The Most Important Lab Tests to Get Every Year

Routine laboratory testing is one of the most important ways for patients to keep track of their health. Testing can be done on a sample of blood or urine. Seeing how test results change over time can help empower patients to make informed decisions about their health and hopefully, to reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes. Below, we outline some of the most important lab tests patients should consider getting each year. 

Complete Blood Count

The blood has many functions, one of the most well known being the transportation of oxygen and nutrients to the entire body. A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to give your doctor information about your blood cells. It is used to measure the number of red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes) as well as the physical health of these cells, such as the size, shape, and content. 

What can it help catch? A complete blood count can help your doctor identify signs of infection, anemia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and more serious conditions like cancer.

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel 

The comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) is a blood test that consists of 14 tests (usually performed on just one blood sample). The CMP measures glucose, calcium, certain proteins like albumin, electrolytes like potassium and sodium, and includes special tests that assess liver and kidney function. Patients may be asked to fast for 8 to 12 hours before having their blood drawn. 

What can it help catch? The comprehensive metabolic panel can help your doctor diagnose prediabetes, diabetes, and conditions of the liver and kidneys.  

Essential Nutrients

Vitamins and minerals are essential to the proper function of hundreds of processes in the body, including wound healing and maintaining the immune system. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can cause a wide range of health complications, like anemia, fatigue, and even abnormal heart rhythm. A vitamin panel and a mineral panel are blood tests that measure levels of certain essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B12, D, and K, and minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc. 

What can it help catch? An essential nutrients blood test identifies lower than normal levels of certain vitamins and minerals that may be causing health concerns. 

Urinalysis

A urinalysis is a test conducted on a urine sample. Laboratory technicians physically examine the urine; analyze what substances are found in the urine like proteins, glucose, and crystals; and measure the concentrations of these substances. It’s normal to have low levels of certain substances in the urine such as glucose and crystals. However, a higher than normal amount of glucose in the urine could be an indication of prediabetes, and crystals that are bigger than normal, or certain types of crystals, could indicate kidney stones.  

What can it help catch? Urinalysis can help identify early signs of diabetes and conditions of the kidneys and liver. When used as a diagnostic test, it can diagnose urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder issues. 

The Takeaway

Since blood and urine tests are a good way to identify possible health concerns early-on, it’s important to work with your doctor in order to prevent health complications from developing or getting worse. For example, if one of your tests shows that you are at risk of developing diabetes, your doctor may recommend that you make lifestyle changes to prevent or lower your risk of developing the condition.


Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2263/
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/4053-complete-blood-count

https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/multimedia/lab-tests/v42968319 https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/urinalysis/about/pac-20384907#:~:text=A%20urinalysis%20is%20a%20test,to%20a%20disease%20or%20illness.

How to Spot Signs of a Medication Allergy: Learn the Difference Between a Side Effect and a Drug Allergy

A medication allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a drug as if it were harmful. The immune system protects the body from foreign harmful substances, like infectious bacteria and viruses. Sometimes, the body recognizes a substance as harmful when it is harmless–this is referred to as an allergy.

Adverse drug reactions, also referred to as unwanted and/or unexpected drug reactions, are common and oftentimes are mild, but not all adverse drug reactions are a true drug allergy. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 5 to 10 percent of adverse reactions to medications are considered an allergy. Although a true medication allergy is not as common as one might think, it can be very serious and even life-threatening.

What Are the Signs of a Drug Allergy?

An allergic immune response to medication causes inflammation in the body which can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Trouble breathing

Skin reactions such as rash and hives are the most common signs of an allergic reaction to a drug. An allergic reaction can occur almost immediately or can happen a few weeks after starting the medication. For example, a patient may not show any signs of an allergic reaction, then weeks after starting the medication, they notice a rash. 

A severe drug allergy can cause a potentially life-threatening response, called anaphylaxis, which appears as:

  • Trouble breathing/wheezing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Swelling in the face or throat
  • Vomiting

Anaphylaxis typically occurs within one hour of taking a medication, but in some cases, the reaction can start several hours, up to 12 hours, after taking the medication. 

What’s the Difference Between a Side Effect and a Drug Allergy?

