Living Well

Spotting and treating winter allergies

While spring allergies certainly get a lot more attention when pollen levels peak, winter has its own set of various indoor irritants to trigger those allergy symptoms many of us know all too well. As your furnace kicks in during the winter months, it can send dust mites, mold spores, and insect parts into the air which can find its way to your breathing passages to cause an adverse reaction.

One to way to help mitigate symptoms is to get a better idea of where these allergy triggers are surfacing from. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that particularly love to hide in mattresses and bedding. Their droppings and remains, when airborne, are most likely the source of your symptoms.

Additionally, mold can be found in damp and humid areas such as basements and bathrooms, but can also manifest itself under moldy carpets, soggy drywall, and areas with water leaks. As you spend more time indoors in the winter, these allergens become more prominent in causing discomfort and allergic reactions.

Treatment for your winter allergies can include Antihistamines and Decongestants, both of which are available for purchase with an FSA (with a prescription) on FSAstore.com. Antihistamines help to reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching. Decongestants clear mucus in the nose and lungs to relieve congestion and swelling.

Antihistamines (Prescription required to purchase with FSA):

Decongestants (Prescription required to purchase with FSA):

If neither of these work and your symptoms are serious, you may want to consider immunotherapy, which consists of allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets. Immunotherapy should expose your body to gradually bigger doses of the allergen to curb your symptoms for the longer term.

Claritin 24 Hour Allergy Tablets

Get non-drowsy indoor and outdoor allergy relief in the form of an easy to swallow Claritin tablet.

Eligibility

5 FSA eligible products to cope with the common cold

While the holiday season may be over, winter will be here for a few more months and there's a good chance that you or a loved one will fall victim to the common cold this season. The common cold is a virus, and while there are a variety of cold & flu remedies that could make a tangible impact on your symptoms, in most cases, getting over a cold is a matter of riding it out!

Now that 2017 is here, it's time to update your common cold care regimen! Before you or a loved one becomes sick this winter, use your FSA card on these great products to help you weather the worst of your cold symptoms.

  1. Therapeutic Facemasks

Common colds often lead to sinus infections, which occurs when the nasal cavities become swollen and inflamed, and can persist long after other cold symptoms have come and gone. In addition to nasal congestion, sinus pain and inflammation is common, and it can make a big issue even worse. Therapeutic pain relief masks are great options to have on hand that can be heated to open up nasal passages, or cooled to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Check Out: TheraPearl Cooling Facemask

  1. Vaporizer

Looking for a quick, medicine-free means of clearing out your nasal congestion without leaving yourself feeling groggy and sleepy from over-the-counter remedies, try a steam inhaler! These devices, also known as vaporizers, deliver target steam therapy deep into the sinuses, nose and throat that is extremely helpful in the event of a cold. Additionally, vaporizers are helpful to treat allergies, coughs, parched throats or sore throat discomfort.

Check Out: MyPurMist Handheld Steam Inhaler

  1. Neti Pot

Nasal irrigation is one of the easiest ways to clear out congested nasal passages with a saline solution that is filtered through the nose. A Neti pot is the easiest means of delivering this solution, as it is shaped like a teapot and can deliver a warm water and saline solution that is poured into the nose and expelled through the mouth. This practice can remove excess mucous, allergens and environmental particles that could trigger respiratory discomfort.

Check Out: NeilMed NasaFlo Neti Pot, 8 oz

  1. Saline Spray

Contending with a cold isn't just reserved to staying at home, which is why saline spray is so useful during cold & flu season. This is an easy way to flush out nasal congestion from breathing passages on the go, as well as lubricating these areas in the event of extremely cold and dry winter weather conditions.

Check Out: Leader Saline Nasal Spray, 1.5 oz

  1. Throat Lozenges

Keeping your throat lubricated is a major consideration when contending with the common cold, and throat lozenges can serve two important purposes. First, they can treat sore throats by preventing the throat from drying up and thereby reducing pain, and those that are formulated with menthol can aid in thinning nasal congestion as well.

Check Out: Cold-Eeze Lozenges, All Natural Honey Lemon, 18 ea

TheraPearl Cooling Facemask

Provides you with instant pain relief from forehead to chin.


Eligibility

5 FSA eligible products to avoid snow shoveling injuries

Do you live in a part of the U.S. that will see significant snow accumulation in the coming months? Chances are, you'll be outside with a snow shovel clearing away snow and slush, and no matter what age you are, this is a strenuous activity that could lead to significant injuries if you don't make the proper preparations.

