feel pressure in your chest, stop exercising until you feel better. When you have trouble breathing, it can overwork your heart, so do use caution.


  • Avoid flying if you can help it. If you fly with sinusitis, it can also cause pain in the ear and other complications. If you do have to fly, doing things like yawning and swallowing at takeoff and landing will help keep the tubes in your ears clear. You can also try chewing gum to keep your ears from popping.
  • Avoid the pool. Chlorine in pools can irritate the passageways of your nose. However, if you feel well enough to exercise or want to swim, use nose clips to avoid getting water in your nose.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol. Cocktails, wine, and beer will dehydrate you and can cause your sinuses and the lining of your nose to swell, which makes your symptoms worse.
  • Avoid breathing in irritants. Avoid cigarettes (smoking them or being around them). Avoid being outdoors if pollen counts are high or if the air is not clean where you live.


Was one of your new year’s resolutions to quit smoking?

The best way to succeed in quitting smoking is to make a firm decision to quit and create a plan to stick to it. Perhaps that was your intention this time. Perhaps it’s not your first attempt to quit.

That’s okay! You are not a failure. You can try again and be successful. If you were able to quit smoking for just 24 hours in the past few months or weeks, you have doubled your chances of quitting for good in the coming year!

Tools for Success

Talking to your doctor, going to group counseling, and taking medications are all ways to stay on track and be successful in your journey to quit smoking.

When you quit smoking, you may need support to cope with your body’s desire for nicotine. Nicotine replacement products help some smokers quit. You can buy gum, patches, or lozenges over the counter.

There are also products that require a doctor’s prescription. A nicotine nasal spray or inhaler can reduce withdrawal symptoms and make it easier for you to quit smoking. Other drugs may also help with withdrawal symptoms. Talk with your doctor about which medicines might be best for you.

Cigars, Pipes, Chewing Tobacco, and Snuff Are Not Safe

Some people think smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff), pipes, and cigars are safe alternatives to cigarettes. They are not. Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth and pancreas. It also causes precancerous lesions, gum problems, and nicotine addiction. Pipe and cigar smokers may develop cancer of the mouth, lip, larynx, esophagus, and bladder. Those who inhale when smoking are also at increased risk of getting lung cancer.

Secondhand smoke created by cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can cause serious health problems for family, friends, and even pets! Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for people who already have lung or heart disease. In adults, secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer. In babies, it can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the unexplained death of a baby younger than one year of age. Children are also more likely to have lung problems, ear infections, and severe asthma if they are around secondhand smoke.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, deliver nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals that are inhaled by the user. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began regulating all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, which must now include the warning statement: “This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”

Good News about Quitting

The good news is that after you quit:

  • Your lungs, heart, and circulatory system will begin to function better.
  • Your chance of having a heart attack or stroke will drop.
  • Your breathing will improve.
  • Your chance of getting cancer will be lower.

No matter how old you are, all of these health benefits are important reasons to make a plan to stop smoking.

Make a Plan

  • Talk with your doctor.
  • Make a plan for dealing with urges to smoke.
  • Read self-help information.
  • Go to individual or group counseling.
  • Try the online mobile tools from Smokefree60+ at www.60plus.smokefree.gov.
  • Ask a friend for help.
  • Take medicine to help with symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Need help on the go? Call a smoking quitline. A trained counselor can help you stop smoking or stay on track. You can call:

  • The National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline, 1-877-448-7848 (1-877-44U-QUIT)
  • Smokefree.gov, which connects you with your State’s Quitline, 1-800-784-8669 (1-800-QUITNOW)
  • Veterans Smoking Quitline, 1-855-784-8838 (1-855-QUITVET)

It’s Time to Talk about Eating Disorders

With so much focus on healthy eating and exercise, sometimes it can get out of control and some people may think they aren’t thin enough. Conversely, others may have no control and cannot stop eating.
Though no one knows exactly what causes eating disorders, they appear to coexist with psychological and medical issues including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, lack of coping skills, and substance abuse.

About 30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives, but despite the reality that they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, those living with an eating disorder often don’t get the help they need.

What are eating disorders?

There are three main eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

People with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight.They typically weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, and many young women and men with this disorder die from either complications associated with starvation, or suicide. In women, suicide is much more common in those with anorexia than with most other mental disorders.

Symptoms include:

  • Extremely restricted eating
  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight

These symptoms can turn into more serious complications over time, including:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Brain damage
  • Multiorgan failure
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Infertility

People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy or relatively normal weight.

Symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals) which can lead to stroke or heart attack

People with binge-eating disorder lose control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in America.

Symptoms include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time
  • Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
  • Eating fast during binge episodes
  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

What are the risk factors?

Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood but may also develop during childhood or later in life. These disorders affect both genders, although rates among women are 2½ times greater than among men. Like women who have eating disorders, men also have a distorted sense of body image. For example, men may have muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder marked by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular.

How do you treat eating disorders?

Proper nutrition, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping purging behaviors are the foundations of treatment. Treatment plans are tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:

  • Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medications

Psychotherapies such as a family-based therapy called the Maudsley approach, where parents of adolescents with anorexia nervosa assume responsibility for feeding their child, appear to be very effective in helping people gain weight and improve eating habits and moods.

To reduce or eliminate binge-eating and purging behaviors, people may undergo cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is another type of psychotherapy that helps a person learn how to identify distorted or unhelpful thinking patterns and recognize and change inaccurate beliefs.

Evidence also suggests that medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may also be helpful for treating eating disorders and other co-occurring illnesses such as anxiety or depression.

If you are living with an eating disorder, please talk to a healthcare professional to get you the help you need.