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Happy Friday, everyone! Now that your taxes are filed, and most of the country (finally) begins to thaw from the winter, you can focus on more enjoyable things -- like your health! For many, just being healthy and fit is its own reward. But if your company offers an incentive-driven employee wellness program, all the better, right?
On paper, it's hard to imagine anyone would have a problem with programs designed to encourage healthier lifestyle choices, by rewarding them for things like regular exercise and wellness screenings. The thinking is that these programs can only lead to better performance on the job.
However, not everyone is on board. Recent studies have shown some backlash toward employee wellness incentives, claiming they're not being used effectively … and might even be getting exploited.
Let's look at some interesting takes on this discussion...
Deep Dive: Rewarding Healthy Worker Habits - PYMNTS.com
This article from the staff at PYMNTS.com, a website that covers trends in the payments and commerce industry, takes a deeper look at the methods employers are using to drive interest in employee wellness. From accrued, long-term incentives, like reduced insurance premiums, to more-immediate payouts for their efforts, companies have a pretty broad range of ways to keep employees active.
But there are some concerns about the legalities and motives behind some of these approaches. For starters, some professionals are a little wary of being tracked by fitness apps throughout their private lives -- after all, would you want your bosses knowing how many steps you take each night? Your weekend sleep habits?
Going deeper, the article also points out how financial incentives need to be safeguarded, so employee wellness participation doesn't factor into larger decisions, like promotions, pay raises, and more. If your company's annual medical coverage payments are reduced by having more employees enrolled in a wellness program, what's to prevent owners from coercing employees into participating, even if they don't want to?
Still, despite these concerns, the article does highlight the positives. Such as how direct financial wellness incentives seem to be working. Take mattress retailer Casper, which offers real money payments based on fitness rewards, tracked by a proprietary app. These earnings can total up to $130 per month, which can be deposited into their bank accounts, HSAs or FSAs. Not a bad way to keep people moving.
The Right Ingredients Brew Wellness Program Success - Steven Miller, SHRM
In this article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the key to wellness program success is finding the right mix of offerings and incentives -- not to mention engagement from organizational leaders.
The article indicates that stress management counseling was an effective wellness initiative that had a positive effect on more standard programs, like nutrition and fitness, health screenings and flu shots.
In a report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), a provider of research and education to benefit plan sponsors, it appears stress management counseling improved the chances a program would have positive results.
The report found in organizations that encouraged stress management, there were boosts in employee engagement, reductions in healthcare costs, and improvements in health screening results.
And these positives start from the top. Management's involvement in communicating about wellness was less common among workplaces with below-average participation rates. The survey also identified the importance of senior leaders' involvement in wellness initiatives:
- 63% of companies that saw a positive effect on employee engagement and satisfaction said they worked with organizational leadership on their wellness programs.
- 57% of those seeing a positive impact on healthcare costs involved organizational leadership in their programs.
We're curious to hear your thoughts on employee wellness programs, so drop us a line on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And don't forget to check out our Learning Center for everything you need to #getflexsmart.
While allergy season is usually associated with the early spring, fall presents its own unique issues for those who are allergic to mold and ragweed. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), allergies to these substances result in allergic rhinitis, which is the medical term for the common allergy season symptoms of sneezing, a stuffy/runny nose, watery eyes and itching of the nose, eyes or the roof of the mouth.
Ragweed reaches its peak during the late summer and early fall, and wet weather combined with lingering warm temperatures can lead to an outbreak of mold spores, so autumn can be especially difficult for seasonal allergy sufferers, reports ACAAI. But if you're enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA), you can prepare for your worst symptoms as the season kicks off. Here are a few smart ways to spend your tax-free healthcare dollars this fall.
These are the most common and effective over-the-counter medications to curb allergy symptoms during any season. Antihistamines work by preventing the effects of a substance called histamine, which is produced by the body as an immune response to the presence of an allergen. Histamine can cause itching, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.
