Category: Recommendations

Tips for Combatting Your Seasonal Allergies

Spring has arrived, and while that means flowers will be blooming and warmer days are ahead, it also means seasonal allergies will begin for the millions of Americans affected. For many, symptoms of seasonal allergies can make every-day life miserable, but knowing your triggers and how to treat them can help make spring-time more enjoyable.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the most common triggers of seasonal allergies (also called hay fever) are grass, pollen, and mold. A common way to figure out which ones are affecting you is to check the pollen and mold counts and monitor your symptoms when they’re high. These counts are often included in the weather report during allergy season.

Once you identify the cause of your allergies, there are several things you can do to manage your symptoms.

  • Stay indoors in the afternoon- pollen and mold counts are usually highest in the afternoon, so avoiding the outdoors as much as possible during this time (especially when counts are high) can help tremendously.
  • Keep windows closed and use air-conditioning- While it may be tempting to open windows in your house or drive your car with the windows down when the weather’s nice, this can allow the pollen to get into your home or car and worsen the response. When allergy counts are high, be sure to keep all windows closed and use air-conditioning as often as possible.
  • Take over the counter medication- If staying indoors isn’t always possible for you, you may want to take an over-the counter medication like Claritin or Zicam. If after a week or two you find these medications aren’t working, you can schedule an appointment with an allergist to get a stronger prescription medication or allergy shots.

If you watch pollen counts and do everything you can on your own to manage symptoms and your allergies worsen, you may want to schedule an appointment with an allergist in your area.

Happy Spring!

Go NapSACC: A Nutrition And Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care

Last week, former Interdisciplinary Health Communication master’s graduate Stephanie Lane came to talk to the members of Upstream about Go NapSACC, a program she worked on at her time as a project manager at the UNC Center for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention.

The Nap SACC program, created in 2002, began when a group of researchers came together and developed a set of self-assessment, action planning, and educational tools to help early care and education programs set goals and make improvements to their nutrition and physical activity practices. Over the last decade, the program was  adopted in child care centers around the United States and recognized for it’s success.

Go Nap SACC is the next generation of the Nap SACC program, featuring new tools on an interactive website. Now, those who run early care and education programs can go online and take assessments in areas such as: child nutrition, infant feeding & breastfeeding, infant & child physical activity, outdoor play & learning, and screen time. The program uses five steps to guide program directors through making improvements. These steps are:

  1. Assess- take the self-assessment online
  2. Plan- use the action planning tool
  3. Take Action- use tips and materials to put plan into action
  4. Learn More- take a training and learn new skills
  5. Keep It Up- celebrate your progress and plan your next move.

Go Nap SACC can also tailor tools and recommendations for different child care settings, and all resources online are free to use. For more information about the program, or to use the resources and take assessments, visit





Concerns Grow as More E-Cigarettes Self-Combust

Last week, a Delta flight was delayed after an electronic cigarette ignited in a passenger’s carry-on bag while the aircraft was still on the tarmac. While the bag was safely extinguished and no passengers were harmed, the concern for safety with the use of these battery-operated products is now growing, as this is just one of many recent incidents of it’s kind.

In just the last few months, events of e-cigarettes exploding have been reported in  Washington, KentuckyNevada, Colorado, North Carolina, and Maryland. And while no one was injured on the Delta flight, the majority of these explosions involve serious injuries to users. In one case, a man suffered severe burns when an e-cigarette exploded in his pocket at his local gas station. Another man lost his left eye after his e-cigarette exploded while driving.

While there doesn’t seem to be one specific reason for these product malfunctions, the fact that e-cigarettes are an unregulated product is a potentially major factor of these frequent incidents. Lack of regulation allows users to purchase cheaper, lower quality versions of the product. Additionally, industry-wide manufacturing standards or testing programs do not have to exist, and manufacturers do not have to report any safety hazards that can cause harm or injury.

E-cigarettes not only pose a safety threat, but many health threats as well, and we can only hope that the industry will receive some kind of regulation in the near future. Until then, it is recommended that users do not try to modify the devices in any way, use chargers that aren’t sold with devices, or carry products in their pockets.


Women Share Stories to Warn Others of Skin Cancer Risk

Last year, 27-year-old Tawny Willoughby shared a graphic selfie showcasing her skin cancer scars on Facebook to warn others about the dangers of indoor tanning. The viral post received thousands of responses and illustrates the success of Willoughby sharing her story online.

