Are You Washing Your Water Bottle?

Water may be the beverage of choice for health and wellness lovers, but using your reusable water bottle multiple days in a row without washing it and allowing it to dry completely can lead to bacterial growth and sickness. Infectious disease specialists recommend that, at a minimum, pouring water out of your reusable bottle at the end of each day will eliminate some germs. Getting rid of the bulk of bacteria and decreasing the likelihood of a stomach bug requires scrubbing the entire bottle, including the lid and straw and letting it air dry completely after each use. A bottle brush is good for tall bottles with thin necks and dish soap or a bleach-based cleanser labeled safe for drinkware is best.

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More Choose Veganuary

veganuaryWorldwide, 226,000 people have signed up with the British charity Veganuary, agreeing to try a vegan diet free of all animal products. While some try vegan for one or two meals per day, others have gone full scale. Some are doing it for environmental reasons while others are concerned about animal welfare and, of course, their health.

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Flexibility Means Retention

employer-planResearch reported by the Execu Search Group shows that flexibility may very well be the key to keeping millennials engaged. Allowing more vacation time, better training and a more flexible work schedule, including the ability to work at home when needed, are keys that will make young people happier and more productive. The SHRM says that more companies are offering these benefits in order to retain young workers in today’s competitive labor market.

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Mental Health Days

woman holding headAs more workers struggle with stress in and out of the workplace, some are requesting time off in order to cope. This is not a problem for companies with sick-day policies that allow employees to use their paid personal days for any reason. In other workplaces, people who are honest about asking for a mental health day can sometimes be looked upon as suffering from a mental health issue. Regardless of how your organization may handle these issues, it is important to respect employees’ right to privacy and avoid probing for sensitive information about a person’s well-being.

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Group Exercise is Big

health-planThe College of Sports Medicine, in ranking fitness trends for 2019, concluded that millennials enjoy being part of a community that will cheer them on when they do a good job and perhaps push them a bit harder when they don’t. Other popular fitness trends include wearable technology, high intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga and more personalized exercise programs designed specifically for members of the baby boomer generation.

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Student Loan Solutions

student-loansWith student loan debt topping the list of concerns for so many young workers, more and more employers are looking for ways to help. While several large employers are doing things to help them reduce principal and save on interest, one large employer is allowing employees to trade up to 5 vacation days for a payment on their debt. In their program, a person earning $50,000 annually could receive a principal payment of nearly $1,000. The Society of Human Resource Management reports that 4% of employers are offering a student loan repayment benefit of some kind.

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Winning Against Pollen

It’s spring and with it comes the sneezing, itchy eyes and congestion that allergies can cause. Here are a few tips that can help you keep pollen from winning in and around your home.

Wash Away the Pollen – If you’ve been outside doing yard work, walking or doing most anything, take a shower as soon as possible when you come in for the day. If that timing doesn’t work for you, make sure you wash your hands immediately.

Remove Your Shoes – It might sound silly, but your shoes will carry all kinds of irritants from your trees, grass, weeds and dirt right into your home. Take them off as soon as you enter your house.

Close Your Windows and Doors – We all love to air out the house after a long winter but keeping windows and doors open is just the invitation pollen is waiting for. If you can’t resist fresh air, be especially careful from early to midmorning, at dusk and, of course, when it’s windy.

Don’t Hang Laundry Outdoors – You can bet that pollen will stick to sheets, pillow cases and towels, so it’s important that you wash your bedding every week and avoid outdoor drying.

Use HEPA Filters – High efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) help trap allergens and other irritants before they flow throughout your home’s interior. While some can be effective for up to 2 years, the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology recommends changing HEPA filters every 6 months.

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HRAs Could Get a Big Boost

stethescope for healthcareAnother recent proposal of the Trump Administration would allow employers to fund tax-exempted Health Reimbursement Arrangements to help pay for an employee’s individual health insurance premiums. In addition, the proposal would also allow employers that offer group health coverage to fund an HRA of up to $1,800 to reimburse employees for “qualified” medical expenses. Easing restrictions in this manner is seen by many as a big boost for small businesses that are unable to provide employer-sponsored healthcare. Comments are being accepted through December 28, 2018 and if approved, the new rules would apply for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2020.

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Drug Firms Resist Price Disclosure

prescriptionWhile the Department of Health and Human Services has asked drug manufacturers to disclose list prices for most drugs they feature in television commercials, the industry’s largest trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has countered with an offer to include content directing consumers to a new website where pricing information could be found.

The Administration’s request requires that list prices be featured in text on the screen in television ads for drugs covered by Medicare and Medicaid costing more than $35 per month. A great deal of debate has developed, with PhRMA arguing that featuring list prices would confuse consumers by making them think they have to pay more than they actually would. HHS is still accepting comments on the proposal.

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Understanding the Opioid Epidemic

opioidEven though overdose deaths linked to prescription opioids have more than quadrupled since 1999, many people do not really understand what opioids are. To clarify, opioids are a class of drugs including heroin and prescription narcotics such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, morphine and other chemically related drugs.

These drugs, often prescribed because of a medical condition, cause a stimulus in the brain that helps individuals cope with anxiety, depression and other life-altering events. While they are usually fine when taken as prescribed for a short time, they are too often misused or taken without a prescription because they produce euphoria in addition to relieving pain. Prolonged use can lead to dependence and misuse can lead to overdose and death.

Signs of Addiction to Look For
Patients can range in age from pre-teen to elderly and from all walks of life. While each case is different, some common signs of potential misuse or abuse among young people include: a loss of interest in usual activities, changes in appearance, a lack of concern for grooming and hygiene and changes in eating and sleeping habits. Withdrawal symptoms that can occur after stopping or reducing use include negative mood, nausea or vomiting, muscle ache, diarrhea, fever and insomnia.

Many hospitals, municipalities and public entities offer awareness forums or support groups for those dealing with substance abuse. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education have published an online Parent Toolkit, available at operationprevention.com.

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