Flu vaccine misconceptions putting everyone at risk – National Consumers League

According to federal health agency recommendations, nearly everyone over 6 months of age should get vaccinated for the flu. Unfortunately, many Americans are woefully misinformed about vaccines and choose not to take this simple step that could bolster their health. According to the CDC, between five percent and 20 percent of Americans get the flu every year, and an average of 200,000 are hospitalized annually from flu-related symptoms.

Many of those sicknesses and hospitalizations could be avoided if more people got vaccinated.

A recent survey commissioned by NCL uncovered some disturbing numbers about how few Americans get the flu vaccine and the reasons why they choose not to vaccinate. Some of the most notable findings.

  • One in five Americans say they have not received the flu vaccine because they do not believe the flu is a serious illness. The flu is a serious illness and results in deaths every year. While adults over 65, children under two, and people with serious medical conditions have the highest risk of suffering additional complications after getting the flu everyone can succumb to flu-related symptoms that result in hospitalization or death. From 2004-2008, 830 children died from flu-related complications, 43 percent of those children had no high-risk medical condition.
  • One in five parents do not get vaccinated because they fear the vaccine can give them the flu. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine CANNOT give you the flu. Medical professionals universally agree that the flu vaccination is safe and the best chance Americans have to avoid contracting the virus. The most likely side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was administered.
  • Of the Americans who do not get vaccinated, 45 percent cited their good health as a rationale for bypassing vaccination. Prior to 2010 the CDC recommended only young children, seniors, and people with serious medical conditions get vaccinated. In 2010, however, CDC changed their guidelines and now recommends that everyone, including Americans age 18-49 that are healthy, receive the vaccine annually.
  • Only 44 percent of parents say their children have been vaccinated. This number is too low. The NCL survey revealed that among parents, the flu ranks second only to meningitis as the disease parents are most worried their child may contract. Recently, New York City announced a new provision requiring children who attend preschool or day care to be vaccinated to avoid spreading the disease to others in close proximity.

This winter season, NCL urges you to get the flu vaccination. If you are unsure how to get vaccinated, call your health care provider’s office. To find out more information about the flu, visit CDC’s Web site. Click here to see the full results of NCL’s survey revealing American’s misconceptions of the flu vaccine. Here’s to a healthful winter season!

Winter wellness tips – National Consumers League

There’s something about the winter holidays that can make a person feel uniquely enthusiastic and exhausted. We spend weeks planning, but when the holiday season arrives, it’s all-too-common to feel completely unprepared. When you consider that the winter holidays coincide with cold and flu season and the time of the year with the least sunlight, it’s no wonder that general anxiety levels are high for many people at this time of year.

Here are a few winter holiday tips to help minimize stress so that you can best enjoy this wonderful time of year.

Plan ahead of time, and be flexible. Planning ahead can reduce stress during the holiday season. Try deciding ahead of time how much to spend on gifts, what to pack for travel, and what to cook for a large meal. Getting as much prepared before the winter holidays arrive, so that you have that much less to do and think about, is a great way to de-clutter your brain and minimize anxiety. For those things that cannot be planned, or for uncontrollable circumstances, give yourself a break and do your best to roll with the punches.

Prioritize sleep. It is amazing how much more overwhelming things can seem when you are tired. A good night’s sleep (or nap!) rejuvenates, helps reduce stress and keeps your immune system in fighting shape. While there is no “magic number” for number of hours to sleep, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends between 7-8 hours for adults.

Get fresh air! An invigorating walk outside can do wonders for your health by getting your blood flowing and clearing your thoughts. While getting some sunshine would be an added bonus, even an evening stroll can have some remarkable psychological benefits. While outside though, be careful if it is icy and slippery.

