July 28, 2016

The Scoop on Swimmer’s Ear

We often don’t think twice before jumping into a pool or taking a trip to a water park for some summer fun, but sometimes a day at the pool can lead to a painful condition called swimmer’s ear. Luckily, we’ve got easy tips for identifying and avoiding swimmer’s ear this summer.

What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is an infection, inflammation or irritation of the outer ear and ear canal. It’s especially common in kids, including teens and young adults. Unlike a common childhood middle ear infection, swimmer’s ear causes pain when you tug the ear. If your ear or your child’s ear is swollen, red, itchy, producing pus or painful when wiggled, see a doctor as soon as possible. If you or you child has swimmer’s ear, your doctor may treat it with antibiotic ear drops.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 12.55.18 PM

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is caused by leftover water in the ear, which provides an ideal environment for germs. If the water stays in the ear for an extended period of time, the germs infect the ear’s skin, causing swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear can’t be passed from person to person– it’s only caused by water and germs lingering in the ear.

How do you prevent swimmer’s ear?

If you can, avoid getting your ears wet–wear a bathing cap or earplugs when swimming. If your ears do end up with water in them, dry them out thoroughly with a towel. Shake your head to the side, pulling at the ear to dislodge any water. If necessary, blow dry your ears with a hairdryer, but be sure the dryer is on the lowest heat and speed and carefully hold the dryer several inches away from your ear.

Steven Wright, MD, ENT doctor at CHI St. Joseph Health Central Texas ENT says, “Never stick objects, including cotton swabs, into your ear for any reason, even to dry your ear. This can potentially damage your eardrum.” If you feel your ear still needs drying or cleaning, see a doctor.

When swimming, ask the pool or hot tub operator about disinfectant and pH levels. These should be checked twice daily to be positive the water is pure. You can order your own pool test strips to test the chlorine and bromine levels in your pool. Clean water is less likely to infect your ear with germs if water remains in your ear.

How do you treat swimmer’s ear?

Most cases of swimmer’s ear can be easily treated with antibiotic drops. Make an appointment with a CHI St. Joseph Health physician if you or your child experiences the symptoms of swimmer’s ear. Find the perfect doctor for your needs with our Physician Finder.


July 26, 2016

5 Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure

Learning you have high blood pressure can be overwhelming. There are so many ways to lower it, and you might be unsure what advice to follow. Make an appointment with a CHI St. Joseph Health physician to form a plan for your health. Ask your doctor if these five unique ways to lower your blood pressure could be right for you!

  1. Try the DASH Diet

One way of lowering your blood pressure is to change your eating habits. The DASH diet offers a helpful model for eating to manage your blood pressure. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” The DASH diet contains less red meat, salt and sweets compared to the average American diet. Rather than fatty, sugary foods, opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Kuy Houser, MD, primary care physician at CHI St. Joseph Health Primary Care Barron Road, advises, “Be mindful of what you eat, and try substituting healthier foods in place of desserts or fatty snacks.” Try low-fat yogurt and berries in place of ice cream, and enjoy some whole-wheat crackers instead of potato chips. Keeping a food diary, in which you write down when and what you eat, is a great way to stay dedicated to the DASH diet.shutterstock_380098870

  1. Have a Good Laugh

Laughter could really be the best medicine! Studies show that laughing regularly increases “good cholesterol,” namely HDL, while also decreasing stress hormones and artery inflammation. Negative stress increases blood pressure, and laughing is a great way to combat stress and get that blood pressure back down. Laughter improves blood circulation and increases your intake of oxygen. Watch a funny movie or find some good jokes to have a hearty laugh every day!

  1. Quit

Each time you smoke a cigarette, your blood pressure increases. Luckily, within weeks of quitting, your blood pressure can return to normal. Although quitting can be difficult, it’s definitely worth it! Smoking hurts your body in many ways, including increasing your chances for lung cancer and heart disease, so quitting is vital. You might experience both physical and mental urges after you quit, making you want a cigarette. Fight these urges by keeping yourself occupied; spend time in conversation with nonsmokers or try snacking on low-fat foods. If you’re having trouble, ask your doctor for help.