A medication allergy involves a response from the immune system and always causes a negative reaction. The risk of developing an allergy increases when a medication is taken frequently. Topical and injectable prescriptions are more likely to cause allergic reactions. 

Side effects are a consequence of how the medication works and does not involve an immune response. Common side effects can include:

  • Upset stomach 
  • Diahrrea
  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness and/or fatigue

Side effects can be temporary and may go away as the body grows accustomed to the medication. 

Before starting a new medication, read the medication guide that comes with the prescription. Medication guides outline side effects that patients may experience while taking the prescription drug. If you have any questions or are experiencing adverse effects that you think may be an allergic reaction, call your doctor as soon as possible. 

What to Do if You Notice a Drug Allergy

If you have signs of a severe drug allergy or suspect anaphylaxis, call 911 or seek emergency medical help immediately. If you notice mild signs of a drug allergy, stop taking the drug and call your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can help you determine if the reaction you’re having is a true drug allergy. Your doctor may perform certain tests to confirm the allergy. If needed, you’ll be prescribed an alternative medication.

If you have a known drug allergy, tell your pharmacist and all of your healthcare providers. It is also recommended that people with known drug allergies carry a card or wear a bracelet that states the allergy. This information could save their lives in an emergency.  


Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20371835
https://acaai.org/allergies/types/drug-allergies
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8621-medication-allergies

What’s the Difference Between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both chronic (long-term) conditions that cause blood sugar levels to be consistently too high. When blood sugar levels are too high for extended periods, it can cause health complications, like cardiovascular disease and neuropathy (nerve damage).

The Symptoms of Diabetes

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes share similar signs and symptoms, including:

  • Increased thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections

Most people who are in the early stages of type 2 diabetes may not have any noticeable symptoms–type 2 diabetes tends to come on slowly, and therefore symptoms can progress slowly. 

People who have type 1 diabetes may notice that symptoms come on quickly and are severe. 

How Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Are Different

Why They Cause High Blood Sugar

With type 1 diabetes, beta cells in the pancreas (cells that make insulin) are damaged and therefore do not make insulin or make very little insulin. Insulin is a hormone that directs cells throughout the body to take in glucose so they can use it for energy. When there is a deficit of insulin, the cells are unable to properly absorb glucose–this results in starved cells and a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. 

With type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin, but the cells do not respond to it as they should and are therefore unable to absorb glucose effectively. When the body’s cells don’t respond to insulin, this is referred to as insulin-resistance. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to compensate for insulin resistance. However, over time, the pancreas is unable to keep up with the increased demand for insulin. 

Risk Factors

Type 1 diabetes is thought to develop because of an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself–more specifically the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Scientists currently believe that a viral infection could trigger the immune response that leads to the onset of type 1 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes is thought to develop as a result of certain lifestyle factors. People who are overweight and physically inactive are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. 

Although type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different environmental risk factors, both types of diabetes are thought to be caused, at least in part, by inheriting certain genes.

Prevalence and Typical Age of Onset

Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, it typically develops in children and teenagers. 

Type 2 diabetes affects approximately 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes. Although type 2 diabetes can develop at any age, it typically develops in older adults who are 40 years old and older. 

Diabetes Treatment

There is currently no cure for either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Both conditions are treated using lifelong therapies, including diet and lifestyle changes, blood sugar monitoring, and insulin therapy. It’s important for patients to follow their treatment plan as outlined by their diabetes management team. If blood sugar levels aren’t well-controlled, it can lead to serious health complications like kidney damage, cardiovascular disease, and nerve damage. 


Sources:

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-causes#causes
https://health.usnews.com/conditions/diabetes/differences-between-type-1-and-type-2-diabetes
https://www.joslin.org/patient-care/diabetes-education/diabetes-learning-center/difference-between-type-1-and-type-2
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type1.html
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5571740/

Things to Ask Your Pharmacist About Your Prescription

In 2019, approximately 3.8 billion prescriptions were filled at retail pharmacies across the US. But your pharmacist does more than just fill your prescription. Your pharmacist ensures your total safety when filling your prescription and they can answer any question you have about your medication. It’s a great idea for patients to build a good relationship with their pharmacist. The next time you get a prescription filled, ask your pharmacist the following questions:

1. What is the Name of the Medication and What Is it For? 

It’s important for patients to learn the names of all of their medications as well as why they take them. It’s also important for patients to keep a list of their medications with them at all times. For patients who see multiple doctors, their doctors will want to keep up-to-date and know what medications the patient is currently taking and why. Having a list of your medications on hand is also useful if an emergency occurs and medical personnel need to know what medications you’re taking.