As an flexible spending account (FSA) user, you have a unique advantage this winter in that your benefit can cover a huge range of qualifying products that can safeguard you and your loved ones from potential snow shoveling injuries. As the 2017 FSA plan year kicks off, here are a few products you can purchase with your FSA card to prevent major injuries this winter.

  1. Back Braces

Shoveling snow, especially wet snow, can be especially trying on your lower back and can put you at serious risk for orthopedic injuries. Overworking specific areas that aren't used to regular heavy activity can lead to muscle, ligament, tendon and other soft tissue injuries, which is why a back brace is a smart purchase for this season. Back braces can immobilize the lower back to prevent strain injuries, as well as limit the pressure on the spine by maintaining proper posture.

Check Out: Sportaid Back Brace with Suspenders Black, 32"-44", Med/Lg

  1. Cushioned Insoles

Slips and falls during snow shoveling can happen to anyone, and if your shoes fit poorly or do not provide proper support, this can result in painful accidents if you're not careful. Luckily, cushioned insoles are FSA eligible to provide additional comfort underfoot, enhance the fit of your shoes and lessen the impact of heavy activity during snow shoveling.

Check Out: Men's: Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Men's Outrageous Comfort, Size 8-13

Women's: Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Women's Outrageous Comfort, Size 6-10

  1. Vision Correction

One of the leading causes of snow shoveling injuries is poor eyesight, as some men and women may not be able to see icy patches and other risky areas before it's too late. If you've been putting off investing in new glasses or contact lenses, now is the perfect time to make a change for the better. Visit our Contact Lenses page to shop a huge selection of qualifying lenses, or our Rx Glasses page for a huge selection of designer frames and lenses. And don't forget our huge range of eyeglass & lens accessories!

  1. Cold Packs

If you suffer a bump or bruise while shoveling snow, make sure you have a cold pack ready when you come indoors! Moving from a cold environment to a hot space can speed inflammation and can make bruises even worse, so make sure you have a form of cold therapy ready to apply to the affected area to curb swelling and pain in the event of an injury.

Check Out: ACE Instant Cold Compress Twin Pack

  1. Kinesiology Tape

Heading out to shovel snow with existing muscle soreness or another injury can cause it to worsen, which is why kinesiology tape is such a great investment. This synthetic tape provides additional support where you need it most, whether it's a sore shoulder, knee or other joint issue. Kinesiology tape can provide the support and continued range of motion to help you tackle day-to-day tasks without pain.

Check Out: KT Tape PRO, Pre-Cut, 20 Strip, Synthetic, Jet Black

Sportaid Back Brace with Suspenders

Supports that help reduce pain and discomforts.


Eligibility

Is your car's first aid kit ready for winter?

Winter is here and in many parts of the U.S., experiencing a medical emergency or car trouble while you're on the road is made all the more dangerous when frigid temperatures and adverse conditions are the norm. If you haven't done so already, creating a winter weather emergency kit for your vehicle is a smart choice for the winter months, and investing in a first aid kit should be at the top of your to-do list!

Luckily, if you are enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), first aid kits are FSA/HSA eligible, so this is the perfect time to update your existing kit with first aid supplies or start from scratch with a new one. With this tackled, what else will you need this winter? Here are the most important items you should include in your car's emergency kit this season.

  1. Fire Extinguisher

This is an extremely handy item to have in your car, whether you find yourself victim to a car fire or spot a fellow driver in need. Fire extinguishers should be rated for Class B and Class C fires by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Class B fires are those that involve flammable or combustible liquids, such as gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene. Class C fires involve energized electrical equipment such as switches, panel boxes and batteries.

  1. Floor Mats

While you may go through your share of floor mats this winter, make sure to pick up a few inexpensive rubber floor mats to stow in your car's trunk as well. Rubber floor mats are the easiest way to help get a car unstuck from a slick spot by placing them under the drive wheels and moving out of a spot that may be laden with moderate snow and ice.

  1. Flashlight and Batteries

A flashlight is essential in an emergency situation, as it can help you flag down passing drivers or tow trucks, as well as being able to inspect internal vehicle components in low light conditions. Be sure to change the batteries in the flashlight at the beginning of the season, and pack some spare batteries in your vehicle to ensure that you can keep your flashlight functioning in an emergency situation.

  1. Tow Straps/Rope

Even the most rugged 4-wheelers can get stuck in adverse winter conditions, and if you are far away from the nearest town, you may have to rely on other drivers to pull your car off the side of the road if it becomes immobile. When shopping for these products, make sure to go for tow straps/ropes that are strong enough to tow at least 6,000 pounds to be able to move most vehicles in winter weather conditions.

