June is Headache and Migraine Awareness Month

June 10th, 2015

Woman with headacheEveryone knows that feeling, when your head is throbbing and there is nothing you can do to stop the pain.  While many people experience headaches and migraines, not many know what causes them. As June is Headache and Migraine Awareness Month, take the time to learn what is going on behind your head.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is an inherited neurological disorder that is characterized by hyper-excitable brain networks that may be triggered by a variety of stimuli or become active spontaneously, leading to attacksMigraines may be caused by changes in the brain stem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway.

A migraine headache typically lasts about 24 hours, however, an attack that includes all phases from beginning to end can last several days or more. Migraines may progress through four stages:

1. Prodrome: One or two days before a migraine, you may notice subtle changes that may signify an oncoming migraine including:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Food cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Uncontrollable yawning

2. Aura: Aura may occur before or during migraine headaches. Auras are nervous system symptoms that are usually visual disturbances, such as flashes of light. Sometimes auras can also be touching sensations, movement or speech disturbances.

3. Attack: During a migraine you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Pain that has a pulsating, throbbing quality
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds and sometimes smells

4. Postdrome: The final phase occurs after a migraine attack. During this time you may feel drained or washed out.

36 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches.

Types of Headaches

There is a difference between a headache and a migraine headache. Headaches are not usually accompanied by other symptoms associated with a migraine. However, it is quite likely that if you have had a migraine you will also experience other headaches.

The most common types of recurring headaches as classified by the International Headache Society are:

  • Chronic daily headache: This term is given to headaches that occur 15 or more days a month. This type of headache pain can vary and can change depending on the individual’s situation.
  • Eye strain: Headaches can be caused by weak eye muscles. This type of headache gets worse when the individual reads, uses a computer screen, or any activity which requires their eyes to work in a focused intense way.
  • Medication overuse/rebound headache: Caused by the overuse of over –the- counter medication or prescribed headache medications. As the medication wears off, the withdrawal from the medication triggers the next headache.
  • Sinus headache: Sinusitis tends to be over diagnosed as a cause of headache in adults based on the belief that pain over the sinus area must be related to the sinus itself. In fact, pain over the sinus area is often caused by migraine and tension -type headache.
  • Tension-type headache: The most common type of headache, usually caused by stress, worry, depression, lack of sleep, and tiredness. Common symptoms are a feeling of tightness and pressure around the head with pain occurring on both sides of the head.

Migraines and headaches cost the United States more than $20 billion each year. Costs are attributed to direct medical expenses (e.g. doctor’s visits and medications) and indirect expenses (e.g.  missed work and lost productivity).

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that migraines and headaches can knock you off your feet. That is why IAA is encouraging you to share this blog post with friends, family and colleagues.  Make this the month you spread awareness on migraines and headaches, so that one day we can be headache free.  

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Grill Safely this Summer

June 3rd, 2015

GrillOne of the best parts about summer is the ability to cook outdoors. However, grilling can become dangerous if not done properly. Each year an average of 8,800 home fires are caused by grilling and close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns.

Stop Grill Injuries Before They Start

Roughly, a third of gas grill injuries come from burns incurred while lighting the grill. Problems may be caused by:

  • Forgetting to make sure that the hoses that connect the propane tank are in good shape and attached securely
  • Leaving grills greasy 
  • Leaving grills unattended
  • Neglecting basic maintenance

According to the National Fire Protection Association, gasoline or lighter fluid is a factor in about a quarter of burn injuries from charcoal grills. These injuries usually happen when cooks get inpatient with charcoal that seems to be taking too long to light, and decide to add fumes to the flame.

Before lighting up the grill, do a safety check:

  • Check for propane gas leaks. Open the gas supply valve fully and apply a soapy solution with a brush at the connection point. If bubbles appear, there is a leak.
  • Has your grill been recalled? If the grill has been recalled, contact the manufacturer and stop using it until you get it repaired or replaced.
  • Is the grill clean? Regularly cleaning the grill and grease trap will reduce the risk of flare-ups and grease fires. 
  • Visually inspect the hoses on a gas grill for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, grill fires cause more injuries when compared to all other fires.

Handling Burns

Grilling can cause very serious burns if not handled properly. Knowing how to deal with burns is important, especially if grilling is going to be a big part of your summer. There are three types of burns:

  1. First degree burns
  • Hold skin under cool (not cold) running  water or  immerse in cool water until pain subsides
  • Cover with sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth

   2.  Second degree burns

  • Immerse in cool water for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Don’t apply ice. It can lower body temperature and cause further damage.
  • Cover loosely with a sterile, nonstick bandage and secure in place with gauze or tape
  • Unless the person has a head, neck or leg injury, or it would cause discomfort: Lay the person flat, elevate feet 12 inches, elevate burn area above heart level if possible, and cover the person with a coat or a blanket.