- Saline Spray
If you find yourself being triggered by the presence of allergens indoors or outdoors, clearing your nasal passages is a quick way bring your symptoms under control. These saline sprays remove allergens, pollutants and other environmental irritants from your nasal passageways to help you breathe easily and keep your allergic reactions at bay.
- Neti Pot
While saline spray is great when on the go, many allergy sufferers have found success with Neti pots. These teapot-shaped devices use a homemade saline solution that is poured through the nose to remove allergens and other irritants from your nasal passages. This is a great option for those seeking a drug-free alternative.
Another way to treat irritated nasal passageways is through the soothing warmth and humidity of a vaporizer. Whether you are suffering from allergy symptoms or a nasty cold, vaporizers can penetrate deep into the sinuses, nose and throat to provide quick relief.
- Saline Nasal Wipes
Don't let your nose fall victim to irritation this fall! Saline nasal wipes are perfect for your home, car or backpack, are hypoallergenic and are far softer than standard tissues for when you need to clear out your nose in a hurry.
Boogies Wipes Saline Nose Wipes
The saline in these wipes helps dissolve pesky mucus in the nose, helping you breathe clearer.
September is one of the busiest times of year for health observances, but no matter how old you may be, Healthy Aging Month has a message that can resonate with anyone. Whether you're feeling the first signs of aging or you're approaching your golden years, it's never too early (or too late!) to make positive life changes that can help you feel your personal best for years to come.
Ready to get started? Here are 10 quick tips to start living a healthier lifestyle this September!
- Get up and moving!
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (including 75 minutes of heavy aerobics) each week. Exercise is beneficial not only for the body, but also the brain, so make sure you schedule time for physical activity each week. Your flexible spending account can help pay for supportive products too!
- Stimulate your mind
A healthy mind is an active mind, so never stop learning and challenging yourself! Take dance lessons, attend a lecture at a local university, learn how to cook something new or read that book you've been putting off. You can learn a lot about yourself by trying something new.
- Stay social
The best way to try new things is to bring a friend along! Staying social by visiting old friends or making new ones can boost your mood and broaden your horizons.
- Improve your balance
Slips and falls are far more serious during old age, so improving your flexibility can work wonders for your long-term wellness. Tai chi classes and yoga can assist with this, you may want to look into foot cushioning insoles when you get started!
- Improve your sleep schedule
Not getting as much shuteye as you used to? The National Sleep Foundation suggests sticking to a regular schedule, avoiding electronic use one hour before bed and creating a darker sleep environment to enjoy a better sleep cycle.
- Aid your memory
Memory loss is a fact of life, but you can begin to make steps to stop it in its tracks. As you get older, try getting more organized; making lists and following routines can provide a helping hand to your memory.
- Eat smart
You are what you eat, and if you haven't made the switch to unprocessed, natural foods, you are doing yourself a disservice! Elizabeth Eckstrom, MD, MPH, director of geriatrics at the Oregon Health & Science University, told http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/health-highlights-september-healthy-aging-month">WebMD that the Mediterranean diet is a great way to get started.
- Enjoy the great outdoors
Not only is this a great opportunity to get some extra exercise, but being outside is a great opportunity to start a conversation with a neighbor, explore a new place or simply soak up some vitamin D!
Whether you're looking for a way to give back or a new way to socialize, volunteering is a wonderful way to get back into the community and connect with new and old friends.
- Schedule a physical
The easiest way to live a healthier life is to be as informed as possible about your overall wellness. At the very least, schedule a yearly physical so you can go over your recent health history and prepare for whatever may be coming down the road.
Whether it's your back, ankle, knee, wrist or hip, find the brace that you need for proper support and maximum comfort.
Ask pet owners and they will tell you that their dogs or cats are like extended members of the family, which is why it isn't surprising that allergic pet owners choose to endure their symptoms rather than give their pets up. And the problem is a common one - according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 1 in 3 Americans have some form of pet allergy, some of which can develop from a young age, while others can develop later in life.
According to The Mayo Clinic, allergies occur when the body's immune system is triggered by the presence of foreign substances like pollen, mold or pet dander. When under threat, your immune system produces proteins known as antibodies, which protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that identify your particular allergen as something harmful, even though it isn't.