Be mindful with eating. Healthy eating is a great way to stay healthy and combat holiday stress. Enjoy your holiday feast, and certainly enjoy a few holiday treats. Here are some holiday eating tips that will improve your diet, , without making you feel like you are denying yourself during winter festivities:

  • Follow the suggestions from MyPlate.gov, and fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Try eating more whole grains by switching out white rice for brown rice. And eat some oatmeal for breakfast or use whole-wheat toast. Whole grains have a lower glycemic index, help reduce your risk of chronic disease, and aids weight management.
  • Snack during the day on fruit, veggies or nuts. This way when it is time to sit down for the family holiday meal, you won’t be tempted to eat more than you need.
  • Stay well hydrated throughout the day. Sticking with water as much as possible throughout the holidays is a good idea in general, both to make sure that you are well hydrated as well as to make sure that you aren’t drinking too many empty calories.
  • Use alternative cooking substitutes. Instead of butter, use healthy oils, like olive oil for cooking meals. Less saturated fat is good for your heart. Check out this article for some healthy cooking ideas.

Stay active. Take a cue from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and get moving. Physical activity is an essential part of healthy living. Along with healthy eating, it can help prevent a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Adults should get moving for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week and children should be active for 60 minutes a day.

Practice taking deep breaths. Breathing exercises have been shown again and again to be a powerful tool that helps reduce stress and clear your mind. They aren’t even hard to do! Simply step away to a quiet space and take a few minutes to close your eyes and concentrate on deep, cleansing breaths. This can be a very effective way to manage winter holiday stresses. You can do this as many times as you need to throughout a day, especially during exhausting and overwhelming moments.

  • Prevention, prevention, prevention. The last thing you need during the winter holidays is for you or your family members to get sick. There are some common-sense steps to boost your chances for illness-free holidays.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on all your immunizations, especially flu shots. For more information visit the CDC.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Don’t hesitate to go to a healthcare provider if you feel depressed. You could just be overwhelmed with all of the activities, or you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, a depression related to exposure to sunlight tends to hit around this time of year. Whatever the cause, it’s always best to get some advice from a medical professional.

Remember to take your meds. The holidays can be hectic, but it’s important to keep up with any medication or therapy schedules. Setting reminders on your phone is a quick, inexpensive way to remember to take your meds. Don’t forget to be sure to keep your meds up and away and out of sight, especially when travelling and staying as a guest.

Avoid food-drug interactions – National Consumers League

What you eat and drink can affect the way your medicines work. NCL has teamed up with the FDA to update its popular guide about avoiding dangerous food and medicine combinations, and it’s now available to the public!

Health advocates at the National Consumers League and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have produced “Avoid Food and Drug Interactions” an updated version of NCL’s most popular brochure “Food and Drug Interactions,” to serve as a guide to alert you to possible “food-drug interactions” and to help you learn what you can do to prevent them.

A food-drug interaction is a change in how a medicine works caused by food, caffeine, or alcohol.

A food-drug interaction can:

  • prevent a medicine from working the way it should
  • cause a side effect from a medicine to get worse or better
  • cause a new side effect

A medicine can also change the way your body uses a food. Any of these changes can be harmful.

NCL and the FDA have teamed up to alert consumers to the possibility that the medications they are taking could interact with foods, caffeine, and alcohol. With millions of Americans taking prescription or over-the-counter medications each day, the issue of interactions between medications and certain foods is of growing importance.

The updated brochure contains information on nine medical conditions, the types of medications used to treat the condition, and common interactions between the medications and food, caffeine, or alcohol. The medications include both common prescription and over-the-counter medicines. The conditions covered in the guide range from arthritis to osteoporosis, and the medications range from aspirin to lithium to warfarin. The interactions come from medicine labels that FDA has approved. And the guide uses the generic names of medicines, never brand names.

The guide has been published in plain language, and is re-formatted as a guide for consumers to learn more about and avoid interactions. It is important to always check the medication label for any information on interactions. Always ask your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional if you have any questions about using your medication with other medications; with vitamins, herbals, or other dietary supplements; or with food, caffeine, or alcohol.

To see what we’re talking about, you can view sample pages of the brochure online here. You can order the brochure by contacting NCL’s Publications Manager Theresa Smith by calling (202) 835-3323. Bulk order pricing is available at a discounted rate!

‘Double Check, Don’t Double Up’ on acetaminophen this cold and flu season

A bad cold or the flu can stop you in your tracks. Each year, Americans catch an estimated 1 billion colds, and up to 20 percent get the flu. And most of us turn to medicine to relieve symptoms; but it is important that you read the label on your medicines to check for acetaminophen and don’t double up.