  3.  Third degree burns

  • Call 911
  • Cover loosely with a sterile, nonstick bandage or, for large areas, a sheet or other material that won’t leave lint in the wound
  • Separate burnt toes and fingers with dry, sterile dressings
  • Do not soak burn in water, which could cause an infection
  • Unless the person has a head, neck or leg injury, or it would cause discomfort: Lay the person flat, elevate feet about 12 inches, elevate burn area above heart level if possible, and cover the person with a coat or a blanket. For an airway burn, do not place a pillow under the person’s head when the person is lying down. This can close the airway.
  • Have a person with facial burns sit up
  • Check pulse and breathing to monitor for shock until emergency help arrives

Burns need to be taken seriously, so if you are unsure of what type of burn it is, seek the help of a medical professional.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America loves a good barbecue, just not the burns that can come with it. Make sure when cooking on the grill that you have all your safety bases covered. No one wants a fun night grilling to end up in flames! IAA wants you to have a fun (and burn free) summer.

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Feeling Sick After Your Summer Barbecue? It Might be Food Poisoning

May 27th, 2015

Sandwich with a hazzard signA Memorial Day weekend barbecue is a great way to start off the summer. All that great grilled food plus fresh veggies, who could resist? But have you been feeling sick since that weekend? If so, it might be due to food poisoning.

Signs and Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is a common, yet distressing and sometimes life threatening, problem for millions of people. Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of the contaminant. Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

People infected with food borne organisms may be symptom free or may have symptoms ranging from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration. Signs and symptoms may start within a few hours after eating the contaminated food or they may begin days or even weeks later. Sickness caused by food poisoning generally lasts a few hours to several days.

More than 250 diseases can cause food poisoning, some examples are:

  • Campylobacter: Transmission occurs through ingesting contaminated food.
  • E.coli: This is a growing cause of food borne illness. An estimated 73,000 cases of E.coli infections occur in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Listeria: The CDC estimates that there are 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths from listeria infection each year.  
  • Salmonella: This is a bacterial infection. It is most often caused by eating undercooked poultry.

Food poisoning can become serious, so be safe about how you cook your food!

Don’t let Food Poisoning Ruin Your Barbecue

You don’t want people’s memories of your barbecue to be about how they got food poisoning! You can keep your food clean and safe from the moment you buy it:

  1. From the store to home: When shopping, buy meat and poultry last, right before checkout. To guard against cross contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into separate plastic bags.
  2. Keep cold food cold: Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in a shelter or shade.
  3. Keep everything clean: Be sure that there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent food borne illnesses, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry.
  4. Don’t let perishable food sit out: Food sitting out more than two hours is not safe. The time frame is reduced to one hour if the outside temperature is more than 90°F.

Remember that most bacteria do not grow rapidly at temperatures below 40°F or above 140°. The temperature range in between is known as the danger zone. Bacteria multiply rapidly at these temperatures and can reach dangerous levels after two hours.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that summer is the time for eating outdoors. Summer barbecues can be fun, but if food is not cooked properly, it could mean a bad ending to a good party. IAA wants you to practice food safety this summer. Just think of IAA as your third party grill master, cooking up what’s best for you and your business!

Interested in reading more blog posts on this issue? Click here and here!

Experts Warn of a Fast Acting Tick Born Virus

May 20th, 2015

TickEvery year in the United States there are at least 20,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease, a painful but treatable tick borne illness. Now experts are warning of a faster acting, untreatable and potentially fatal virus called Powassan virus that is commonly found in the same tick that hosts Lyme disease.

What is Powassan Virus?

Powassan virus is found in two to three percent of the primary tick that hosts Lyme disease. If bitten by a Powassan infected tick, you can get the virus within a matter of minutes. Many people who become infected with Powassan do not develop any symptoms. For those who develop symptoms, they can include:

  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Speech difficulties
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Powassan cannot be treated with antibiotics. People who become infected only have supportive care available. Approximately half of Powassan survivors have permanent neurological symptoms, such as recurrent headaches, muscle wasting and memory problems 

Avoid Ticks

Now that the warmer months are upon us, there is a need to be extra vigilant, as ticks are most active April through September. Avoid direct contact with ticks by:

  • Avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Cutting back wooded areas to increase the size of open lawn
  • Eliminating dense plant beds close to your home
  • Keeping grass mowed to three inches or less
  • Keeping hair covered, braided or tied when venturing into areas where ticks are apt to be
  • Keeping pets that have had outside exposure off furniture, especially bedding
  • Walking in the center of trails
  • Wearing long sleeved tops that can protect the arms, and tucking pant legs into socks and boots can prevent ticks from having easy access to legs

According to experts, ticks in the Northeastern part of the U.S. are showing up earlier in the spring and expanding their range because of warmer weather temperatures over the past two decades.

