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The temperature drops, the jackets come out, and everyone begins worrying about staying health. The fears certainly aren’t unfounded. People are, in fact, most likely to have colds during the fall and winter, starting in late August or early September through March or April.
An estimated 5 to 20 percent of Americans contract influenza each year, according to the University of Chicago Medical Center, and during a one-year period it’s estimated that people in the U.S. will suffer one billion colds. The common cold, caused by a virus that inflames the membranes in the lining of the nose and throat, and there are more than 200 different viruses that can cause this.
Prolonged exposure to cold will inhibit the immune system, your first line of defense against colds. Winter also means an uptick in activity for certain viruses like the flu and strains of the common cold are more active during the winter months. Add to that the increased time spent indoors or in close contact with people during the colder months, and it’s not hard to see why so many people catch something undesirable during the winter season.
There are a variety of locations in the Loop where you can be vaccinated against the flu.
“It is very important people try to do anything to avoid these things,” said Dr. Scott Burger, a former emergency room doctor and current attending physician at Washington Aventis Hospital in Maryland.
In addition to the basics like keeping hand sanitizer ready to go or making sure not to share things, like cell phones, computers and drinking glasses, Burger also said to stand clear of those around with a cough or sneeze.
“Influenza can float through the air,” Burger said, while other viruses can hang in the air after a sneeze.
Another thing to keep in mind is to bundle up as much as possible. The body releases a lot of heat in the face and skull because of the tremendous blood supply there, so make sure to wear a hat and a scarf.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also important to ward off the sniffles, Burger said.
In fact getting a light workout in if you are feeling under the weather can actually help fight off colds before they get worse. The increased heart rate gets the blood flowing, which will help move the virus out of your system.
And while the actual scientific-based health effects of that age-old cold remedy, chicken noodle soup, are hotly debated, there’s no question that a warm, nourishing soup can ease some of the discomfort. This recipe from Chicago Food Snob promises a great chicken soup, but if you don’t feel up to cooking, there are plenty of options in the Windy City to get your chicken soup fix.
Burger pointed out that if you are feeling under the weather and noticed some discolored mucus, you should hold off before rushing to the doctor’s office. It’s a common misconception, he explained, that it’s a sign the body need antibiotics, but that’s not always the case. Try to flush out your system with lots of fluids, use a vaporizer or neti pot. And call the doctor if the symptoms get worse or haven’t improved.
Above all else, Burger advised, get the flu shot. Contrary to popular rumors, you cannot get the flu from the shot and the shot is very effective.
According to the University of Chicago Medical Center, it’s especially important for elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions to get the influenza vaccine because the virus can cause complications that may develop into a more serious disease for those with compromised immune systems. Pregnant women, children and those who work in hospitals, nursing homes and chronic care facilities are also highly advised to get the vaccine.
If, despite your best efforts, you still manage to get sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen to help with pain or fever. Consult your physician before giving these medications to young children. Seek medical help if temperatures reach higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or symptoms last more than 10 days and/or aren’t relieved by over-the-counter medications.
Using Storify, we’re taking a look at what Chicago folks are Tweeting about and discussing
online when it comes to health, fitness and making resolutions to get healthier in 2011.
Chicago’s brutal winter is upon us. And the wind chill, ice and snow is the perfect environment for cold and flu season. Air-borne viruses pass a lot more quickly in close quarters and the dampness can trigger allergies, making people more susceptible to respiratory viruses, said Anthony Qaiyum, co-owner of Merz Apothecary.
Many people are accustomed to taking multivitamins and popping pills when they get sick, but there are other things you can do to fight illness and boost your immune system, according to experts in naturopathic medicine and homeopathy.
The fastest acting remedy is homeopathy, said Dr. Elizabeth Laskonis, who works at the Larch Tree Natural Wellness Center in McHenry, Ill. as a certified natural health professional nutritional counselor, and master herbalist.
“You’re not taking the actual herb,” she said. “It’s made from an herb and it’s usually a liquid (called a tincture). It has the frequency of the herb because every living thing has a vibration.”
She explained that tinctures act in minutes because you place the liquid under your tongue and it goes through the blood stream, rather than through you digestive system like a taking a pill or eating an herb.
Qaiyum said the way homeopathic medicine is the most “gentle” form of medicine. It works stimulating the body’s own defenses with a diluted form of an herb that would trigger a similar physical response a virus would. For example, if a patient was suffering from itchy hives they might want to take a diluted form of bee venom to counteract it, he said. Although not homeopathic, the most popular alternative medicine his apothecary sells to treat cold and flu is Oscillococcinum, a product from Boiron. The active ingredient comes from a duck, he said.
