Wellness

Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19: What to Know and How to Prepare

Posted on Aug 2, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Safety, Scroll Images, Wellness

SAN FRANCISCO – For people who experienced breathing and respiratory problems brought on by previous years’ wildfire smoke, a San Francisco health expert cautions that these individuals should be extra vigilant with their health while COVID-19 is among us.

In an article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Vinayak Jha, M.D., a pulmonologist affiliated with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), says that people are already concerned about catching the virus and becoming ill. Having respiratory problems combined with air pollution from wildfires is not an ideal situation.

“There are growing reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. that the more air pollution there is, the more COVID deaths and cases there are,” says Jha. “There’s some reason for concern that wildfire smoke, besides being bad for people in general, may affect people’s susceptibility to getting the virus.”

Jha says breathing in wildfire smoke can cause shortness of breath, coughing and sore throat, and that having the coronavirus may worsen symptoms.

Recovering from COVID-19? Living with a respiratory illness? Here’s what you should do if wildfire smoke becomes a problem.

As the fire seasons heats up, Jha says COVID-19 patients should keep in close contact with their health care provider and avoid exerting themselves, especially if they are at the beginning of the illness.

“Continue to socially distance, and continue to wear a mask in public,” says Jha. He encourages people to have precautions in place now, before the wildfire season hits: know how to check the Air Quality Index, check your own home air purifying system to make sure the filters are clean, and have a plan in case you need to leave the area.

Pulmonary Care

In the Sutter Health network, pulmonary specialists have deep expertise in treating acute and chronic lung conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, emphysema and pneumonia. They offer treatment for interstitial lung disease, advanced COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), pulmonary nodules and pulmonary hypertension.

In light of COVID-19, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation stood up respiratory care clinics (RCCs) to prepare for increased patient demand. These exam experiences keep potentially contagious people distanced from those that aren’t, while allowing all who need in-person care to receive it.

Read more about Sutter’s respiratory care clinics here.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care, make an appointment today. Our care teams are ready to serve you, either in person or by Video Visit.

Learn more about getting care during COVID-19 here.

3 Reasons Not to Skip Well-Child Visits

Posted on Jun 29, 2020 in Pediatric Care, Scroll Images, Wellness

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – A lot happens within a child’s mind and body as they grow. Their personalities emerge, their moods shift, and their bodies mature. With so much rapid change, its important they get on a path to being and staying as healthy as possible, and well-child visits can help ensure this happens. While these visits may have been postponed in recent months, now is the time to check back in.

“Well-child visits help track children’s health and development, address parents’ questions or concerns, and provide recommended immunizations to prevent illness,” says Tara Scott, M.D., program director of the Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital Family Medicine Residency program.

Read on for reasons why scheduling your son or daughter’s well-child visit should be high on your list and the precautions Sutter care centers are taking amid COVID-19:

Physical Development

The physical part of a well-child exam may include checking your child’s blood pressure, vision, hearing, height and weight. Are they overweight? Underweight? A doctor will help address these concerns. The doctor may also listen to your child’s lungs, feel their abdomen and check their reflexes.

It’s during this part of the exam a doctor may also ask about sleep, exercise and their social circle.

“Over the course of a child’s life from birth to 18, they may have between 15 and 20 well-child visits, with more taking place in their early years and then annually or every other year as they get older,” says Scott. “Well-child visits are more than an annual physical, however.”

Mental Health & Development

Just as important as physical growth is mental growth.

“Many mental health problems occur early in life and may disrupt a child’s developmental processes,” says Scott.

During well-child visits, doctors may ask open-ended questions that assess a child’s mental and emotional state. Questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up,” “Tell me about what you’re looking forward to this fall,” “What are your favorite subjects in school,” or “What are you and your friends doing over summer break” may reveal a lot about what’s happening inside your child or teenager’s mind.

In times like a pandemic, where a lot of change is happening very quickly, a doctor may be able to uncover early signs of mental health problems that require specialized care. They may also be able to identify common signs of anxiety or depression and put in place interventions to help alleviate your child’s symptoms.

Vaccinations

Regular well-child visits are the time when important and recommended immunizations are given.

The measles vaccine, for example, is first administered between 12 and 15 months, with the second dose given between four and six years old. Measles are actually more contagious than COVID-19. Once a community measles immunization rate drops below 90 percent vaccinated, outbreaks can happen. In 2014, California dropped below this rate and experienced a measles outbreak, and another one in 2019.

