TIME Healthcare

Boy of ‘Success Kid’ Meme Fundraises For Father’s Kidney Transplant

The GoFundMe campaign has already raised over $86,000

If you’ve spent time on the Internet, you’re probably familiar with the “Success Kid” meme: A young baby looking confident with a fist full of sand. As it turns out, memes are real people—who face real problems.

The child behind “Success Kid” is 8-year-old Sammy Griner, and his father is in need of a kidney transplant. The Griner family recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the medical bills. The family was asking for around $75,000 and has already surpassed that goal. According to ABC News, the site reached about $9,000 in just five days. Currently, funds are at over $86,000 in just a week.

Sammy’s mom, Laney Griner, told ABC News that while at first she wasn’t happy about a photo from her son at the beach had gone viral, today she’s happy it happened. “By now, it’s just out there. What am I going to do? At least it’s positive,” she said. “Without that happening, how much could I get this recognition about my husband’s kidney transplant?”

MONEY Health Care

Why Young Millennials Are Turning Down Health Coverage at Work

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Getty Images—Getty Images I don't need health insurance, boss. I've got my mom's plan.

Thanks to Obamacare, they can probably get cheaper health insurance from mom and dad.

New college grads want a job, but they can take or leave the health insurance benefits that come with it. Less than half of all eligible employees under age 26 enrolled in an employer-provided health plan in 2015, according to a new report out today from the ADP Research Institute.

But don’t worry about the rest. Under the Affordable Care Act, young adults are allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they turn 26. And that’s probably what many are doing, says Chris Ryan, vice president of strategic advisory services at ADP. “There are lot of people who do value health coverage very much, but they want to stay on their parents’ plan as long as possible,” Ryan says.

Why Young Workers Have More Options

The provision that lets young adults keep their parents’ health insurance until age 26 has been one of the most popular parts of Obamacare. It was also one of the first provisions to go into effect. Between September 2010 and December 2011, more than 3 million adults aged 19 to 25 got private health insurance largely thanks to the ACA, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

A lot has changed since 2011. More millennials have entered the workforce, and a greater number have become eligible for health benefits. Today, 83% of employees under 26 are eligible for health insurance at work, up 8.5% from five years ago. Still, fewer millennials have actually enrolled in their employers’ plans. In 2011, almost 57% of young millennials who were eligible for employer-subsidized health coverage took it; this year, only 44% did.

One sign that many of these young adults are ditching their employer’s plans for their family’s plan: Once employees are too old to stay their parents’ plans, they’re much more likely to sign up for employer coverage. Three-quarters of eligible employees aged 26 to 39 enrolled in an employer health plan, the survey found.

Happily, after widespread concerns that young people would not sign up for health insurance, the vast majority are now covered one way or another. Nationally, 83.2% of Americans aged 18 to 25 now have health insurance, up from 76.5% in the last quarter of 2014, according to a recent Gallup poll. Today, there are 4.5 million more insured young adults who would not otherwise had coverage, according to the White House.

When Mom and Dad’s Plan Has the Edge

For millennials just starting out, however, health insurance premiums can still eat up a large part of their meager incomes. ADP found that employees earning $15,000 to $20,000 spent 9.5% of their annual income on premiums. Employees earning $45,000 to $50,000 devoted 5.8% of their income to premiums, while employees earning more than $120,000 spent just 2.3% of their income on premiums.

So even if young millennials have jobs with health benefits, the family plan is often the better deal. “Most millennials in their early 20s have entry-level salaries, so it’s attractive for our generation to get on a parent’s comprehensive plan for health and financial security,” writes Erin Hemlin, health care campaign director of Young Invincibles, a millennial research and advocacy group.

ADP found that individual premiums cost $486 a month, on average. But add two or more dependents to the plan, and premiums cost an average of $1,377 a month—which, split three or four ways, is less than an individual plan.

“There’s no question—it is usually cheaper for someone to be an additional dependent rather than pay for single coverage,” Ryan says. And then there are the tax benefits. “Because the premiums are on a pre-tax basis and parents are usually in a higher income bracket than their children, the parents are getting a better tax break, and the insurance overall is cheaper,” Ryan says.

Still, there are downsides to staying on a parent’s plan. If you don’t live near your parents, make sure you can find local doctors that are in your parents’ insurance network before you turn down health benefits at work. And consider if you want your bills and explanation of benefit statements mailed to your parents. Not sure what to do? Here’s more on how to decide— or shop for an individual plan on your own if you’re not getting coverage at work.

TIME Healthcare

Americans Spent a Record Amount on Medicine in 2014

TIME.com stock photos Health Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Medicine spending in the U.S. rose at the highest rate since 2001, a new report shows

Correction appended, April 14

Americans filled 4.3 billion prescriptions and doled out nearly $374 billion on medicine in 2014, according to new data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

The data shows that American men and women’s spending on medicine hit the highest level since 2001, up 13% in 2014 compared with the year before.

