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Prisma Health On Call: Answers to your primary care questions 💬

Doctors’ answers to your questions about vaccines, supplements, shingles, weight loss + more.

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As most people’s first point of contact, primary care physicians are pros at answering a wide variety of everyday healthcare questions.

Photo provided by Prisma Health

Table of Contents

Welcome back to Prisma Health On Call, our Q+A series that connects you, our readers, to the healthcare professionals at Prisma Health.

This month, the physicians who are most frequently at the frontlines of your health are here to answer your primary care questions — including those about vaccines, supplements, shingles, losing weight + more.

See the full Q+A below. And big thanks to Kayla LaFaver, DO, and Jonathan Ashley, MD, for their knowledge + expertise.

What accounts for the difference in response to allergy immunotherapy and vaccines?

Allergy immunotherapy (think: allergy shots) involves exposing your immune system to tiny amounts of the substance to which you are allergic. By repeating this over time, and gradually increasing the dose of the exposure, the allergic response decreases. When we give a vaccine, we are exposing your immune system to something it hasn’t responded to yet (or recently) so that it will recognize it and respond quicker the next time it is exposed, thereby preventing infection or making the infection less severe.

Do I need a primary care physician?

It is important to have a Primary Care Physician even if you are young and/or healthy. Primary care physicians work hard to help prevent new health problems and perform important screening tests to identify new health problems early. It is also valuable to have a primary care physician when you get sick, so you can be seen by someone who already knows your medical history.

I have an adult son, aged late 30s, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD. How can our family help him?

There are many potential symptoms of ADHD such as difficulty sitting still, trouble completing tasks on time, and impulsive speech or behavior. People with ADHD often suffer from poor self-esteem and self-doubt, so it can be helpful to offer praise and positive reinforcement.

Encourage loved ones with ADHD to establish a routine and use external reminders like post-it notes and dry erase boards to remain organized and on task. For significant ADHD symptoms, speak to your Primary Care Physician for treatment options that can include medications as well as a type of therapy/counseling called CBT.

Why is it harder for women to lose weight?

While it doesn’t seem fair, it is true that women often lose weight slower than men. This is largely due to differences in metabolism. Women have more body fat and less muscle mass than men which means they metabolize calories at a slower rate. During pregnancy, women store fat for breast milk production during the postpartum period.

Later in life, during the peri-menopausal period, estrogen wanes, causing fat to collect in the abdomen rather than the hips and thighs which leads to an increased risk of metabolic syndromes. After menopause, there is further decrease in muscle mass, again, leading to a slower metabolism. Despite this, the same basic weight loss principles apply to both women and men.

When is it safe to have the shingles shot if you are still experiencing itching/burning symptoms?

If you have had a shingles outbreak, it is generally considered safe to have the shingles vaccine (Shingrix) once the rash has resolved. The itching and burning are caused by irritation of the nerve that was affected by the shingles and may last longer than the rash, but you don’t have to wait for those symptoms to go away before having the vaccine.

How long after having COVID can one get a vaccine?

You can get vaccines once your symptoms have resolved and you have finished your isolation/quarantine. However, to take advantage of the immunity provided after a natural infection, it is recommended that you wait three months after symptom onset to receive the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters. If you were asymptomatic, it is recommended to wait three months from your positive test.

What are some of the best vitamin supplements for a typical middle-aged woman?

The best way to ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need is to make sure you are consuming a healthy diet that is high in whole, plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. However, supplements can also be helpful.

Falling estrogen levels during menopause can have wide-reaching effects on the body, particularly in bone/joint health, heart health, and blood and nerve health. Estrogen helps a woman’s body absorb calcium and deposit it in bone and teeth, so when estrogen levels fall, women are at greater risk for osteoporosis, fractures, falls, and poor dental health. As they age, women’s bodies also do not produce as much of a substance called intrinsic factor which helps absorb vitamin B12. For these reasons, a multivitamin containing calcium, B12, and omega 3 fatty acids is recommended. Vitamin D deficiency is common, so it is also reasonable to supplement with 1000 to 2000 units of vitamin D every day.

How do you get in with a Primary Care Physician as a new patient?

Visit Prisma Health’s Primary Care webpage to find a provider who’s right for you. You can see which physicians are accepting new patients and even book your first appointment online. It’s best to schedule your first visit with a physician while you’re well, so you both can get to know one another without the added pressure of a health crisis.*

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