Health Matters | The Flu and You

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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.

  • A Beginner's Guide to Swimming
    Looking for a great workout without getting sweaty? Swimming provides a low impact workout that will keep your heart rate up and get you in shape. Swimming builds endurance, muscle strength, and also improves cardiovascular fitness. Simply by swimming freestyle you are working your triceps, biceps, deltoid, abdominal, gluteal, ribcage intercostal, chest pectoral and hip stabilizer muscles. Jumping into a pool and swimming the 200 meter off the bat is pretty daunting, but there is no reason to not start small! Here are some tips for beginning swimmers:

    Where do I start?
    While freestyle isn’t the most calorie crushing stroke, it is the easiest and most efficient way to swim. An average sized person can burn around 500 calories by swimming freestyle at a moderate pace for an hour. Beginners should not worry about perfecting all four strokes, but should focus first on learning freestyle:

    • If you are not moving in a pool, you will sink, so stay in constant motion.
    • Kicking your feet at a moderate speed will keep your lower body from sinking, while a slow pull will advance you forward in the water.
    • The knees should be straight, but not locked, to allow the feet to move rapidly just under the surface of the water. This lets you kick from your hips rather than the knees for a more efficient way to swim and stay afloat.
    • The torso should rotate naturally with the arms, allowing you to get more distance out of every stroke.

    Start with 10 minutes of lap swimming and build time from there. Swimming is a tiring activity, but to get an efficient workout, only 10 percent of the time spent in the water should be resting on the wall. You don’t need to swim fast every lap, but try to at least swim laps consecutively without stopping. Consistent swimming will keep your heart rate where it needs to be to benefit your body. Focus on counting your breaths and strokes per lap. Try to aim for the same amount of strokes every lap, focusing on stretching out the stroke to get the most distance. You should breathe every third stroke on alternating sides of the body.

    Focus on breathing in through the mouth, and out through the nose in the water. This will also keep water from going up your nose. Any time your head is under the water you should be breathing out and then rotating the head to breathe in again. Your body will adapt to use oxygen more efficiently.

    What do I need?
    For most, a bathing suit, goggles and a swim cap is all the gear you will need to get started. There is, however, equipment designed to target different parts of your stroke and improve efficiency. More experienced swimmers may want to use equipment designed for water resistance and training. Basic swimming equipment includes:

    • Goggles: Goggles protect the eyes from chlorine as well as allow swimmers to see under water.

      Fogging Tip: So how do you keep your goggles from fogging up? The easiest and most common way is to lick the inside lenses. Yes, lick them. Your saliva acts as a barrier against humidity and will prevent fogging. While this is only a temporary fix and may need to be repeated a few times during your workout, it is an alternative to buying an anti-fog solution. Another free option is allowing a small drop of water inside the goggles before suctioning them to your face. This will act as a wiper as your head rotates to breathe.
    • Swim cap: Swim caps are mandatory at some pools. Swim caps are designed to keep hair out of the face and help fight water resistance by eliminating drag. Caps should be worn with the seam running the length of the head, not the width.

      Cap Tip: Caps are most commonly made out of latex, but may also be made out of silicone or nylon. Latex caps are the cheapest, but often rip easily. Silicone caps are thicker, and are more comfortable to wear for a long period of time as they tend to pull hair less.
    • Kick board: Kick boards are designed to isolate a swimmer’s kick. Kicking with a kick board develops a swimmer’s legs, hips, and stomach muscles. Swimmers may kick on their stomach or back, with the kick board extended above their head. Elbows should be straight with hands gripped at the top of the kickboard. Swimmers may kick with their heads in or out of the water.

    Now that you have the basic feel for the water and a few laps under your belt, you may want additional equipment to correct and perfect your strokes:

    • Fins: Fins are useful for a swimmer that has a weak kick, or poor leg muscles. For swimmers that have a poor kick, flippers train the body’s position, improve ankle flexibility, and create resistance that should feel the same after the swimmer removes the fins. The point of fins is to train the body to replicate the quick and powerful kicking motion.

