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Published on March 29, 2019

Preparing for a Healthy Spring

Preparing for a Healthy SpringIn this Fox 8 House Call series, Cone Health experts help us prepare for a healthy spring, including:

Preparing for a Healthy Spring: Taming Spring Allergies

Spring allergies typically begin in March. Allergens cause the body's immune system to go into overdrive, leading to allergy symptoms that include:

  • Itchy/stuffy nose.
  • Congestion.
  • Itchy, watery and red eyes.
  • Sneezing or rash.
  • Ear itch or fullness.

Spring allergies are different from fall allergies in that they are typically caused by grass and tree pollen. (Fall allergies are primarily triggered by weed pollen.) Weather plays a big role in different pollen levels. If it’s sunny and windy, pollen counts are usually high. Rainy and damp days bring those levels down.

There are several different types of treatment for seasonal allergies. The standard treatment is an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec or Xyzal. You may also want to take a more targeted approach and treat the area that is causing your symptoms. For example, if your nose is stuffy, you might want to try a nasal spray.

If over-the-counter medicine doesn’t work after a few days and you still have symptoms, you should make an appointment with an allergist. Your doctor may recommend you get allergy shots. All environmental allergens can be tested by performing a skin test, which your doctor may also do at their office.

There are some nonpharmacologic options that everyone can do to minimize spring allergies. When you’re driving, make sure your windows are up. When you get home after being outside, change clothes and take a shower to minimize additional exposure to pollen and other springtime allergens.

Shaylar Padgett, MD, is an allergist and immunologist at the Allergy and Asthma Center of North Carolina and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. She completed medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine, her residency in pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and a fellowship in allergy and immunology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. She is a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) societies.

Preparing for a Healthy Spring: Preparing Your Joints for Spring Sports and Fitness After Winter Hibernation

Now that spring is finally here and the weather is nicer, many people like to exercise outside. If you haven’t had a regular routine throughout the winter, it’s best to take a few precautions before you start to prevent strains, sprains and overuse injuries.

Before beginning a regular exercise program, it is always important to talk to your doctor to ensure safety and benefit. Start slow and vary your exercises through cross training. Don’t start back where you left off, but instead ease into the routine. Before working out, make sure you warm up the muscles in your body by doing an activity such as walking, jogging or biking for 5 to 10 minutes before stretching the muscles. Regularly stretching, while often ignored, can have the biggest benefit for your joints. Stretching decreases uneven pull on joints before exercise, and helps loosen muscles up after exercise.

Exercise plays a vital role in both protecting your joints, but must be individualized to your capabilities and needs. Combine strength building and cardiovascular activity into a regular exercise routine to help prevent joint injury by strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints. Eating well and exercising will help you maintain a healthy weight, which reduces stress on your joints.

Posture and proper body mechanics play a huge role in preventing joint injury and pain. Whether you’re standing or sitting, maintaining correct posture with your head in a neutral position, shoulder blades back and back straight helps alleviate pressure on the spine. Work to reverse the forward bent postures we find ourselves in so often throughout our daily lives. It is important to maintain a neutral spine while performing activities, such as lifting, and focus on maintaining correct posture while sitting and moving.

If joint pain and stiffness is beginning to disrupt several aspects of your daily life, it is extremely important to discuss the condition with your doctor.

Timothy Murphy, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement and sports surgery in Greensboro and a member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff. Dr. Murphy received his medical degree from University of North Carolina School of Medicine and completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at the UNC Department of Orthopaedics.

Preparing for a Healthy Spring: Spring Cleaning Your Medicine Cabinet

As you’re doing your spring cleaning, it’s a good idea to include your medicine cabinet in the process. Start by checking your medications’ expiration dates. The FDA has safety and efficacy regulations in place to make sure medications are effective in treating patients. After drugs reach their expiration date, they begin to decompose, losing their potency and effectiveness to treat conditions and illnesses. Throw away any leftover medication you did not use when you were sick.

Once you’ve cleaned out your expired medications, it’s time to dispose of them. One option is to place them in a marked drop-off bin at your local health or law enforcement department. Cone Health also has several locations, including the Community Health & Wellness Center. Don’t ever flush any medication down the toilet or throw it away in the trash can. Instead, take unused pills, crush them in a plastic bag and then mix with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. Throw that bag away in the trash.

While you’re cleaning your cabinet, it’s also important to take inventory of the medications inside. Write them down and discuss them with your doctor. Let your doctor know about all medicine that you take – even simple over-the-counter pain relievers. Those medications may be interfering with your care.

Luke Van Ausdall, RPH, is a clinical pharmacist at the Cone Health Community Health & Wellness Center pharmacy. He received his undergraduate and doctorate of pharmacy degrees from Campbell University.

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