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The Flu and You

Fall has arrived and so have the great things that arrive with it: Fall festivals, changing leaves, cooler days, pumpkins, and flu season. The flu (seasonal influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness and result in hospitalization or death in severe cases. As flu season begins, it is important to take steps to keep your family healthy. The best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu is by getting vaccinated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone who is at least six months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. The vaccine protects against influenza viruses that research indicates will be the most common during this flu season. The vaccine is not a guarantee that you will not become infected, especially if the strain of flu is not in the vaccine. However, it greatly reduces the risk.

Who is at higher risk of getting the flu if not vaccinated?
  • People who tend to develop serious complications if they get sick with the flu.
  • Others who live with or care for these people.
  • People who have certain medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
  • Pregnant women.
  • People younger than 5 years and older than 65 years.
  • Health care personnel.

The following people should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician:
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness, with or without a fever. These individuals should not be vaccinated until they recover.
  • People who have had an allergic reaction to eggs.
  • People who have had an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past.

When should you be vaccinated?
It is recommended that you get your flu vaccine as the vaccine becomes available in your area. Flu vaccines last throughout the flu season and can help to prevent illness during the peak months of flu, which are usually January and February. It generally takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to take full effect. Early immunization is the most effective, but it is not too late to get the vaccine in December, January, or later.

Flu shots are available at Patient First through our Fast Track Flu Program. You can walk in without an appointment, and receive your flu shot with little or no wait time. If your insurance covers flu shots at Patient First, you pay only the copay (which is often $0) or $35, whichever is less. Self-pay flu shot cost is $35. Fast Track flu shots are available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day, and are for patients who are not allergic to eggs, do not wish to see a physician, and are at least 4 years old. To find a center near you, please visit our locations page.

The key to fighting the flu lies in being proactive now. Do not wait until you or someone in your family starts feeling sick. Once you feel that first muscle ache and stuffy nose, it’s too late. Take charge of your health and enjoy the autumn and winter.

  • Prepare for the Week with Meal Prep
    Cooking dinner every night can be such a chore when you are tired and just want to relax after a long day. To save time during the week, many people use the meal preparation system to prepare all of their meals for the week in one day.

    This technique not only ensures you’re eating the correct portions, but also a well-balanced diet. Preparing your meals ahead also helps you save money by encouraging you to eat at home more often. Planning your meals will ensure that you are using fresh ingredients and prevent you from eating prepackaged meals.

    How does meal preparation work?
    Start by picking a meal preparation day - a day designated to slice, cook, and saute all of your meat, veggies and fruits for the week. On that day, you will prepare all of your meals for the week and store them in storage containers in your fridge. Storing all of your meals prevents you from having to portion, wash, chop, and cook your food on a daily basis. Most food will stay fresh for up to 5 days, so only plan for a week at a time.

    Want to give it a try?
    Below is a sample grocery list containing all of the items you’ll need for the week:
    • 1 ½ lbs flank steak
    • 6 oz chicken
    • 6 oz fish
    • 6 oz lean deli meat
    • Corn tortillas
    • Sweet potatoes
    • 100% Whole Wheat or Flour Tortillas
    • Baby carrots
    • 1 each red and green bell pepper
    • 1 bag of greens
    • 1 avocado
    • 1 tomato
    • 1 red onion
    • 1 green onion
    • 1 bunch of garlic
    • 1 red cabbage
    • Cilantro and parsley
    • 1 each lemon and lime
    • 1 apple
    • 1 pear
    • 2 containers of berries
    • 1 mango
    • 1 each orange and tangerine
    • 1 grapefruit

    Other items you may need include:
    • Natural peanut butter
    • Reduced-fat mayonnaise
    • Dijon mustard
    • Salsa
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Parmesan cheese
    • Honey
    • Tobasco sauce
    • Dried spices
    • Chicken stock
    • Brown rice
    • Whole wheat pasta
    • Marinara sauce
    • Pickles
    • Canned black beans
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • Hummus
    • Low fat dressing
    • Blackened seasoning

    What can you make with these ingredients?
    • Tilapia with brown rice & spinach salad
    • Lean deli meat wrap, carrots, hummus & fruit
    • Grilled flank steak with potato squares and salad
    • Chicken salad
    • Fish tacos
    • Flank steak wrap and berries
    • Chicken pasta marinara & salad
    • Pasta
    • Low fat chicken Caesar salad
    • Flatbread chicken sandwich & fruit

    How do you prepare the ingredients?
    To prepare meats:
    • Flank Steak: Rub flank steak with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce. Grill or cook the steak to your liking.
    • Chicken: Rub chicken with salt and pepper. Then coat the chicken breast with 3 tbsp of honey mustard dressing and grill or cook in a pan until juice runs clear.
    • Fish: Sprinkle 3 oz of fish with blackened seasoning.

