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Your Health Answers
Can I get antibiotics for my virus?
Have you ever heard “your illness is most likely caused by a virus”? What does THAT mean? What is a virus? Can I get antibiotics? Viruses are tiny particles that are too small to be seen with a regular microscope. They mostly consist of DNA or RNA surrounded by a coat of protein. They cannot live alone, that is cannot grow or replicate by themselves as bacteria can. They must therefore find a “host” cell, and use that cell’s parts and machinery to reproduce.
Viruses are out in the environment waiting for a host cell to come along. They can enter humans through the nose, mouth, or breaks in the skin. The viruses have some type of protein on their outer layer that recognizes the proper host cell. Cold and flu viruses, for example, will infect cells lining the respiratory tract.
Once inside the cell, the virus enzymes take over the host enzymes and begin making new virus. The new virus leaves the host cell by either breaking it open or budding out from it. Once free, they can attack other cells. One virus can reproduce thousands, and viral infections can spread quickly through the body.
Antibiotics, while good for treating bacteria, have no effect on a virus. A bacteria differs from a virus in that it is a single cell capable of living and replicating on its’ own. Antibiotics are formulated to interfere with this replication. As a virus is safe inside your own cells while reproducing, the antibiotic has no effect on them. A person usually must depend on their own body’s immune system to defeat a virus. One way it does this is by, increasing your body’s temperature. The fever slows down the rate that viruses reproduce. Your immune system also begins to develop antibodies, which can hook to the virus particle and stop it from getting into your cells, or signal for more help from other cells. In most, but not all cases, your immune system keeps fighting until the virus is gone from your body. There are also a few anti-viral medications for specific infections that can help you feel better sooner.
Occasionally with viral infections you will start to feel better, and then suddenly feel worse again for a day or two. This is a new batch of virus being released in your body. Your immune system is already on the attack, so you will generally start to feel better more rapidly than you did when you first became sick.
Vaccines are another treatment against viruses. A vaccine can be a weakened, killed, or piece of a virus that is introduced into your body, usually through a shot. Your immune system can then develop antibodies that are ready to fight off the infection if the real virus starts reproducing. Vaccines are available against many infections today, including polio, chicken pox, shingles (herpes zoster), human papilloma virus (which can cause cervical cancer), Hepatitis B, measles and mumps, among others. While they do not provide 100% protection against the specific illness, they make it much less likely that your infection will make you severely ill.
When the virus reproduces rapidly, it can sometimes make “mistakes” or mutations in its offspring. This happens frequently with the flu virus, so a new vaccine is developed every year to help control the “new” strain of flu. Colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses, so an immunization against this is virtually impossible to develop.
If you would like more information about vaccinations, or would like to know how often and at what age vaccinations are recommended, please contact our office or your health care provider.
Lolo Family Practice
Why is my weight important when I come in for a problem like a rash or sore throat?
Many times we’re asked why your weight is checked when you come in for a problem like a rash or sore throat. Your weight is considered an important piece of medical information to us. Just as we routinely measure your temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, we do our best to get your weight at every appointment. That information may not be needed at the time, but can be very helpful during future visits.
We sometimes become aware of other medical conditions by weight changes, especially if they are unintentional, or happen without other lifestyle changes. Weight increases can indicate thyroid conditions or other glandular problems. Increases over a short time period can occur with congestive heart failure, and illnesses that cause fluid retention. Since you may not be seen in the office frequently, having a baseline weight is important in order to compare future measurements.
If you were to become ill, weight changes over time can help determine possible causes. Weight loss can signify thyroid problems, diabetes, depression, and certain cancers, among other illnesses. In sudden illnesses like diarrhea or vomiting, for example, weight changes can help us know the severity of illness, and therefore the best treatment.
Occasionally medications can cause weight gain or loss, and/or change of appetite. Once again the starting weight is important to know. Your weight sometimes helps determine what doses of medicine should be prescribed.
