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www.planetree-sv.org 
December 2021
From PlaneTee Health Library Staff
PlaneTalk Survey!

A new year always bring conversations about change and improvement, and PlaneTree is certainly no exception. We hope that PlaneTalk has provided you with useful and inspirational “news you can use” throughout 2021, and that we can continue to assist in 2022. In light of the new year, we would love it if you could take a quick moment to fill out our quick survey regarding PlaneTalk and share some of your thoughts! We constantly strive to improve and tailor our content accordingly, and your input is invaluable to us.  

In these uncertain times, we hope that you stay safe and healthy, and remember to treat yourself kindly. Let’s begin 2022 on a positive note! 

From the staff of PlaneTree Health Library:

  • Lise M. Dyckman, Executive Director
  • Bella Hung, Communications and Outreach Assistant
  • Jamie Thill, Outreach Librarian
SHOULD I...?

…stop smoking cold turkey?

Smoking is the leading cause of cancer in the United States. It is also linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other diseases and could even impair immune function, which could increase your likelihood of contracting viruses and infections. There are numerous benefits when you decide to quit smoking; this decision can add years to your life, and help prevent serious health issues. 

With all the methods out there that can help with smoking cessation, is going “cold turkey” the route for you?

There are some studies out there that conclude that the cold-turkey method might work best for smoking cessation. One study showed that after both four and six weeks of cessation, those who went cold turkey had a higher rate of success than those who gradually cut back. But the FDA doesn’t necessarily agree that cold turkey is the best route to go. They highlight other ways to minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings: the use of products that gradually help reduce nicotine addiction such as prescription medication and nicotine replacements or even the extra boost of behavioral support. Luckily, there are many free counseling programs locally. MedlinePlus also has a list of resources to help guide you.

There is no one right way to quit smoking, so just prepare yourself for a unique journey and know that it may take more than one try. Be sure to consult your physician to discuss what smoking cessation method will work best for your health and lifestyle. 

…donate blood during the pandemic?

It is National Blood Donor Month and blood banks are experiencing unprecedented shortages across the U.S. For instance, The American Red Cross reports a 10 percent decrease in donations since the pandemic began. Donations continued to decline with the introduction of the delta variant and this trend will most likely continue with the new omicron strain. This emergency situation is definitely taking its toll on hospitals and their patients. 

The decline in donations is interfering with patient care in many ways. On certain days of the week, some hospitals will discover that one-quarter of their blood needs will not be met. This is already causing doctors to have to choose who will receive blood and who will have to wait until more becomes available. As the pandemic surges on, complicating things, patients still need transfusions. There are people involved in car accidents, cancer patients, those with sickle cell anemia and many others who are counting on others to make a donation, even during the pandemic. 

If you are concerned about donating blood during the pandemic, we have information that might help put you at ease. Stanford Blood Center explains that blood donors are at no special risk during the donation process and they have implemented additional safety precautions such as equipment sterilization, mask requirements, and increased physical spacing between donors. Blood donors must be in healthy condition and be fever free the day of donation. Talk to your blood donation center about the precautions they are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They will also do a pre-screening to ensure that it is safe for you to donate based on your health conditions, lifestyle and disease factors. 

One final consideration; blood donation is also being affected by inclement weather and staff limitations that force the cancellation of donation drives and appointments. It may take time to find an appointment and that appointment is at risk of being canceled, but be persistent. Your blood donation could help that baby that was born in critical condition or a cancer patient preparing for chemotherapy. 

…get my bruise(s) examined?

Bruises resulting from minor accidents and collisions are not an infrequent occurrence for the general human population. Most of the time, these bruises are harmless and begin to fade after a few days, but on some rare occasions, they may actually signify a deeper health problem.  

If you notice excessive or unprovoked bruising, it is highly recommended that you get it checked out. Excessive bruising can be caused by a plethora of conditions, including liver problems from heavy drinking or a few types of cancer, rare inherited bleeding disorders, or the usage of certain medications. 

Furthermore, if the bruising brings about additional consequences such as causing a limb to grow numb, impairing vision, or if it occurs along a broken bone, medical attention should be sought out immediately. 

Fortunately, treating traditional, minor bruises at home is relatively easy. Placing an ice pack on your bruise for fifteen minutes at a time will help reduce swelling. Taking Tylenol can help reduce any pain, and wearing long sleeved-tops and pants can easily protect pre-existing bruises. 

…invest in a night guard for my teeth?

If you find yourself waking up with consistent headaches or a sore jaw, it may be a sign that you are grinding your teeth in your sleep. Medically known as bruxism, regular teeth grinding can damage your teeth and bring about other oral health problems if ignored. If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth at night, or hear from a loved one that you do, talk to your dentist so that they can check your mouth and jaw for telltale signs. 

One of the most common solutions to teeth grinding during sleep is to be fitted with a mouth guard to wear at night. The American Dental Association lists three different types of mouth guards: custom-made, boil-and-bite, and stock mouth guards. Custom-made mouth guards are made by a dentist and are generally the most comfortable and well-fitting.

Other ways to prevent and reduce teeth grinding include avoiding alcohol and smoking, reducing caffeine intake, or engaging in strategies to lower stress such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, and meditation. 

…be concerned about “fluorona”?

