Protracted bed rest may be counterproductive. You should begin to walk as soon as the acute pain subsides.
Ward off insects by using a repellent containing DEET or picaridin. DEET has an excellent safety record when used as directed. For ordinary purposes, concentrations of 10 to 30% are adequate. Apply only on exposed skin, not under clothing; you can also apply higher concentrations directly to clothing made of cotton, wool, or nylon. A newer option is a spray containing picaridin, which is effective in repelling a wide range of insects and is longlasting, according to the CDC and World Health Organization. Picaridin is less irritating to the skin than DEET and is odorless, which many consumers find appealing.
To increase the levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in your blood, lose weight if you’re overweight, exercise more, don’t smoke, and consider a drink a day. Talk to your doctor about medication, if necessary.
Over-the-counter reading glasses are fine if all you need is magnification. However, it’s essential to see an eye care specialist at regular intervals for a glaucoma test and an examination, especially as you get older. Make sure that magnifying glasses are all you need.
Don’t take antibiotics for a cold or flu. These drugs, including penicillin, are effective only against bacterial infections, such as strep throat. They can do nothing for colds or flu, which are viral infections.
Improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep: relax for an hour or so before getting into bed. Read, listen to music, take a warm bath. Don’t take work to bed with you. Avoid strenuous exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool (60° to 65° is usually best). Don’t drink caffeinated beverages after dinner. Try to establish a regular sleep schedule.
There’s no sure way to prevent or cure toenail fungus, but keeping your feet clean and dry may help. In addition, avoid trauma to your toes, and wear well-fitting shoes and socks. No over the counter product is effective for treating toenail fungus. If nail fungus is painful, see a doctor, who may prescribe a longterm antifungal drug.
To relieve constipation, drink more fluids and gradually increase your intake of high fiber food. If this doesn’t help within a week, see your doctor: Constipation can occasionally be a symptom of some disorder.
When using eye drops, keep your eyes closed for about three minutes after putting in the drops. Otherwise, your eyelids will pump out the medication.
To keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, spend five minutes a day brushing and flossing. Use a fluoride toothpaste. Use a brush with soft bristles (hard bristles can damage the gums), and hold it at an angle pointed toward the junction of teeth and gums. Waxed and unwaxed floss are equally effective.
To reduce jet lag, use the sun to reset your body’s internal clock. When flying west across several time zones, stay outdoors in direct sunlight at the end of the first day in order to help push back your bedtime and wake-up time. When flying east, go out in the sun early the next day to help you adjust to an earlier bedtime. Walk, sit, or exercise outside: wearing sunscreen won’t cancel out the beneficial effect of the light.
Don’t think that over the counter drugs are without risk. They can do damage if used incorrectly, and some can lead to physical dependence if overused. Read the label. Manufacturers can and do reformulate their products at higher or lower strengths, or there may be new warnings about side effects.
To keep a cold from spreading, wash your hands frequently. If you’re around someone with a cold, avoid touching your nose and eyes. Don’t share drinking and eating utensils and other objects with family members who have colds. Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, or sneeze into your sleeve. Dispose of used tissues promptly in a plastic-lined wastebasket or paper bag, or in any manner that makes rehandling them unnecessarily.
Chew sugarless gum to help fight tooth decay. Gum chewing stimulates saliva flow and thus reduces harmful acidity from bacteria in the mouth. It also helps squeeze saliva into the spaces between the teeth. To get the most benefit from the gum, pop a stick into your mouth within five minutes after eating and chew it for at least 15 minutes.
If you have hay fever, cut down on alcoholic beverages during the pollen season. They cause blood vessels in the nose to swell, thereby further increasing nasal congestion.
Count your moles to gauge your risk of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If you have six or more large moles, 5 millimeters or larger (about one-fifth of an inch, the size of a pencil eraser), you’re at increased risk and should check your skin frequently and have a professional skin exam. The moles can be flat or raised, pigmented or fleshcolored. For hard to see areas like your back, ask someone else to count the moles. Any mole that changes size, texture, or color, or that itches, burns, or bleeds should be checked by a doctor.
To prevent heartburn at night, try elevating the head of your bed by at least six inches (wooden blocks will do the trick). This may prevent the most common cause of heartburn— gastroesophageal reflux, the backup of stomach contents into the lower esophagus, where gastric acids produce a burning sensation.
If you have a tooth knocked out, call your dentist right away and try to get to the office ASAP. You have a 50% chance of a successful replantation if you get to the dentist within 30 minutes. You may be advised to insert the tooth in the socket (after gently rinsing it) and bite down on it until you get to the office.
To be sure that you are drinking “plenty of fluids,” especially when you have a cold or flu, drink enough to keep your urine clear and pale in color. If your urine is deep yellow, you may not be drinking enough. Don’t open time release capsules and swallow the contents. The medicine may be absorbed into the bloodstream too quickly.
You should have a tetanus booster—actually combined tetanus and diphtheria (Td) shot—every 10 years. Because immunization is so widespread, relatively few cases of tetanus occur in this country anymore. But about 70% of tetanus infections occur in people over 50, who are least likely to be adequately immunized. Tetanus is not caused just by rusty nails and the like. The disease, often fatal, can be caused by even minor wounds or scratches.