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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 


    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.


    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 


    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.


    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.


    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.


    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.


    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.


    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 


    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.


    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 


    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog: https://bit.ly/3KbVUA1.
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    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.


    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.

     

    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!


    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • May 30, 2019

    By Andrea Goergen, RD

    You’re sorting through the fridge and decide you want a glass of milk. However, its expiration date has passed, and you can’t figure out whether it’s still safe to drink some. This is just one example of the frequent dilemma people find themselves in when making decisions about the safety of their food.

    Unfortunately, people misinterpret food date labels more than 80 percent of the time, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The organization says this leads to people throwing away food prematurely. But another important issue to consider is how misinterpreting food labels also can put people at risk for developing foodborne illnesses, due to the consumption of bacteria. View common foodborne illnesses and their symptoms from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Most dates listed on food products are manufacturers’ recommendations for product quality and freshness, so they have nothing to do with safety. Furthermore, no federal regulations currently exist for food date labeling. As a result, it’s important that we understand ways to ensure the food we eat is safe, as well as when we should—and shouldn’t—rely on food labels.

    Determining whether #food at home is safe to eat can be tricky—even with #foodlabels. Learn tips from @AndreaGtheRD on how to spot bad food and avoid #foodborneillness. https://bit.ly/2Xfu8K5 @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    How to Read Food Date Labels

    Many consumers don’t understand what common food date labeling language means when they purchase foods in the supermarket and later examine those foods at home. Here are explanations for each common term:

    • “Sell by” dates: These inform stores of the last day the item will be at peak freshness. The stores pull products with expired “‘sell by”’ dates off the shelves. These dates are regulated at the state level with requirements varying state to state.
    • “Best if used by” and “best before” dates: These refer to when the product is at peak flavor and freshness.
    • “Use by” dates: Manufacturers set these, and they also refer to the product’s quality.
    • “Packed on” dates: Manufacturers use these to confirm when the food was made.

    As you can see, food label dates don’t mean the same thing at all. Your foods at home might be perfectly fine to eat even a few days after a “sell by” or “best if used by” date. That’s why it’s best to keep some general guidelines in mind when deciding whether to eat a food or toss it in the trash.

    Protect Yourself from Foodborne Illness

    To avoid foodborne illnesses—which have symptoms that can include fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting—it’s important to be familiar with general guidelines for when foods are safe to eat. For example:

    • Leftovers should be consumed within two to three days of refrigerating
    • Perishable foods left unrefrigerated for more than two hours should be discarded
    • If a food item looks, smells or tastes spoiled—even if the expiration date says it’s OK—err on the side of caution, and throw it out or compost it

    Below are recommendations you can follow for specific food categories.

    Meats

    • Use or freeze fresh, unfrozen poultry, or seafood within one to two days of purchase, and eat clams and scallops within 24 hours of buying them
    • Freeze fresh, unfrozen beef, veal, pork, and lamb within three to five days of purchase
    • Use or freeze organ meats within one to two days of purchase
    • Use or freeze ground meats or sausages of any kind within one to two days of purchase
    • Eat or freeze deli meats within three to five days of returning home from a deli or after opening an airtight sealed container, and within seven to 10 days after the “sell by” date

    Milk, Eggs, and Cheese

    • Fresh eggs usually are safe for three to five weeks in the refrigerator, but discard egg substitutes within two to three days of opening
    • Drink milk until about five to seven days after the “sell by” date
    • Hard cheeses, properly stored and refrigerated, typically are good for up to six months
    • Eat refrigerated soft cheeses, such as cream cheese, brie, and goat cheese, within a week of opening and before the expiration date on the package

    Sauces and Spreads

    • Sauces and spreads are exposed to bacteria every time the container is opened, so make sure to continuously monitor them for signs of spoilage
    • Mayonnaise is good for three to six months when sealed and about two months once opened and refrigerated up to the expiration date

    Fresh Produce and Juice

    • Consume refrigerated unpasteurized juices within two to three days of buying them
    • Eat or freeze fresh berries within three days of purchasing them
    • Eat sprouts within two days of buying them

    The FoodKeeper App is an excellent resource in which you can search food items and discover whether they’re considered safe to eat, if you are ever unsure.