Though the flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, their symptoms have significant overlap and make it near impossible to distinguish between the two. Both will cause fever, cough, headaches, and body aches, though COVID-19 symptoms typically take slightly longer than flu symptoms to develop. In a few cases, you may be able to pin the source on COVID if you experience a loss of smell or taste, but the only true way to differentiate is to get tested. 

There is also the possibility of the newly-coined “fluorona”, in which an individual tests positive for both the coronavirus and the flu. Incidents of fluorona have been cited in the United States, the Philippines, Israel, and Brazil, and may be of extra concern this year as flu cases begin to rise. Data on these co-infections are still limited, but health experts maintain that getting vaccinated against both is the best way to stay safe and healthy. 

Despite the rise of the term “fluorona”, U.S. researchers have found that co-infection rates continue to be extremely rare. There is also very little data on the conditions of those who were co-infected, but the few individuals that have been monitored have only reported mild symptoms

While information is still being gathered, it is important to remain calm and not blow “fluorona” out of proportion. If you suspect you may have one or the other, getting tested remains the best way to confirm and distinguish between the two. As per standard health guidelines, it is easy to protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, washing your hands, and staying in if you feel sick.  

COVID-19 CORNER

The omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is all over the news – and each section of our library’s collection of COVID-19 information has been updated with what is known so far.

Masks: Given how fast and broadly this variant spreads, high-filtration face masks and good mask-wearing habits are crucial to avoid infection. (Aqui, si es mas facil leer esta informacion en español.)

The best, most easily available material for masks is rated N95, KN95, or KF94. It’s wise to make sure that you’re getting the real thing - Project N95 and CDC’s list of approved N95 and counterfeit-spotting tips are very helpful guides.

A high-filtration mask only works if it fits well, to form a good seal with the face. Since a mask made to fit an adult can’t give a good fit for a child, look for one that is meant for your kid’s size or age - this list of kid-specific models and Aaron Collins’ videos are useful for parents and others who work with children.

High-filtration masks were originally designed for one-time use. There are studies that show they can be reused, but there are different study results (and opinions) on how long or how many times they can be used before they’re no longer as protective. They should not be washed in water (it ruins their static charge that attracts particles) so they cannot easily be cleaned at home. One strategy is to get multiple masks and rotate them daily, letting them dry completely in a paper bag between uses.

Symptoms: omicron’s most common symptoms are slightly different from earlier variants - and a lot like seasonal allergies, a cold, or even the flu or another winter virus like RSV. Loss of smell and taste is not often present with omicron, ditto for a dry cough. Got a sore throat, sneezing, and a runny nose? Rather than trying to figure out which of these it is, exactly, it’s best to get tested for COVID as soon as possible. Treatment in the early days of cold, flu, or any winter virus is the same (rest, lots of fluids, take acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen as needed for aches or fever). And the steps we take to avoid catching COVID (get vaccinated against flu and COVID, wear a mask when near people outside your household, keep distance and stay home when sick, wash hands often) will also work against those other winter virus infections.

Treatments: As of writing, there are two types of treatments for COVID that have been authorized on an emergency basis: monoclonal antibodies (3 brands) and oral antiviral medications (2 brands). They are approved for high-risk patients and children who have had a positive PCR test and are having symptoms of COVID; however, we don’t know yet how effective any of these are against the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

 

IN DEPTH
Back Pain

Nearly everyone (estimated 80% of the population!) will experience pain in the lower or middle back at some point. How we sit, how we work, how we sleep or stand can lead to back problems (en español). While we can take care to prevent back pain, once it starts, treatment can be complicated and isn’t always successful. Surgery, once a major focus of treating back pain, is now thought to be useful in a much narrower range of cases.

Narcotics have frequently been prescribed for back pain, and are an important tool to help with acute, short-term pain, especially right after an injury. For many people, though, back pain is chronic; and chronic use of narcotics to cope with that is one of the problems driving opioid over-use. Narcotics don’t cure pain itself, but only block the sensation of pain. A lot of research has gone into alternatives to addictive pain-blockers for chronic pain sufferers, with more to come.

Physical techniques that have been found useful for chronic back issues include: exercise (pilates, physical therapy, aquatic exercises) to strengthen back muscles and stretching to increase pain-free range of motion; ditto specific yoga postures, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong.  Chiropractic manipulations have also been effective for some cases, similarly massage therapy for short-term relief. Other non-drug techniques for managing back pain that have proven effectiveness include: acupuncture, electrical stimulation (TENS), and mind-body methods (meditation, relaxation therapy).

Some psychological techniques show promise (but not antidepression drugs).  One theory about long-term, chronic pain that remains after an injury has healed is “over time, the body heals and sensitization in brain circuits takes over, which perpetuates the pain.“ For long-term back, neck, or joint pain (but not acute injury), retraining how the brain processes pain (through Pain Reprocessing Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) shows promise to bring relief. 

Don't Forget to Take Our Survey!
 

Looking for more community events?

 
The list of free, public, health-related events in the South Bay that used to be included in PlaneTalk has moved online, as have the events themselves. 

We’ve created an expanded Community Events Calendar on our webpages at: https://www.planetree-sv.org/calendar/

There are many more events on health and other topics of interest to seniors, their caregivers, and anyone interested in healthy aging on this calendar - and since they’re online, you don’t have to worry about travel time or parking!

 
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