What you weigh also gives us as health care providers a better idea of your physical health, and to determine other potential health risks. Being underweight or undernourished can increase the chance of osteoporosis and cause nutritional deficiencies. In children, failure to gain weight needs a full evaluation. In older persons, weight loss can be a sign of depression or bring to light problems with living situations.
Being overweight can lead to several serious medical conditions. We usually assess weight as a comparison to height to calculate the Body Mass Index, or BMI. This is the weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. (confusing!) Most health care providers have charts of BMI readily available to consult. You can ask what yours is next time you visit our office, or can easily calculate on many websites, including WebMD.com. BMIs over 27 have been shown to correlate with an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. WHERE the extra weight is can also help predict risk. Waist sizes over 35 inches for women, and 40 inches for men mean high risk. (Values change for Asian population) Waist sizes are not yet routinely measured in our practice, but they can be helpful for determining overall risk. To measure your waist size, go around your waist at the bellybutton level.
It is impossible for any of us to determine which persons will develop a given medical condition, regardless of weight or family history. The best we can do is give you advice about which things increase the chance of that happening. Obesity is the #2 preventable cause of death and disease in America. If we or you notice your weight changing over time, we can test for certain conditions if needed… offer nutritional information to help avoid it becoming a problematic issue.
Many people have struggles with their weight, and would prefer not to have it brought to attention; our job as health care providers is to monitor ALL aspects of you health in order to give you the best possible information. We want to help you keep yourself as healthy as you can. Prevention of disease when possible is our goal!
Does my child really need a wellness exam before kindergarten?
Yes, a wellness exam before kindergarten really is a good idea. Your question also brings up why childhood wellness exams are recommended at all. I will answer both parts as they are so closely related.
The purpose of childhood wellness exams is two fold: to identify and treat health problems before they become serious, and to promote wellness and injury prevention. Equally as important, these visits with your child’s health care provider are an opportunity for you as a parent to ask questions about your child, not just around physical concerns, but around issues such as sleep, behavior, or any other worries you might have. With the frequency of visits, a rapport can be developed between your family and your provider, and most importantly, your child will become comfortable in the health care setting and learn to trust his or her health care provider. This is important particularly when your child is ill and as your child grows and becomes more involved in their visits. By bringing your child to your health care provider for wellness visits, you are setting up good habits that your child can continue through their adult life.
At each of the recommended visits your provider will check to see if you have any questions or concerns, or if your child does. Your provider may ask questions about eating, sleeping, temperament, and recent illnesses; ask about vision and hearing and test those as your child is ready; discuss dental care and visits, and do a thorough physical exam. Your child’s height and weight will be plotted on a graph, another indicator of health. Immunization recommendations will be made to protect against preventable disease. Sometimes blood needs to be taken to test for anemia. Your provider will talk to you about what you can anticipate in your child before the next visit, for example, your baby will be ready to start solid foods when…. Or he can move to a booster seat in the car when…We refer to that as anticipatory guidance. Even if you have parented before, recommendations change and remember, each child is different!
As a provider I look forward to the pre-kindergarten visit, usually around age 5 or so. Somehow the kids always know that this is a special visit too. In addition to what I already mentioned before, this is the time to review school readiness. We may talk about your child’s ability to separate from you and if it is a worry, strategies to help ease the transition for you and your child. Vision and hearing will be tested which is so important for success in school. How independent is your child in dressing, i.e. boots, coats, or, does he need practice? Does your child know his phone number? Sometimes I have kids draw a self portrait. That tells me about their fine motor skills. I may ask about pedaling a bike or physical activities they participate in. I will ask about friends. All of this relates to their school readiness. Of course, if your child has difficulty or concerns in any of these areas, it doesn’t mean they can’t attend kindergarten. It may mean that we develop a plan together to work on different skills, to ensure their successful transition to kindergarten.
I’m training for the Missoula Marathon and my knee has started to kill me. Can I keep running?
Unfortunately, knee pain is commonly associated with running, but frequently requires an exam by a physician. With an accurate diagnosis of the cause of knee pain, accurate therapies which will maximize the likelihood of making it to the marathon pain free.