      If you're cooking salmon, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it's preheating, melt 1/2 tbsp of butter and a 1/4 cup of lemon juice in a saucepan. Drizzle the mixture over the fish, sprinkle with dill weed and bake for 15 minutes.

      If you're cooking white fish, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it's preheating, combine a 1/2 tbsp of lime juice, 1/8 tsp of onion powder and 1/8 tsp of black pepper in a bowl and drizzle over the fish. Top fish with olive oil, bake for 20 minutes and sprinkle with parsley.

    To prepare your veggies:
    • Wash, cut and store green and red peppers, onions and red cabbage.
    • Sauté four peppers and half an onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil.

    To prepare your starch:
    • Rice: Cook rice according to package directions.
    • Pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions.
    • Sweet Potatoes: Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch squares, coat them with olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.

    Portion each of your foods into their appropriate container and store in the fridge. This way when you come home from your long day, your food is already prepared, tasty and waiting! Just pop it into the microwave and serve!

    Recipe Source

  • Nine Ways to Avoid Digital Eyestrain
    Do you experience sore, tired, watery, or dry eyes? Blurred vision? Headaches? Difficulty focusing? Sore neck, back, and shoulders? If so, you could be suffering from digital eyestrain. With so many jobs involving a computer, the American Optometric Association reports eyestrain has become a bothersome problem for 70 to 75 percent of computer workers. Not only is work contributing to the problem, but the increased usage of smart phones and other hand-held digital devices also increases eyestrain. In fact, 95% of Americans spend nearly three hours of their personal time every day on digital devices.

    Although eyestrain can be annoying, it is rarely a serious condition. Taking a few precautions at home and work may help prevent or reduce the frequency and intensity of eye fatigue. Try these nine ways to prevent digital eyestrain as recommended by the National Eye Institute and the Vision Council:

    Taking proper care and ensuring the health of your eyes is important. This includes getting regular, comprehensive eye exams from an optometrist or ophthalmologist to track changes in vision and identify problems early. Eye exams are individualized depending on your needs, but most eye care professionals recommend a yearly eye exam. If your eyes feel especially tired or dry, apply a warm water-soaked washcloth over your closed eyes. If your eyes frequently feel dry, use artificial tears to maintain the proper moisture your eyes need.

    Research indicates the average person blinks one-third as often while using a digital device as they normally do. Frequent and gentle blinking is essential to maintaining healthy eyes and optimal vision. Blinking replenishes your eyes with three different types of tears which provide ongoing nourishment and cleansing. To keep your eyes optimally lubricated, close your eyes while thinking or if you’re stuck in the middle of composing an email.

    A good rule of thumb to protect your eyes is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet beyond your screen for 20 seconds. Additionally, it is always a good idea to take regular breaks from computer work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting out of your chair for five-minute breaks throughout the day, optimally about every hour. These breaks do more than help your eyes. They can help increase your concentration, alertness, and work speed and can improve your circulation and overall health.

    Use anti-reflective coatings on your smartphone, tablet, and computer to reduce glare. Smudges and fingerprints on your screen can reduce contrast and increase glare and reflection problems. Regularly cleaning your screen may help prevent digital eyestrain.

    Adjusting your workstation can reduce the frequency of eyestrain. One way to help is putting your computer monitor at an appropriate height. Place your computer screen so the eyes are looking down at the top third of the screen. In addition to making sure your monitor is at the correct height, you should place your screen 20 to 26 inches away from your eyes to alleviate the stress of focusing. A general rule of thumb for how far your monitor should be from you is to extend your arm while sitting at your desk. You should be able to place your palm comfortably on the monitor, as if you are high-fiving your screen.

    If possible, adjust the lighting so it is not shining directly on your monitor. The Vision Council recommends indirect, ambient lighting. Lamps positioned to the side or behind your monitor in your office reduce glare and are gentler on your eyes. If you are unable to use lamps in your office space, position your computer monitor so windows and lights are to the side, instead of directly overhead or in front of your screen.

    Keeping your monitor at bright settings causes the pupil to constrict, which allows a greater range of focus. However, don’t make your screen too bright. Try to adjust the brightness so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your workstation. Another way you can adjust your monitor to help ease eye fatigue is to change your background color from bright colors to cooler colors, such as grey.

    If you are using an old tube-style monitor, replace your monitor with a flat-panel LCD screen, which is easier on the eyes. If possible, pick a screen with the highest resolution possible that has a relatively large display. For a desktop computer, the U.S Department of Labor recommends a display that has a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches.

    The good news is you can get computer eyewear with or without a prescription. Computer eyewear is specifically designed for optimizing and protecting vision when viewing content on screens, giving your eyes a different focal point than reading glasses. Many brands sell eyewear that can be tailored to different lifestyle needs with different tints, coatings and materials.

    If your eyestrain symptoms are severe, it may take a few days to experience relief. In some instances, these symptoms may indicate an underlying eye condition that needs treatment. Visit your eye doctor if you continue to experience eye discomfort, a noticeable change in vision, double vision, or headaches.

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