      There are two types of basic fins: long blade and short blade. Longer fins are better for beginning swimmers. They help to raise the hips and propel the swimmer forward easily. Short blade fins, or zoomers, work like long blade fins, but allow the swimmer’s legs to cycle fast enough to replicate a regular swimming kick. Short blade fins allow the swimmer to build swimming specific leg muscles.
    • Hand Paddles: Paddles are designed to create resistance against the water. Paddles are used to correct technical issues like dropped elbows, but should not be used for more than 25 percent of your workout.
    • Pull Buoys: Held between the knees, buoys allow for swimmers stay afloat without kicking. This allows the swimmer to focus on their pull and build upper body strength. Swimmers should focus on body rotation while using a buoy as this will improve stroke when the buoy is removed.
    • Snorkel: Snorkels help swimmers maintain proper head position on the surface of the water and also improve a swimmer’s breath control. Correct head positioning is to look straight down at the black line on the bottom of the pool. Keeping the head out of the water while swimming causes the hips and legs to sink, making it harder to keep your body afloat. Lap swimming snorkels differ from recreational snorkels in that they are fastened to the front of the head rather than the side, allowing for the arm to pass by the ear without out interference.

    Swimming offers a solid and relaxing full body workout that is great for cardiovascular improvement. Grab a towel and a buddy and head to your local pool for a quick dip! For more information about healthy swimming and health benefits visit the CDC's website

  • Tips for Beginning Weightlifting
    Tired of cardio? Want to start weightlifting but don’t know how to start? Not only does lifting weights improve your metabolism, but it also improves your mood and helps your body fight osteoporosis. Weight lifting is a great way to reach the recommended 2 days of muscle strengthening activities every week as it leads to better heart health, keeping you going strong and healthy.Check out these 9 beginner weight lifting tips to help you get started

    Nine weight lifting tips for beginners

    Choose a goal:
    Establishing a goal gives you something to work towards. Whether your goal is to bulk up or slim down, try to make your goal as specific as possible. Start with small, achievable goals and work toward them. Have a daily, weekly and monthly goal to keep you motivated and on track. Be careful about setting goals dependent on a scale thought. Muscle weighs more than fat and everyone’s body builds muscle differently.

    Vary your muscle group:
    Try not to work the same group of muscles back to back. Develop a weekly routine to keep you in rotation, which will prevent you from overworking one specific area. As you become more familiar with the weights, be sure to add in new exercises to keep your body from growing too accustomed to your workout routine.

    Don’t overdo it:
    While you may be eager to see results, do not lift weights every day. Give your body time to rest. Lifting weights causes tiny tears in the muscles that heal and result in muscle development. Give yourself at least 24 hours between lifting sessions to allow your muscles to heal.

    Keep good technique:
    Keeping the correct form while lifting weights will help you gain muscle quicker. Before starting, ask a training partner or a trainer for tips or help you learning and maintaining good form. Trainers also can help improve your grip, positions and motions, leading to better results. Knowing the proper form will also help prevent injuries.
    Do a cardio warm up: Get your heart rate up before lifting. Start with a five minute run on the treadmill or begin with some lunges. Don’t forget to stretch as not stretching before lifting can result in injury.

    Determine the right amount of weight for you:
    Don’t try to start out by lifting as much weight as you can bear. Determining the correct weight is a trial and error process. You should feel fatigued after lifting, but should not push it too far as this may result in injury. Start with a low weight and gradually build to add more. If you feel extreme discomfort you are probably using too much weight.

    Give the same attention to both sides:
    Many people are naturally stronger on one side of their body. Try to work each side equally, or pay slightly more attention to your weaker side. This will help you keep an equal balance so that your muscles form equally.

    Stick to the basics:
    When just getting into lifting, start easy. Create a routine that uses a few exercises and perfect those before adding new ones. Your body will adapt faster and the movements will become muscle memory. Start with exercises like deadlifts, squats, or chest press.

    Stay hydrated:
    Don’t forget to drink water before, during, and after lifting. Proper hydration is important to keep your body working to its potential. To replace water lost during working out, weigh yourself before and after your workout, then drink the difference in ounces.

    Gym Etiquette
    Now that you know the tips to get the most out of your workout, it’s important to remember a few gym etiquette tips:
    • Always put the weights back in their place when you are finished.
    • If someone is using the equipment you would like to use, it’s okay to ask how many reps they have left, but don’t pressure them to finish quicker.
    • If someone is waiting to use the equipment you are using, you can offer to let them do their reps while you are resting. If you aren’t comfortable with sharing, let them know kindly that you are almost finished and the equipment will be all theirs.
    • Wipe down the equipment before and after you are done. Gyms offer wipes or towels for your use after your workout. Be kind and leave the equipment clean.
    • Give yourself some room. Don’t lift too close to anyone else, give them their personal space. Their activity could take up more room than yours so be sure to allow enough space between you.
    • Do your reps and allow yourself the proper amount of time for rest, but don’t drag it out- especially if someone is waiting.

