Important Vaccines, Healthy Travel, and Happy Feet (Part 2)

Part 2 of Vaccines, Healthy Travel, and Foot Problems


by Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher


Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to read the first “installment” of this month’s article, which came out at the beginning of August.  If so, you’ll know this month, we’re looking at three topics, each of which has so much information pertaining to it, that it seemed best to divide the story into segments for easier reading.  As we continue our investigation of important vaccines, healthy travel tips, and troublesome foot problems, we should first take a look at an important caution regarding vaccinations.


Vaccines:


Important Caution:

Often times, people are tempted to ease the resulting pain from a vaccine by taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.  Actually, that’s not a good idea from the standpoint of producing maximum immunity from the disease for which you were vaccinated.  Anything that reduces the body’s immune response, such as ibuprofen, or even ice, can potentially reduce the protective effects of the vaccine.  Inflammation, and the resulting pain from it, is actually a good sign that your body is reacting properly to the vaccine and making protective anti-bodies.  Fortunately, arm or other muscle pain from a vaccine usually lasts only about 10 hours to 1 or 2 days at most, so that you don’t have a long time to be uncomfortable before improvement starts.

Shingles:

            Anyone who has ever had chicken pox has the herpes virus strain in their bodies that can result in a case of shingles under the right circumstances.  Although the disease, shingles, is more common in older people due to their lowered immune system function, shingles can occur in much younger people who have some reason(s) to have lowered immunity.  Emotional stress, extremes of temperature, lack of sleep, serious injury, or other factors can cause even the youthful immune system to take a serious hit in the ability to respond.
            Shingles is an opportunistic disease.  When the immune system has some reason to be at low ebb, shingles viruses can overwhelm the body and erupt into a painful, blistering rash (at best) and long-term, debilitating nerve pain and extreme itching at worst.  Glaucoma and even blindness can occur if shingles lesions get in the eye.
            In short, it is best to avoid shingles altogether if possible.  The best way to do that, aside from taking good care of your health in general, is to get vaccinated.  The vaccine is pretty effective – 50% to 70% - depending on the age and physical condition of the recipient.  Vaccine side effects are few and mild, generally.
            The only drawback to the vaccine is for people who are allergic to either eggs or the anti-biotic, Neomycin.  These individuals cannot get the shingles vaccine in this country, because a Neomycin and egg free version of the vaccine is not sold in this country.  Allergen-free shingles vaccines are available in Canada and Europe, but not the U.S.A., putting over 10% of the U.S. population at unnecessary risk of developing the dreadful disease, shingles.
            The only options available for the Neomycin or egg sensitive folks in America are to travel to another country or visit an allergist’s office.  In some cases, if the allergic reaction to either eggs or Neomycin is mild enough, the patient can receive the vaccine in a series of injections over several hours.  The original vaccine will be greatly diluted in the allergist’s office and given in several tiny doses to avoid setting off a serious allergic reaction in the patient.  This route is expensive and time-consuming (about six hours) and not without some risk, but it can, in some cases where allergic response is not too severe, result in a fully vaccinated and protected individual.
            People with severe reactions to either Neomycin or eggs should probably avoid the above-described option.  Talk to your doctor for guidance.
            Another reason for getting the shingles vaccine (if you’re eligible for it) is to help prevent heart attacks and strokes.  People who had shingles after age 40 had a 10% higher risk for heart attack and a 15% higher risk for a mini-stroke.  The numbers for people who had experienced shingles prior to age 40 were even worse.  These persons had a 50% higher risk for heart attack, a 2.4 times greater likelihood of mini-stroke, and a 74% higher risk for stroke.  These statistics came from a study led by Dr. Judith Breuer, professor of virology at University College London.  The study was published in Neurology.
            The shingles vaccine is even recommended for people who have already had shingles.  Yes, you can get shingles more than once, and the vaccine can help prevent repeat rounds of the disease.

Tetanus:

            Tetanus shots are not just for puncture wounds.  The tetanus bacteria live in dirt and can enter the body through simple cuts or scrapes.  It is harder for the tetanus bacteria to grow in an open scrape than a deep puncture wound, but not impossible.  So, if it has been 10 years or more since your last vaccine, it is time to get another one, even if you are not presently injured, according to Dr. William Schaffner at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
            The one exception to this advice comes to those persons who have had a previous severe reaction to the tetanus vaccine, whether an allergic reaction or serious side effects.  Those persons should seek the advice of a physician before ever getting another tetanus vaccine.