According to Dr. Scott, “Keeping up with current recommended vaccinations keeps children safe from other illnesses that may be even riskier than COVID-19.”

Now is the time to schedule well-child visits. Even if your child is feeling OK, preventive care is very important.

Our Current COVID Precautions

Sutter care centers, including doctors’ offices, have implemented specific measures to help protect patients. These steps include:

Mandatory Masking – Staff, patients and visitors must wear masks at all times.
Isolation – Those with COVID-19 symptoms are treated in separate spaces.
Cleaning – Teams are performing cleaning and disinfecting.
Screening – Everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before entering care sites.
Contact-Free Check-In – Skip the front desk and check in from your mobile device at some locations through Hello Patient, a new feature on My Health Online.

How to Support Children and Teens during COVID-19

Posted on Jun 23, 2020 in Pediatric Care, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Every young person’s response to a traumatic event like a pandemic is unique and varied, but one thing is certain—it’s stressful. For many children and teens, stress commonly takes shape in the form of resistance, grief or even loss. These are intense emotions for developing minds, so it’s critical they don’t go unchecked.

“As parents, we set the stage for how our kids learn to navigate experiences,” says Anna Morgado, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Sutter Health. “They model behaviors based on what they see, so it’s important we provide support and create channels for safe and open dialogue.”

Morgado continues, “One of the hallmarks of a crisis is that people may feel stuck and like it will go on forever. Talking about ‘when this is all over, we will do…’ provides comfort and a sense of control.”

Here are ways to talk with your kids about COVID-19:

Information provided by Sutter’s Children’s Bereavement Art Group.

• Talking to children about COVID-19 is similar to talking to children about grief. Parents and caregivers should use concrete, simple and developmentally appropriate language to explain concepts.
• Follow your child’s lead. Allow them to ask questions and see where the conversation goes. When talking to teens, you might say, “Are your friends talking about coronavirus? What are they saying?” For younger children, you might say, “Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness that’s been going around? What have you heard?”
• Talk openly and honestly to children about what’s happening.
• Mention the symptoms of the virus are similar to a flu (cough, fever, shortness of breath). Most people who get the virus have mild symptoms.
• Explain that the virus isn’t very common in children.
• Let them know if someone feels very ill, they can go to the hospital.
• Empower your child by letting them know they can help by practicing good hand washing, not touching their face and sneezing into their elbow.
• Let them know this time of quarantine and social distancing will pass—it’s temporary.
• Explain social distancing as, “We need to stay at least six feet away from people in public and wear masks so that we protect ourselves and others.”
• Tell them that a pandemic can be explained as, “People all over the world are sick with this virus.”

Possible behavior changes from your child

It’s okay that things aren’t normal right now. However, we need to be vigilant when our kid’s behavior is off. Here are changes to look for:

• Excessive crying or irritation in younger children.
• Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (e.g., toileting accidents or bed wetting).
• Excessive worry or sadness.
• Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits.
• Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens.
• Poor academic performance or avoiding schoolwork during the school year.
• Difficulty with attention and concentration.
• Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past.
• Unexplained headaches or body pain.
• Use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.

How to support your child

Supporting your child doesn’t have to be a huge lift. Here are activities that will go a long way in bringing normalcy and consistency to their day:

Provide structure and a daily routine. Work together to establish a daily plan that includes mealtimes, bedtime, work time, playtime, creative time and exercise. Set small goals every day. Do your best to attend to your child and your own body, brain and emotions.
Share your feelings while also providing reassurance. Let your child know caregivers are there to keep them safe. Helpful statements include: “There are lots of amazing grown-ups, such as doctors and nurses, working hard to keep us healthy” and “We’ll get through this together.”
Model good self-care. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat well and stay connected to your friends and family members.
Encourage expression. Let your children express themselves through art, writing, talking things out and physical activity.
Use touch. Take advantage of extra time during the quarantine for cuddles, hugs and play. Physical closeness and care go a long way in helping children feel safe and loved.

Reaching out for help

“These are extraordinary times, so if your child’s in a temporary funk for a day or two that isn’t overly concerning. However, if this prolonged state doesn’t budge, then it may be time to enlist a third party,” says Morgado.

Whether by phone, video chat or in-person, talk to your primary care provider about options. “It’s important to meet children where they are. Our therapists are incredibly skilled at helping kids understand, build resiliency skills and move forward,” says Morgado.

The National Parent Helpline is at 1-855-4A-Parent (1-855-427-2736).

The Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center’s 24-hour Parent Support Line is 1-888-281-3000.

