E-Cigarettes & Vaporizers

We have discussed the health ramifications of smoking tobacco in previous blog posts, but the rising trend in vaping with e-cigarettes leaves some with misconceptions that it is safe or at least less dangerous than smoking conventional cigarettes. Vaporizers and e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco products among youth.

 

Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items.Image from CDC

Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items.
Image from CDC

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (or “juice”) which contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. While no flame is used to combust and cause smoke, there is an aerosol vapor expelled when using e-cigarettes. The vapor can contain harmful chemicals, including nicotine; ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious disease called “popcorn lung”; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.

 

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found vaping may benefit adult smokers as a complete substitute for traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not regularly use tobacco products. With vaping being a relatively new trend, more research is needed to better understand the health ramifications of vaping nicotine.

 

E-cigarettes and vape liquid are regulated the same as conventional cigarettes and often available at convenience stores, gas stations, specialty shops, or through the internet. Retailers selling them should check the ID of whoever is buying vaporizers or “e-cig juice” the same as other tobacco products. Despite this, a 2015 study found that 44% of high school youth in Massachusetts had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30-days.

 

The liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be especially dangerous outside of the vaporizers. While some vape models use disposable pre-filled pods of the liquid, others require to be filled with the “e-juice” when depleted. The liquid itself is poisonous—as little as a teaspoon can be deadly for a child if swallowed or spilled on their skin. Companies that produce liquid nicotine have been criticized for marketing to children, often flavoring the “juice” like fruit or candy and packaging the liquid in similar eye-catching ways to junk food.

 

For those looking to quit, consult your doctor or call the CDC’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).  NeedyMeds has resources for many smoking-related conditions in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance area of our site, including Addiction which may list programs that offer help with quitting as well. For more information on e-cigarettes or vaping, check GetOutRaged.org.

Help Kids Stay Healthy Going Back to School

It is the time of year that children are preparing to return to school where they will be exposed to lots of new experiences and ideas but also higher risk of exposure to viruses and other illnesses. Here are tips to ensure your children have a successful and healthy time in school.

  1. Vaccinations are the best course for preventing illness. In addition to the vaccines recommended by your doctor, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age.

  2. Sleep is essential to keep children (and adults) focused throughout the day. Adults need about eight hours of sleep, while young children often need more. It’s important to set a bedtime that ensures they get enough sleep, and to keep a consistent schedule.

  3. It is never too early to teach good hygiene habits. To help children avoid getting sick and prevent them from bringing germs home, it’s important to show them how to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating.

  4. A healthy diet can help children grow and learn more effectively, as well as keep their immune systems primed to fight off illness. Avoid junk food and soft drinks, and consider packing children’s lunches with healthy snacks.

  5. Going back to school is stressful for both parents and kids; for some children, it may be a new sensation. Help manage stress by talking to children about anything bothering them and take care not to overload anyone’s schedule. Schoolwork is important, but it is essential for mental health to relax, play, and spend time with family.

  6. Student backpacks should never weigh more than 10-20% of a child’s body weight, and should be adjusted properly to the bottom of the pack so it sits at the child’s waist.  Encourage children to use both shoulder straps; slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles and hurt their back.

  7. If your child has a chronic health condition, ensure the school nursing staff is aware and carefully go over any emergency plans with your child and school health personnel.

 

Children of different ages may have different experiences in school, but these tips are a good foundation to staying healthy while learning and growing. If you are having trouble accessing vaccination or other services, NeedyMeds has a database of over 17,000 free, low-cost, and sliding-scale medical clinics all over the country. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can be of help for prescribed medicines, even over-the-counter medications if written as a prescription. The free discount card is also available as an iPhone and Android app. For children affected by a chronic health condition, there may be academic scholarships or extracurricular camps and retreats available. For more information, call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897 Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm Eastern Time.

National Health Center Week

This week is National Health Center Week. As healthcare has become more and more expensive, the need for low-cost healthcare has increased. Many people living in more rural parts of the country have a very limited number of options to see a doctor, and depending on their insurance status the number of available “in-network” doctors is even lower. Many people do not regularly see their doctor, only seeking healthcare when a more serious condition arises. It can be a stressful situation to be uninsured and have an unforeseen medical problem come up. This week is meant to celebrate and raise awareness of local community owned and operated clinics providing high quality, cost effective, accessible care to more than 27 million Americans.

medical clinic signOne of the most popular sections of the NeedyMeds website is our listing of Free, Low-Cost, and Sliding-Scale Clinics. We list three different types of clinics on NeedyMeds.org. The first are free clinics, which provide services at no cost to the patient. The second are low-cost clinics that usually have a low flat-fee for all patients or types of visit. The third are sliding-scale clinics; the price for these clinics is based on the patient’s ability to pay, and is usually derived from their income and family size as it relates to the federal poverty level.

Each clinic offers a different variety of services. We list locations by medical clinics, dental clinics, mental health clinics, and substance abuse clinics. Other services include women’s health, family planning, health screenings, vision, pediatrics, podiatry, and pharmacy services among others. Each clinic also has its own hours, and may only serve select towns or counties.

Every clinic also has its own set of eligibility requirements. In most cases these requirements deal with insurance status, income, and residence status. Some clinics require that the patient has no insurance whatsoever while others work with both the uninsured and underinsured. Many clinics accept patients on Medicare and Medicaid—but not all. Sliding-scale clinics in general have an income requirement based on the federal poverty level, making the clinic only available to those under a certain annual income. There are also many clinics that have no income requirements.