In states that expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, patients filled 25.4% more prescriptions than in 2013; in states that did not expand eligibility, that rate was 2.8%. Overall, doctors’ office visits declined 3% and dispensed prescriptions increased 2.1% in 2014. “It is clear that the U.S. health care system is in a state of flux,” wrote IMS Health executive director Murray Aitken in the report. “The past year brought fundamental changes and heightened uncertainty to patients, payers, providers, government and lawmakers.”

The report authors also note that the impact of patent expirations also happened to be lower in 2014, so the drop in costs was smaller than drops experienced in other years. The report shows that the impact of patent expiries in 2014 was around $8 billion less than 2013 and $17 billion less than what it was in 2012.

The report suggests that specialty drugs and innovative medicines accounted for a large part of the medication spending, with specialty medicines making up a third of all medication spending. Some of these drugs were new treatments for diseases like hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis and cancer. New oral hepatitis C drugs, for example, have made treating the disorder easier than taking the daily injections that were previously required. However these new drugs can have a high price tag — around $1,000 for a single daily pill in some cases. The report says new treatments for hepatitis C increased spending by $11.3 billion.

MORE: Why Hepatitis C Drugs May Soon Get Far Less Expensive

“The number of patients seeking treatment for hepatitis C jumped nearly tenfold in 2014, from 17 to 161 thousand, owing to new treatments with cure rates over 90% and dramatically fewer side effects,” the report reads.

According to IMS Health, 18 orphan drugs — ones designed specifically to treat a rare disorder — were launched in 2014. The unprecedented high was likely due in part to the tax breaks and other financial incentives for developing them.

All of these factors made 2014 an especially notable year for medicine spending and new innovative medicine, IMS Health said.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of prescriptions Americans filled in 2014. It was 4.3 billion.

TIME Healthcare

About 90% of U.S. Adults Now Have Health Insurance

The uninsured rate has fallen under Obamacare

Amost 90% of American adults now have health insurance, according to a new survey released Monday.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows that the uninsured rate has dropped to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015. That’s down one percentage point from the previous quarter and down 5.2 percentage points since the end of 2013, when the expansion of coverage under President Obama’s health care reform law went into effect.

“The uninsured rate is the lowest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in 2008,” Gallup said. The rate of uninsured Americans rose to more than 17% by 2011, and peaked at 18% just a couple years later. It dropped significantly when the health care law was implemented.

The survey shows that while the uninsured rate has dropped among all groups, the greatest declines came for lower-income Americans and Hispanics.

TIME Healthcare

10 Home Remedies for Allergies

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Shower immediately after spending time in the garden

Spring brings warmer weather and longer days, while the autumn ushers in crisp air and pumpkin-spice lattes. But these seasonal changes aren’t welcomed by everyone. For many of us, they’re eclipsed by the itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion of hay fever and other allergies. What to do?

Some allergies are severe and require the attention of a doctor or other health care professional. For milder cases, though, home remedies may provide all the relief you need, with relatively little expense or hassle. Even people with bad allergies who need medication may find these at-home tips helpful for easing symptoms.

Neti pots

They may look exotic, but Neti pots are fast becoming a mainstream remedy for allergies and stuffed-up sinuses. The treatment, which involves rinsing your nasal cavity with a saline solution, flushes out allergens (like pollen) and loosens mucus.

Using a Neti pot is simple. First, fill the pot with a mixture of salt and warm water (you can buy pre-measured kits or make your own). Then tilt your head to the side and pour the solution in one nostril until it flows out the other, repeating the process on the opposite side. (Important note: Use boiled or distilled water only, as tap water can introduce potentially dangerous organisms into your system.)

Saline spray

Prepackaged saline nasal sprays function much like Neti pots, but some allergy sufferers may find them easier to use. Sprays deliver saline solution a bit more gently and evenly, whereas pots can sometimes be a little “sloppy,” says Robert Graham, MD, an internist and integrative medicine specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

Saline sprays should provide comparable results. Although Neti pots have been studied more extensively, and in some cases may prove more effective, sprays too have been shown to help with allergy symptoms and other sinus problems.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Local honey

Eating honey produced by bees in your region can help relieve allergies. The bees transfer pollen from flower blossoms to honey, so if you eat a little honey every day you’ll gradually become inoculated against the irritating effects of pollen.

That’s the widely held theory, anyway. Unfortunately, there’s little to no scientific evidence to back it up. Although a small 2011 study from Finland that compared regular honey and pollen-laced honey did report modestly encouraging results, an earlier study in the United States found that unaltered local honey had no impact on allergy symptoms.

HEPA filters

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters ease symptoms by trapping allergens and other airborne irritants, such as pet dander and dust. Portable air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters can purify the air in bedrooms and other confined spaces, but whole-house systems that incorporate HEPA filters into your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system are generally more effective.

Air conditioners and dehumidifiers also can help clean air, Dr. Graham says. They remove moisture from the air and floor, which will curb the growth of the mold and mildew that can worsen allergies.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Herbs and supplements

Several herbs and supplements—including spirulina, eyebright, and goldenseal—have been studied for allergy relief. The plant extract butterbur, which is thought to reduce airway inflammation, has produced what are perhaps the strongest results. In a pair of clinical trials led by a Swiss research team, butterbur tablets eased symptoms just as much as the over-the-counter antihistamines fexofenadine and cetirizine, respectively.