The easiest solution to pet allergies is removing the pet from the home, but for those who can't imagine life without their pets, there are other options available. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), your benefit covers a wide range of potential treatments for pet allergies. Here are a few options to keep in mind.
Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is one of the most popular traditional treatments of preventing allergic reactions to allergens. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergy shots decrease the body's sensitivity to allergens and function much like a vaccine.
The body responds to injected amounts of a specific allergen, which is given in gradually increasing doses to boost one's immunity or tolerance to the substance. This treatment is eligible for FSA reimbursement and could be a beneficial approach for many pet owners.
Antihistamines are among the best options for allergy sufferers to control their body's immune response to the presence of allergens. According to The Mayo Clinic, histamine is a substance that is active during an allergic reaction, which can result in swelling, skin reactions and respiratory effects. Antihistamines can help relieve the itching, stuffy nose and sneezing that come with an allergic reaction. Best of all, over-the-counter antihistamines are FSA-eligible with a prescription from a doctor.
Decongestants are a type of medicine that are chemically distinct from antihistamines, but they are typically combined in most products to provide optimal relief from allergic symptoms. As opposed to fighting the body's production of histamine, decongestants assist in reducing swelling in nasal tissues to help you breathe more easily. Once again, these OTC medicines are FSA-eligible with a prescription.
- Nasal Irrigation
Last but not least, nasal irrigation is a great option for allergy sufferers to clear their nasal passages of mucous, allergens and other particulates that could contribute to their allergic reactions. Your FSA covers both saline irrigation rinses and Neti pots that can administer therapy directly to your nasal passages to alleviate your symptoms.
Save up to 40 percent each year on products when you shop with your FSA! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible items to help you maximize the potential of your employee benefits!
Neti Pot and Supplies
Clear up nasal congestion with a cleansing neti pot rinse to breathe better instantly.
While most of us associate the summer weather with vacations and beach excursions, the season is an entirely different experience for those of us who are susceptible to skin conditions. The hot, humid air, stronger sun and other seasonal environmental factors can cause summer skin conditions to pop up unexpectedly, so it's vital to keep the most common ailments on your radar so you can respond quickly to clear them up.
Luckily, if you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you can cover a wide range of treatments for common skin conditions with your pre-tax funds! Let's explore what you and your family should be on the lookout for this summer.
Most of us have experienced sunburn at some point, which is the body's response to excessive ultraviolet light exposure that results in hot, reddened skin, itching and peeling of the top skin layers, according to The International Dermal Institute.
Treatment and Prevention: FSA-eligible sunscreen, avoiding direct sunlight for long periods of time and sun protective clothing can play a role in preventing sunburns. If they do occur, you should first make an effort to drink plenty of water as sunburn can dehydrate the body. Avoid greasy creams and lotions, and instead treat the affected areas with cold packs to curb swelling and soothing after-sun gels to ease burning and discomfort.
- Dry Skin
With all the humidity in the air each summer, dry skin may seem improbable, but seasonal factors and activities like sun exposure, swimming in chlorinated pools and being in air conditioning can cause dry skin issues nonetheless.
Treatment and Prevention: The American Academy of Dermatology suggests showering soon after swimming in a pool to remove any chemicals that may be present on the skin. Regular sunscreen use can prevent skin drying issues by protecting the upper skin layers, while using dedicated skin-nourishing sunscreen moisturizers throughout the season can prevent dry skin before it forms.
- Poison Ivy, Sumac and Oak
While they are harmless to some, if you are allergic to poison ivy, sumac or oak, a substance called urushiol, found in each of these plants causes the painful rash on contact with the skin, reports The Mayo Clinic.
Treatment and Prevention: Being mindful of what these plants look like and avoiding them while spending time in heavily wooded areas can limit your exposure, as well as wearing long clothing to prevent skin exposure to plant oils. If a skin reaction does occur, the rash will usually dissipate after 2-3 weeks on its own. In more severe cases, WebMD suggests treating the discomfort with cold packs, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
Folliculitis is a common condition among athletes during the summer months that occurs when the inside of a hair follicle becomes infected from excessive bacteria growth, reports WebMD. Bacteria thrives in hot, moist environments like sweaty clothing, and folliculitis can result in small raised bumps on the skin that resemble pimples.