  1. Blankets and Winter Attire

Last but not least, your vehicle emergency kit should include materials that can help you and loved ones stand up to the cold in the event that you become stranded in frigid conditions. Warm blankets, as well as spare hats and gloves can help keep you and your passengers warm until you can get the car free or until emergency services arrive to assist.

For everything you need to keep your family healthy this winter, shop at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefit and keep your loved ones healthy year-round.

Adventure Medical First Aid Kit Fundamentals

The extensive components selection includes supplies to treat a wide range of injuries.

Caring Mill™ Comprehensive First Aid Kit

Everything you'll need to respond quickly in an emergency situation.


Living Well

Do I need to use sunscreen this winter?

When you think of sunscreen, what usually comes to mind? Days at the beach, long summer afternoons or those irritating sunburns when you forget to apply? While most people reserve their sunscreen use for the warmer months, in reality the danger of the sun's rays is ever-present during any time of the year!

As this winter gets into full swing, don't let your family's sun care regimen fall by the wayside. While you may not think that the sun is a major factor in the winter months, you absolutely need sun protection when outdoors for long periods of time during the winter. Here are a few reasons why you should use your FSA card to stock up on sunscreen for the whole family in 2017.

  1. 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate clouds

While it may be more overcast and cloudy during this time of year, don't become complacent with your sun care regimen when venturing outdoors. Cloud cover does not guarantee that the sun's most damaging rays, and the American Academy of Dermatology reports that up to 80 percent of UVA and UVB rays can pass through clouds and be absorbed through the skin. UVA rays penetrate deeper through the top skin layers to cause premature signs of aging, while UVB rays are the primary cause of sun damage and can contribute to skin cancer formation. Even when it's cloudy, use an SPF 30+ sunscreen on exposed skin!

  1. Make the switch to mineral sunscreen

Are you using chemical sunscreen or mineral (physical) sunscreen? If you're looking for the best year-round protection, mineral sunscreen is the best option. Chemical sunscreen usually consists of UVA and UVB blockers and can be harmful to the skin with repeated use, as opposed to true broad spectrum coverage offered by mineral variants. While they may take a bit longer to apply, mineral sunscreen that contains helpful ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide works for much longer and requires less re-application.

  1. Practice proper lip care

Dry skin is far more susceptible to the sun's rays, and chapped lips are extremely common during the winter months. As the season gets underway, make sure your lip care regimen is up to par to ensure that you're not putting your lips at further risk of sun damage. Better yet, opt for a lip balm that has SPF protection in addition to skin nourishing ingredients. Lip balms with sunscreen rated SPF 15+ are eligible for reimbursement with an FSA or HSA, so use your benefit to cover this winter necessity.

  1. Enhance your diet

Did you know that what you eat can supplement your skin's natural sun protection and resistance to sun damage? It's true! Natural vitamins and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, beta carotene, vitamin E and more can boost the body's ability to protect and repair the skin after being exposed to sunlight. Some foods to keep in mind year-round include citrus fruits, carrots, strawberries, green tea, pomegranates, almonds, red grapes and leafy green vegetables.

Keep your family safe from the sun's rays in any season by shopping for sun protection products for the whole family at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible items to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits.

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen

Get superior skin protection from harsh summer elements.

Sun Bum Lip Balm

Aloe vera soothes dry, chapped lips while SPF protects lips from the sun.

Living Well

How to stay safe during National Winter Sports TBI Month

2017 is here and with a new month comes a whole new slate of public health awareness initiatives, and January plays host to National Winter Sports TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) Month. With winter sports season in full swing, this is the perfect time of year for doctors, educators and parents alike to shed light on the danger of TBIs and how athletes can prevent these accidents.

According to The Brain Trauma Foundation, TBIs are the leading cause of death and disability in individuals aged 1-44, and it is estimated that 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related traumatic brain accidents occur each year. As we kick off the new season, FSAstore.com wants our consumers to stay safe during their favorite winter activities, and January is the perfect time to practice new habits to keep your loved one's healthy during this tricky time of year. Here are a few of the best tips for National Winter Sports TBI Month.

  1. Prepare for dangerous activities

First and foremost, it's important to figure out what winter sports and activities pose the greatest danger of a TBI and to plan accordingly. The sports with the highest rates of TBIs include alpine skiing, ice climbing, snowboarding, sledding, tubing, snowmobiling, ice hockey, ice skating and cross-country skiing.