After the first of the year, it seems like influenza (flu) season magically appeared, with a fierce intensity. Cases of flu are growing fast, and it is predicted that this season might be one of the worst in years.

More than 600 different over-the-counter and prescription medicines contain acetaminophen, including many for cough, cold and flu. It is the most common drug ingredient in America and can be in many prescription medicines taken by people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, or back pain. It can also be found in many different types of over-the-counter medicines taken by people with temporary conditions such as fever or aches and pains. Acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed but there is a limit to how much you can take in one day. Taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.

The National Consumers League is a member of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition, which educates consumers and patients about how to use medicines containing acetaminophen appropriately and to help change behaviors that could lead to an unintentional acetaminophen overdose. The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition’s Know Your Dose Campaign wants consumers to “double check” their medicine label so they don’t “double up” on medicines containing acetaminophen. If you take medicine to relieve cold or flu symptoms, check your medicine label to know if your medicine contains acetaminophen.

Know Your Dose is promoting four important steps for safe acetaminophen use:

  1. Check if your medicine contains acetaminophen
  2. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time
  3. Always read and follow the medicine label
  4. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines containing acetaminophen.

If you are wondering how to actually read the label on your medication, check out this interactive Drug Facts Label. Here you can find out where to look to see if your medicine contains acetaminophen.

Learn more at www.KnowYourDose.org. Follow the Campaign on Twitter @KnowYourDose.

Advocating for nursing moms – National Consumers League

NCL has been advocating for measures to improve the health of women and children since its founding in 1899 and was very concerned to read about the IRS’ decision to deny nursing mothers the ability to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts to pay for breast pumps and other supplies. Read NCL’s letter to the IRS.

October 29, 2010

Douglas H. Shulman, Commissioner

Internal Revenue Service

1111 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington DC 20224

Re: The use of tax-sheltered health care accounts for breastfeeding costs Dear Commissioner Shulman:

The National Consumers League has been advocating for measures to improve the health of women and children since our founding in 1899. We were therefore very concerned to read about the IRS’ decision to deny nursing mothers the ability to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts to pay for breast pumps and other supplies.

According to IRS Publication 502, reimbursable items include those that aid in the “prevention of disease.” The IRS apparently has inexplicably determined that breast-feeding does not help in the “prevention of disease.” The National Consumers League could not disagree more with this determination. We ask that you review and reverse this misguided decision. Indeed, the medical evidence is overwhelming that far more widespread breastfeeding would not only “prevent disease” in the United States, but would save our health care system billions of dollars.

Consider the following evidence about the myriad health benefits to both mother and child of breastfeeding:

  • According to a Harvard study published in April of this year, if 90% of US families would comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be among infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance)
  • The risk of infant death due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is lowered, and respiratory infections such as pneumonia, and necrotizing enterocolitis are nearly eliminated if mothers breastfeed their infants until at least six months after birth.
  • The US Department of Health and Human Services has found that breastfed infants have a lower risk of contracting ear infections, stomach viruses, atopic dermatitis, type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and other health problems.
  • Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding because of lower risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression (PPD).
  • Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits. Congress recently acknowledged the importance of breastfeeding in the landmark health care reform legislation it enacted this year by requiring that workplaces provide women with a private place to nurse or use a breast pump.
  • As Dr. Robert W. Block, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics noted in the New York Times this week, “The old adage that breast-feeding is a child’s first immunization really is true … So we need to do everything we can to remove the barriers that make it difficult.”

We agree with Dr. Block. We need to encourage, not discourage, barriers to widespread breastfeeding. Unfortunately, the IRS determination NOT to allow parents to use their tax- sheltered flex accounts to cover the cost of breast pumps has the impact of further discouraging women from breast feeding and directly undermines what is by every measure a critical practice for improved public health. We ask that you, as IRS Commissioner, review this decision and, in light of the overwhelming evidence, reverse it. We believe the cost of breast pumps should and must be a covered cost in these flex plans.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.


