A chill is in the air – ‘tis the season for viruses and colds. These illnesses are highly contagious, as seen in the prevalence in household members and classroom populations that seem to all be sick at the same time. The spread of these conditions occurs with coughing, sneezing and most anything and everything that the ill person touches.

Before I begin sharing my personal and professional suggestions, I must clarify standard precautions. The advice shared here is intended for those individuals who do not have other chronic illnesses, who do not have allergies to any products mentioned and is only for those known to be otherwise healthy. This information is not intended to replace medical care from your usual and customary healthcare provider. Please discuss any specific medical concerns with your personal physician. Your pharmacist is also a good resource about over-the-counter remedies and whether there is contradiction between them and your other prescriptions.

Typically, colds come on gradually and disappear gradually. Typically, “the flu” has a rapid onset of symptoms, primarily respiratory symptoms of cough, head congestion, sore throat, fever, chills, aching and profound fatigue.

General Guidelines:

  • Increased rest.

  • Increased fluid intake.

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water several times each day for treatment and prevention.

  • Monitor your temperature; stay home when oral temperature is 100.5 degrees fahrenheit or greater.

  • No aspirin for children; treat fever with alternate fever-reducing over-the-counter medication.

  • For adults, it is safe to use aspirin or fever-reducing medication of your choice.

 Power Pack Remedy Recommendations

Note: Always following dose directions on the package. Double check whether the medication is appropriate for children.

  • Emergen-C – 2-3 times/day

  • Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold – as directed on package

  • Aspirin (adults only) – 3-4 times/day, with food. Note: For children, use another fever reducer product as directed on package.

  • Mucinex (plain or DM; not D) – 600-200 mg, two times/day

  • Any cough syrup or cough drops will relieve and lessen the annoyance of persistent coughing

Rationale for The Recommendations:

  • Sudafed and other decongestants cause elevation in blood pressure. Many people experience a rebound effect from Sudafed, i.e. it makes congestion worse instead of better after two days of use.

  • Emergen-C contains vitamin C, zinc and other minerals that increase immunity.

  • Aspirin treats fevers very effectively, as well as relieves the aching.

  • Mucinex is guiafenesin. Mucinex DM is guiafenesin with dextromethorphan; it loosens mucus in sinus and chest to reduce chance of getting a secondary bacterial infection. If nasal secretions or coughing produces dark yellow or green mucus for more than a day or two, while you are running a fever, see your personal physician, or go to Urgent Care. At that point, you may need prescription medications.

Email me if you have questions: nurse@goodshepherdmpls.org

Be well!

I.C.E. . . .

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY when something unexpected calls for immediate attention . . .

One cannot prepare for every emergency. There are no rules and regulations that are guaranteed to protect someone from illness, injury, or harm. However, there are things a person can do to contribute to the best outcome possible.

Recently my friend who lives across the hall in my apartment building had a stroke – a serious stroke that made it impossible for her to speak or even to think clearly enough to alert anyone that she needed help. It was of utmost importance to the emergency department physicians to know what time the stroke occurred, because the “clot buster” treatment depends on the time since the event. Her family noted that her morning paper and cup of coffee remained on her kitchen table; she was dressed. But no one had seen her in the hall, nor had she put on her hiking shoes for her customary early-morning outdoor walk. Because she could not speak and was understandably becoming more panicked as time went on, no one knew of her situation until a family member arrived for a visit a couple hours later.

She remains hospitalized and is responding well to her care.

The point of this story, and the conversation among many of the residents in our building, is what information is needed In Case of Emergency (I.C.E.) Because it was a Sunday, the office of the building was not open. Our lease agreement documents include names of next-of-kin and additional health information, but that wasn’t available at the time needed. For best protection and rapid treatment in emergencies, medical and rescue personnel look in a person’s wallet for identifying information, names of family members, list of medications currently being taken, list of allergies, and sometimes preferred hospital, physician or emergency facility.

In addition to that wallet card and/or a medical alert bracelet or necklace with information, it is recommended that everyone have a refrigerator magnet called a File of Life. This is a plastic “sleeve” or envelope that includes the information mentioned above. These File of Life notices are a vital source of information when/if a person is ill or injured and unable to speak for him/herself. The File of Life is available at pharmacies, and often in health clinics, or at Red Cross events or other health information programs.

In addition (because emergencies do not always occur within one’s home), there is a setting on a cellphone o that is for emergency information. Healthcare personnel will look for a phone on the person experiencing an emergency.

Your concern for privacy of information is respected, however, this is about emergency health situations when it is to your advantage to access life-saving care as quickly as possible. Many of us have the best intentions to prepare for the unexpected, but often the concern passes without action. We think we will do it later when we have more time or when we can discuss with family or physician. At the very least, write your next-of-kin name and phone number on a piece of paper and tape it to the door of your refrigerator right now – until you get around to something more inclusive and detailed.

Are you ready for Christmas?

It’s a busy time of year in the church calendar as well as the secular calendar. Getting those two calendar listings to mesh into any sort of organized, manageable time frame can be challenging, to say the least. Family customs and new traditions often involve detailed plans all with a time deadline of December 24 and/or 25. Perhaps it’s your turn to host a large family gathering. Perhaps you have invited family and friends to join in a day of making cookies or even lefse! There are musical concerts, programs, events to add joy to the season – for both audience and participants. All these activities reflect spiritual beliefs, personal family values, customs and priorities.

This is surely a season that celebrates all that is good about family. We appreciate the positive results of time well spent in preparation; we credit ourselves and others for all the effort; we applaud success; all are blessed in the glow of Christmas. By the end of the Christmas season, perhaps one can even feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in packing away the last box of decorations. It was time and effort well spent. Can you apply the same planning and organizational urgency to another task that will be of benefit all year, every year?

The ultimate gift to your family is to put time and effort into planning and documenting your own wishes for healthcare decisions at the end of life. This is known as an advanced care directive; the process is also called Honoring Choices. Planning for future health care choices involves thinking about and discussing sensitive, personal and sometimes difficult situations. It is important to talk about your choices with those closest to you, so they know what your wishes are. Putting this in writing is called an Advanced Care Directive. It is a document that specifies your wishes for medical treatment in case you are unable to speak for yourself when that treatment is needed. A directive is intended for anyone 18 years of age and older; it should be shared with your medical care providers for them to keep on file with health records.

The best time to develop an advance care plan is now, not when faced with a crisis. As your parish nurse, Dorothy Ellerbroek is available to begin the conversation, answer questions and provide additional information. The process of creating an advance care plan is similar to planning for other important events, such as Christmas. Such healthcare conversation includes family values and beliefs. It does take time and effort, but is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your loved ones.