2. How Should I Take the Medication?

Taking medications as directed is an important part of achieving desired treatment outcomes. Some examples of questions you should be asking your pharmacist to ensure that you’re taking your medication correctly include:

  • How long should I take this medication for?
  • Should I take it with or without food?
  • How often should I take it?
  • What time of day should I take it?

3. Should I Take Any Precautions With the Medication?

Some medications can interact with other prescription or over-the-counter medications, alcohol, certain foods. There are also medications that can make you feel drowsy and can even cause sensitivity to the sun. In order to avoid adverse side effects, it’s important for patients to understand what things they should avoid while taking their medication. For example, antibiotics increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun and therefore increase the risk of sunburn. When patients take antibiotics, they should avoid sun exposure or, if they must be out in the sun for work, wear a hat and protective clothing like a long-sleeved shirt. Patients should never skip a dose of an antibiotic so they can go out in the sun!

4. What Should I Do if I Miss a Dose?

It’s important that patients follow instructions when taking a prescription medication, but missing a dose of medication can happen to anyone. If you forget a dose of your medication, don’t take a double dose, this could be dangerous depending on the prescription. Your pharmacist will give you instructions on what to do if you miss a dose. For example, they may tell you to take your medication as soon as you realize you missed a dose or tell you to wait until your next scheduled dose.

5. What Are the Side Effects?

Side effects can happen with any medication. Although they’re not always serious, it’s important for patients to understand what side effects they may experience while taking their medication as well as what to do. If you experience any unexplained side effects, call your doctor or pharmacist immediately. 

Have More Questions? You Can Call Your Pharmacist Any Time

Questions about medications can occur at any time. When you pick up your prescription, ask your pharmacist if someone is available 24 hours to take calls. If a question comes up about your medication, don’t hesitate to contact your pharmacist. 


Sources:

https://www.pharmacist.com/sites/default/files/files/Ask%20Your%20Pharmacist%20About%20All%20Your%20Prescription%20and%20Nonprescription%20Medications%20-%20English.pdf
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/8-questions-to-ask-your-pharmacist_n_563e0b9ee4b0307f2cadaf48

Can You Get a Prescription Filled in Another State? (Yes!)

What to do if You’re Out-of-State and Need a Prescription Refill.

People who travel in between states for work, or anyone vacationing outside of their home state, may find themselves in a position where they need to fill a prescription out-of-state. Since it’s important to take medications as instructed and to keep up with refills, it can be frustrating to realize that you’ve run out of (or will run out of) your medication while away from your pharmacy. Here are a few ways patients can ensure they have enough of their medication when traveling out of state and, if necessary, how to refill their prescriptions when out of state. 

Ask Your Doctor for a Written Prescription to Take With You

If you know that your prescription will run out while you’re away, consider asking your doctor for a written prescription that you can take with you. This will help you avoid the frustration and hassle of trying to figure out how to fill a prescription in the moment. This is a great option for people who know they’ll be out of town for a long time and will need a refill while their away. 

Transfer Your Prescription

Transferring a prescription is a relatively simple and quick process, although it may take up to 3 days to complete. To transfer your prescription, contact the pharmacy you’d like to use, and give them the information of your home pharmacy as well as the prescription(s) you’d like to fill. The pharmacists will take care of the transfer process. In some cases, as with narcotic prescriptions, you’ll need to call your doctor and ask them to fax your prescription to the pharmacy. 

Ask Your Pharmacist if They Can Mail Your Prescription

Many pharmacies will mail patients their prescriptions at no additional cost. If you’re out of state and realize that you only have a couple of days remaining on your prescription, call your pharmacy and ask if they can mail it to your location. This is a good option for patients who prefer to not find a new pharmacy. 

Cut Down on Costs by Finding a Pharmacy That Takes Your Insurance

It can be tempting to visit the first pharmacy you find when you’re nervous about filling a prescription. But filling prescriptions at a pharmacy that’s not in your insurance provider’s network can be expensive. To save costs, make sure to find a pharmacy that’s in-network with your insurance provider. 