For his part, Dr. Graham suggests his patients first try bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple that is sometimes used to curb inflammation after sinus surgery. “It reduces swelling and improves breathing,” he says. “It’s a safe first step.”

Showering

Anyone who has even been stuffed-up knows the impressive ability of a steaming hot shower to soothe sinuses and clear nasal passages, if only temporarily. But showers offer an added benefit for springtime allergy sufferers. A quick rinse after spending time outdoors can help remove allergens from your skin and hair—and prevent them from spreading to clothes, furniture, pillowcases, and other surfaces where they’re likely to dog you.

This is especially true if you’ve been gardening. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends stripping off your shoes and clothes and showering immediately if you’ve been weeding, pruning, or planting.

Read more: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Get Wrong

Steam

Don’t feel like getting soaked and toweling off every time your sinuses get clogged? Other methods of inhaling steam—store-bought vaporizers, for instance—can flush out mucus and moisten dry nasal passages nearly as well as a shower.

The easiest method is simply to pour boiling water into a bowl or other container, drape a towel over your head to form a tent, and inhale deeply through your nose for five to 10 minutes. (Just be careful not to get your face too close to the water, as you may scald yourself.) If you find yourself really clogged up, this may be more convenient than taking several showers a day.

Eucalyptus oil

The strong, piney aroma of eucalyptus oil can supercharge steam inhalation, helping to open your sinuses and nasal passages further. Some research suggests the essential oil, extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, but if nothing else the vapor provides a bracing, menthol-like sensation that can make breathing seem easier.

Try adding a few drops of oil to a bowl of steaming water, or to the floor of the shower before you step in. Just don’t swallow the oil or apply it directly to your skin; it’s toxic in concentrated amounts.

Spicy foods

Many people swear by the sinus-clearing effects of spicy foods like chili peppers, wasabi, Dijon mustard, fresh garlic, and horseradish. Sure enough, an active ingredient in garlic (allyl thiosulfinate) and a similar ingredient in wasabi (isothiocyanates) do appear to have a temporary decongestant effect.

Foods with a kick can definitely start your eyes watering and open your nasal passages, but it’s unclear whether they provide anything more than fleeting relief.

Read more: 11 Unexpected Spring Allergy Triggers

Tea

Holding your face over a hot cup of tea may open your nasal passages, but the steam isn’t the only thing that’s beneficial. The menthol in peppermint tea, for instance, seems to work as a decongestant and expectorant, meaning it can break up mucus and help clear it out of your nose and throat.

Similarly, green tea contains a compound (methylated epigallocatechin gallate) that has been shown in lab tests to have antioxidant properties that inhibit allergic reactions. These results may not necessarily translate into noticeable symptom relief for spring allergy sufferers, however.

If you do have spring allergies, you’ll probably want to stay away from chamomile, as it can cause reactions in people allergic to ragweed.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Healthcare

25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

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Put your printer away from your desk

The air inside our homes can be two to five times as polluted as the air outside—bad news, especially for the more than 20 percent of us who suffer from allergies. And research suggests that that percentage is increasing steadily. “For one thing, climate change and rising carbon dioxide levels have created an environment that’s more hospitable to the growth of allergens such as mold,” says Jay Portnoy, MD, director of allergy, asthma and immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. “What’s more, we’re living in cleaner indoor environments these days, so our immune systems go into overdrive when we’re exposed to something unfamiliar, like dust mites or fur.” That’s guaranteed torment for a lot of us, who have spent most of the last few months indoors. The goods news is there’s a lot you can do to eliminate them.

Beat mold in the bathroom

Install a ventilation fan; run it during every bath and shower to reduce mold-friendly moisture. At the very least, leave the bathroom door ajar or crack open a window. Mold also thrives in damp corners, so once a week, wipe around the sink, tub and toilet.

Toss the plug-in room air freshener

Some emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can exacerbate respiratory problems. VOCs have also been shown to cause headaches in susceptible people.

Ditch the vinyl

These types of shower curtains emit VOCs, as well as other potentially lung-irritating compounds, like phthalates. A nylon curtain, which can be thrown into the wash as needed, is a better choice for your health and the environment.

Keep it covered

Put dust mite-proof covers, ideally microfiber ones, on mattresses, box springs, comforters and pillows. They’ll prevent the critters from penetrating your bedding. Wash your sheets once a week in hot water (aim for at least 130 degrees), then throw them in the dryer at a high temperature.

Declare a pet-free zone

A 2011 study found that cat owners who banned the felines from their bedrooms were much less likely to develop kitty allergies.

Read more: Your 12 Worst Allergy Mistakes

Sleuth out drips

Even a small trickle from the pipes under the sink can lead to mold.

For people with asthma who have a certain gene variant, living in a home with mold may increase the risk of a severe attack, according to a 2010 Harvard Medical School Study.

Clean well

Inspect your fridge for moisture, and when you clean it, pay close attention to door gaskets and drip pans, where mold tends to grow.

Fan out fumes

Install an exhaust fan over the stove, with vents that lead outside, to get rid of irritating cooking fumes and reduce moisture around the room.

