Do you have time for the flu?

Blowing NoseFlu season is upon us! Check out these flu facts to help keep you and your loved ones well this flu season. If you suspect that you are ill with flu, please call for an appointment at Downtown Doctor, a family medicine clinic in the heart of downtown Austin!

  • The influenza “flu” virus is seasonal. The typical flu season runs from October to May, usually peaking between December and February.
  • Symptoms of the flu may include:
    • Fever, Chills, Body aches, Cough, Runny Nose, Headache, Fatigue, Sore throat  
  • What can I do to help prevent the flu?
    • Flu Vaccine!
    • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
    • Cover your cough/sneeze
    • Regularly sanitize countertops, door knobs, and other frequently contacted locations in your home
  • What flu vaccine is available at Austin family practice clinic Downtown Doctor?
    • Quadrivalent (protects for 2 Flu A & 2 Flu B viruses), preservative free
    • High Dose (recommended for age 65+ and those with chronic illness)
    • These are NOT a live vaccines and can NOT make you sick!
  • What to do if you suspect you may have the Flu?
    • Schedule an appointment at Austin family practice clinic Downtown Doctor to be seen for your symptoms, there is a rapid influenza test that can confirm the presence of the influenza virus.
    • Flu virus is treated with symptomatic treatment, fluids, and rest.
    • There are antiviral medications (ex: Tamiflu) available that can help your body fight off the virus but should be started within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
    • Since flu is a virus, antibiotics are NOT helpful

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

Are you getting enough vitamin D? The answer is most likely no.  Though studies are still underway to determine optimal blood levels, recommended daily amounts, and the full role it plays in the human body; there is growing data from studies of youth, young adults, and elderly persons that vitamin D is an unrecognized and prevalent health problem. It has been reported that vitamin D deficiency rates are 36% in otherwise healthy young adults and up to 57% in general medicine inpatients in the United States. Rates of inadequate vitamin D are even higher among dark-skinned individuals, those who are overweight or have low HDL (good) cholesterol, and during the winter.

Vitamin D is manufactured by the skin in the presence of sun exposure. Though no one is exactly sure why vitamin D deficiency has become so prevalent, many postulate that it is due to our vigilant use of sunscreen and spending too much time indoors. High rates of obesity likely contribute as well.

Current research indicates that the consequences of vitamin D deficiency go far beyond inadequate bone development and excessive bone loss that can result in fractures. Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, have receptors for vitamin D, indicating that the nutrient is needed for these tissues to function well.

Studies have found associations between low levels of vitamin D and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes, the common cold and flu, some types of cancers, and low levels of testosterone.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Fatigue
General muscle pain and weakness
Muscle cramps
Joint pain
Chronic pain
Weight gain
High blood pressure
Restless sleep
Poor concentration
Headaches
Bladder problems
Constipation or diarrhea

Since vitamin D is synthesized by the skin via exposure to sunlight, a brief period of sun exposure (approximately 5-30 minutes depending on skin tone between 10am and 3pm) at least twice weekly is helpful in increasing blood levels. Further, oral supplementation is also prudent. Although the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 200-400 international units per day, this doseage may not be effective depending on your individual blood level. At Downtown Doctor, we recommend having your vitamin D level checked to ensure proper supplementation in order to optimize your health and energy levels.

Cold and Flu Prevention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season has hit early this year.  What’s more, the strain of flu that’s most prevalent thus far–H3N2–has been associated with more severe flu seasons and is apt to strike the very young and very old.  Five states, including Texas, already have widespread reports of flu outbreaks. Fortunately, this year’s flu vaccine closely matches the circulating strains, and Downtown Doctor has preservative free vaccine available on a walk-in, or appointment basis if preferred.  Beyond getting vaccinated, additional steps to stay healthy during the cold and flu season are outlined below.

1) Hand hygiene.  Wash hands thoroughly and frequently using warm water and soap.
For best results, scrub vigorously between your fingers, beneath fingernails and your wrists. Wash your hands:

  • Before eating
  • After using the restroom
  • After physical contact with a sick person or items they used
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

Tip: To truly get rid of germs, scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, or about the time it takes you to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.

2) Don’t touch your face.  Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching their faces is the major way children catch colds and a key way they pass colds on to their parents.

3) Exercise.  Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These exercises help increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells.

4) Supplement with Vitamin D.  Various studies have suggested that vitamin D plays a protective role in the immune system.  One study by the Department of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine found that those who had blood levels lower than 38 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) had twice as many upper respiratory tract infections when compared to those whose blood levels were lower than 38 ng/ml.  Because the body makes vitamin D when in the sun, lower levels tend to occur in the winter, otherwise known as cold season.  James Cannell, MD and president of the Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with 5,000 IU/day.

5) Don’t smoke.  Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones.  Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system. Smoke dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia. These are the delicate hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs, and with their wavy movements, sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal passages. Experts contend that one cigarette can paralyze cilia for as long as 30 to 40 minutes.

6) Eat fermented foods or supplement with a probiotic.  Probiotics found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi strengthen and maintain the mucosal barrier system (in our respiratory and intestinal tract), which is our first line of defense against pathogens. What’s more, 75% of our immune system if found in the gut.

7) Vitamin C and immune boosting botanicals.  Vitamin C is useful for fighting off colds. Take 1g every 3-4 hours.  In addition, there are a number of botanicals that have a potent immune-boosting effect. These include echinacea, astragalus, codonopsis, Siberian ginseng, catnip, ginger root, garlic and Elder flower (Sambucus).