Consider These Tips When Traveling With Medication

To ensure that your trip goes smoothly, consider following these tips for traveling with medication:

  • Carry a list of your medications as well as the dosage and frequency you take them.
  • If you’re flying, keep your medication in your carry-on.
  • Keep your medications stored in their labeled bottles.
  • If you’re traveling to another time zone, make sure to adjust your medicine to your new time zone.


Sources:

https://prescriptionhope.com/getting-a-prescription-filled-in-a-different-state-heres-what-to-do/

http://scope.sherpaa.com/how-to-get-a-prescription-when-youre-on-vacation/ https://blog.travelexinsurance.com/travel-health/what-to-do-your-prescription-runs-out/

Behind the Scenes: What Happens Once You Give a Pharmacist Your Prescription?

When you go to the pharmacy, it can appear as if everything is already pre-packaged and ready to be dispensed immediately. But, when your pharmacist receives your prescription, you have to wait to pick it up. What happens behind the counter? And why do you have to wait to get your prescription? Below we outline the steps pharmacists take to ensure safety and accuracy when filling prescriptions. 

1. Information Input

The pharmacist enters your prescription information into the pharmacy’s data system. If you deliver your prescription to the pharmacy, the pharmacist will input your information at the drop-off window and add your prescription to your profile for same-day pickup. If your doctor sends the prescription to the pharmacy, a pharmacist will enter your information into the system before beginning with the dispensing process and will call you when your prescription is ready.

2. Verification of Insurance Benefits and Copays

The pharmacist checks your insurance coverage to verify whether your insurance plan covers the medication your doctor prescribed. If your prescription is not covered under your insurance plan, you have a few options:

  • Pay for the medication out-of-pocket
  • Opt for a generic version of your prescription (a generic medication has the same active ingredients as brand-name medications and costs less)
  • Ask your doctor for a different medication that is covered by your insurance plan

3. Prescription Review

The pharmacist checks the prescription against your medical history and your current medications (including vitamins and other non-prescription medications you’ve told your pharmacist about). It’s important to tell your pharmacist if you have any known allergies to medications.

Pharmacists make a thorough review of your prescription to make sure it is right for you, including if: 

  • Your new prescription will interact negatively with any current medications
  • You’ve been prescribed more than one medication that serves the same purpose
  • Your doctor prescribed you the appropriate dose
  • You have any allergies to the prescription
  • The prescription will exacerbate any current health problems (for example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may make high blood pressure worse)

4. If Necessary, Coordination With the Prescribing Physician

If the pharmacist finds an interaction between your new prescription and one you’re currently taking, they will call your doctor. The pharmacist will try to solve the issue as quickly as possible to get your prescription prepared, but the time it takes to solve any issue with your prescription depends on how quickly your doctor responds. 

5. Prescription Preparation

Your medication is filled and marked with your information. Some medications are filled using a dispensing machine that automates the process, while some medications are hand-counted.

6. Second Verification

After your prescription has been filled, a pharmacist double-checks that the correct medication, with the correct dosage, was dispensed. They also double-check that all of the treatment information is correct, such as the directions for taking the medications. Information about your medication is printed out and included with your prescription. 

7. Prescription Pickup and Education

Completed orders are bagged and carefully organized in bins. When you pick up your medication, the pharmacist will ask for identifying information (like your name and birthday) to ensure that you receive the correct prescription.

At this time, the pharmacist will educate you about your medication as well as provide you with any necessary information you need to know to take your medication correctly (e.g. Should it be taken with food? Will you need to avoid the sun while taking this medication?).

At Summit Health Pharmacy, Our Pharmacists Have Your Best Interests in Mind

Pharmacists take many steps to ensure that patients receive medications that are safe. This process can take approximately 10 to 15 minutes if there are no issues with your prescription. Our pharmacists are dedicated to serving our patients and are always available for consultations and questions. 