In addition to triggering allergies, cooking fumes—particularly those from gas stoves—may up your cancer risk. The fumes have been found to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic amines, higher and mutated aldehydes, and fine and ultrafine particles. Having an exhaust fan reduces your risk.

Store food safely

Well-sealed plastic or glass containers should discourage roaches and mice from making themselves at home.

Choose washable window coverings

Opt for curtains or shades that you can wipe down, launder or send to the dry cleaner. Or skip them entirely!

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Spruce up your seating

Consider a couch made from leather: It’s less likely to harbor allergens. If you want to hang on to your upholstered one, run a HEPA vacuum over it at least weekly.

Invest in a vacuum

Look for one that has a HEPA filter and a certification mark from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This means it not only removes a significant amount of allergens but also prevents them from leaking back out into the air.

Check your temp

Keep the digits below 68 degrees; dust mites thrive in toastier conditions. Use a hygrometer (about $10 at drugstores) to measure in-home humidity, too. The sweet spot: 35 to 50 percent. Anything lower will dry out nasal passages; anything higher encourages mold. (Another reason to keep your thermostat set at 68: Keeping your home too cozy-warm can lead to weight gain. It’s one of the 10 ways your house is making you fat.)

Dust smarter

Do it (at least) once a week to remove allergens from surfaces. Use a microfiber cloth or dusting wand—the superthin fibers trap more debris than regular towels or dusters.

Use a filter for forced air systems

Your best bet: a pleated filter that has a MERV (i.e., effectiveness) rating of between 8 and 12. You can have it installed in your system directly. If you’ve got baseboard heat, you may want to purchase a few portable HEPA filter units (they cost $100 and up) and place them around the house. You probably don’t need to get your air ducts professionally cleaned—research doesn’t prove that doing so improves air quality, and it can actually make things worse by stirring up allergens and other particulates. Replace your filters regularly, based on the manufacturer’s instructions.

Read more: A Sleep Meditation for a Restful Night

Box it up

Clutter is a dust-magnet, not to mention bugs, mold, and mice. Recycle old newspapers, magazines, cans, and grocery bags every week, and for everything else, store as many items as possible in plastic bins to minimize dust.

Look for leaks

Repair any water damage that can encourage mold growth. Even if you have mold only in your basement, your heating or cooling system can pump it into other parts of your house.

Degrime your gutters

Reducing allergen exposure outside may reduce your allergy symptoms inside by keeping your body from getting overloaded with irritants. Remove dead leaves near the foundation and gutters; they lead to dampness, which fosters mold.

Wash your kids’ stuffed animals

Your kids’ stuffed animals are a magnet for dust mites. Keep only two or three on your little one’s bed; put the rest in plastic containers. Wash them at least once a month. Or just put them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes to zap mites.

Take shoes off outside

Your shoes pick up allergens from outside (hello, pollen and leaf mold!) and bring them indoors. Buy an outdoor mat so you can rub your soles free of debris before walking inside, or take off your shoes and leave them by the front door.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Fish tanks

Nemo may be one of the few pets that are hypoallergenic, but the tank he’s frolicking in is an incubator of mold. Give the tank and filters a good scrubbing at least once a month.

Don’t overwater your plants

While certain houseplants (chrysanthemums, for example) reduce indoor air pollutants, you can have too much of a good thing. “If you don’t clear out debris, the soil can harbor mold,” Dr. Portnoy says. Limit the number of indoor plants and be sure you don’t overwater them.

Put your printer away from your desk

Studies have shown that laser printers emit VOCs and particles that are associated with asthma and can harm the lungs. Keep yours in a well-ventilated area at least 10 feet away from your desk.

Go green to get clean

To eliminate allergens, you need to scrub. Problem is, some cleaners can make symptoms worse. “Many have quaternary ammonium compounds, or quats, and bleach, which are asthmagens,” says Johanna Congleton, PhD, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in Washington, D.C. In fact, one study of more than 3,500 people found that those who used spray cleaners at least once a week had a 30 to 50 percent increased risk of asthma. Check out EWG’s guide to green, lung-friendly products at ewg.org/guides/cleaners.

The top indoor allergens

First up: Dust mites.

More than 25 percent of us are allergic to these tiny bugs that live in dust. The critters munch on skin particles and dander, so you’ll find them wherever there are people and pets. You’re not allergic to the mites themselves but to a protein they excrete. The mites’ waste can hang out on pillows and mattresses or in carpeting and not bother you, but when you disturb them—say, by fluffing your duvet—they’ll fly into the air and trigger symptoms.

Household pets

Cat allergy is the most common pet allergy, but at least 15 percent of us are allergic to both cats and dogs. It’s not their fur per se that has you sneezing but their dander, saliva and pee.

Roaches and rodents

Up to 98 percent of urban homes have these allergens, even if they can’t be seen. Apartment dwellers may find themselves battling roaches, and suburban and country home owners may face rodent infestations. As with your furry friends, you’re allergic to their feces and saliva, not just to the critters themselves.