Time for a Tick Check

If you have been outdoors it is important to find and remove ticks from your body:

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours)to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you
  • Conduct a full body tick check using a hand-held or full length mirror to view all parts of your body
  • Examine gear and pets as ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, and then attach to a person later
  • Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks

In most cases, a tick carrying Lyme disease pathogens needs to be attached for at least 36 to 48 hours before the bacteria is transmitted.

If you find a tick, it needs to be removed promptly. The longer it is attached, the higher the chance of disease transmission. Remove it carefully:

  1. Using fine pointed tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible without squeezing the tick’s body.
  2. Firmly pull it straight out.
  3. Never squeeze the tick, burn it or cover it with Vaseline (or any other substance).
  4. Remember to disinfect the site of the bite, wash your hands and disinfect your tweezers.
  5. Contact your doctor.

Tick bites are usually painless, the ticks are so tiny and consequently many people are unaware that they have been bitten.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that going outdoors is one of the best parts of warm weather. So don’t be scared of ticks, be prepared for them! Be aware of places that ticks like to live and figure out a plan to handle the situation, be that wearing the right type of clothes or packing a pair of tweezers! IAA wants you to have a fun and safe time in the sun.

Interested in reading more blog posts on this topic? Click here and here!

New Season, New Sleep Schedule

May 13th, 2015

Guy sleeping at computerHuman beings spend 33 percent of their lives asleep, but sometimes a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by. Sleep, exercise and diet are the cornerstones of good health. Out of those three, sleep is usually the easiest to fix. Make this the season you work on fixing your bedtime routine so you can wake up feeling refreshed!

Fix Your Nightly Routine

The way you feel when you’re awake depends in part on what happens when you’re sleeping. To make sure you’re in top shape for the day ahead, work on your nightly routine:

  • Check your bedroom temperature: The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees.
  • Create a bedtime routine: Parents have heard about the value of bedtime routines for children. Adults can benefit from this as well. If you do approximately the same thing every night, your body will start to know when it’s time for sleep.
  • Don’t eat too much or drink alcohol right before bed: Cutting out food (particularly the wrong kind of food) or alcohol before bed is pretty simple to do and may pay big dividends in sleep. A full belly keeps your body working when it should be sleeping.  Meanwhile, alcohol may help you fall asleep, but once its ingredients wear off it can leave you wide awake.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and enjoy a deeper sleep.
  • Manage stress: When you have too much to do, and too much to think about, your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage your stress.
  • Stick to your schedule: Going to bed at approximately the same time every night and waking up approximately the same time every morning, even on the weekends, will help keep your biological clock in-synch.

To make sure you are at your best during the day, you need to try to get the best night of sleep possible.

The Need for Sleep

What difference can an extra hour of sleep make in your life? Studies show that the gap between getting just enough sleep and getting too little sleep may affect your health. Reasons you should go to bed an hour earlier are:

  • Better health: Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Better memory: Feeling forgetful? Sleep loss could be to blame. Studies have shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate our memories from the day. If you don’t get enough sleep, it seems like those memories might not get stored correctly and can be lost. 
  • Better weight control: Getting enough sleep could help you maintain your weight—and conversely, sleep loss goes along with an increased risk of weight gain. Why? Part of the problem is behavioral. If you’re overtired you might be less likely to have the energy to exercise or cook a healthy dinner after work. The other part is physiological. The hormone leptin plays a key role in making you feel full. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels drop. The result is that people who are tired are just plain hungrier—and they seem to crave high fat and high calorie foods specifically.
  • Clearer thinking: Sleep loss affects how you think. It impairs your cognition, your attention and your decision making.
  • Less pain: If you have chronic pain or acute pain from a recent injury, getting enough sleep may actually make you hurt less. Many studies have shown a link between sleep loss and a lower pain threshold.
  • Lower risk of injury: Sleeping enough at night might actually keep you safer. Sleep deprivation has been linked to notorious disasters.

After several nights of losing sleep, even a loss of just one to two hours per night, your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America knows that being well rested is important to businesses on all levels. As an employer you need a good night’s sleep to lead your business down the road of success. Employees need to be rested so they can keep the business moving through its daily tasks. IAA wants you to help promote better sleep (which can equate to a better business) by sharing this post with employees and colleagues.

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