Treatment and Prevention: According to WebMD, folliculitis will usually clear up on its own in 1-2 weeks, but recovery can be aided with hot packs and other heat therapy deliver methods to ease itching and promote the healing process.
- Heat Rash
Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, occurs when the body's sweat glands are blocked and sweat is not allowed to permeate to the skin level where it will evaporate. This can result in red bumps underneath the skin that can itch and produce a tingly, prickling sensation, reports Medicine Net.
Treatment and Prevention: Heat rash is more common in some individuals than it is in others, but the vast majority of cases are caused by excessive sweating, tight clothing that prevents sweat evaporation, and heavy lotions or creams that could block sweat ducts.
The condition will typically clear up on its own, and it can be avoided in the future by avoiding exercising in excessively hot/humid environments, drinking plenty of water, and wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
Stay on top of your loved ones' health and buy the products they need most at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you support the health and wellness of your family year-round.
As you and your family members enjoy the great outdoors this summer, there's always a chance that one wrong step can result in an injury that could put you out of commission for days or weeks. Whether it's a sprained ankle or a ligament sprain in a major joint, one of the best methods of recovery from these injuries is the RICE rehabilitation method. Best of all, this works best in tandem with FSA-eligible products like cold packs, heat wraps and more!
Let's dive in and explore how the RICE rehab method can help you bounce back quickly from injuries.
Rest is vital for recovery from any injury, because re-aggravating the injury could prolong your rehabilitation period, reports VeryWell.com. If a particular activity causes you additional pain and discomfort, stop or take a break from it to prevent any further damage.
Ice is a key facet of any recovery from a sprain or tendon injury, and it falls into a category of treatments called cold therapy or cryotherapy. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, applying ice or cold packs to affected areas will reduce inflammation and swelling. Slowing nerve activity reduces pain and lowers skin temperature to promote the healing process.
In addition to rest and recovery, compression therapy plays an important role in the healing process to fight inflammation after experiencing an injury, reports WebMD. Your FSA covers elastic bandages and other wraps that could work perfectly for this purpose! These bandages can immobilize the affected area to prevent further strain. But don't wrap them too tight as this could cut off circulation, which would make your limb go numb, or increase pain and swelling.
Last but not least, elevation can play a surprisingly vital role in helping to speed the recovery process. WebMD (who at WebMD?) suggests using pillows to elevate the affected area whenever you are sitting or lying down. This is a particularly good idea when applying cold therapy. Additionally, keeping the injured body part raised above your heart can also help reduce swelling.
For everything you need to stay healthy year-round, visit FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your pre-tax funds.
Cold therapy is a necessary part of the RICE method. Sit back and let the cold sink in wherever you need it.
Wrap up the injured area to fight inflammation with compression using elastic bandages.
If you have a green thumb, the summer weather affords you the opportunity to take all the steps necessary to get your garden ready for the warm weather months. As you spend a long day standing, kneeling, and crouching over your flower beds, you may be surprised to find yourself waking up the next day with aching muscles and the need to take some days off away from your favorite activity.
Pain after gardening can be a sign of the aging process, but it may also be a clear sign that you are experiencing unnecessary strain based on how you perform various gardening tasks. Through changes in your behavior and the use of FSA-eligible wellness products, you can re-discover your favorite hobby without contending with discomfort. Here are a few ways to get started!
- Limber Up!
Gardening is strenuous work, so you should treat it like any other form of physical activity and make an effort to stretch first, suggests Spine-Health.com. Light stretching and a short walk can be a good means of warming up before gardening, and if you experience lower back pain from gardening, a back flexion exercise may be a good option. Start by lying down on your back, and slowly bring your knees to your chest and lift your head slightly to stretch your lower back muscles.