Mold

You’ve probably heard of toxic black mold (aka Stachybotrys chartarum), but many kinds of indoor mold can cause allergies. While it tends to grow in dark, damp spots, this allergen can sprout up anywhere that water has leaked. The best way to tell if you have mold is to see it (it’s usually black, brown or green) and smell it (it’s got a musty odor). Get rid of mold by scrubbing with a solution of 1/2 cup of bleach and 1 gallon of water.

Read more: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Get Wrong

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Healthcare

11 Unexpected Spring Allergy Triggers

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Avoiding flowers and trees will only get you so far during allergy season

Stay away from pollen. Pop antihistamines. You know the drill. But if you’re one of the approximately 20% of people who suffer from hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) in all of its stuffy, sneezing infamy, fending off seasonal allergies might not be so straightforward. To breathe easy this season, you’ll also need to fight these 11 unexpected allergy triggers.

Fruits

The farmer’s market can strengthen your immune system, but it could also send that system into a frenzy. Why? When tree, grass, and weed pollen counts are high, your immune system is primed to attack anything that resembles your allergens even slightly, says Anju Peters, MD, associate professor of medicine in allergy and immunology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Case in point: fruit pollen. In those who suffer from pollen-food allergy syndrome, filling your mouth and stomach with fruit pollen can worsen allergies.

Fight it: “Symptoms of pollen-food allergy syndrome typically occur when you eat fruit—including its peel—in its raw form, Dr. Peters says. “So by peeling or cooking fruit, you can lessen or completely avoid any reaction.”

Alcohol

People with hay fever, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and COPD are far more likely to experience sneezing, a runny nose, and lower-airway symptoms after imbibing, per Swedish research. Alcohol dilates the nose’s blood vessels and may also spur an immune response. Wine might be a bigger culprit than other booze, Dr. Peters says.

Fight it: Drink responsibly. That means limiting your consumption of alcohol, especially wine, and never mixing alcohol and allergy meds, she says.

Read more: Your 12 Worst Allergy Mistakes

Stress

Stress won’t cause allergies, but it can worsen your symptoms. Research from The Ohio State University Medical Center shows that just a small amount of stress increases the body’s levels of allergy-triggering proteins as well as its allergic symptoms. Plus, regularly high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can compromise your immune system, wear you down, and make it difficult for your body to recuperate from the season’s onslaught of allergens, Dr. Peters says.

Fight it: Use your allergies as another excuse to enjoy some “me” time. Take care of yourself and do whatever you’ve got to do to de-stress: meditate, practice yoga, soak in the tub.

Hair products

The perfect ‘do comes at a cost. “Hair gels and pastes cause the hair to become a pollen magnet,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and associate professor of clinical medicine at New York University.

Fight it: Use as few hair products as your hairstyle will allow, Dr. Bassett advises. If you just can’t get by without your full arsenal of gels, sprays, and serums, make sure to wash your hair every day to remove the tag-along allergens from your locks.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Thunderstorms

April showers bring May flowers…and “thunderstorm asthma” attacks. While gentle drizzles can decrease pollen counts, thunderstorms actually stir up pollen, which can easily rupture and spread through the air as tiny particles, according to research in Allergy. In fact, thunderstorms are linked with a greater incidence of asthma-related hospitalizations, Dr. Bassett says.

Fight it: This one’s pretty easy: Stay inside during and immediately following rough weather, and keep your windows shut.

Rising humidity

April showers bring may flowers—and a whole lot of humidity, something dust mites love. Dust mites—tiny bugs that live within house dust year-round—can cause sneezing, itchy nose, runny eyes, and other symptoms similar to seasonal allergies. So allowing dust mites to reproduce in your home will compound any seasonal allergy symptoms you’re already experiencing.

Fight it: Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels between 40 and 45% to prevent dust mites from reproducing. And if possible, keep the thermostat set below 68.

Over-watered houseplants

Ridding your home of mold is about more than good hygiene. Overwatering your houseplants (here are the 10 healthiest) can cause mold and mildew to grow in their soil, which can then spur indoor allergies and even worsen outdoor ones, Dr. Bassett says.

Fight it: If you typically water your plants by trial and error, search online to find out how much water each one really needs. You might also benefit from adding a couple of air cleaning plant varieties to your décor. Research from Pennsylvania State University shows that the snake plant, spider plant, and golden pothos can all help improve indoor air quality.

Read more: 25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

Ceiling fans

Indoor air could be worse for your allergies than outdoor air. After all, inside, you not only have your indoor allergens to contend with, but also the outdoor allergens that are likely making their way into your home, says James Sublett, MD, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Running your ceiling fans just swirls all of those allergens around.

Fight it: Run the A/C to cool off. If you just can’t get by without running your ceiling fans, make sure your home—and ceiling fan blades—are thoroughly cleaned before you flip the switch.

Morning showers

If your nose is particularly stuffed each morning, you should consider bathing at night before bed instead. Going to bed swaddled in the pollen and mold that your clothing, skin, and hair picked up throughout the day may be the problem, Dr. Bassett says.

Fight it: If you can’t function in the morning until you’ve had your shower, that’s OK. Just make sure you at least wash your face at night, giving your eye area some special attention. Washing your hair at night would also be ideal.