Source:

https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/medications-cause#1

https://prescriptionhope.com/blog-prescription-filling-process-how-prescriptions-are-filled/
https://ufhealthjax.org/patient-care/docs/prescription-process.pdf
https://www.consumermedsafety.org/medication-safety-articles/item/261-behind-the-scenes-with-your-pharmacist

https://www.centennialcollege.ca/school-of-community-and-health-studies-blog/2016/march/08/behind-the-pharmacy-counter-why-it-takes-so-long-to-get-your-prescription-filled/ https://pans.ns.ca/public/pharmacy-services/filling-prescription-dispensing

Heading Back to School: Health Tips to Get Your Kids Ready for the Classroom

Image of children in the grass playing ball

The back-to-school ritual of buying school supplies and shopping for new outfits may have looked different for you this year. As some states report a stable or declining number of COVID-19 cases, while some report an increase, the school year will look different for your child depending on where you live. 

Whether your child’s school will open at full capacity or at a modified capacity that integrates staggered schedules and distance learning, it’s important for your child to get the hang of good health practices and establish healthy routines that they can incorporate throughout the school year.

Practice Good Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene helps stop the spread of germs and reduces the risk of getting sick. Some things you can start practicing with your child at home before they go to school include:

  • Thoroughly washing your hands: Practice how to correctly wash your hands with your child at home— scrubbing all surfaces of the hands for at least 20 to 30 seconds with plenty of soap. It can also be helpful to give your child examples of when they should wash their hands (i.e. before and after eating, after using the toilet, and after blowing your nose).
  • Sneezing and coughing into a bent elbow: Start practicing the habit of sneezing or coughing into a bent elbow, instead of the hands. This avoids respiratory droplets from spreading in the air and/or getting on the hands, potentially getting others sick.  
  • Avoiding touching the face: One of the primary modes of infection is touching the face (the eyes, nose, or mouth) with unwashed hands. Kids are full of energy, and it can be difficult to get them to stop touching their faces. Some helpful tips to help encourage kids to not touch their face include positive reinforcement (for example, “Good job not touching your face.”), education about germs, or even incentives (like a treat or extra screen time).
  • Wearing a mask: It may be difficult for your child to transition from wearing a mask for short periods of time to wearing one all day at school. Help your child prepare for wearing a mask at school by encouraging them to practice by wearing one for longer periods of time at home.

Focus on Nutrition

A solid nutritional foundation is not only essential to your child’s physical health but has also been linked to concentration and learning ability. MD Anderson recommends that kids’ lunches contain at least two-thirds of their lunch with plant-based foods, like fruits, nuts, and vegetables; and one-third with a lean protein, like chicken. Try involving your kids when packing their lunch and use it as an opportunity to teach them about eating healthy. 

For snacks, try to avoid processed foods that contain high quantities of salt and preservatives and opt for more natural foods like fruit and vegetables with hummus, yogurt, or peanut butter. 

Make Sleep a Priority

Sleep is an important part of keeping the immune system healthy. The amount of sleep your child needs will depend on their age. Toddlers should get between 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day, while children aged 6-13 need between 10.5 and 11 hours a day, and teenagers need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep a day. 

Start a sleep routine with your child to help them create good sleep habits before the school year starts. A bedtime routine can include setting a strict bedtime, or a time to start winding down, and reading a book in bed. Electronic devices should be limited closer to bedtime, as they can affect your child’s sleep quality. Consider putting away electronic devices, such as iPads, smartphones, and video games, at least one hour before bedtime.

Get Your Child Up-to-Date on Their Vaccines

Due to COVID-19 quarantine measures, many children have fallen behind their vaccine schedules. If your child will be returning to school in the fall, make an appointment with your child’s doctor to get them caught up on any missed vaccines or to stay on track with their vaccine schedule. Try to get an appointment at least a few weeks before school starts, as vaccines generally take about two weeks to become effective. 

 Are You and Your Kids Ready for the Upcoming School Year?

Going back to school is an exciting time for kids. Establishing healthy routines will help you and your family enjoy a successful school year. 


Sources:

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/everything-you-need-know-about-washing-your-hands-protect-against-coronavirus-covid-19
https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/06/coronavirus-before-schools-reopen-parents-urged-catch-up-kids-missed-vaccinations/
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e2.htm?s_cid=mm6919e2_w
https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/5-back-to-school-health-tips.h17-1592991.html
https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/how-diet-and-nutrition-impact-a-childs-learning-ability
https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-much-sleep-children-need/
https://www.sleep.org/articles/teens-sleep-normal/

Summer Tips for Managing Medications

Proper medication management is important all year-long, but it’s especially important in the summer when temperatures rise and the sun is shining bright. What are some smart ways to manage medications during the summer months?