Laskonis said almost every illness can be taken care of by the thousands of herbs and weeds growing around us. But, she added, before eliminating your illness it’s important to know if your illness is caused by a parasite or toxin that is causing the illness. That can be diagnosed by kinesiology, which is muscle testing.
Jacquin Dole agrees that everything we need to take care of ourselves can be grown in our back yards. Dole is a biologist with a botany background who cultivates healing herbs, such as echinacea and goldenseal, on her organic farm in McMinnville, Ore.
“The belief in natural healing is a challenge,” Dole said. “People need to know what they’re doing.”
The best thing to do during the winter is rest and drink a fresh lemon squeezed in a glass of water every day, she said.
“It’s all you need”. At 70, she can’t remember the last time she had a cold of flu – but she does get pneumonia. For that she takes black elderberry, olive leaf extract and golden seal.
Laskonis recommends eating healthy, non-genetically altered foods, staying hydrated, exercising and taking vitamin D.
“Most people don’t get enough Vitamin D,” she said. Fifteen minutes of sunshine a day is recommended but people living in northern states, such as Illinois, don’t get enough during the winter. “I wouldn’t take anything less than 1000 milligrams.”
Chicago businesses that sell homeopathic and natural remedies
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Around the United States, gay marriage and other gay rights issues have sparked legislation, public debates and protests. And, these days, when an issue sparks a public interest, there’s no way that it won’t end up being discussed on Twitter. It has become an outlet for any discussion, especially those of vital importance to so many people.
Here, we at Chicago Loopster have created a way to track that discussion around the United States. Use the above interactive graphic to check in on the debate in some of the biggest cities around the United States. Twitter searches for Prop 8 will pop up in a new window. And check back often, because there’s constant chatter about Prop 8.
Same-sex marriage was outlawed in California following the passage of a 2008 ballot measure. In January 2010, the measure was brought to trial in San Francisco. After several months of deliberation, the ban was lifted August 4 by U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker. The ruling sparked reactions from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.
Same-sex marriage remains a hot topic in the United States, and it is recognized only at the state level. In 2003, Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage and several states (or a region, in one example) have since followed suit: Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Many states, however, continue to ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions.
A bill allowing civil unions in Illinois may be near passage, according to an August 23rd press release. If passed, the state would join New Jersey in allowing civil unions. In Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia, previous civil union laws have been expanded to making gay marriage legal. But what do these distinctions mean, and what is on the horizon as debate over marriage rights continues in the USA?
Senate Bill 1716, the bill that would allow civil unions in Illinois, would grant partners in civil unions the same rights that spouses receive under state law, similar to laws governing these partnerships in other states. Civil unions primarily differ from marriage in that they only cover benefits and rights granted to spouses by the state, not at the federal level. Domestic partnerships, which allow only limited state rights to couples are available in Oregon, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Nevada, Wisconsin, California and the District of Columbia.
Federal marriage benefits cannot be granted to same-sex partnerships since the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996. Federal laws cover many basic protections and benefits granted to married couples. According to information from the National Organization for Women, couples in civil unions that receive only state benefits face some of these key challenges:
- Portability: Since civil unions are granted at the state level, and not permitted by all states, couples may not be able to retain their benefits when they cross state lines. This can also create problems when couples in civil unions want to dissolve the union while residing in a state that does not acknowledge them to begin with.
- Lack of key federal benefits: NOW cites a 1997 General Accounting Office report that lists 1,049 federal benefits to married couples, none of which are available to couples in civil unions. These include Social Security benefits, Family and Medical Leave protection, Worker’s Compensation, basic federal tax exemptions, and next-of-kin status regarding medical decisions and hospitalization.
- Taxes: Civil unions are not recognized by the federal government, and so those in civil unions will have to file federal taxes as if they are single individuals, even if the state allows them to file similarly to married couples. There are comparable challenges involved with applying for public benefits such as pension protection, insurance, and Medicaid.
- Forms: Many documents that request marital status do not include an option for civil unions, forcing those in civil unions to misrepresent themselves. In the case of some official documents, this could expose someone in this situation to fraud charges.
While these differences distinguish civil unions from federally recognized marriage, gay marriages permitted by state laws also allow only state benefits, due to the Defense of Marriage Act. The cultural significance of marriage means that the addition of gay marriage laws in states that previously allowed civil unions is still regarded as an important advance by advocates for gay marriage rights. Additionally, a CNN poll released this month finds that for the first time, there is a majority support of gay marriage in the USA. The New York Times, reporting on the poll, states that changing demographics are likely to continue to drive this trend across the states:
“Nationally, a majority of people under age 30 support same-sex marriage. And this is not because of overwhelming majorities found in more liberal states that skew the national picture: our research shows that a majority of young people in almost every state support it. As new voters come of age, and as their older counterparts exit the voting pool, it’s likely that support will increase, pushing more states over the halfway mark.”