  1. Mellow Out

Lowering your stress levels can also lower your blood pressure. Decide on simple goals to begin relaxing more. For instance, every time you find yourself thinking negatively, turn it around for the positive. Instead of thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never get this right,” remind yourself that you’ll try your best and take it one step at a time. Repeat a positive phrase, like “I can do this” or “I won’t let this get me down,” every morning and evening. Another way to destress involves diffusing stressful situations. When you’re stressed, annoyed or anxious, count to 10 and take deep breaths before speaking. If need be, walk away from a stressful situation until you’re better able to handle it. For long-term relaxation, try something new– painting, meditation, yoga or reading are all good options. Consider taking a course in whatever helps you relax, whether it’s tai chi or tennis.

  1. Start a Relationship

Forming a relationship with your doctor is essential to lowering your blood pressure. At every appointment, ask about your blood pressure and discuss any struggles or questions you have with your doctor. Think about what stands in your way of having lower blood pressure. Is it finding the time to exercise, quitting smoking, remembering to take your medicine? Whatever it is, be honest with your doctor and, together, you can build a plan to successfully lower your blood pressure.


There are countless ways to lower your blood pressure. Be certain you consult a physician to find the right methods for your body. Make an appointment with a CHI St. Joseph Health physician today to discover what works for you.



AHA – Prevention & Treatment of High Blood Pressure

AHA – Managing Blood Pressure with a Heart-Healthy Diet

AHA – Humor helps your heart? How?

Go Red for Women – Stress Relievers

AHA – Dealing with Urges to Smoke

AHA – The Rewards of Quitting

AHA – Four Ways to Deal with Stress

AHA – Keeping High Blood Pressure Under Control

AHA – Medications and Blood Pressure


June 27, 2016

What You Need to Know To Stay Healthy in College

Preparing for college may seem overwhelming. Sometimes your health is pushed to the back burner when you’re busy shopping for your dorm room and registering for your first semester. However, staying healthy doesn’t have to be stressful. These tips will help you integrate healthy habits into your busy schedule!

Keep Active

Your body requires about two and a half hours of exercise every week to stay fit. Exercise is important because it decreases your chances of some health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Making smart choices, like taking the stairs and riding your bike, is a simple way to stay active year round. Many colleges have intramural sports teams and free exercise classes for students. This summer, research what your college has to offer and pick an activity to participate in.

Practice Healthy Eating

The infamous “Freshman Fifteen” isn’t always a myth. Access to all-you-can-eat cafeterias, vending machines, and late night fast food joints make it easy to overindulge. Be conscious of your food consumption. Jennifer Bhavsar, MD, physician at CHI St. Joseph Health Primary Care South College Station, shares her advice for healthy eating in college. “Eat slowly so you recognize when your body is full and avoid snacking on fatty, sugary foods. Instead, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables for the majority of your meals.” Don’t forget that sodas and alcohol contain calories. Rather than load up on liquid calories, choose water to stay hydrated. Over the summer, try fruits and veggies you’ve never tasted and find your favorites. Brainstorm some healthy snacks to keep on hand in your dorm room.

Check Your Vaccinations

Most colleges stipulate that students living on campus must have certain vaccinations, particularly the meningitis shot. Contact your school’s housing department and find out their requirements. In Texas, all college students are required to receive a bacterial meningitis vaccination unless they meet specific criteria for exemption. Visit your doctor during the summer months to be sure you have all the vaccinations you need. Schedule an appointment today before the end-of-summer rush.

Snag Some Zzz’s

College students need approximately seven to nine hours of sleep every night, although it can vary depending on the person. Balancing studying with sleep and a social life can be a struggle. Try to schedule studying for earlier in the evening, and avoid starting an assignment at the last minute. With about eight hours of sleep under your belt, you will feel more energetic and focused. If you’re sleep deprived, you may struggle to concentrate or make decisions. Lack of sleep may even make driving difficult. Be aware of your body and don’t drive when you aren’t feeling rested. Before school starts in the fall, develop good sleep habits and make sure you start your semester off right!

Mental Health Matters

Approximately 7% of young adults suffer from depression. For some college students, academic and social stresses can prompt mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. While both depression and anxiety can be normal emotions when experienced for short periods, clinical depression and anxiety disorders can be serious. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you are uncontrollably worried or sad, consider visiting your school’s mental health center. The summer before college begins, familiarize yourself with the mental health resources on your campus, including counseling and stress relief events.

Make an appointment with a CHI St. Joseph Health physician to make sure you’re ready to start a healthy semester this fall. Find the perfect doctor for your needs with our Physician Finder.




CDC – Six Tips for College Health and Safety

CDC – College Health & Safety


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