8) Drink plenty of water.  at least one 8-oz glass of water for every 20 pounds body weight. Water is important for healthy digestion and elimination. All of our cells are constantly bathed in water. When they become dehydrated they can’t function properly.

9) Get plenty of rest.  Aim for 8-9 hours sleep per night and rest if you feel tired. Sleep is recovery time for the body’s functions, including the immune system. Sleep in a completely dark room, and avoid eating a large meal directly before bedtime.

September is Yoga Month!

Here at Downtown Doctor, we love ourselves some yoga. Whether you are into the thick, heavy steamy Bikram yoga style, or a more classic and calm variation, September is a month that speaks all about being healthy.

The practice of doing yoga is only one of the many ways that the Center of Health states that you can take control of your well-being this September.  There are many little steps that you can take to increase your health, as well as decrease your stress:

Taking a quick afternoon nap

Scheduling some “you” time

Take a relaxing bath

Read a good book.

The list is endless….

 

But, remember, none of this is important if you are not healthy.  As the summer nears to a close, and you find yourself with more free time as the kids are back in school, take a minute to evaluate your own health.  Has there been some lingering issue that you have been putting off?  Have you been eating right?  Do you know if all of your vaccinations are up to date?  Have you had a flu shot this year?  Just when was your last mammogram?  This is an important time to reflect on these issues as we get into the busy winter season.

If the answer to any of these above questions is no or, even worse, I don’t know, then schedule out some very important “you” time and come into the clinic.   With specializations in osteopathic manipulation therapy, Dr. Freeman can right any one of those nagging aches and pains, gently and effectively.  If you have questions about nutrition, Dr. Freeman recommends (and uses!) an amazing product called SLIM!

For all those who simply have questions regarding their health, please feel free to call the clinic anytime at 512.391.9400.  We are here to help you.  Take some time out for yourself.  

 

Your Flu Shot Myths….DEBUNKED!

It might seem strange to many who live in Austin to be considering flu season, but even though the thermometer has barely moved off of 90 all summer, we are nearing the start of fall!  The cool weather is in sight!  Cue deep sighs of relief.

With September sneaking around the corner, flu season has officially begun.  At Downtown Doctor, we received our first shipment of flu vaccines just this week, and are ready to hand them out!

Now, it seems to be a pretty common occurrence for everyone to give the same responses as to why they just simply cannot get a flu vaccine this year.  Maybe you’ve heard a story from that pesky coworker about how they were ravaged and bedridden for weeeeeks with sickness after their shot.  Or how your Aunt Edna got one last year and still got sick, because, dagnabbit, they just don’t work.  Well, that’s simply just false.  And let us tell you why.

 Flu Myth #1 -  The flu shot makes me sick.  

This is the most common excuse as to why someone tells us that they do not want the flu shot.  Influenza is a virus — a sneaky, cell-hacking, little virus that works its way through your system, manipulating your body’s own cells to produce more of the virus.  The result?  Taking the day off work to spend it on the couch with your friends Day-Quil and Kleenez while you watch reruns of the Golden Girls.

The flu vaccine is a dead virus.  Dead, according to Webster’s Dictionary, means not-living, inactivated, incapable of motion.  Therefore, this particular virus will not be able to perform any of the above-mentioned sneaky and evil behaviors.  Your body, however, is able to recognize the virus as a foreign cell and destroys it.  In doing so, it makes “memory” cells, which, when your body is later exposed to the same virus, can immediately mount an attack and destroy any pesky invaders.  You will not get sick.  Watching Golden Girls, however, is completely optional.

Flu Myth #2 – I always get the flu, no matter if I got the shot. 

Each year, the CDC spends hundreds of hours researching which flu strains will most likely be in circulation for the upcoming flu season.  While we can never be 100% certain, in the past 18 of 22 flu seasons, the CDC reports that the flu vaccine has been highly matched with the strains.  The flu shot is also made up of three variations of influenza, which helps to target even more strains of the flu.  In addition, even if you find yourself mysteriously infected with a wild rare strain of influenza that you contracted from your dog (Don’t listen to your Aunt Edna, this never happens!), the vaccine helps to provide additional support to your immune system.

Flu Myth #3 – I got one last year

I bought a dress last year, too, but alas, it no longer fits (What can I say?  I like jelly donuts). Just like that dress, the flu vaccine you had last year no longer “fits” the current influenza profile.  Viruses, in their ever-sneaky way, are constantly changing.  Due to this, the flu shot changes each year, which is why it is important to make sure that you get a new flu shot each year as well.  The vaccine that you had from a previous year, however, doesn’t just disappear. It can help to provide additional protection to you in flu season this year.

Flu Myth #4 – I’m too old for the flu shot.  

You are never too old!  How do you think Betty White is still kicking?  She’s been getting her flu shot!  In fact, 90% of influenza-related deaths are people 65 and older.  Save Aunt Edna.  Make her get a flu shot this year.

Flu Myth #5 & #6 – I’m too busy to get the shot.  It’s too expensive.

There are a lot of things in life you are too busy for anymore:  frat parties, romantic bubble baths, calling Aunt Edna…

However, the flu shot shouldn’t be one of them.  At Downtown Doctor, you can make an appointment at any time (whether you are a new patient or not!) or just walk-in to our beautiful, spa-like clinic on 5th St!  The choice is yours.  We promise to have you in and out, with little to no wait. Any one of our staff members are trained to administer the flu shot to you — quickly and painlessly.

And the cost is only $25!  

 

 

So stop in soon!  We’re sure that you will love us.