Fact or Fiction: Can Chicken Soup Cure a Cold?

October 22nd, 2014

Bowl of chicken noodle soupThere’s a chill in the air and frost on the ground, which can only mean one thing: cold and flu season has arrived.  Along with cold and flu season comes many suggestions on how to cure cold and flu symptoms.  Many recommend a good dose of chicken soup—but can it really work?

The Science Behind Grandma’s Chicken Soup

A study published in the medical journal, Chest, found that chicken soup contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent a cold’s miserable side effects.

Researchers believe that colds are caused by viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. The body responds with inflammation, which triggers white blood cells (neutrophils) to the area. These cells are responsible for migrating to sites where the body has been invaded by germs. What draws them to sites are chemicals called “chemotactic factors.”  These bacteria-devouring cells however, have little ability to kill off a virus, and as a side-effect stimulates the production of mucus, which may cause symptoms of a stuffy head, coughing and sneezing.

During the experiment, scientists tested the ability of those neutrophils to migrate from one side of a chamber across a filter to the other side as they normally do. After mixing the soup with neutrophils, scientists checked to see whether it stopped the cell’s tendency to move toward the chemotactic factors. The overall conclusion: chicken soup inhibits neutrophil movement toward chemotactic factors. In other words, soup is good for a cold. 

The theory is that some ingredients in the soup blocks or slows down the amount of cells congregating in the lung area, possibly relieving the development of cold symptoms. Researchers could not identify the exact ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds, but say it may be a combination of vegetables and chicken that work together.

Cold and Flu Remedies: Fact or Fiction?

Remedies and suggestions for warding off or beating a cold and the flu have been passed around for centuries.  The question is, are these tips and remedies fact or fiction?

  • Feed a cold and starve a fever: Fiction. You will not be hearing this advice from your doctor. You should be focused on drinking enough as it is important to stay hydrated.  Eating can help, but not when it’s forced.
  • Lingering in wet clothes or going outside in cold weather with wet hair can increase your chances of getting a cold: Fiction. While the viruses are most common during those times of the year, the consensus among physicians seems to be that colds are caused by people staying indoors to avoid the cold, not from the cold itself.
  • Stress increases your chances of getting a cold or the flu: Undetermined. While medicine may not be able to tell if stress increases the risk of catching a cold or the flu, stress can make either of those conditions worse once you have it.
  • Zinc or echinacea can help prevent or shorten the length of a cold: Undetermined. Both zinc and echinacea have had a number of studies done on them and neither has been shown conclusively to help battle colds.   

Of course, we all know remedies that can certainly help us beat a cold and the flu:

  • Antihistamines: Provides minor relief of several cold symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. 
  • Sleep: Studies show that adequate bed rest boosts immune function and reduces the risk of catching a cold. Extra sleep helps cold sufferers feel better.
  • Take a shower: A hot shower loosens clogged nasal passages and moistens your mucus membranes.
  • Washing your hands: Colds commonly spread when we touch someone or something that harbors cold causing viruses and then infect ourselves by touching our noses or eyes. Hand washing is great at eliminating viruses before they make us sick (and before we spread them to others). The key is to wash thoroughly and regularly.
  • Water and other fluids: Water, juice, clear broth, or warm lemon water with honey helps lessen congestion and prevents dehydration.

Both a cold and the flu are easily spread so try your best at keeping them at bay!

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to fight back this cold and flu season.  Maybe a cup of chicken soup is the answer! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading similar blog posts? Click here and here.

Health in the News: Dealing With Ebola and Enterovirus 68

October 15th, 2014

Keep away signThe news has been flooded with the movements of two viruses: Ebola and Enterovirus 68. While the government has told the nation not to panic, that does not mean Americans are not concerned.  In order to be proactive people need to know signs, symptoms and prevention tips.

Ebola Hits America

Ebola has now been diagnosed twice within the United States. Some facts about the Ebola virus are:

  1. You can’t get Ebola through air
  2. You can’t get Ebola through water
  3. You can’t get Ebola through food

You can only get Ebola from:

  1. Touching the blood or bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola
  2. Touching contaminated objects like needles
  3. Touching infected animals, their blood or other bodily fluids, or their meat

Ebola is not spread through casual contact; therefore an outbreak in the U.S. is very low. Ebola does not invade healthy skin, so merely touching secretions does not mean an infection will follow.

A person must have symptoms to spread Ebola to others. Symptoms of Ebola include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever (greater than 101.5°F)
  • Muscle pain
  • Severe headache
  • Unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure from Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. There is no way to detect the disease during the incubation period (the interval before symptoms set in) so infected people could pass fever checks at airports in West Africa.

Faced with a growing concern over the spread of the Ebola virus, on October 7 public health officials promised extra measures to screen airline passengers arriving into the U.S.  But they remain opposed to stricter travel restrictions. Among measures under consideration by the CDC, temperatures of at-risk passengers would be checked or they might be subject to detailed questioning upon their arrival in the U.S. 