Just last week, another woman, Judy Cloud, is now also sharing graphic selfies which also feature the resulting damage of her two-year battle with skin cancer.

While indoor tanning is a clear cause of both these women’s development of the most common cancer in the United States, not practicing basic sun safety can also contribute to the development of basal or squamous cell carcinoma, or even melanoma. In fact, in addition to indoor tanning, Cloud also admits to getting multiple bad sunburns as a child.

Both these women, who have suffered multiple surgeries and long recovery periods, are hoping that by sharing their stories, people will begin to take the warnings of skin cancer more seriously. I am also hopeful that more men and women who have similar stories will follow both Willoughby and Cloud’s lead. In the meantime, especially with spring break this week, remember to follow these simple sun safety tips:

  • Use sunscreen, and reapply every two hours in the sun.
  • Wear protective clothing and hats when out in the sun for long periods of time.
  • Reduce time in the sun by seeking shade every so often.
  • Wear sunglasses to also protect your eyes from UV rays.

Are You Consuming Too Much Sugar?

Earlier this year, the federal government released their 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines report which recommended that less than 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugars (note- this does not include naturally occurring sugars found in milk and fruits). The guidelines are based on Americans eating a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, meaning 10% of daily calories equals 50 grams of sugar. While this guideline may seem strict, it does not come as a surprise, as new research shows too much added sugar can result in severe weight gain and an increase in risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

You may be thinking, “50 grams of sugar does not sound like a lot,” and you are right. Just one Grande Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks has a whopping 59 grams of sugar- just over the daily limit. Wondering what other foods and drinks will reach you near or over the limit? Here are just a few:



One 12 oz bottle of Coca-Cola- one bottle of this with lunch and you’re already almost at the daily limit with 39 grams of added sugar.







One Clif Bar- Clif Bars can range anywhere from 20-25 grams of sugar in just one bar- that’s half your daily sugar in a food most people consider a snack!






1/2 Cup of Pasta Sauce- When thinking of foods high in sugar, pasta sauce is usually not one of the first to come to mind- but just one serving of Bertolli Tomato and Basil pasta sauce has 12 grams of sugar.





A bottle of Gatorade- While this sports drink prides itself off having important electrolytes that keep body fluids in balance, one serving also contains just around 21 grams of sugar. What’s worse? Most bottles of Gatorade contain 2-2.5 servings per bottle. That’s over 42 grams of sugar!

Overall, added sugar can be found in almost all processed food products. While it now may seem impossible to avoid going over the daily recommended sugar intake, it’s much easier than you think. Educate yourself, be mindful of nutrition labels, and most importantly, eat more whole, unprocessed foods with natural sugar, like fruits and vegetables.

The War on Condoms in the Porn Industry

Last week, a California safety board rejected a proposed regulation that would have required porn actors to wear condoms, after only three members of the board voted in favor of the law (four votes were needed for it to pass).

Prior to the vote, industry officials and actors pleaded to the board to reject the regulation, arguing that passing it would either destroy or drive the industry underground. They also argued that pulling the industry underground would essentially eliminate the industry’s own requirement of actors being tested for STDs, putting actors safety at a greater risk.

However, the issue still remains a timely public health concern, especially because a recent CDC report found a porn actor likely infected another performer with HIV while having condom-less sex on a gay porn set, proving that testing alone is inadequate for preventing the spread of STDs.

Because of this, the panel that voted on the regulation is now considering a new worker-safety measure for the porn industry, but the push back from the industry has helped this be an easy task.

What are your thoughts about the regulation? Do you think the two industries can work together to find a happy medium, or is the required use of condoms the only solution?

What went wrong with this CDC Guideline?


Last week the CDC released a report and the Internet exploded in anger. The CDC warned that women of childbearing age who aren’t using contraception and who are consuming alcohol are taking a risk that may endanger the health of their potential future children. According to the CDC report, every month 3.3 million women in the United States risk having an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.

Soon after this was released, headlines began springing up all over such as “An Unrealistic Warning from the CDC to Women: Don’t Drink Unless You’re Using Birth Control,” “The CDC’s Alcohol Warning Shames and Discriminates Against Women,” and “Non-Pregnant Women Now Guilted for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”

When I first started reading these articles, I was in shock. Half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended and many women have an unmet need for contraceptive methods. Additionally, research and guidelines regarding the relationship between alcohol and pregnancy have not always been very clear or consistent. All contraceptives are not created equally and different methods have varying levels of effectiveness. Furthermore, family planning is not just an issue that pertains to women, and lastly, not all pregnancies will result in a live birth.

