January 13, 2009

New Year Is Time To Think More About Health

The holidays may have left behind more than just joyful memories. The stress of the season also may leave a weakened immune system, increasing the chances of starting the new year sick. Internists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have tips for how to start 2009 off happy and healthy.  

"The holidays can take a toll on us all, and 2008 has been especially rough, nationally with the financial crisis and locally with Hurricane Ike. There have been a lot of added strains on our immune systems that may make us vulnerable to the common, first-of-the-year respiratory illnesses," said Dr. Steve Rosenbaum, assistant professor of medicine and section chief of general internal medicine at the Baylor Clinic. "Most people want to see 2008 in the rear view mirror and be healthy to start all those resolutions we declared."

To decrease your chances of becoming sick, Rosenbaum recommends getting plenty of rest, taking multivitamins to boost your immune system, washing hands frequently and avoiding exposure to others who may be sick.

Rosenbaum has tips for patients who may be coming down with an illness in the new year.

"Right at the beginning of the year, we are seeing a lot of respiratory problems, both sinus and chest, sometimes together but often separately," said Rosenbaum. "Traditionally, this may start as a sore throat then move to your ears and eventually your whole body aches."

For sinus infections, patients should take an antihistamine and/or a decongestant to dry them out, he says. They may also want to use a steroid nasal spray to reduce inflammation.

Sore throats, Rosenbaum says, are best healed with drinking cool "“ but not ice-cold "“ liquids. "Ice-cold liquid may numb the throat temporarily, but in the long run it worsens it. The warmer, the better for soothing the throat."

To help with chest complications, Rosenbaum advises using a good expectorant, a medication that brings up mucus from the lungs, bronchi and trachea.

"If you're just feeling yucky, it always helps to take an anti-inflammatory such as Aspirin, Advil or Tylenol," said Rosenbaum.

It's important not to let your illness drag on, he said.

"If you do not start feeling better in five to seven days, it's time to call or see a doctor," Rosenbaum said. "A lot of times, what starts out as a virus may turn into a secondary bacterial infection, and you may need an antibiotic."

"You have to be healthy to start working on your New Year's resolutions," said Rosenbaum. "It's important to look forward to the future and start 2009 off on the right foot.


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