Sally Greenberg, Executive Director

National Consumers League

Cc: Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin

Eating out traps – National Consumers League

Today, Americans spend nearly half their food dollars on meals and snacks eaten outside the home. And meals that restaurants serve up tend to contain more calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium than the ones consumers prepare for themselves at home. Even for those who eat out less often than the average American, the extra calories can add up quickly.

To further complicate matters, a number of “eating out traps” can thwart even the most well-intentioned diner looking to order a healthful restaurant meal.  Knowing where to look for those hidden calories, however, is half the battle; read on to steer clear of some of the biggest calorie culprits:

Oversized portions and value meals

Over the past two decades, restaurants portion sizes have significantly increased. And studies show that when individuals are served larger portions, they tend to eat more in a given sitting than when they are served smaller meals. Unless you’re careful, when dining at a restaurant you can easily consume two or three times the amount of food you might serve yourself at home. The “value meal” only exacerbates this problem. Economically, spending only pennies more for a larger portion makes sense; given that “supersize” options tend to be available only for cheap, unhealthy foods (such as French fries and soda), however, they can be a diet landmine. To keep your portions in check, try the following tips:

  • Split an entrée with a family member or friend, and order a side salad or extra veggies to round out your meal
  • Save half of your meal for lunch or dinner the next day (ask for a box at the beginning of the meal and put away your “second portion” if you doubt your ability to leave half on the plate)
  • Just say “no” to supersizing – in fact…
  • Order a kid’s meal at a fast food restaurant, and pay less to eat less

To determine whether you’ve been served one meal or three, remember these estimates:

  • 3 ounces of meat = a deck of cards
  • 1 cup of potatoes, rice, or pasta = a tennis ball
  • 1 slice of bread = audiocassette tape
  • 1 ounce of cheese = pair of dice
  • 1 tsp butter, margarine = tip of a thumb
  • ½ cup of ice cream = half of a baseball

Sneaky salads

In theory, a salad should be a great choice when dining out. In practice, too many tasty toppers often send salad calorie counts soaring. Many chain restaurant salads pack in well over 1,000 calories, more than other menu options that seem less healthy. Luckily, you can easily transform these less-than-healthy offerings into a nutritious – and still delicious – meal with a few tweaks:

  • Keep fried items off of salads, bypass the tortilla bowl, and request that anything “crispy,” “crunchy,” or “crusted” not be served on your salad
  • Cheese, nuts, bacon, and avocado are fine on top of healthy greens, colorful vegetables, and lean protein – but not all together; pick one or two, and request that the kitchen keep the rest
  • Order dressing on the side, and use creamy dressings sparingly; if you like your salad more heavily dressed, order a low-cal dressing option and remember that an appropriate serving is still only two tablespoons, rather than a small bowl

Bottomless bread baskets

There’s nothing wrong with a little bread and butter to start or finish your meal. It can be far too easy, however, to pack away half a loaf – or more! – while waiting to order or for your meal to arrive, particularly with free and frequent refills. Try to limit yourself to a piece or two, and if you can’t stop there, kindly request that your server remove the bread basket.

Creamy sauces and hidden fats

At restaurants, it’s often the meal components that you can’t see that turn seemingly healthy dishes into diet disasters. Sautéed proteins and vegetables may contain far more oil than you would ever use at home, and everything from lean steak to broccoli is fair game, when it comes to an unexpected pat of butter. To avoid unhealthy cooking methods, ask your server how dishes are prepared and request a style of preparation that works for you.

  • Healthy preparation styles include the following: broiling, roasting, baking, steaming, poaching, blackening, grilling (grilled veggies may contain a lot of oil, so ask before ordering)
  • Less healthy preparation styles: fried, pan-fried, deep-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, crispy

When it comes to sauces and sides, terminology can also help lead you towards healthier options and away from fat-traps:

  • Opt for: broth-based soups, tomato-based pasta sauces, plain baked potatoes, whole grains
  • Avoid (or consume with caution): au gratin, buttered, cheesy, béarnaise, creamy, hollandaise, alfredo

If you don’t want to pass up your favorite high-fat sauce, order it on the side and use it sparingly.

Salt, salt, salt!