    Beginner's Workouts
    Still interested in starting weightlifting? Here are 3 workouts for beginners:

    • Lat pull down: 3 sets of 10 reps with 2 minutes rest between sets
    • Butterfly press: 3 sets of 10 reps with 2 minutes rest between sets
    • Triceps: pull down 3 sets of 10 reps with 2 minutes rest between sets
    • Squats: 4 sets of 5 reps with 2 minutes of rest between sets.
    • Deadlifts: 4 sets of 5 reps with 2 minutes of rest between sets

    • Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 2 minutes rest between sets.
    • Bench press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 2 minutes rest in between sets.
    • Rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 2 minutes rest in between sets.

    • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 6-8 reps with 2 minutes rest in between sets.
    • Pull ups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 2 minutes rest in between sets.
    • Overhead shoulder press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 2 minutes rest between sets.

    Grab a friend and head down to your local gym. Get the health benefits of weight lifting and build up some muscle. For more information on weight lifting, please visit the Mayo Clinic's website.
  • Five Healthy Recipes That Will Be a Hit at Your 4th of July Picnic
    Looking for a new recipe to try out this 4th of July? Fire up the grill and try out these tasty side dishes that will surely make you the talk of the party!

    Black Bean-Smothered Sweet Potatoes
    Prep Time: 20 minutes

    What you’ll need:
    • 2 medium sweet potatoes
    • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
    • 1 medium tomato, diced
    • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
    • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 2 table spoons reduced-fat sour cream
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

    How to prepare:
    1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. If cooking time is constraint, microwave potato on High approximately 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender all the way to the center. If you prefer an oven baked potato, place sweet potato in a baking dish and bake at 425°F for about an hour or until tender all the way to the center.
    2. While potato cooks, combine beans, tomato, oil, cumin, coriander, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave on High approximately 2 to 3 minutes, or until just heated through. If the microwave is occupied or you prefer stove-cooked meals, heat ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
    3. Remove sweet potatoes and allow to cool. When just cook enough to handle, slash each sweet potato lengthwise, press open to make a well in the center and spoon the bean mixture into the well. Top each with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro
    Grilled Corn with Cheese and Lime
    Prep Time: 15 minutes

    What you’ll need:
    • 8 ears corn, shucked
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco (fresh Mexican cheese) or Feta
    • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 2 limes, cut into wedges

    How to prepare:
    1. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the corn with the olive and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Grill, turning often, until tender and charred, 5-7 minutes.
    2. Sprinkle the corn with the cheese and cayenne. Serve with the lime wedges.
    Grilled Vegetable Salsa:
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    What you’ll need:
    • 1 cup store-bought refrigerated fresh salsa
    • 12 bell pepper (any color), grilled and diced
    • ½ medium red onion, grilled and diced

    How to prepare:
    1. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high
    2. In a large bowl, toss the pepper, onion, and oil. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender and charred, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
    3. Cut the pepper and onion into ¼-inch pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the salsa and stir to combine.
    Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables
    Prep Time: 25 minutes
    What you’ll need:
    • 2 cups couscous
    • 6 zucchini and/or yellow squash (about 2 ½ pounds total), sliced ¼ inch thick
    • 1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), sliced ¼ inch thick
    • 1 quart cherry tomatoes (preferable on the vine)
    • 2 bunched scallions, trimmed
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • Kosher salt and black pepper
    • Spiced Chili Oil or store-bought harissa (North African chili sauce, found in the international aisle)

    How to prepare:
    1. Prepare the couscous according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat grill to medium. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and scallions with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
    2. Working in batches if necessary, grill the vegetables, covered, turning occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes for the eggplant and squash and 1 to 2 minutes for the tomatoes and scallions. Serve with the couscous and Spiced Chili Oil for drizzling.

    For dessert:

    Watermelon Fruit Pizza
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    What you’ll need:
    • ½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
    • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 large round slices watermelon (about 1 inch thick), cut from the center of the melon
    • 2/3 cup sliced strawberries
    • ½ cup halved blackberries
    • 2 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves

    How to prepare:
    1. Combine yogurt, honey and vanilla in a small bowl
    2. Spread ¼ cup yogurt mixture over each slice of watermelon. Cut each slice into 8 wedges. Top with strawberries, blackberries and mint

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