The Spread of Enterovirus 68

The rapid, nationwide spread of Enterovirus 68 is unlike any previous outbreak of this infection public health officials have seen.

These germs can live on surfaces for hours and maybe as long as a day, depending on the temperature and humidity. Touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing your nose or eyes is the usual way for someone to contract the virus. You can also get it from close person to person contact. Common disinfectants and detergents will kill enteroviruses, so clean frequently touched surfaces.

Most of the patients seriously infected are children. Experts say that parents should be on the lookout for children with:

  • Blue lips
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing

These are signs that the child requires immediate medical care. Children with asthma and other chronic lung conditions are particularly vulnerable.

Right now there is not much parents can do; there is no vaccine. The only thing parents can do is the same thing that they can do to protect their kids from any respiratory virus: make sure they wash their hands thoroughly. Also, if the child feels sick, do not send them to school.

Based on what enteroviruses normally do, it should be tapering off. Normally you see a peak in September, maybe into October, and then the numbers should come down.  

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to take care of yourself while these infections are roaming the U.S. It is important to stay vigilant and keep an eye on any potential symptoms. IAA knows that good health is important! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Is Chocolate a Healthy Choice for Halloween?

October 8th, 2014

trick-or-treatTrick-or-treaters will soon be lining up at your door and trying to figure out what treats to buy can be a yearly issue. How about chocolate? It might surprise people that chocolate can be a healthy Halloween treat.

How Chocolate can be Beneficial

The possible health benefits of chocolate stem from the antioxidant, flavonoids (antioxidant compounds that increase the flexibility of veins and arteries). Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, and cacao is extremely rich in flavanols, a type of flavonoid.

It is true that cacao contains some saturated fat, but most of it is stearic acid. Studies have suggested that stearic acid doesn’t elevate blood cholesterol levels as much as saturated fatty acids.

If the chocolate contains fat ingredients other than coco butter, it might contain more saturated fats and trans fats other than stearic acid. That is why chocolate needs to be eaten in a purer form, dark chocolate. Stick to chocolate that is 70% cacao (or coco which is cacao in its roasted, ground form).

Possible health benefits of dark chocolate include:

  • A decrease in blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity: Researchers found that insulin resistance (a risk factor for diabetes) was significantly lowered in those who ate dark chocolate.
  • Helping your brain: Drinking coco rich in flavonoids boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain.
  • Improvement in arterial blood flow: This is important for cardiovascular health.   
  • Lessening cravings: Dark chocolate can help with cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
  • Reduced risk of a heart attack: Research found that blood platelets clotted more slowly in people who had eaten chocolate. This is significant because when platelets clump, a clot can form and when the clot blocks a blood vessel, it can lead to a heart attack.

The health benefits of chocolate disappear if you are adding calories above and beyond your intake. This could mean you are adding pounds along with flavonoids.  

Here are some tips to choosing and enjoying your chocolate:

  1. Keep it pure: If you want chocolate, have chocolate, don’t have chocolate cake.
  2. Choose wisely: While chocolate may have some health benefits, it should still be eaten as a treat.
  3. Think dark: The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains.
  4. Think bite size: It usually just takes a little chocolate to curb a craving.

Have a Healthy Halloween

While dark chocolate may be a good treat to hand out to your little ghouls and goblins, there are other ways to have a healthy Halloween:

  • Make this a fun family physical activity. Set a goal of how many houses you will walk to and stick to it.
  • Remember to have a healthy meal before you go trick-or-treating. This reduces the temptation to snack while walking.
  • Try giving out healthier treats like pencils, stickers and erasers.

Halloween can be about more than just the candy, it can also be about fun physical activity!

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that people love to give out candy for Halloween. Just make sure that the candy is (somewhat) healthy. Dark chocolate can be a good option if it’s a small amount. IAA wants you to make this Halloween not just about the chocolate and candy, but the physical activity as well! Just think of IAA as your haunted third party administrator, there to help you have a howling good time while being active.

Interested in reading another blog post on this issue? Click here!

October is Healthy Lung Month

October 1st, 2014

LungsDid you know that during a normal day you breathe nearly 25,000 times? When you have a disease that affects your lungs it can make those 25,000 breathes very difficult. Take the time during Healthy Lung Month to ensure your breathing comes nice and easy.

Keep Your Lungs in Top Shape

By keeping your lungs healthy, you may be able to prevent conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). To keep you lungs healthy try the following tips:

  • Avoid exposure to environmental pollutants such as asbestos and radon gas
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise most days of the week
  • If you are at a high risk of lung disease, test your breathing function regularly
  • If you have a persistent cough that doesn’t appear related to a cold or allergy, see your doctor
  • If you work around dust or chemical fumes, make sure the area is well ventilated and that you wear a mask 
  • Quit smoking and avoid exposure to second hand smoke.

Smoking, infections and genetics are responsible for most lung diseases.

Types of Lung Diseases

When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen from the air and deliver it to the bloodstream. People with lung disease have difficulty breathing.