While not a “calorie culprit,” salt nevertheless deserves its own section when it comes to eating out traps, due to its overabundance in American restaurant and packaged foods as well as the health risks that come with excessive consumption. To decrease your intake of sodium while dining out, follow these tips:

  • Choose made-to-order meals over buffet-style dining or fast food, and request that your meal is prepared without added sodium
  • Ask your server for low-sodium menu suggestions
  • Avoid (or sparingly consume) the following items
    • Soy sauce
    • Smoked, cured, and salted meat, fish, and poultry
    • Ham, bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meats
    • Pickles and olives
    • Ketchup
    • Processed tomato sauce
    • Canned vegetables
  • Eat low-sodium, non-processed foods the rest of the day when dining out, in order to keep your daily sodium intake within reason

Plan ahead for healthy school lunches – National Consumers League

The days are getting shorter, the summer heat is cooling down, and vacations are wrapping up, all of which means one thing: back to school season is officially underway. Whether your young ones are dreading going back or eagerly looking forward to reuniting with old friends and favorite teachers, a healthy lunch will go a long way toward ensuring that first day back is a good one.

This year children will have healthier options available at school, thanks to the enactment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. New guidelines mean more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains at both lunch and breakfast. Additionally, schools will be substantially cutting down on salt in meals and enforcing maximum calorie limits. These options mean that school lunches will now be a healthier alternative to packing from home.

If your child buys lunch at school, view it as an opportunity to guide him or her to choose healthy options when faced with a range of choices. To help ensure that the lunch on your student’s cafeteria tray is a healthy one, consider the following tips:

Talk nutrition. If your child knows what constitutes a healthy meal, and why it is important to eat foods that are good for him/her (having energy, staying healthy, growing, etc.), it will be easier to establish an understanding of why healthy choices are important at lunchtime. Give your child some tangible markers for creating a healthy meal: including a fruit and a vegetable, choosing whole grains over white, picking a protein source, and opting for plain milk or water over sweetened beverages.

Underscore the importance of eating lunch. Particularly for younger children, the playground, friends, and other distractions can prove more compelling than sitting down to eat. Discuss with your child how eating a healthy lunch will help him/her feel good, have energy, and be able to concentrate the rest of the day.

Review the menu. Look at the daily or weekly menu with your child and discuss which items are good choices and which are “occasional” choices. Let your child choose when he/she wants to have a special treat (for example, “pizza Mondays” or “chocolate milk Wednesdays”), and come up with a game plan for making healthier choices most of the time. It is best not to create “forbidden” foods. By planning together when your child will choose a favorite, less healthy food, you increase the likelihood that your child will stay open, truthful, and guilt-free about choices made in the cafeteria. Refrain from judging your child’s less-than-ideal choices, and instead focus on doing better next time.

When possible, packing lunch for or with your child helps ensure a healthy midday meal. Whether you pack on a daily basis, or only occasionally send your child with a homemade lunch, keep these important points in mind:

Pack a safe lunch. Ensuring a safe lunch means keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, from the time your child leaves the house until he/she sits down to eat. Use a thermos for hot foods, such as soup, and include a cold pack with foods that need to stay chilled. If possible, pack your child’s lunch in an insulated bag. Remember not to put items that need to be hot and items that need to stay cold in the same bag. Finally, don’t forget to wash lunch bags in between uses.

Meet your child’s caloric needs. Children’s caloric needs vary greatly, depending on age, activity level, and other factors. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to get a general estimate of what his/her caloric needs are, and aim to provide one third of those calories at lunch time. Perhaps most importantly, talk to your child about whether he/she was still hungry after lunch, or had lots of leftovers. When consistently allowed to follow their bodies’ hunger signals from a young age, children have a much better chance of eating the amount they need and stopping when they are full. Include non-perishable lunch items (apples, trail mix) that can be saved for later, or even left in a backpack or locker for another day.

Pack foods your child will eat. The nutritional quality of the lunch you pack means nothing if your child refuses to eat it (or trades components away for more appealing options). Brainstorm with your child to come up with healthy options that he/she wants to eat. See if dinner leftovers, soups, or salads appeal to your child. If he/she is tired of sandwiches or more traditional lunches, think in terms of smaller “snacks” that together create a healthy meal.