Know if Your Medication May Cause Dehydration

Diuretic medications increase the loss of fluids by causing frequent urination and therefore can put patients at risk of dehydration. Some examples of diuretic medications include blood pressure medications, laxatives, and chemotherapy. Other medications can increase fluid loss through side effects like:

  • Increased sweating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

When the body loses fluids, it also loses essential salts and minerals, so it’s important to replace lost fluids with something more than just water. If you’re taking a diuretic medication, stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids (especially those with electrolytes) and eating foods with high water content (like fruits and vegetables). 

Know if Your Medication May Cause Sensitivity to the Sun

Some medications can increase the way a person’s body reacts to the sun, making them more susceptible to sunburn, and can even trigger an allergic reaction to sun exposure. The results of sun exposure when taking a medication that causes sun sensitivity can include severe sunburns, rashes, hives, or blisters.

Examples of drugs that cause an increased likelihood of sunburn include antibiotics, certain antidepressants, and even some over-the-counter pain relievers. If your medication is known to increase sun sensitivity, make sure to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid being out in the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight
  • Wear light-colored clothing (a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a wide-brimmed hat) when outdoors
  • Generously apply and frequently re-apply a board spectrum sunscreen

Keep Medications Out of the Sun and the Heat

Extreme heat and sunlight can alter how medications work—they can either increase or decrease a medication’s potency. Don’t leave your medication in a bag in the car or laying on a table in the sun, even just 30 minutes can be enough to alter your medication. 

Don’t take pills that have changed color, odor, or consistency (unusually soft or hard). If you take insulin, do not use it if it looks cloudy or has particles floating in it. If you notice any physical changes in your medication, consult your pharmacist. Your pharmacist will advise you as to whether you’ll need a new prescription. 

Keep Your Medications Close When Traveling 

When traveling, it can be tempting to pack all of your things into one bag and stow it out of sight. But it can be impossible to know if your medications were stored within the recommended temperature range throughout the duration of your trip. 

Always keep your medications on you when traveling. The temperatures of the areas where you’ll be are more likely to be suitable for proper medication storage compared to luggage storage areas. If you’re traveling by car, keep medications in the car with you (where you’re more likely to have the AC on) instead of in the trunk, or pack them in a cooler with frozen gel packs. If traveling by plane, keep your medications with you in your carry-on luggage, as aircraft cargo holds aren’t always temperature-controlled. 

Ask Your Pharmacist About Your Prescription Medication

Ask your pharmacist if you need to take extra precautions this summer with any of your prescription medications. Properly storing medications ensures a safe and effective treatment. Knowing the side effects of your medications will allow you to take the proper precautions to avoid health risks such as dehydration and adverse skin reactions. 


Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
https://www.health.harvard.edu/skin-and-hair/10-types-of-medications
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/08/000807070850.htm

Brand-Name vs. Generic: What’s the Difference?

When you go to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled, your pharmacist may ask if you prefer a generic brand. What is a generic medication? And is it as effective as a brand-name drug?

What is Generic Medicine?

Generic drugs are medications that are made in the same way as existing FDA-approved brand-name drugs. Essentially, a generic drug is a copy of a brand-name drug. The manufacturer of a generic drug must show that it is a safe and effective substitute for the brand-name version. 

According to the FDA, the generic version of a drug will share the following characteristics with its comparable brand-name medication:

  • The active ingredient
  • Inactive ingredients that are considered acceptable by the FDA
  • The form (such as liquid, tablet, or injection)
  • The method of administration (such as topical or oral)
  • The strength
  • The indications for use (what is the medication for)

What is a Brand-Name Medicine?

A brand-name drug is a medication that has been patented by a pharmaceutical company. The pharmaceutical company invests money to research the treatment, develop the drug, and conduct clinical trials. This process can take many years and requires the company to adhere to the rigorous standards outlined by the FDA. A patent allows the company to exclusively sell the medication they developed for a certain number of years without any competition. 