It’s Time to Get the Care You’ve Been Waiting For

Posted on Jun 18, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness, Women's Services

OAKLAND, CALIF. — California is slowly reopening, but like so many unknowns with COVID-19, it’s unclear how long our return to routine will last.

“A surge in virus spread and infected patients could occur this fall or winter,” says Bill Isenberg, M.D., chief quality and safety officer for Sutter Health. “If this happens, and overlaps with the normal flu season, there could be a significant strain on healthcare services.”

With this in mind, medical experts agree that if you had an appointment postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, now is the time to reschedule it.

Norma Lester-Atwood, RTRM, is a mammographer at the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, so she’s well-versed in the importance of catching breast cancer early. Lester-Atwood is typically right on schedule for her own mammogram, but this spring, shelter-in-place orders delayed her mammogram by two months. As soon as she could, she had the screening procedure and she’s glad she did, because her mammogram and a subsequent biopsy revealed a Stage 0 (non-invasive) tumor in one of her breasts. After a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, Lester-Atwood feels she is well on her way to recovery.

“As a mammographer, I’ve always told my patients that it’s important to come in every year for a mammogram because I’ve seen patients who developed fast-growing tumors between screenings,” says Lester-Atwood. “And now because of my personal experience, I’ve seen the other side of the coin and I have even more reason to encourage patients to get their regularly scheduled mammograms.”

Timing is Everything
As Lester-Atwood’s experience shows, timing is everything when it comes to staying healthy. Getting cancer screenings at the recommended intervals can help spot early signs of abnormal cell division or tumor growth before it turns into advanced cancer.

Public health department-mandated cancellation of elective procedures and many routine appointments earlier this year caused many screenings to be delayed, which may, unfortunately, have serious repercussions for some people.

Because of the importance of cancer screenings to maintaining good health, Sutter-affiliated clinicians track annual completion of mammograms, says Isenberg. “We estimate that of every 200 mammograms, one patient’s is suspicious for breast cancer and needs further attention. Because so far to date 4,000 – 5,000 people have postponed mammograms, that means approximately 20-25 cancers may have gone undiagnosed.”

The 0.5 percent detection rate for mammograms is roughly the same for colon and cervical cancer screening, says Isenberg, so similar undiagnosed cancers are likely for these diseases. “Mammograms and screenings for other cancers such as skin or prostate cancer, as well as preventative care are all important to keep on top of,” he says. “And although we often think of cancer as a disease that people get at a later stage in life, cancer can strike at any age. In fact, some hormone-sensitive cancers grow more rapidly in younger patients, so having regularly scheduled Pap test or mammograms can be lifesaving.”

“Some women don’t realize that mammograms are needed regardless of your family history, because most women with breast cancer have no family history or other identifiable risk factors,” says Harriet B. Borofsky, M.D., medical director of breast imaging with Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in San Mateo, Calif., part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit integrated network of care.

Screening for colorectal, prostate and lung cancers are also vital. “Simply put, screening saves lives,” says Borofsky. “Delayed screenings can postpone detection of cancer, which may translate into needing more intensive treatment and a more difficult path for patients.”

Taking Steps to Protect Patients and Staff
Catching up on care is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. All Sutter imaging centers have resumed some level of cancer screening services, or are preparing to resume soon, and each has taken steps to protect patients and staff from exposure to viruses. These steps include:

Mandatory Masking – Staff, patients and visitors must wear masks at all times.
Isolation – Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is isolated from waiting areas, patient rooms, entrances and spaces the general population uses.
Cleaning – Our teams have increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in all spaces.
Screening – Everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before entering our care.
Contact-Free Check-In – Skip the front desk and check in from your mobile device at some locations through Hello Patient, a new feature on My Health Online.

These protocols apply to all visits to our outpatient care centers, including scheduled office visits, radiology, lab and walk-ins to Urgent Care.

Resources to Help with Health Insurance Disruption

Health insurance coverage can be disrupted by wage or job loss, but there are options that provide access to important cancer screenings, even if you’ve lost your normal source of coverage.

In California, the Every Woman Counts program covers mammograms and cervical cancer screening for women with no or limited insurance who meet other eligibility criteria. To learn more, patients can call 1(800)-511-2300.

Other options include extending employer-based coverage through COBRA and CalCOBRA, shopping for plans and applying for premium assistance through Covered California, or applying for and qualifying for Medi-Cal. Charity care and financial assistance options may also be available. You can learn more about these options by visiting sutterhealth.org/coverage-options.