    Understanding when it’s safe to eat foods is an important way to avoid foodborne illnesses. Make sure to keep these tips in mind the next time you’re wondering whether that food in the fridge is safe to eat.

    Are you experiencing symptoms of a foodborne illness? Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a primary care doctor.

    Request an Appointment

  • May 28, 2019

    By Timothy R. Shope, MD

    Having bariatric surgery can be the beginning of a longer, healthier, and happier life for people with obesity, particularly those with complications from type 2 diabetes. However, in some cases, a second procedure is needed to achieve optimal results.

    Patients typically seek revisional bariatric, or weight loss, surgery either because they didn’t lose their desired amount of weight or had a health problem related to their initial surgery. Revisional procedures often are performed as soon as a few years or as long as 20 years after a person’s first surgery.

    We’ve successfully revised hundreds of patients’ bariatric surgeries at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. For example, one woman had a sleeve gastrectomy—when the stomach is minimized to 25 percent of its original size—after which she developed severe gastroesophageal reflux. To correct the issue, we converted her to gastric bypass anatomy, where we make changes to the stomach and small intestine to change the way patients absorb and digest food. The procedure relieved her symptoms overnight.

    LISTEN: Dr. Shope discusses revisional weight loss surgery in the Medical Intel podcast.

    Our program is certified through the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Quality Assurance Program (MBSAQIP), which is an acknowledgement of our exceptional bariatric surgery care. Not all hospitals and clinics do revisional bariatric surgery, because it requires expert care and experience. We have several fellowship-trained surgeons and two of us have been doing bariatric surgeries for more than 15 years.

    The Best Candidates for Revisional Bariatric Surgery

    Most patients we see for revisions are in their 50s or 60s, and many struggled with committing to healthier eating, exercising, or other necessary lifestyle changes before or after their initial surgery.

    People who seek a revision to lose more weight should wait at least several years. Patients having a problem related to their initial procedure should seek evaluation and treatment right away. Make sure you speak to your insurance company to learn what it requires to cover a revisional weight loss surgery. Some insurance companies halt approval if the length of time between procedures is too short.

    Patients who need additional surgery to keep off weight because of their diets or lack of exercise after #bariatricsurgery might require a second surgery, says Dr. Timothy Shope, via @MedStarWHC. Learn more: https://bit.ly/2EDsWsJ

    Click to Tweet

    How We Perform Revisional Surgeries

    The technique we select depends greatly on how the previous procedure was performed. For example, many of our patients have had unsuccessful lap band procedures in the past. These surgeries involve an adjustable silicone band placed around the top of the stomach to restrict food consumption. For revisional surgery, we might remove the band and perform a sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass surgery. For an unsuccessful sleeve gastrectomy, we typically convert the digestive anatomy to gastric bypass surgery. If you had an unsuccessful gastric bypass procedure, revisions are limited. While we can lengthen the bypass and revise the two connections that are created for that procedure, it depends greatly on the patient’s specific issue. Make sure to speak to your doctor to discuss your options.

    What Should Patients Expect After Surgery?

    Following a revisional weight loss surgery, patients must follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly to achieve optimal results. In the first month after surgery, patients' diets progress from liquids to soft foods. Eventually (usually by four to eight weeks) they progress to a regular consistency diet that focuses on lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables. Other foods, such as fruits and whole grains, can also be included. Patients should have a consistent exercise regimen that includes at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week and strength training at least twice a week.

    We also suggest patients take advantage of follow-up care. Fifteen to 20 years ago, hospitals would have patients come in and receive a brief preoperative counseling before surgery. The surgeon would see the patient once or twice postoperatively, then the patient was essentially on their own.

    Today, follow-up care typically consists of visits with a bariatric program where the medical team ensures patients experienced optimal weight loss and monitor them for any nutritional deficiencies. We typically see patients who have had weight loss surgery within two weeks of their surgery for their first post-operative visit. The patient will meet with both the surgeon and the dietitian and likely will get advanced to soft foods at that time. Typically, patients will follow up with the surgeon about one month later and are encouraged to schedule an appointment with a dietitian to ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs. Patients then come in about every three months during the first year, every six months in the second year, and then at least annually after that.