Generic Versions Are Just as Effective as Brand-Name Medicines

Generic drugs provide the same therapeutic outcomes and share the same risks and benefits as brand-name drugs. The FDA enforces strict regulations and performs thorough reviews that ensure that generic medications meet the same high-quality standards required of brand-name drugs. 

Why Choose Generic Over Brand-Name?

Generic drugs are typically less expensive than brand-name drugs. This is because the companies that make generic drugs do not have to make the initial investment required for research and development, clinical trials, and patents. But generic drugs cannot be sold until the patent for a brand-name drug has expired. If the brand-name drug currently has a patent, it is prohibited for any other drug manufacturer to make and/or sell a generic version of the drug. 

Can I Ask my Pharmacist to Substitute a Generic Drug for the Drug Prescribed by my Doctor?

Yes. If there is a generic version of your prescription available, you can ask your pharmacist to substitute the generic for the brand-name. There are times when your doctor may specify that you only receive the brand-name medication. In this case, your pharmacist will follow your doctor’s instructions. 

Sometimes, there may be a generic version of your prescription that your doctor might not be aware of. In this case, your pharmacist may contact your doctor to consult with them regarding a generic. 


Sources:

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/generic-drugs/generic-drug-facts
https://nhhealthcost.nh.gov/guide/question/what%E2%80%99s-difference-between-generic-and-brand-name-drugs
https://www.opm.gov/faqs/QA.aspx?fid=fd635746-de0a-4dd7-997d-b5706a0fd8d2&pid=974e0e2c-d032-4ada-bb65-496086e5fe2e#:~:text=Each%20state%20has%20a%20law,may%20not%20be%20aware%20of.

Heart-Healthy Benefits of Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of fats that are important for the body. Omega-3 fats are essential for the proper function of the body’s cells because they form part of the cell membrane (the structure that separates the interior of the cell from its surroundings) and are responsible for the proper function of receptors (structures found within the cell membrane that facilitate communication between the cell and structures outside of the cell). Omega-3 fatty acids are especially known for their role in heart health. 

How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protect Heart Health?

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to:

Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure over long periods of time weakens and damages the arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from the heart throughout the entire body). This increases the risk of an aneurysm (a bulge in an artery that can rupture and cause internal bleeding), coronary heart disease, and heart failure. 

Reduce arterial fat deposits

Research suggests that consuming omega-3 fatty acids helps prevent plaque build-up in the arteries. Scientists know that eating a diet high in cholesterol, in addition to lifestyle factors like smoking, causes plaque to build up and harden within the arteries, narrowing the opening of the arteries.

Prevent cardiac arrhythmias

Arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart beats with an abnormal or irregular rhythm—either too fast or too slow. Electrical stimulation coordinates a steady heartbeat. When these electrical impulses don’t work properly, this causes the heart to beat irregularly. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids help prevent arrhythmia

What Foods are Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Although essential to our health, the body cannot make omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained by foods and beverages. There are 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in fish, while ALA is found in plant oils. Each type of omega-3 plays a certain role in protecting heart health. Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fatty fish including salmon, tuna, and anchovies  
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seed
  • Soybean
  • Walnuts
  • Algae

What is the Recommended Daily Intake of Omega-3?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating 2 servings of fish (fish contains both EPA and DHA omega-3 fats) every week for good heart health. One serving of fish is outlined as 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or ¾ of a cup of flaked fish. 

There are currently no daily intake recommendations for ALA omega-3 fats (found in plant oils), but research does show that including them in your diet reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. 

Healthy individuals can typically get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their diet. People who have already suffered a cardiac event like a heart attack may benefit from taking a daily omega-3 supplement. However, it’s important to discuss what type of supplement you should be looking for as well as the dose with your doctor.  


Sources:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2020/03/16/heart-healthy-benefits-of-omega3s.aspx
https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/eicosapentaenoic-acid-epa
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/mnt/releases/116383#1
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-arrhythmia/symptoms-causes/syc-20350668
https://www.clinicalcorrelations.org/2015/07/29/the-role-of-fish-oil-in-arrhythmia-prevention/
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circulationaha.114.015176
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-be-taking-an-omega-3-supplement