Spring cleaning

Isn’t spring cleaning supposed to scrub your house of dirt? “It can also dramatically increase exposure to allergens found in normally settled ‘house dust,’ which contains dust mites, cockroach and mouse allergens, furry pet allergens, and mold spores,” Sublett says.

Fight it: Try to get someone else (think: your husband, kids, or house cleaner) to deep clean your home when you’re not there. If that doesn’t work, a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is a great investment.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Your dog

Just because you aren’t allergic to your pet doesn’t he they won’t make you sneeze and sniffle. After being outside, your dog can bring pollen, mold, and other allergens into your home.

Fight it: Give your pup regular baths, and avoid allowing him hang out on your bed.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Cancer

What to Do If You Have a Cancer Scare

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Don’t over-rely on Dr. Google

Late last month, Angelina Jolie announced that she had surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes with the aim of reducing her cancer risk. In her New York Times op-ed, she noted that she had recently had a cancer scare: Her doctor was concerned about some unusual blood test results, and sent her for further scans.

“I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt,” she wrote. “I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.” Fortunately, the follow-up tests showed no signs of cancer.

Chances are at least once in your life you’ll have some sort of cancer scare—a strange mole that needs to be biopsied, a repeat mammogram, an abnormal Pap smear. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about: “This happens every day in doctors’ offices all across America,” says Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society.

But it can be hard to stay calm when it’s actually happening to you. Here are five things to keep in mind:

Take a step back

Abnormal cancer screening results happen all the time: As many as 35% of women over the age of 40 report having had an abnormal Pap smear or mammogram at some point. “The most common resolution of that abnormal test is finding that you don’t have cancer,” Dr. Wender says.

Remember, the reason these tests have such high cancer-detection rates is because they screen women for any small thing—like calcification on a mammogram—that could potentially indicate cancer.

Read more: 19 Medical Tests Everyone Needs

Make sure you’re hearing your doctor

“Sometimes, when I explain a screening test result to a patient, I can sense that she’s so anxious she’s not processing what I’m saying,” says Dr. Wender. Research shows that almost half of the details remembered from a doctor’s visit are incorrect.

Don’t rely on your memory, especially at an emotional time like this. Either jot down exactly what the doctor says (and don’t be afraid to have them repeat it) or make sure a friend or family member is either in the office with you or on the phone when you speak to your physician.

Read more: What Doctors Don’t Tell You (But Should)

Try not to stress about additional waiting

If suspicious mammogram findings mean your doctor recommends a biopsy, don’t worry if it’s several weeks away. “Waiting three weeks will not change the prognosis and outcome at all if it does turn out to be cancer,” says Dr. Wender.

You also shouldn’t necessarily be alarmed if your doctor doesn’t recommend more invasive testing—such as a colposcopy or biopsy—and instead suggests simply returning for follow-up screening in six months.

“Oftentimes a doctor or technician will see something that doesn’t look like cancer, but they just want to double check it in a few months to be safe,” explains Dr. Wender.

Read more: A Complete Guide to Breast Cancer Screening

Don’t go overboard on Dr. Google

Sometimes, Google can be reassuring: “If you type in ‘abnormal pap smear’ or ‘abnormal mammogram’ or even ‘suspicious mole,’ you’ll see how common the false positive rate is,” says Dr. Wender.

But other times, you’ll just scare yourself unnecessarily. “I had a patient recently who had some tests come back suggestive of a very lethal form of uterine cancer,” recalls Dr. Wender. “When I called her, I said, ‘Don’t research it on the Internet. Just don’t do it.’ She didn’t—and six weeks later, when we learned after a surgical biopsy that the results were benign, she was tremendously relieved.”

Read more: 9 Scary Symptoms You Don’t Need to Worry About

Ask lots of questions

If you’ve got fears, articulate them. “If you ask your doctor what the likelihood is that your test result indicates cancer, they may not have exact numbers but they should be able to respond to you in a general way, which is usually reassuring,” says Dr. Wender.

And if they brush off your worries, or refuse to answer you, it may be time to seek out another doctor—or at least get a second opinion.

Read more: How Good Is Your Doctor?

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: This Is What Getting Cancer Looks Like on Social Media

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20 Ways to Stop Allergies

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From dust mites to pet dander, here's how to tackle annoying allergens

It’s like a scene from a low-budget horror flick: the trees are blooming, the grass is growing…and runny-nosed zombies are invading the planet! Seasonal allergies are here, but if you’re one of the sniffly multitudes, you may have noticed that the “allergy season” can span most of the year (and that symptoms may flare right before your period).

Here’s your best defense—from least to most invasive, medically speaking. Try the first few and you may not need to hit the pharmacy at all.

Tree pollens, grasses, and weeds

Your symptoms surfaced as early as February, when trees started blooming. Right now, it’s grasses that are making you miserable (they will through late summer). Weeds will keep you wheezing through fall.

1. Police pollen

Click on the National Allergy Bureau’s website for a daily ranking of allergens, including seasonal tree pollens, grasses, weeds, and outdoor molds. Stay indoors when levels are high or very high for those that you’re sensitive to.