    In circumstances in which patients don’t receive optimal results with bariatric surgery, revisional surgery can help correct their problems.

    To request an appointment with a bariatric surgeon, click below or 202-877-3627.

    Request an Appointment

  • May 24, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Updated March 15, 2020

    Regularly exercising can be a difficult routine to accomplish, especially during the winter when harsh conditions can make running or participating in any outdoor sports a feat.

    As a result, our bodies often are out of shape and unprepared for new exercise routines or summer activities, such as hiking and swimming. Let’s discuss some ways you can prepare your body heading into this summer.

    Preparing for summer exercise.

    1. Wear the right shoes.

    When you begin exercising again, it’s important you wear a good pair of shoes that fit your feet well. A good pair of shoes can prevent injuries such as ankle sprains and plantar fasciitis. This is especially true when you’re jogging or hiking on tough terrain or uneven surfaces.

    I recommend visiting a local shoe store that has a staff who specializes in fitting people into the right shoes based on their arches and the width of their feet. Once you purchase shoes that work well for you, replace them every 300 miles or three months—whichever comes first—as this is when shoes generally lose their cushioning and support.

    1. Slowly ramp up your exercise routine.

    When you begin exercising, it’s important not to do too much right away. If you ramp up too quickly, you can overuse joints and muscles, which can result in a variety of sprains, tears, and stress fractures. Every year, we see this in people who were sedentary before beginning a sudden and strenuous exercise routine.

    Try increasing what you’re doing—whether it’s jogging, playing basketball, or hiking—by about 10 percent each week. This will allow your body time to adjust to the exercise and steadily get in shape.

    When you begin #exercising this #summer, it’s important not to overdo it if you haven’t exercised much over the winter, says Dr. Delasobera. Learn more tips to prepare for summer activities. via @MedStarHealth
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    1. Have an annual exam.

    Annual or physical exams are a great way to have your overall health examined. If you opt for a physical exam prior to summertime, you can ensure your health is good enough to begin an exercise routine. At the same time, your doctor can inform you about any exercise limitations you should consider. This is especially important if you have any history of heart disease. Your doctor may recommend you begin cardiac rehab, an outpatient program which combines exercise and education to help you improve your heart and overall health.

    Related Reading: 4 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Heart

    1. Stay hydrated.

    Keeping your body hydrated is essential to good health, and in the summer when you sweat more, it can be more difficult to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to health implications such as:

    • Feeling tired or fatigued
    • Increased risk of falls
    • Kidney failure
    • Low blood pressure

    A good way to know whether you’re dehydrated is to monitor your urine. If it becomes dark yellow, you’re dehydrated. Try to drink about a half-gallon of water every day. Because you lose sodium when you sweat, it’s important to consume electrolytes. I recommend avoiding sugary sports drinks and opting for electrolyte-infused water or packets of electrolytes that you can stir into your water.

    Did you suffer an injury?

    When you’re exercising, it’s normal to experience muscle or joint soreness. However, if the soreness steadily gets worse and doesn’t improve after you stretch and warm up, you should speak to your doctor as you might have an injury, such as a sprain, strain, tear, or arthritis. Moreover, swelling before and after exercise is a sound indicator that you have suffered an injury.

    Back pain is one of the most common patient complaints. You can typically improve back pain through strength training. If you need help with strength training, speak to your doctor about visiting a physical therapist. If your back pain becomes worse with exercise or causes pain, numbness, or tingling down your leg, make sure to speak to your doctor.

    Some people believe dynamic warm-up stretching can help prevent injury, but not enough research has been done to confirm this. Dynamic stretching does improve performance, as it increases the power, flexibility, and range of motion of your muscles. Dynamic stretches can include high knees and leg extensions. Learn more dynamic warm-up stretches via Runner’s World, an online website that specializes in exercise advice.

    Whether you’re ramping back up your exercise routine from months ago or beginning one for the first time in years, it’s important to do so carefully. Make sure to take these tips into consideration when you begin exercising and speak to your doctor if you have any questions.

