Funding continues for Child Health Insurance Program – Health Briefs

The state of Colorado has found the resources to extend the Child Health Insurance Program, or CHP+ in Colorado, through February, and Congress’ continuing resolution will authorize funding for six months of the program, according to Connect for Health Colorado. That prevents, for now, the need to move the 75,000 children and 762 pregnant mothers covered by the program into alternative coverage.

Stay healthy when traveling this holiday season

The holidays are a popular time for international travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer advice for keeping families happy and healthy by watching out for the following travel health risks this holiday season.

• Zika is still a risk in many destinations and can be spread through mosquito bites and sexual activity. Travelers are urged to find out whether Zika is a risk at planned destinations and take steps to protect themselves.
• There are outbreaks of measles and mumps in popular destinations, including England, Italy, Greece and New Zealand. Insure that measles and other routine vaccines are up to date, including the annual flu shot.
• Those traveling to visit friends and family overseas, may be at higher risk for some diseases.

While packing up presents and planning your celebrations, remember to prepare for a healthy trip buy taking the following actions.

• See a health care provider before leaving to get recommended vaccines and medicines for specific destinations.
• Remember to pack prescription and over-the-counter medicines, insect repellent, sunscreen, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and condoms.
• Find out if health insurance policies covers care abroad — many plans don’t. Consider additional insurance that covers medical care and emergency evacuation, especially if traveling to remote areas. 

Peppermint oil offers numerous health benefits

At this time of year, people may think of peppermint primarily as the spicy flavor in candy canes, but this herb and its essential oil have also been used for health purposes, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

The herb peppermint, a natural cross between two types of mint — water mint and spearmint — grows throughout Europe and North America. Both peppermint leaves and the essential oil from peppermint have been used for health purposes. Peppermint is a common flavoring agent in foods, and peppermint oil is used to create a pleasant fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.
Mint has been used for health purposes for several thousand years. It is mentioned in records from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, though peppermint was not recognized as a distinct kind of mint until the 1700s.

While more study is needed, the center offers the following facts about the potential health benefits of peppermint oil.
• Peppermint oil has been studied most extensively for irritable bowel syndrome. Results from several studies indicate that peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules (which helps release the drug after passing the stomach) may improve symptoms of this condition.
• A few studies have indicated that peppermint oil, in combination with caraway oil, may help relieve indigestion, but this evidence is preliminary, and the product that was tested is not available in the United States.
• Peppermint oil has been used topically for tension headaches, and a limited amount of evidence suggests it might be helpful for this purpose.
• There’s not enough evidence to allow any conclusions to be reached about whether peppermint oil is helpful for nausea, the common cold or other conditions.
• There’s not enough evidence to show whether peppermint leaf is helpful for any condition.

Peppermint oil appears to be safe when taken orally in the doses commonly used. Excessive doses of peppermint oil can be toxic.

Possible side effects of peppermint oil include allergic reactions and heartburn. Capsules containing peppermint oil are often enteric-coated to reduce the likelihood of heartburn. If enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules are taken at the same time as antacids, the coating can break down too quickly.

Like other essential oils, peppermint oil is highly concentrated. When the undiluted essential oil is used for health purposes, only a few drops are used.

Side effects of applying peppermint oil to the skin can include skin rashes and irritation. Peppermint oil should not be applied to the face or chest of infants or young children because serious side effects may occur if they inhale the menthol in the oil.

No harmful effects of peppermint leaf tea have been reported, however the long-term safety of consuming large amounts of peppermint leaf is not known.

The center recommends telling health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches being used. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Safety tips offered for living with Lewy body dementia

Lewy body dementia is a progressive brain disorder associated with abnormal protein deposits that disrupt the brain’s normal functioning. This can lead to problems with thinking, movement, behavior and mood. As the disease progresses, people with LBD typically have trouble managing everyday tasks.

Those living with LBD are urges to consider taking the following steps from the National Institute on Aging to create a safer environment.

• Carry a LBD Medical Alert Wallet Card and present it at the doctor’s office or hospital. It contains important information about medication sensitivities.
• At home, make sure lighting is adequate, install grab bars in the bathroom and keep walkways clear. This can help reduce the risk for falls.
• Subscribe to a medical alert service, which provides a bracelet or necklace with a button to alert 911 if assistance is needed.
• Talk with a physician about whether it’s safe to drive, and have driving skills evaluated, if needed.

Relaxation techniques offered to conquer stress

The holiday season can be a stressful time, so it may be a good time to learn some relaxation techniques.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health recommends a number of relaxation techniques on its website

These techniques often combine breathing and focused attention on pleasing thoughts and images, with the aim of calming both mind and your body. Guided imagery, deep breathing exercises and progressive relaxation are examples.

Like other skills, relaxation techniques need practice, and those who use relaxation techniques frequently are more likely to benefit from them.

Naloxone available over the counter in Colorado

Colorado drug overdose deaths are increasing dramatically. The life-saving drug naloxone, which can reverse overdoses of opioids and heroin, is now available at some Colorado pharmacies — including City Market pharmacies in both Steamboat Springs and Craig — without a prescription. Costs vary.

New partnership to help VA increase mental health services to Veterans

A competition that started in 2014 may result in improved mental health care for veterans.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs as awarded a contract to Potentia Labs to create a program specifically for veterans. The partnership, which aims to help the growing number of veterans with depression and post traumatic stress  began in 2014, when the VA Center for Innovation held an industry competition in search of ideas to expand mental health care options for its veterans.

“As someone who has served in the military, I’m grateful that the VA is holding innovative competitions like these to work to improve access to mental health care,” said Eric Lenhardt, a U.S. Army veteran and co-founder of Potentia Lab, in a news release.

Most mental health services focus on alleviating patients’ negative symptoms, whereas Potentia’s program takes the opposite approach, using the tenets of positive psychology to enhance traits such as confidence and optimism via an online platform and mobile app that reaches veterans wherever they are.

That accessibility is important, since studies suggest that, while many veterans seek help for depression and PTSD, a significant number never return after their first appointment.

“Most of the available options are aimed at addressing what’s wrong in veterans’ lives,” said Dustin Milner, CEO and cofounder of Potentia Labs, in the release. “Our approach is more in line with the warrior mindset, building on veterans’ existing strengths to help them become the best version of themselves.”

During the next year, Potentia Labs will customize and expand its technology for veterans, using its mix of gaming technology and instructional design, as well as the expertise of the world’s top psychologists, to deliver the tools of mental fortitude to this latest generation of veterans.

“Potentia combines the best science with the most adaptive developmental technology to date,” said Dr. James Avey, professor at Central Washington University, in the release.

Avery has used his expertise to help develop Potentia’s curriculum, with the goal of helping users — including veterans — become more adept at bouncing back.

“As the grandson of a survivor of Pearl Harbor, it is very meaningful to me to help serve a group of people who serve us all,” Avery said.

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