  • Sample “outside the sandwich” meal: veggies and hummus, cheese cubes with whole grain crackers, and a piece of fruit provide the protein, carbohydrates, calcium, fruits and vegetables, and small amount of fat that growing children need. Be creative!

Pack healthier versions of the old stand-bys. If you have a picky eater who likes to eat the same things, day in and day out, try to up the nutritional content of lunches by making healthy substitutions that can go relatively unnoticed. Try the following swaps, and figure out the changes on which you and your child can agree:

  • Instead of high-fat lunch meats, choose lower-fat deli options such as turkey. If you face resistance, use mostly healthier deli meats with a slice of your child’s favorite for taste.
  • Swap out white bread for whole-grain bread. For picky eaters, even “white” wheat bread options are better than their white flour counterparts. When seeking out better options in the bread aisle, look for at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.
  • Substitute light mayo or mustard for full-fate mayonnaise
  • Offer baked chips, air-popped popcorn, or veggies with dip (if you can get away with it) in place of fried chips and similar snacks.
  • Offer low-fat, low-cal desserts or items with some nutritional value in place of junk. Instead of packing several cookies or a snack cake, send a favorite fruit, flavored yogurt, a small packet of fruit snacks, trail mix, or a small whole-grain muffin or cookie.

Be mindful of allergies. Check with your child’s school to ensure that there aren’t any items on the restricted list, due to other students’ allergies. Discuss with your child how food allergies make it particularly important that everyone eat the lunch that their own parent packed.

Get off to a healthy start this school year – National Consumers League

It’s back to school season for much of America. There are many ways – for the health and well-being of the entire family – that parents and their families can start the year off right.

Check-ups, screenings, and immunizations

It’s important that your child have routine exams and screenings to help track their development and identify (and treat) any potential problems. Make sure vision and hearing are among the routine screenings your child receives.

In addition to the routine trip to the primary care office, it is important that your child visit the dentist every six months. Mouth troubles and dental-related conditions account for the #1 reason kids miss school.

Check with your local school and your health care practitioner about vaccine requirements and recommendations, and what is best for your child. If possible, take advantage of being in the doctor’s office and schedule your child’s flu vaccine for October or November.

In order to avoid trips to the doctor throughout the school year, remind your kids to wash their hands. Send them with a bottle of hand sanitizer for those times they can’t suds up in a sink.


It is important for children to get several hours of quality sleep. They need the z’s in order to have energy, enthusiasm, and the capacity to learn.

Children ages 6-9 should aim for roughly 10 hours of sleep a night. Their older counterparts, the pre-teens, should get just over 9. All kids are different, however, and you should adjust their sleep schedule to suit them.


The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that kids not carry more than 10-20 percent of their body weight in a backpack. You should also double check that the weight in their bags are distributed evenly, and remind them to carry the backpack with both (ideally padded) straps.

Your child’s mental health: stress and anxiety

Anxiety and stress are normal feelings at the start of the school year – for both kid and parent. Remember that it should pass within the first few weeks of school. If children remain anxious, you should talk with your health care practitioner.

Stomp out stress and anxiety by showing enthusiasm for the start of school. Talk with your kids about what happened each day, and get involved in with school activities. In addition to watching your child’s physical development, you should also keep tabs on their social and emotional changes.

More safety tips

Double check with your child’s school to ensure that the emergency contact information, as well as information about medications your child may take (at home or at school), known allergies, and physical limitations are current.

Depending upon how your child will get to school, remind them of safety tips. If they ride the bus, for example, they should know to keep out of the street and to keep a safe distance from the bus at all times; they should also know to wait for the bus driver to signal before crossing the street. If walking or bike riding, they should use a buddy system, wear reflective gear, obey traffic lights and street signs, and always wear a helmet. For those traveling by car, remind children to stay in their safety seats or seat belted at all times.

Encourage your kids to get active after school. Ideally, children and teenagers should get 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

Remind kids to practice good hygiene. In addition to washing their hands, remind them not to share combs/brushes or beverages.

Consumers wary of therapeutic substitution – National Consumers League

Therapeutic substitution, known also as drug switching and therapeutic interchange, is the practice of replacing a patient’s prescription drugs with chemically different drugs that are expected to have the same clinical effect. Many times patients switch to a different drug with no problems. However, for certain medications and conditions, therapeutic substitution could cause problems.