    We believe that inside every human body, lives a human being. It's how we treat people.

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  • May 24, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Georgetown University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is proud to announce the first graduates of the Executive Master’s in Clinical Quality, Safety and Leadership program. Mary Herold and Lana Glantz, the first two graduates of the online program, were recognized at the commencement ceremony on May 17, 2019.

    Mary Herold RN, BSN, CNML is a System Clinical Safety Program Operations Manager at MedStar Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Lana Glantz, MD is a Safety and Quality Fellow at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

    The online Executive Master’s in Clinical Quality, Safety and Leadership and Graduate Certificates in Patient Safety and Quality and Healthcare Safety and Leadership are designed for both clinical and non-clinical healthcare professionals interested in taking healthcare quality and patient care services to a higher level of excellence. With teaching and mentorship from national experts, in addition to core Georgetown faculty, the online programs will immerse learners in advanced theory and concepts of healthcare quality, patient safety science, and organizational leadership.

    For more information on the programs or to register, please contact Associate Dean and Graduate Program Director Anne Gunderson at anne.j.gunderson@medstar.net.

  • May 21, 2019

    By Toby Rogers, MD

    Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally-invasive treatment for patients with aortic stenosis, a common condition in older adults caused by progressive tightening of the aortic valve, the main heart valve through which blood is pumped to the rest of the body.

    Traditionally, replacing a tight aortic valve required open-heart surgery, which involves stopping the heartbeat, removing the old heart valve, and sewing in a new one. In contrast, TAVR replaces the old valve by threading a new valve through an artery in the leg all the way to the heart, and then opening the new valve inside the old one. TAVR is much less invasive, does not require general anesthesia, and the recovery after the procedure is much faster than surgery.

    Related reading: TAVR: An Alternative to Open-Heart Surgery for Aortic Stenosis Patients

    TAVR has come a long way since it was introduced to the U.S. in 2007. However, the medical community still has work to do widen patients’ access to TAVR across the U.S.

    LISTEN: Dr. Rogers discusses the future of TAVR in the Medical Intel podcast..

    How TAVR Has Improved

    Technological Improvements

    TAVR technology has improved significantly over the last decade. In fact, we are now using the third generation of TAVR valves. The TAVR device companies have worked with cardiologists to develop three different iterations of the technology, each better than the last. Some of the changes that have been made include:

    • Making the catheters we deliver the valves through smaller: This allows us to make even smaller incisions in the groin to deliver the valves to the patient’s heart
    • Improving the seal around the valve: This reduces the risk of blood leaking around the new valve after surgery, which makes for a more durable and lasting result
    • Reducing the need for pacemakers: These are small devices that help control abnormal heart rhythms

    Doctors’ Experience

    The experience doctors now have with TAVR has also led to the procedure becoming safer and more effective. When we first started TAVR, we used general anesthesia and an ultrasound probe in the esophagus, so that we could closely monitor the heart during surgery. But with experience, we learned that these things weren’t necessary.

    Nowadays, we perform TAVR using sedation rather than general anesthesia. Additionally, we perform the whole procedure using X-ray to guide the TAVR, which is much less invasive.

    #TAVR to treat people with #aorticstenosis has come a long way over the years. Through experience, doctors have made it less invasive with much shorter recovery time. https://bit.ly/2Hvd1yA via @MedStarWHC

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    What Still Can Be Improved About TAVR

    One thing that we can improve upon is our ability to treat aortic valves that become leaky rather stenosed, which means blocked. While we have great devices to replace TAVR valves that become tight over time, we are still in the process of developing a minimally invasive surgery to address leaky ones. In fact, MedStar Washington Hospital Center is one of two hospitals in the country that is testing a new TAVR heart valve to replace leaky ones.

    Helping TAVR Become More Available

    One challenge we still have with TAVR is access to this life-changing treatment. People in rural areas, far away from TAVR hospitals, are less likely to have access to it because it’s still a procedure limited to doctors in specialist centers. Our hope is that, over time, TAVR becomes more widely available outside large cities in the U.S., or we find ways to make it easier for individuals to travel to hospitals that can perform the surgery.