The CDC does report that three in four women who wanted to get pregnant as soon as possible reported that they continued to drink alcohol. I believe their message regarding ending alcohol consumption was aimed more that this population of women who intentionally wanted to get pregnant as soon as possible rather than all women of reproductive age not using a contraceptive method.

The one thing I am clear on regarding this issue is how poorly this information was messaged by the CDC. What is a better and less paternalistic way that they could have framed this recommendation to avoid receiving such a negative and immediate reaction?

How Wearable Technology is Shaping the Future of Health Care

From activity-tracking fitness bands to smart-watches, wearable technology has become a growing trend in the health and fitness industry over the last decade. While wearable technology can date all the way back to 1961 with the invention of the wearable computer, the recent rise of wearable technology products for monitoring personal health began in 2006 with Nike+, the collaboration between Nike and Apple that allowed users to track fitness via a shoe embedded tracker.

Wearable technology for the purpose of monitoring health can have a variety of beneficial features, including allowing users to set goals and reminders, track meals and activity, and overall be aware of and accountable for their health habits. Personally, I love my fitness tracker because it reminds me to be get up and move, especially on long days of classes where I’m extra sedentary.

Now, companies are even incorporating wearable technology into the workplace by purchasing FitBits for their employees and giving larger bonuses for more steps in a given quarter or month. For employers, this initiative can also help cut back on healthcare costs and sick time off.

The use of wearable technology in the healthcare industry has grown significantly in the last few years with big name companies like Apple, Nike, and Google involved in releasing more and more new products, and the industry will continue to see innovations as time goes by. So, what kinds of innovations do you think we’ll see from the industry in the next five years?

Why You’re Not Too Young to Worry About Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease and how to prevent it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, causing 1 in 4 deaths each year.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m too young to worry about heart disease,” it’s time to think again. How you live your life now strongly affects your risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. In fact, the plaque that causes heart disease can build up starting as early as in your twenties.

The good news is that heart disease can easily be prevented with just a few lifestyle changes, even if you have family history of the disease. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk:

1.) Get your blood pressure checked- Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Since there are no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, getting it checked regularly is an important step in prevention. If you discover you have high blood pressure, make goals with your doctor and work towards lowering it.

2.) Reduce your sodium intake- Excess sodium can greatly increase blood pressure, and most Americans consume way more sodium then they need. While those “instant” products and canned food are quick and easy, they can run high in sodium. One package of Ramen is almost half the recommended daily dose. Being aware of the sodium in products you buy and making small changes like buying low, reduced or no salt versions of products can make a big impact.

3.) Exercise regularly- While sometimes it might feel like there are not enough hours in the day to fit in a workout, exercise is an important part of keeping a healthy heart. If you’re not a fan of going to the gym or don’t have the money to shell out for a membership, try going on hikes, kicking a soccer ball around outside, or just enjoying a jog around the block.

Wellness in the Workplace: Opportunity or Obligation?

Less than one semester stands between some students and their entry into the professional workforce. For many of these students, the job hunt has already begun. While most people are researching the usual aspects of a position such as the salary, benefits, and time off when considering different employers and offers, a company’s insurance enrollment requirements and wellness programs may also be worth asking about.

Wellness programs are theoretically a win-win situation- employees have the opportunity to access resources to improve their health and take more control in managing or improving chronic health conditions, and with healthier employees, employers are able to lower their costs for both insurance premiums and money lost due to sick days and other productivity losses due to health reasons.

The problem occurs when wellness programs and health screenings come with penalties for opting out, rather than incentives for participating. These compliance penalties are legal under the Affordable Care Act and have been upheld in court, however, they have not been met with unanimous support, especially considering the health information privacy issues and ethical implications of these coercive strategies for employee compliance.

Employee wellness programs are typically positive opportunities, however, it’s good for both employers and employees to be aware of the potential drawbacks and continue to work toward collaborative solutions to control healthcare costs and to create a positive culture of health in the workplace.

For a more in-depth discussion of the debate surrounding employee wellness programs, check out this week’s article in the New York Times.