Any “missed” childhood vaccine or disease:

            Are you concerned that you may not have been vaccinated against polio?  Did you somehow “miss out” on having chicken pox as a child and were never vaccinated?  Did your parents forget to have you fully vaccinated against mumps, and you’ve never had the disease but are afraid you might contract it as an adult and could have your fertility adversely affected?
            If any of the above situations, or something similar, applies to you, then talk to your doctor about your concerns.  In most cases, there’s no harm in receiving “childhood” vaccines as an adult, and there can be great benefit for yourself – and all those people with whom you come in contact.


Healthy Travel Tips:

            •  Research in recent years shows the flu virus can “infect” a wider area around a sick person than previously thought.  Coughing, sneezing, or simple breathing can spread flu virus germs six feet or more out from the ill individual.
            Try to put some space between yourself and anyone who is visibly ill, both for your own personal protection and to help prevent spreading the germs even farther should they become attached to your clothing or belongings.

            •  If you must be close to an ill person, such as assigned seating on an airplane, keep an extra (over and above what you need for yourself) clean, unopened pack of tissues, cough drops, and chewable vitamin C with you.  Offer the sick person any or all of these items to help quell coughs, sneezes, and dripping noses and reduce the likelihood of spreading germs.  They’ll feel better by your small act of kindness and concern.  You’ll feel better by doing something helpful and caring, which will raise your immunity naturally.
            Scientific studies widely agree that positive, altruistic actions not only help others, but also reduce stress and improve immunity in the “doers” of good, making them more resistant to disease.

            •  Endeavor to avoid getting overly worried, angry, or sad over travel plans that don’t work out as originally planned.  Reduced personal stress levels not only improve immune response to germs, but also lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels – not to mention allows for more enjoyment of the trip, even if it is a little different than the originally pictured scenario.


Foot Health:

            We’ll look at several foot related problems before the month of August is complete, but many of those “pedi” problems will be discussed in our third installment of this article, available on-line on or about Aug. 22nd.
            For now, let’s take a peek at ways to solve two very common foot ills, namely tired, achy feelings in the feet and also swelling and circulatory inadequacy.

            •  We’ve all experienced, perhaps even regularly, tired achy feet, which can occur from excessive standing, over-exercise, or uncomfortable or poorly fitting shoes.  At one time or other, most of us, have probably resorted to a foot soak for relief, but did you know there is a way to maximize the relief you can obtain from a foot bath by adding a few key ingredients?
            According to Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty at Home, adding fresh mint leaves, Epsom salts, sea salt, and fresh lime juice to a warm water foot soak basin can do wonders for relieving tiredness and achy feelings in the feet.
            Cox’s “recipe” for relief calls for combining ¼ cup each of Epsom salts, sea salt, and fresh mint leaves, with 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice stirred into a warm water foot bath.  (Soak for 15 – 20 min.)
            Epsom salts contain magnesium, which reduces swelling, as does the sea salt.  Mint leaves cool inflamed muscles.  Lime juice has antibacterial properties and will freshen feet’s odor, as well as help prevent minor skin infections.
            Several scientific studies have shown that another benefit of using mint is that its clean, crisp scent helps to boost energy and sharpen thinking, so that you feel better, as well as your feet!

            •  Swelling and insufficient circulation in the feet can be caused by many things; some causes are relatively benign, such as too much standing or excessively high heels.  Other causes can be serious, such as heart failure, kidney failure, or really bad peripheral circulation in the legs from cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
            Firstly, have any foot, ankle, or leg swelling examined and diagnosed by a doctor.
            Assuming that your particular condition allows for therapeutic foot baths, the following regimen for improving circulation and decreasing swelling is recommended in the book, Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies, published by National Geographic.
            The book details how alternating hot and cold foot baths can stimulate circulation in the feet and even legs.  Two side-by-side foot basins will be needed, one with comfortably hot water, the other with cold water.
            Soak feet in hot water tub for 60 seconds and then plunge feet into cold water for 20 to 30 seconds.  Repeat this procedure three or four more times per foot soaking episode for best results.

            In our third “installment” of the August article (around Aug. 22nd.), we’ll look at several other foot related issues.

            In the meantime, get those vaccines, have healthy travels, and comfy feet!  

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