2. Wear a mask

If you must finish that gardening before the in-laws show up, don a not-so-chic but très useful N95 filter mask ($17 for 20; drugstore.com), which keeps pollen out of your nose and mouth.

3. Wash your hair at night

Rinse the pollen out, especially if you’re a gel or mousse fan. These products can trap pollen.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

4. Soak up the calm

In one study, seasonal allergy (hay fever) sufferers had a more extreme reaction the day after performing a stressful task, such as giving a speech.

“Stress raises levels of the hormone cortisol,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist at New York University Medical Center, and that often leads to an amped-up allergic response.

A few minutes of meditation or a soak in the tub should help.

5. Keep your nose clean

“Your nose is like a car windshield—pollen sticks to it,” says Neil Kao, MD, an allergist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center, in Greenville, S.C.

Try a saline sinus rinse (amazon.com), found at any drugstore.

If that doesn’t do it, buy the nonprescription herbal nasal spray NasalCrom (cromolyn sodium), which helps prevent allergic reactions in your nose.

6. Take an antihistamine

There have never been more over-the-counter antihistamine options.

You may be able to find relief with 10 milligrams of cetirizine (Zyrtec) once a day.

If those don’t work, ask your doctor for a prescription antihistamine such as fexofanadine (Allegra, but also available as a generic) or levocetirizine dihydrochloride (Xyzal).

7. Try the sprays

If nasal washes and antihistamines don’t work for you, up the ante with a prescription steroid spray like Flonase, but you can skip decongestants; Dr. Kao says they don’t work for allergies and may worsen your congestion after several days of use.

Read more: 25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

Dust mites

Dust mites thrive in homes that are warmer than 70 degrees and have a humidity above 50 percent. Here’s how to beat them.

8. Cool (and dry) it Keeping your home temp in the mid to low 60s and the humidity between 40% and 45% should send them packing.

Buy a home hygrometer ($10; amazon.com) to measure humidity levels.

9. Use barriers

To fight dust mites, look for mattress and pillow encasements at stores like Target, as well as online retailers like AllergyBuyersClub.com; costs range from $50 to $150 for bedding made from organic cotton.

10. Boil your bedding

Not literally, but you should wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly in water that’s at least 140 degrees; a study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that this temperature wiped out all dust mites.

11. Outsource housekeeping

This won’t take much arm-twisting, will it?

Vacuuming and sweeping stir up dust mites and their droppings, which can take more than two hours to settle.

If you can’t hire someone else to clean your house while you’re away, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, like the Eureka Boss SmartVac ($150; target.com)—and wear a trusty filter mask.

Read more: 11 Unexpected Spring Allergy Triggers

12. Try acupuncture

At least one study and lots of anecdotal evidence suggest it can help.

“I’ve seen amazing results in my allergic patients,” says Roberta Lee, MD, vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at the Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City.

She thinks acupuncture may decrease stress hormones, which can reduce inflammation. A session usually costs $100 to $150; ask your insurance company if some or all of that is covered.

13. Indoor mold

Mold thrives in warmer, more humid weather. Don’t assume it’s not there just because you can’t see it: Mold can hide under carpets, in walls, or anywhere. Here’s how to beat it.

14. Bleach it

A 5% bleach solution and a rag or sponge can zap small mold problems.

If you’ve got a very large moldy area (more than 10 square feet), consider hiring a mold-cleanup crew. Find one at the Indoor Air Quality Association.

15. Dry up rooms

Put an exhaust fan in bathrooms and laundry rooms, and a dehumidifier in unfinished basements.

Read more: A Sleep Meditation for a Restful Night

16. Get HEPA

Filters, that is. Ideally, you want a central air-conditioning system with a HEPA filter attached.

If you don’t have central air, try free-standing air cleaners in key rooms such as the bedroom.

Change the filters at least every three months and have your heating and air-conditioning units inspected (and cleaned, if necessary) every six.

Pet dander

If you’re set off by pets, you may be allergic to proteins found in the animal’s saliva, dander (dead skin flakes), and urine. And all furry pets carry these proteins; studies suggest hypoallergenic cats and dogs can cause just as many symptoms as the regular kind. Here are better steps you can take if you can’t bear to part with Rover or Frisky.

17. Ban him from the bedroom

Just keeping pets out (or better yet, away from your upstairs entirely) can help relieve your symptoms.

18. Cut the rug

Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum, which won’t trap dander.

19. Get him groomed

Your pet that is. Ask your nonallergic partner or child to comb him every day, preferably outside, with a comb dipped in distilled water, which traps dander.

And a weekly bath (more often will dry his skin, making the dander problem worse) is a must.

20. Get shot

Immunotherapy has about an 85% effectiveness rate in decreasing allergic symptoms, including those triggered by animal proteins.

You get one to two weekly shots to expose you to very small doses of the allergen, and the dose is gradually increased over about six months.

You’ll need maintenance shots about once a month for three to five years.

Read more: 10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

Could it be something else?

Do you have a runny, stuffy nose that just won’t quit? If dust-proofing your house and taking antihistamines don’t make you feel better, you may have a condition called chronic nonallergic rhinitis, a swelling of your nasal lining and passages that leaves you congested and drippy.