  1. Always bring a buddy

One of the contributing factors to the severity of common TBIs is not being able to reach medical attention in an expedient manner, which is why one of the most important safety tips for the winter is to always bring a friend around when participating in these types of sports. It is also vital that children are supervised at all times during these activities in anticipation of any major injuries.

  1. Use proper sports safety equipment

If you or a loved one will be participating in a potentially dangerous winter activity, make sure you have the proper protection for the job. First and foremost, make sure to bring a helmet that can protect your head during the event of a sudden fall, one that is snug enough to not rock back and forth, but loose enough to fit comfortably and protect all parts of the head. There are a wealth of stylish, modern helmets available that can suit nearly any winter activity and could mean the different between a bump on the head and a life-altering injury.

  1. Know your limits

Last but not least, don't overexert yourself this winter! Injuries happen when you go over your limits and waver into territory you're not familiar with, so be sure to approach any winter activity with the appropriate amount of caution. Always stay on marked trails and paths, travel at speeds you can handle and be mindful of your skill level with each activity to respect your own limitations to avoid potential mishaps.

No matter where you or your loved ones are headed this winter, prepare for seasonal health issues at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to help you maximize the potential of your healthcare benefits!

Caring Mill™ Essential First Aid Kit

A great every day first-aid kit that offers a variety of bandages and medical supplies.

Living Well

Does joint pain increase during the winter?

As temperatures drop, have you started to notice that your knees and other joints aren't feeling as great as they did during the spring and summer? When winter hits, doctors see a noticeable spike in joint pain issues. Until recently, physicians were unaware of why these pain issues were more frequent during winter.

However, new research may provide a window into why joint pain issues are so prevalent during cold weather:

Vitamin D and joint pain

A 2015 study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain examined a group of osteoarthritis sufferers with varying levels of vitamin D. Regardless of weight, the study found that those who had lower levels of vitamin D experienced more knee pain and loss of joint function, as opposed to those with adequate vitamin D levels who reported less pain.

Vitamin D levels can drop especially during the winter when most people are less exposed to direct sunlight and spend less time outdoors. Low vitamin D levels can cause increased inflammation and more frequent pain. Additionally, low vitamin D levels can lower bone quality, which can increase the likelihood of chronic pain issues and possible bone fractures.

How to improve vitamin D levels

Much of the vitamin D in our bodies comes from exposure to sunlight. Doctors may prescribe vitamin D supplements, but they can also be boosted through diet. Tuna, mackerel and salmon, milk, orange juice and cereals, cheese, and egg yolks, are great sources of vitamin D or fortified vitamin D.

Age, weight and current state of health can have an impact on knee and other forms of joint pain. If you or a loved one suffer from joint pain, shop for products to treat this at FSAstore.com!

Osteo Bi-Flex Joint Shield Formula with Vitamin D

Helps soothe your joints, support mobility and lubricate joints from the inside.

Mason Natural Glucosamine Chondroitin Plus Vitamin D3

Nourish and repair cartilage, which cushions bones and supports joint flexibility.

Living Well

5 outdoor sun safety tips for winter

Wondering about sun safety during the year? Read our post about 5 outdoor sun safety tips for winter on the FSAstore.com blog. 

For the vast majority of Americans, winter is a time of year when we're trying to keep warm rather than worrying about sun care, but good sun care is important all year! Ultraviolet rays that contribute to sunburns and the formation of skin cancers are ever-present throughout winter, and they are just as dangerous now as during the spring and summer. Going to hit the slopes or do some work outdoors?


WearSun Protection lip balm

Lips can become chapped very easily during the winter months with dry air, wind and snow constantly pelting your face. This skin is very sensitive and can dry out and burn very easily after being exposed to sunlight, so make sure to wear a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher with moisturizing benefits to support the underlying skin.

Shop for SPF Lip Balm at FSAstore.com

Use broad spectrum sunscreen - and re-apply!

During extended time outdoors, make sure to use broad spectrum sunscreen that can safeguard skin against UVA and UVB radiation, which is the source of sunburns and aids in the development of skin cancer. Use a sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, and apply 30 minutes before heading outdoors. Be aware that snow and strong winds can reduce the efficacy of sunscreen, so re-apply every 2 hours.