- Braces & Elastic Supports
If you have joint or back issues, gardening can put major strain on these trouble areas. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), your benefit will cover a huge range of over-the-counter braces & elastic supports like knee braces, elastic bandages, lower back braces and more that can provide additional stability and prevent awkward movements that could cause additional strain.
- Lift Carefully
A full watering can or a heavy pot can be far heavier than you might realize, which can lead to sudden injuries if you are not lifting in the correct fashion. According to The Mayo Clinic, the correct way to lift is to bend your knees, grasp the object with both arms and slowly straightening out your legs as you lift. Additionally, it may be wise to use wagons or dollies to carry large items from place to place.
- Take frequent breaks
It can be easy to lose track of time when planning out your garden beds and beautifying your yard, which is why it's important to take frequent breaks, suggests Prevention magazine. In addition, it's important to avoid performing one job for an extended period of time to prevent overworking one muscle group. For instance, if you're weeding a flower bed, switch to a job like pruning for another hour and come back to weeding so you don't overwork specific areas.
- Raised garden beds
As you plan out your gardening projects for the year, raised garden beds may be the perfect solution to avoid joint and back strain. Vertical wall gardens, raised planters and tabletop arrangements may be better options than ground-level beds to help you avoid gardening pain while still practicing your favorite hobby.
For everything you and your loved ones need to stay healthy this summer and beyond, rely on FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your employee benefits!
Cramer Diamond Knee Stabilizer Brace
Stabilize your knees so you can bend down with ease while gardening.
When it's an especially beautiful day, it can feel like a crime to stay indoors. So it's no coincidence that many of us will use the warmer weather to jump start a fitness plan. To help you gear upfor summer, FSAstore.com/HSAstore.com has your back with our Shape Up for Summer Sweepstakes!
To enter, visit our contest page and fill out the entry form for a chance to win this epic health & fitness prize package:
- 2 pairs of Physiclo Pro Resistance Workout Shorts, Capris or Leggings ($250 value)
- Summer Sunscreen Bundle from FSAstore.com ($150 value)
- Water Fall Home Filtration System + 2 Water Bottles from KOR Water ($125 value)
- 3 Month Supply of Premium Omega 3 Plus and Vitality Force Supplement from Athlete's Best ($200 value)
- 40-day Organic Superfood Smoothie Box from Raw Green Organics ($160 value).
Our contest runs until May 12, 2017, so submit your entry now and let your friends and family members know about our sweepstakes too! Good luck and be sure to check our blog on Mother’s Day weekend when we’ll announce the lucky winner.
Now, what are you waiting for? Use your FSA funds to stay safe and healthy all year long!
When you're experiencing the worst of your seasonal allergy symptoms this spring, just imagine how much worse it could be if you were wearing contact lenses! This time of year is especially trying for contact lens wearers, as the American Optometric Association claims more than 75% of contact lens wearers complain of allergen-caused eye pain and irritation.
Allergy season calls for special tactics that contact lens wearers should practice throughout spring to control their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Before your local pollen count peaks, keep the following tips in mind.
- Switch to eyeglasses
During allergy season, contact lenses provide an additional surface for pollen, dust and other allergens to stick to, and they can be like sponges for these particles throughout the spring, reports VeryWell.com. Wearing eyeglasses, even on a part-time basis, can dramatically limit how many allergens your eyes come into contact with and can reduce irritation over the course of allergy season.
- Invest in rewetting drops
If you're sticking with your contacts throughout allergy season, investing in rewetting drops or artificial tears is a must. Not only will this help your eyes feel better, but they can also wash out allergens that may be present on the surface of your lenses. Best of all, if you are enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA), rewetting drops and other contact lens care products are FSA-eligible!
- Boost your cleaning regimen
Allergy season calls for a more rigorous cleaning routine, so make an effort to clean your lenses more often during the spring months to remove any lingering traces of allergens that may be present on the surface of the lenses. Consider full-scale disinfecting solutions for this time of year, and if you wear disposable lenses, replace them more often during the spring months to avoid irritation.