“Unlike your usual allergies, you don’t have an itchy nose, eyes, or throat, and you don’t respond to allergy medications,” explains Dr. Bassett.

Try eliminating irritants like strong odors (think perfume or household cleaners). Saline nasal sprays and rinses often bring relief, but if they don’t work, ask your doctor for a steroid nasal spray.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME medicine

10 Ways to Soothe a Sore Throat

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Your newest excuse to eat marshmallows

A sore throat can be the first sign of a cold, a side effect of strained vocal cords, or an indication of something more serious (like strep throat).

Regardless of the cause, your immediate concern when soreness strikes is how to get relief, fast. You may be tempted to run to your doctor, but some of the best treatments are home remedies and over-the-counter meds, says Jeffrey Linder, M.D., an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.

Here are 10 to try the next time you’re feeling scratchy, hoarse, or just plain sick.

Anti-inflammatories

One of the most effective treatments for sore throat is probably already in your medicine cabinet: an over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Advil or Aleve.

“These medicines are combination pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, so they’ll make you feel better and they’ll also reduce some of the swelling associated with a sore throat,” Dr. Linder says. “If you have a fever that’s also contributing to your symptoms, they can help reduce that as well.”

Saltwater gargle

Several studies have found that gargling several times a day with warm salt water can reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria.

Doctors generally recommend dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in one cup of water. If the salty taste is too unpleasant for you, try adding a small amount of honey to sweeten the mixture slightly. (Just remember to spit the water out after gargling, rather than swallowing!)

Lozenges and sprays

Sucking on cough drops stimulates saliva production, which can help keep your throat moist. But many varieties are no more effective than hard candies, Dr. Linder says. For an added benefit, choose brands with a cooling or numbing ingredient, like menthol or eucalyptus.

Over-the-counter sprays like Chloraseptic produce an effect similar to cooling lozenges. They won’t cure your sore throat or help you fight off the underlying cold, but they may help dull the pain temporarily. Chloraseptic’s active ingredient, phenol, is a local antiseptic that also has antibacterial properties, Dr. Linder says.

Cough syrup

Even if you don’t have a cough (yet), over-the-counter cough syrups can help ease soreness. Like drops and sprays, they coat the throat and provide temporary pain relief.

If you’re headed to work, be sure to choose a non-drowsy formula. But if you’re having trouble sleeping due to a sore throat, a nighttime formula like NyQuil (which contains a pain reliever and an antihistamine) or Robitussin AC (guaifenesin and codeine) can relieve pain and help you get some shuteye.

Fluids

“Staying hydrated is very important, especially when you’re sick and your throat is irritated or inflamed,” Dr. Linder says. “You should be drinking enough fluid so that your urine is light yellow or clear. This keeps your mucous membranes moist and better able to combat bacteria and irritants like allergens, and makes your body better able to fight back against other cold symptoms.”

What you drink is up to you, Linder adds. Water always works (ice cubes, too!), but you can also change it up with something slightly sugary, like a watered-down fruit juice, or something salty, like chicken broth.

Tea

Tired of drinking water? A warm cup of herbal tea can offer immediate, soothing relief for a sore throat. What’s more, non-herbal teas—whether they’re made with black, green, or white leaves—contain antioxidants that are thought to strengthen immunity and ward off infection.

For an extra boost, add a teaspoon of honey. It’ll help the “medicine” go down, and it has antibacterial properties that may help you heal faster.

Chicken soup

An age-old home remedy for colds, chicken soup can help soothe a sore throat, as well. “The sodium in the broth may actually have anti-inflammatory properties, and it can feel good going down,” Dr. Linder says.

Soup has an added benefit when you’re sick: Eating can be painful and difficult with a swollen or very sore throat, so sipping some liquid nourishment will ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need to fight off your infection.

Marshmallows

Although there’s no hard evidence that it works, sap from the marshmallow plant has been used for hundreds of years—usually in tea form—to treat coughs, colds, and sore throats. And while real marshmallow bears little relation to the puffy campfire treats that took its name, both may have sore throat-fighting properties.

According to anecdotal reports, modern-day marshmallows can help ease sore throat pain, possibly because the gelatin coats and soothes. “It’s not the wackiest thing in the world,” Dr. Linder says. “If your throat is really swollen and it really hurts to swallow anything, I can see how something slippery and sweet like marshmallows might provide some relief.”

Rest

It may not be the quickest solution, but getting some rest is probably the best thing you can do to battle the infection that caused your sore throat in the first place, Dr. Linder says.

“The vast majority of sore throats are caused by cold viruses, and we know that there’s very little we can do to cure a cold once we’ve got it,” he says. “Making sure your body is well rested will at least help it fight off the virus so you can get better sooner.”

Antibiotics

Every once and a while—about 10% of the time in adults—a sore throat will be caused by a bacterial infection such as Streptococcus pyogenes. If, and only if, you test positive for strep throat or another bacterial infection, your doctor should prescribe an antibiotic. (Taking antibiotics for a sore throat caused by a virus will not be effective.)

Always take the full course of medicine, even if you feel better after a few days.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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