    One way to accomplish this is to educate more doctors about the effectiveness of TAVR. This technology is changing rapidly, so doctors who perform TAVR have to work harder to help other doctors understand the clinical trial data and keep up with the technological advancements.

    Compared with open heart surgery, TAVR results in faster recoveries and fewer complications for people with aortic stenosis. Our hope is that in years to come, more people will be able to experience the benefits of TAVR as it becomes more widely available throughout the U.S.

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a cardiologist.

    Request an Appointment

  • May 17, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    "Achoo!” It’s that time of year for seasonal allergies and sometimes the common cold, two of the most common illnesses in the U.S. for both adults and children. In fact, the average American has two to three colds a year and more than 50 million people in the U.S. experience allergies.

    People often confuse allergies and a cold due to symptoms they share, such as coughing and a runny or congested nose. The conditions have different causes, however, and if you can identify which one you or your child has, it will allow for the most successful treatment.

    #Allergies and the #Cold can be hard to differentiate due to symptoms they share, such as a #Cough or #RunnyNose. Identifying which one you have can lead to the most successful treatment, via @MedStarHealth
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    Differentiating A Cold From Allergies

    A cold is a viral infection that affects your nose and throat, or the upper respiratory system. In order to catch a cold, you must be in contact with someone else who has one—often times your kids, spouse, or someone else in your home. Common symptoms of a cold that don’t usually apply to allergies include:

    • Body aches and chills
    • Fever
    • Sore throat

    Allergies, meanwhile, are often associated with the spring and summer, as this is when you are exposed to pollen, grass, and other common allergens (although allergies to cats and dogs are also common and can develop at any age). Common symptoms of allergies that don’t apply to a cold include:

    • Itchy eyes, nose, and throat
    • Watery eyes
    • Post nasal drip, or excess mucus that forms in the back of the nose and throat

    As previously mentioned, you can experience a runny or congested nose with both a cold and allergies as well as a cough due to post nasal drip. Furthermore, a cold can lead you to develop pink eye, an infection or inflammation on the outer membrane of the eye and inner eyelid, which can be confused with the itchy and watery eyes you experience with allergies. In these cases, try to evaluate your other symptoms to help determine whether you have a cold or allergies. Make sure to speak to your doctor if you’re still having trouble differentiating the two.

    Common Treatments

    Treating a cold typically starts with giving your body a few days to fight it off. However, if you’re experiencing a sore throat, body aches, or fever, you can take Tylenol® or other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to help alleviate your symptoms. Numerous over-the-counter medications exist to help you relieve nasal congestion and post nasal drip.

    Antihistamines, such as Claritin®, Allegra®, and Zyrtec®, are effective in treating allergies. These medications help stop your body from releasing histamines when it’s exposed to an allergen, which normally causes a buildup of mucus and inflammation. If you experience a congested or runny nose, over-the-counter nasal sprays are an effective way to relieve your symptoms. If over-the-counter medications don’t relieve symptoms, we typically suggest you visit your doctor to receive allergy shots, which introduce allergens to your body, so you react less strongly the next time you’re exposed to them.

    To help prevent allergy symptoms, take a shower right away after you spend time outside. This will remove all the pollen or other substances you were exposed to. You also should wash your pillows and sheets frequently to remove dust, pollen, and other particles that your body and clothes can leave on your bedding.

    When to See a Doctor

    You should see a doctor if you feel that you have a cold and it isn’t improving after three to four days. Or, you have an underlying medical condition that puts you more at risk of experiencing complications with a cold, such as:

    Furthermore, you should see a doctor if you feel as though you initially were getting better but then experienced worsening symptoms as you could be developing a secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia, or bacterial sinus infection.

    Most allergies are controlled through over-the-counter medication. However, if you find that these medications aren’t effective, visit your doctor to determine exactly what you’re allergic to and learn new strategies to better manage your allergies.

    Determining whether you have a cold or are suffering from allergies can be difficult in some cases. However, if you consider the numerous ways to differentiate the two, you can receive the best possible treatment and get back to feeling like yourself again.

    Want to learn more about MedStar Health Urgent Care and its services? Click below to learn more and find a location near you.

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