- Utilize cold compresses
One of the worst things you can do when experiencing eye irritation is to rub your eyes, as this will make the inflammation worse by spreading the allergens around your eyes. Instead, utilize cold compresses. A cool, damp towel or washcloth can work in a pinch, as well as FSA-eligible eye therapy masks that can be placed in the refrigerator and worn over the eyes when you're experiencing your worst symptoms.
This allergy season, make sure you're prepared by shopping at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!
Spring is here in full swing, and if you suffer from seasonal allergies, this is a particularly trying time of year. High pollen counts will lead to runny noses, itchy eyes and sneezing throughout the early weeks of April as the seasonal bloom commences, and while you can't control the conditions outdoors, you can take the appropriate steps to make your home a haven from the allergic triggers outside!
Allergens in the home can exacerbate your symptoms or interfere with your sleep cycle, so it's important to take the necessary steps to keep your home clean this spring to keep your allergic symptoms under control. Here are a few great ideas to keep in mind from FSAstore.com.
- Change your "coming home" routine
Open windows are the primary culprit for allergens making their way into the home, but even if you keep them closed all spring, you can bring a large amount of pollen, dust and other irritants into your abode on your clothing. As allergy season gets underway, make conscious changes to your routine when you walk in the door.
First, remove all clothing and put it in the laundry machine if available to wash off all potential allergens. Also, make an effort to take a shower soon after coming indoors to wash off all pollen and particulates on your hair and skin that could be transferred to bedding and other surfaces in your home.
- Switch out your winter drapes
A smart change for seasonal allergy sufferers in spring is to switch out your winter drapes with lightweight curtains. Thick drapes with pleats are notorious for trapping dust and other allergens, so opt for blinds that can be wiped down quickly during the spring. Or as an alternative, opt for machine washable drapes that you can clean several times throughout the season to keep your home free of allergens.
- Invest in mattress and pillow allergy covers
In addition to the buildup of allergens on sleeping surfaces, dust mites also become increasingly prevalent during the spring months. Anti-allergy mattress and pillow covers are made with tightly-woven synthetic materials or vinyl to provide a barrier between the person and the dust mites on the underlying sleeping surface. These covers keep the allergens that have built up on the bedding from becoming airborne when shifting during sleep, which can dramatically reduce your allergic symptoms.
The difference in the cost of an allergy cover vs. a standard pillow/mattress cover may even be eligible for FSA reimbursement, so check with your benefits administrator before making a purchase!
- Carpeting vs. bare floors
Ideally, those who suffer from seasonal allergies will have bare floors in their home (hardwood, vinyl, etc.) that are easier to clean and do not retain as many allergens. However, if your home is carpeted, this will require extra care during allergy season. First, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to trap allergens when cleaning, or look into a steam cleaning service that utilizes high temperature cleaning devices to remove allergens.
- Use a dehumidifier
The rainy, wet nature of spring lends itself to rapid mold growth, and you can make an effort to stem the growth of mold in your home by using a dehumidifier. Mold thrives in moist, humid environments that have a relative humidity above 60 percent, reports Allergy Consumer Review. In areas where mold growth is prevalent, run a dehumidifier to lower the humidity to 50 percent where mold growth will become inactive.
This allergy season, control your symptoms with Allergy, Sinus and Combinations and other anti-allergy products from FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits.
April plays host to a number of important health observances, but one of the most vital for the American healthcare system is National Donate Life Month. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood, and approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed each day in the U.S.
Giving blood won't just help one person - the need for blood is constant in the U.S. healthcare system, as blood and blood components are needed a great number of surgical interventions and standard medical procedures, so it's feasible that multiple patients could be helped by a single donation.
Ready to get on board? If you choose to give blood during National Donate Life Month, there are some important preparations you should make first to ensure that you are feeling your best before and after the experience. Here are a few great tips to keep in mind from the American Red Cross:
- Drink plenty of water
Before you give blood, be sure to drink an extra glass or two of water to stave off dehydration. Roughly one pint of blood is taken during each blood donation and nearly 50 percent of blood consists of water, so the body will lose a great degree of fluids during the process. Additionally, drinking water before the procedure makes veins plumper, which makes it easier for the technician to find the right vein and draw blood.