Consumers with a few specific conditions may be more likely than others to encounter a switch. Here are some of the conditions in which therapeutic substitutions may be more common, as well as the concerns about substitution expressed by some patient groups. As always, it is important to talk to your doctor about any potential therapeutic substitution.

In the lists of medicines, the Brand Name comes first, (and generic version is in parentheses).

Antidepressants stimulate chemical changes that increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for a person’s mood.

Some examples of antidepressants:
Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Celexa (citalopram), and Lexapro (escitalopram). Antidepressants are associated with drug groups known as MAOIs, tricyclics, and SSRIs and are commonly prescribed by psychiatrists and other physicians to treat depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illness.

Substitution concerns:
The American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare oppose therapeutic substitution based on the substantial risk of serious adverse outcomes in people with mental illness. These groups support policies that provide patient access to the medications their doctors think they need, and they encourage shared patient-physician decisions based on the unique needs of individuals.

Cardiovascular Medications
There are several classes of drugs used to protect your heart, monitor your cholesterol level and blood pressure, and prevent other damage.

  • ACE inhibitors are used for controlling blood pressure, treating heart failure, preventing stroke, and preventing kidney damage in people with hypertension or diabetes. They also improve survival rates in patients who have had a heart attack.
  • Examples of ACE Inhibitors include: Capoten (captopril), Vasotec (enalapril), Prinivil (lisinopril), Accupril (quinapril) and Univasc (moesxipril)
  • Statins are used to lower cholesterol levels in people at risk of developing heart disease.
  • Examples of statins include: Lipitor, Zocor (simvastatin), Crestor, Pravachol (pravastatin), Mevacor (lovastin).

Substitution concerns:
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology oppose therapeutic substitution and believe that only the prescribing doctor is equipped to determine the best drug or combination of drugs. These organizations believe that therapeutic substitution may result in the patient receiving a drug that doesn’t work well enough, produces life-threatening toxicity, or interacts dangerously with other drugs the patient is taking.

Epileptic medications
The drugs taken by patients with epilepsy are called antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and are designed to change the electrical signaling in the brain to stop or prevent seizures. 

Examples of AEDs include:

Dilantin (phenytoin), Luminal (phenobarbital), Tegretol (carbamazepine), Neurontin (gabapentin), Lamictal (lamotrigine), Gabitril, Keppra, and Zonegran (zonisamide).

Substitution concerns:
The Epilepsy Foundation is concerned that there are enough differences among AEDs that any kind of medication substitution, (including switching from brand-name to generic), could be dangerous, and it could result in less control over seizures. The Epilepsy Foundation says that changing from one drug formulation to another can usually be done successfully if the patient’s blood levels, seizures, and toxicity are carefully monitored, but it says any medication change must require the permission of the treating doctor and the patient.

Proton-pump Inhibitors
Patients with dyspepsia, peptic ulcer disease, or acid-reflux may be prescribed a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI), drugs that result in long-lasting reduction of gastric acid production.

Examples of PPIs include:

Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Nexium.

Substitution concerns:

As with any substitution, it is important to talk to your doctor, and be aware of the benefits and risks of substitution.

Denied health claim? Appeal it! – National Consumers League

Have you run into problems with your health plan? You’re not alone! Half of all consumers experience problems with them, but fewer than 1 in every 10,000 tries to fight, or appeal, when a claim has been denied. But appealing a denied claim works—maybe more often than you’d think!

Forty percent of people who file appeals with their health plan are successful. Ten percent of claims denied by a health plan turn out to be a simple mistake, and those are usually resolved quickly. When you find out that a medical service you’ve received (like a visit to the emergency room, a visit to an out-of-plan provider, or a test your doctor asked you to take) has been denied by your health plan, it is important to know your rights. The first denial by your health plan is not the final word, and there are processes in place to appeal these decisions.

NCL’s new brochure can help you be your own best advocate! By doing a little legwork, and following some basic procedures, you may be able to successfully appeal the decision and get the coverage you need for your claim. Download our brochure to learn a few basic steps to guide you in the process.