Shop for Broad Spectrum Sunscreen at FSAstore.com

Shop our Dermatological Sunscreens

Shop for Mineral Sunscreen from MDSolarSciences

Use moisturizing sun protection

The winter weather can wreak havoc on your skin, which can lead to dry, peeling and painful skin that can linger throughout the season. When shopping for sunscreens, make sure you pick one with moisturizing ingredients, such as lanolin or glycerin. This is an easy way to support your skin health and stay protected from UV rays.

Shop for Aveeno at FSAstore.com

Cover exposed skin

Because of cold temperatures, there's a good chance that most of your skin will be covered throughout winter. However, there are some trouble spots to keep in mind. First, make an effort to cover your head to protect your scalp from sun damage, as well as wearing sunglasses or goggles that can block out 99 percent or greater of UV rays. The skin around the eyes is a common site for skin cancers and sun-inducted aging, so make sure this area is protected all winter long.

Be mindful of reflected UV rays

Many skiers and snowboarders have learned the hard way about the reflective nature of snow and ice, as about 80 percent of UV rays will reflect back up to the nose and face and can cause sunburns. As such, it's vital to apply sunscreen to parts of the body we would normally overlook, such as underneath the nose and chin where those reflective rays will hit. Of course, always remember to re-apply every few hours to maintain your skin's sun protection.

Improve your sun care regimen and make the most of your healthcare benefits at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA-eligible products to keep you and your family healthy year-round.

Living Well

Frostbite: What you need to know

Ever been outside in cold weather for too long, leaving your extremities red, stinging and burning soon after coming indoors? Learn about frostbite! 

winter frostbite riskHave you ever been outside in cold weather for too long, leaving your extremities red, stinging and burning soon after coming indoors? You may have thought nothing of it as you went back indoors, but in reality, you were experiencing the first stages of frostbite.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is a dangerous medical condition that results in the damage of skin and underlying tissue after being exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Frostbite is a natural result of the body trying to preserve warmth in cold temperatures by the narrowing of the blood vessels at the skin's surface in extremities, which forces blood inward toward the torso to keep internal organs warm. These blood vessels will expand and contract to stay as warm as possible, but if temperatures become cold enough, ice crystals can begin to form within these skin cells, freezing the tissue and potentially causing lasting damage to these extremities.

How do I spot frostbite?

Frostbite takes on a series of stages depending on the temperature/wind chill and how long extremities are exposed to extreme temperatures or direct contact with ice, freezing metals or very cold liquids. These stages include:

Frostnip: This is the earliest stage of frostbite that does not permanently damage the skin. During this stage, the skin of the extremities turns red and feels cold to the touch, but over time could lead to prickling pain and numbness, which can persist as the skin re-warms.

Superficial Frostbite: After an extended period of time in extreme temperatures, exposed skin will advance from reddish numbness and begin to lose its color and become pale as ice crystals form in the underlying skin layers. However, during this stage, as the skin begins to re-warm, it can result in blisters, swelling and bruises.

Severe Frostbite: If frostbite continues unabated, extreme temperatures will continue to penetrate through the skin layers to affect the deeper tissue. This condition is known for its extreme numbness and loss of sensation of cold or pain, as well as a deterioration of the joints and muscles. After re-warming, black blisters will form in the days following, and if significant amounts of tissue die, this could lead to gangrene and possible amputation of the extremity.

How is frostbite treated?

The best treatment for frostbite is prevention. Before heading outdoors, be sure to check the weather forecast and dress appropriately for the temperature, wind speed and precipitation. However, if you suspect that frostbite symptoms are present, you should keep the following tips in mind:

Gently re-warm affected areas: Warm (not hot) water is the best option to slowly re-warm injured areas, so keep them submerged for 15 to 30 minutes until they have returned to a normal temperature. Shop for hot/cold packs.

Take an oral pain medication: Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications are a wise choice when re-warming your extremities, as this process can be extremely painful and these medications can limit your discomfort. Note: OTC medications require a prescription for FSA reimbursement.

Protect affected areas: Even after re-warming, pay particular attention to those areas of skin that were exposed to extreme temperatures in the following days. Keep them wrapped to promote healing and monitor their condition for signs of bruising or blistering.

Consider medical attention: As a rule of thumb, if you have frostbite symptoms more advanced than frostnip, you should seek medical attention. However, if you do not consult a doctor, be sure to reconsider if blistering, bruising or numbness persists for several days, or if wounds begin to feel hot or extremely painful, the signs of an underlying infection.

As winter gets underway, make sure you have everything you need to keep you and your family healthy all season long at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible products to help you make the most of your healthcare benefits.