- Eat a healthy meal
Eating before giving blood is a smart choice to avoid potential side effects of dizziness or nausea, and this will also ensure that your blood is nutrient-dense enough to be acceptable for donation. In particular, the American Red Cross suggests eating a iron-rich foods, such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans or spinach. Most importantly, avoid fatty foods! Fat-laden blood could interfere with blood tests and could result in a rejected sample.
- Get a good night's rest
Much like eating a solid meal before your donation, getting a good night's rest can also help you avoid some of the major side effects of blood donation. Adults should aim for 8 hours of sleep the night before giving blood, as this can help prevent dizziness and fainting that may occur during the recovery period from blood donation.
Last but not least, if you will be donating platelets during your blood donation, it's important that you do not take aspirin, or products containing aspirin, for 48 hours before your donation. Aspirin is a blood thinner, which has an adverse effect on the role of platelets which rely on their ability to stick to a wound to stop bleeding.
This April before you give the gift of life, make sure you are the healthiest you can be by shopping at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible products to help you support you and your family's wellness year-round.
Allergy sufferers have learned to dread the early weeks of spring. Everywhere you turn, there is a yellow-green film of pollen on cars, glass and other outdoor surfaces that can trigger watery eyes, sneezing and sniffling all day long.
Before you walk out the door each morning, you may have gotten in the habit of checking the pollen count in your area so you can prepare for your worst allergy symptoms. But have you ever wondered how these numbers are measured and what they really mean? Let's examine what you should know about pollen counts as spring kicks off!
How are pollen counts measured?
Pollen counts are fixtures of weather reports in the spring and summer, and this number is taken using a sampling system called a "rotorod." According to Pollen.com, this rod consists of an array of silicone grease coated clear rods that are exposed to the air at key points throughout the day. These rods are then stained or examined under a microscope to measure the concentration of pollen grains, which are then converted to a concentration that is measured in grains per cubic meter of air.
Pollen counts are typically measured on a scale of 0-12 that take into account the amount of pollen an allergy sufferer will be exposed to during a given day. Low pollen levels come in at 0-2.4, Low-Medium is 2.5-4.8, Medium is 4.9-7.2, High-Medium is 7.3-9.6, and High is 9.7-12.0. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, these rotorods must be placed on a rooftop at least one story high, as well as away from any significant pollen or mold sources that could skew the results.
How to stay on top of pollen counts
While increasing numbers of local and national television news stations have begun reporting pollen counts with their traditional forecasts, allergy sufferers should take the initiative in early spring to stay on top of pollen forecasts. Here are a few free apps to keep in mind:
- Weather.com App: The Weather Channel's app is already one of the most popular weather apps available, but it also has the option of setting up pollen alerts that can be sent to your device via text or email.
- Pollen.com Allergy Alert: The Pollen.com Allergy Alert app will provide information and alerts about pollen forecasts in your zip code. This app has the added benefit of in-depth information about top allergens with detailed plant descriptions and images in your area.
- AllergyManager: In addition to measuring pollen counts in your area, the AllergyManager app lets you track seasonal allergens, pollen counts, and the severity of your symptoms. As an added benefit, the app also has a medication refill reminder to ensure that you can stay on top of your allergy medicine purchases.
- Zyrtec AllergyCast: This is among the most popular allergy tracking apps available that provides pollen and weather forecasts, notifications for high pollen levels, as well as indicators for which types of pollen are prevalent at the moment, and actionable tips on how to deal with them.
Last but not least, rely on FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com to purchase allergy, sinus and combinations, Neti pots, saline solution and everything you need to survive allergy season! Explore the web's largest selection of FSA/HSA-eligible products and maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!
From allergy tablets to lozenges to saline spray, get the allergy relief you need with your FSA.
The first day of spring is Monday, March 20, and with it comes a whole new slate of potential health concerns that you and your family must be mindful of during this time of year. If you and your loved ones love the great outdoors, ticks are a particular nuisance in the early spring and bites can lead to a wide range of potential health issues like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and many other potential maladies.