Millions of people in the United States have lung disease. The term lung disease refers to many disorders affecting the lungs, such as asthma, COPD, pneumonia, lung cancer, and many other breathing problems. The lungs are part of a complex apparatus, expanding and relaxing thousands of times a day to bring in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Lung disease can result from problems in any part of this system.

Diseases that affect the airways include:

  • Asthma: The airways are persistently inflamed, and may occasionally spasm. This causes wheezing and shortness of breath. Allergies, infections or pollution can trigger asthma’s symptoms. 
  • COPD: A lung condition defined by an inability to exhale normally, which causes difficulty breathing.
  • Chronic bronchitis: A form of COPD characterized by a chronic productive cough
  • Emphysema: Lung damage allows air to be trapped in the lungs in this form of COPD. Difficulty blowing out is its hallmark.
  • Acute bronchitis: A sudden infection of the airways, usually by a virus.
  • Cystic fibrosis: A genetic condition causing poor clearance of mucus from the bronchi. The accumulated mucus results in repeated lung infections.

Lung diseases affecting the air sacs:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS): Severe, sudden injury to the lungs caused by a serious illness.
  • Emphysema: This results from damage to the fragile connections between the air sacks. Smoking is usually the cause.
  • Lung cancer: There are many forms of lung cancer and they may develop in any part of the lung. Most often it occurs in the main part of the lung, in or near the air sacks.
  • Pneumonia: An infection of the air sac; usually by bacteria.
  • Tuberculosis: A slowly progressive pneumonia caused by bacteria.
  • Pneumoconiosis: A category of conditions caused by the inhalation of a substance that injures the lungs.
  • Pulmonary edema: Fluid leaks out of the small blood vessels of the lung into the air sacks and the surrounding area. One form is caused by heart failure and back pressure in the lung’s blood vessels. In another form, direct injury to the lung causes the fluid to leak.

The lungs are different from most of the other parts of your body because their delicate tissues are directly related to the outside environment. Anything you breathe in can affect your lungs.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be able to breathe without any problems. That is why it is important to take the time to see how you can improve your breathing function. Make sure you are doing all you can to keep your lungs healthy. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading another blog post on this topic? Click here.

Stay Safe Indoors and Outdoors This Autumn

September 24th, 2014

Man raking leavesAs children go back to school and leaves begin to fall, autumn presents many opportunities to prevent safety hazards in and around your home.

Stay Safe While Cleaning Outdoors

Every year autumn leaves will fall, making your yard cluttered and in need of some cleaning up. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends the following safety tips to help prevent injuries while performing yard work:

  • Do not overfill leaf bags, especially if the leaves are wet. To avoid back injury, you should be able to carry bags comfortably.
  • Never throw leaves over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion required to do so places undue stress on your back.
  • Never use your hands or feet to clear debris from under a lawnmower. Use a stick or broom handle instead. Likewise, never touch the blades with your hands or feet, even if the engine is off. The blade can still move and cause serious injury.
  • Use a rake that is comfortable for your height
  • Wear protective gear, like goggles and gloves, boots and long pants, when mowing. Never mow in bare feet or in sandals.
  • Wet leaves can be slippery; wear shoes or boots with slip resistant soles.

Cleaning gutters, checking the condition of the roof and washing windows are common fall chores that require a ladder. Here are some ladder safety tips:

  • Before you climb a ladder, make sure all ladder locks and safety braces are engaged
  • Don’t stretch or lean from your ladder to reach a work area. Climb down the ladder and reposition it closer to your work area.
  • Inspect the ladder for loose screws, hinges or rungs. Clean off accumulated mud, dirt or liquids.
  • Make sure all ladder legs are on a firm, level surface. Don’t place a ladder on uneven or muddy ground.
  • Never sit or stand on the top step of the ladder or pail shelf. These areas weren’t designed to hold heavy weights.

Making sure your lawn is ready for autumn is important, but so is your safety!

Get Your Home Ready for Autumn

When the weather turns cold, most people spend more time inside their homes using fireplaces, furnaces and heaters to keep warm. There’s nothing quite as cozy as sitting under warm blankets in your warm home, but make sure to keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Exercise candle caution: Candles are a great way to give a room that warm glow, but they can also cause fires. According to the National Candle Association, almost 10,000 home fires start with improper candle use. Never leave candles burning if you go out or go to sleep, and keep candles away from pets and kids.
  • Service your furnace: Before the cold autumn and winter weather set in, a specialist should inspect the furnace to make sure everything is in working order and that there are no leaks.
  • Use caution with space heaters:  Always allow at least three feet of empty area around space heaters.
  • Use fireplaces safely: Keep that fire in its proper place by using a fireplace screen to keep sparks from flying out of the fireplace. Never leave a burning fire unattended and make sure a fire is completely out before going to bed.

Autumn is a great time to get cozy in front of the fire, but make sure that you follow safety precautions before lighting those logs.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to stay healthy this fall! IAA knows that you want to be comfortable indoors and outdoors, but it is important to be safe about it. Think of IAA as your self-funded fall clean up administrator. Remember, with IAA one call does it all. 

Interested in reading similar blog posts? Click here and here.