We list over 17,000 clinics on NeedyMeds, making it easy to find one near you. From the Free Clinics page, select Mental, Dental, Mental Health, or Substance Abuse clinic depending on your needs, and then select your state or type in your ZIP code to find a clinic in your area. A list of local clinics will appear with contact information, as well as eligibility requirements, services, and hours. You can print out a selection of clinics or the entire page of clinics from your search. We encourage users to check the clinic’s website for any additional information. You can also get the information from our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897, available 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday.

National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in the United States. This is the time of year when children and teenagers are heading back to school, toddlers are entering preschools or daycare programs, and many adults are heading into college or continuing their careers in the workforce. Regardless of the situation, the need for getting vaccinated is important to be aware of year round.

 

NIAMVaccines are a vital part to healthcare at all stages of life and offers the best protection available against many potentially devastating illnesses. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages parents to follow an immunization schedule for babies and young children, protecting them from 14 life-affecting diseases. Pre-teens and teenagers should begin to innoculate against meningococcal diseases (meningitis or septicemia) and HPV (Human Papillomavirus, which can lead to cancer). Adults should continue to protect themselves with a yearly flu shot.

 

An important element of immunization awareness is to protect our populations through “herd immunity”—when a high percentage of a population is vaccinated they protect individuals who have not developed an immunity. Babies are protected by their mother’s immune system at birth and continue to be passed antibodies from their mother’s breast milk; however, surrounding infants with people who have been vaccinated further protects them from serious diseases. Some individuals may be allergic to certain vaccines, leaving them without the benefit of immunization and largely depending on herd immunity from the surrounding populations throughout their lives.

 

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000, but that didn’t stop an outbreak of over 120 cases in the U.S. in 2015. No medicine can be considered 100% effective; the measles vaccine is 93-97% effective with one or two doses, respectively. Measles is so highly infectious that 90% of unvaccinated people who come close to an infected person will contract the virus. Being unvaccinated for infectious diseases is not only putting oneself in danger of serious illness and possibly death, but also the community at large.

 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 5 children are missing routine immunizations. With nearly 20% of the world’s population at risk for diseases such as measles, whooping cough, and other preventable diseases, there are close to 1.5 million deaths annually that could be averted.

 

In a previous blog post, we shared a graph that compared the morbidity of illnesses from the years before the vaccine was developed to the year 2000. All the applicable diseases—smallpox, diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, rubella, tetanus, and influenza type b—decreased in morbidity in the United States by 95-100%. The CDC estimates that with vaccines they will save 732,000 American lives and prevent 21 million hospital visits for Americans born in the last 20 years.

 

For those in need of assistance, our database of free, low-cost, and sliding-scale clinics has information on over 6500 clinics that offer immunization services. Search your ZIP code to find medical clinics near you that may offer free or low-cost immunizations. Pharmaceutical companies also offer Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) such as Vaccine Patient Assistance Program. Call our toll-free helpline for more information at 1-800-503-6897 Monday through Friday 9am through 5pm Eastern Time.

Psoriasis Awareness Month

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. An estimated 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), making it the most common autoimmune disease in the United States. Despite its prevalence, many people are still unaware of its impact. Awareness offers the opportunity to educate the public and dispel myths associated with the disease.

 

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. It typically presents on the elbows, knees, and scalp, but can appear anywhere on the body. It often develops between ages 15 and 35, but can develop at any age. Psoriasis is not contagious; it is not something you can “catch” from others or transfer to someone else. Psoriasis lesions are not infectious . Stigma often surrounds those with visible psoriasis due to others not understanding there is no risk of infection.

 

Psoriasis is often diagnosed by a dermatologist or other healthcare provider examining the affected skin. There are five types of psoriasis that each present differently.

  • The Psoriasis Awareness ribbon is Orchid over Orange

    The Psoriasis Awareness ribbon is Orchid over Orange

    Plaque psoriasis is most common, presenting with raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. They are often painful and itchy, and can crack and bleed.

  • Guttate psoriasis appears as small, dot-like lesions and can be triggered by a strep infection.

  • Inverse psoriasis appears with very red smooth, shiny lesions and may present with other types of psoriasis.

  • Pustular psoriasis is characterized by white blisters surrounded by red skin most often on the hands and feet, but can occur anywhere on the body; the pustules are filled with white blood cells—it is not an infection, nor is it contagious.

  • Erythrodermic psoriasis is a particularly severe form of psoriasis that leads to widespread, fiery redness over most of the body. It can cause severe itching and pain, and makes the skin come off in sheets. It is rare, occurring in 3% of people who have psoriasis in their lifetime. It generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis. Individuals having an erythrodermic psoriasis flare should see a doctor immediately; this form of psoriasis can be life-threatening.

 

Psoriasis can associated with other serious medical conditions. An estimated 30% of people diagnosed with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis within their lifetimes. People with psoriasis also have increased risk of type 2 diabetescardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and depression.

 

NeedyMeds has a Diagnosis Information Page for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, developed in partnership with the National Psoriasis Foundation. In addition to information and links to helpful resources, we list the medications often prescribed for psoriatic disease, which we link to available Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). PAPs provide prescribed medication at low or no cost. We also have listings for recreational camps for children with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis to have stigma-free environment. For help tracking your health and remembering to take your prescribed medication on time, the NeedyMeds Storylines app is available and includes the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card. Use our website to find assistance or call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897 Monday through Friday 9am through 5pm Eastern Time.