Stress Relief Gone Wrong – Are You Developing Unhealthy Coping Habits?

Posted on Jun 11, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The pandemic’s disruptions to daily life have been many. Seamlessly navigating through this new normal may feel like something only Instagram influencers are capable of tackling with grace, when the truth is many of us are just trying to make it from one day to the next. During these days dotted with question marks, it’s easy to develop habits that can have negative and unintended consequences on our physical and mental health.

“We are all looking for relief from life’s stresses, but we don’t always have the right tools. And trying to power through isn’t realistic or a good long-term solution,” says Kim S. Narvaez, a licensed family and marriage therapist with Sutter Health.

“The upshot is there are ways you can develop skills to cope with life’s ups and downs and find healthy ways to relax and feel better,” she says.

Here are some tips for setting yourself up for success:

Avoid Unhealthy Short-Term Strategies

Notice if you have fallen into negative patterns which may have started off as ways of comforting yourself, like obsessive online shopping, excessive social media use, watching too much TV, and mindless eating.

Be aware that unhealthy habits may turn into addictions and diagnosable conditions requiring treatment and professional help. Smoking tobacco, drinking too much alcohol, illicit drug use, online gambling, binge or restricted eating, hoarding, and self-injury like cutting are all signs you are dealing with stress in unhealthy ways.

Develop Healthy Habits

Good coping strategies help us through the rough times and get us moving in the right direction. The following are signs that you are doing things that are helpful:

• You feel proud, accomplished, confident and productive
• You have positive thoughts about yourself, others and the world in general
• Your coping tools don’t result in wasted time, effort and money
• Your mindset is hopeful, without feelings of shame or guilt
• You feel more energized, present and effective

Be Proactive

Don’t let unhealthy behaviors put you on defense. Instead, avoid developing them altogether by taking steps to:

• Identify harmful coping behaviors and make a commitment to stop
• Set personal goals to achieve a healthy lifestyle and create a self-care plan
• Be consistent in using strategies to properly tackle minor and major stressors
• Recognize how you are responding to uneasiness, minor annoyances, restlessness, boredom, isolation, disconnection, sadness, worrying, insecurities, and feeling overwhelmed.

Get Support

“Enlisting the support of a spouse, roommate or buddy to check in with is a good strategy to incorporate into your weekly routine,” says Narvaez. “They know you well and can help point out behaviors you’re unaware of.”

If your issues become too much to bear and you feel like you’re spiraling to gain control, then seek professional help. Your primary care provider can refer you to a licensed, professional therapist who can help you gain awareness, reach goals and change behaviors.

“There’s zero shame seeking help,” says Narvaez. “Acknowledging, addressing and getting unhealthy behaviors in check is a responsible way of taking charge of your health.”

Feeling Anxious Because of COVID-19?

Posted on Jun 10, 2020 in Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – We are all worried about our health, safety and protecting our loved ones right now. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it’s more important than ever to protect our mental health and build resilience.

Recognize Anxiety Overload

“Anxiety is a signal from our brain that puts us on alert, mentally and physically, to both real and perceived dangers. It’s normal to feel anxious right now. But anxiety overload can cause physical symptoms and impact wellbeing,” says Kim S. Narvaez, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Sutter Health.

“Be aware of the signs,” says Narvaez. “These may include: restlessness, aches and pains, sweating, heart pounding, stomach problems, difficulty concentrating, feeling on edge, excessive worrying, irritability, obsessions, uncontrollable behaviors and fearfulness.”

Try Mindfulness to Help Manage Anxiety

Mindfulness is a useful tool that you can practice easily by paying close attention to yourself and your surroundings.

“The goal is to be present and notice what is going on within yourself,” says Narvaez, “Listen to how you are feeling, without any distractions or the need to do anything. This allows us to process thoughts and information calmly so we can move forward in a less reactive way.”

You can practice mindfulness in several ways. Click here to learn more about relaxation, breathing and meditation techniques.

Take time to reflect and ask yourself questions such as:

• Are my thoughts out of proportion to what is actually happening?
• Am I acknowledging my feelings?
• Am I giving myself enough credit for all the things that I am doing?

You can learn more about mindfulness and stress reduction on the Sutter Health website.

Reach Out for Help

Your mental health is important to your physical health and your overall wellbeing. Notice if your anxiety is escalating. If you want more help, contact your primary care physician who can provide you with a referral to licensed, professional therapists who can help with personal problems.