Whether you're trekking in the back country or enjoying your backyard, practice these tick prevention tips this spring!
- Stick to the trail
If you're hiking or camping this coming spring, make sure you stick to the trail and don't stray too far off the beaten path. Ticks are more likely to reside in tall grasses, underbrush and other places with increased moisture and relative humidity. According to TickEncounter.org, tick nymphs can only survive for 8 hours at a time in areas that are under 80 percent humidity. As such, if you stick to sunnier areas and avoid the cooler, shadier spots, you will decrease your exposure to ticks.
- Consider yard landscaping
Whether you have little ones or pets who will spend significant time outdoors this spring, you should pay close attention to these areas to see if there is room for improvement to reduce tick populations. The vast majority of ticks around your home will inhabit the area between your yard and a wooded area, so remove potential tick hot spots like leaf piles, shrubs and ground cover near your home. Additionally, look into landscaping that will deter animals like mice, deer, wood chucks and other rodents that could carry the parasites.
- Cover up!
Ticks spread diseases by attaching themselves onto the bare skin of their hosts, where they can become impacted and will survive on the host's blood. An easy way around this in the early spring is to wear clothing that will cover exposed areas like your ankles, knees and upper thighs. While this strategy may not work for the sweltering temperatures of summer, it can make a huge difference when hiking or spending long periods of time in the wilderness.
- Perform tick checks
Last but not least, every time that you, your loved ones (the dog too!) spend a long period of time outdoors, be sure to check your clothing and extremities for ticks that may have gone along for the ride. Ticks can take several hours to spread Lyme disease and other ailments after attaching themselves to the host, so a good rule of thumb is to remove your clothing immediately after being outdoors and taking a shower immediately. This will give you a chance to check your skin for the presence of ticks, and remove any if necessary.
For all of your spring healthcare needs, be sure to visit FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to support your family's health and wellness year-round.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) is when we welcome longer days of sunlight, but prepare to lose an hour of sleep when we move the clocks forward. It's a double-edged sword for sure, and without the necessary preparation, it could leave you feeling off for days after the time change.
This year, go into Daylight Savings Time with a plan! Here are a few of our favorite tips to adjust to the time change from FSAstore.com.
- Alter your routine in advance
The best way to get a jump on the time change is to plan ahead of time! A week before turning back the clocks, make an effort to go to bed and wake up a half hour earlier than usual for 2-3 days, before making the switch to a full hour at the conclusion of the week. When March 12 finally arrives, you'll already be adjusted to the time change and can hit the ground running.
- Adjust your home's lighting
The infusion and exclusion of light in your bedroom can make a major difference in helping you attain a restful sleep and rising in the morning feeling refreshed. As DST draws closer, make an effort in the weeks before the time change to dim the lighting in your bedroom in the evening to help the body adjust to sleep, while letting natural light in during the morning for a wake up boost.
- Prepare for hunger pangs
One of the side effects of being off your sleep and eating schedule is that you can resort to sweets and other unhealthy foods when you're feeling sluggish. Don't give into this temptation and instead plan ahead of time with healthy snack foods that will provide a source of energy and leave you feeling full. Veggies, lean proteins, nuts and complex carbs can provide the boost you need as opposed to poor nutritional choices.
- Stay Hydrated!
During the week of transition that follows DST, being stressed and feeling off your game may force normal, healthy behaviors to fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Staying hydrated throughout the day is important at any time of the year, but ensuring that you're drinking enough water can help you stick to a normal sleep schedule and stay alert during the daytime. Additionally, avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can dehydrate the body and interfere with the sleep cycle.
- Skip the mobile devices
The light that emanates from mobile devices, laptops and TVs can interfere with the body's cool-down period before sleep, so if you haven't already eliminated these from your nightly routine, DST is the perfect time to start! Make an effort to get off your devices at least an hour before bedtime to allow the body to adequately prepare itself to achieve a deep, restful sleep.
For everything you need to stay healthy year-round, rely on FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!