Nobody enjoys a trip to the ER and while we can all appreciate hospitals and emergency healthcare workers, avoiding them is something most of us do. Staying healthy and taking preventive measures can help ward off hospitalization stays and Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies shares with Eat This, Not That! Health her 10 tips for staying out of the hospital. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Why People Are Admitted to the Hospital
Dr. Mitchell shares, "Other than possibly having a baby, being hospitalized isn't something most people want. In my experience and with other healthcare professionals, there are similarities to why certain individuals get admitted, and others do not. For example, the vast majority of the time, when an individual is admitted to the hospital, it is for one of three reasons: uncontrolled symptoms, unmanageable stress, or severe medical instability. When an individual experiences uncontrolled symptoms, their current treatment approach is not working, and they need around-the-clock observation and support to ensure their safety. Uncontrolled symptoms can be caused by various things but are most often due to psychiatric conditions or Substance Use Disorders. In addition, unmanageable stress is often related to life events such as death or divorce. Severe medical instability can be caused by several things but is most often the result of an exacerbation of a chronic medical condition or an acute illness. Even though there are common reasons for admission, every individual's experience in the hospital is unique. Here are 10 tactics to avoid being hospitalized."
Take Your Medications as Prescribed
Dr. Mitchell reveals, "I have often seen patients decide their schedule for taking their medications. They may believe that they can space their doses out however they want or that it does not matter when they take their medication as long as they eventually do. However, this could not be further from the truth. Medications can have drug interactions, and sometimes spacing meds is critical. Patients put themselves at risk for serious adverse events without knowing the purpose of a medication, its possible side effects, and when to seek care. I strongly urge all patients to speak with their pharmacist or provider before starting any new drug to ensure that they take it safely and effectively."
When You're Sick and Have Chronic Illnesses, Your Risk Factors for Hospitalizations Increases
Dr. Mitchell tells us, "When you are sick, your risk of being hospitalized increases; this is especially true if you have chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with chronic illnesses are more likely to be hospitalized than people without chronic illnesses. Chronic illness is a leading cause of hospitalization in the United States. The CDC estimates that six out of 10 adults have at least one chronic illness. In addition, one in four adults in the US has at least one chronic illness, accounting for more than 70% of hospitalizations. This means that if you have a chronic illness, it's essential to take steps to manage your condition and stay healthy. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, taking medication as prescribed, and seeing your doctor for regular checkups. By taking these steps, you can help reduce your risk of hospitalization."
Don't Ignore Unexplained Bleeding
"When something goes wrong with our bodies, it's natural to feel alarmed," Dr. Mitchell states. "After all, our bodies are literally the vessels that keep us alive, so when they show signs of distress, it's only natural that we would want to take action. One such sign of distress is unexplained bleeding. Whether a nosebleed that won't stop or a small cut that just won't heal, bleeding is our body's way of telling us that something is wrong. And while it might be tempting to ignore these symptoms in the hopes that they will go away on their own, doing so can often lead to further complications. Ignoring a bloody nose, for example, could result in anemia or brain damage. Similarly, failing to treat a cut could lead to a life-threatening infection. In short, bleeding is a sign of something going on with your body. Failure to attend to those symptoms might result in illness progression that, unfortunately, will require hospitalization. So if you find yourself bleeding for no apparent reason, don't wait – make an appointment with your doctor immediately. It could save your life."
Know Your Body
Dr. Mitchell tells us, "I have often told my patients to listen to their gut or intuition." This advice has saved their lives, and even my own, and that of my family. Therefore, it is essential to advocate for yourself when things don't seem right. Failure to listen to your body could result in serious complications, which could land you in the hospital. We all know the countless stories where someone knew something was wrong but brushed it off, only to find out later it was severe. I firmly believe our bodies are very active and will let us know when something is wrong. Often, we are so busy with our lives that we ignore these signals. Or we may be in denial that something could be wrong. Whatever the case may be, we need to make sure we are listening to our bodies, and if something doesn't feel right, please don't hesitate to reach out to a medical professional. It could save your life."
Get Your Preventative Screening Tests
Dr. Mitchell says, "Though no one likes to think about getting sick, preventive screenings can be essential in maintaining your health. They can help to detect illnesses early when they are often more treatable. In some cases, preventive screenings may even help you avoid hospitalization altogether. For example, screenings for conditions like cancer and diabetes can help to catch these diseases in their early stages, when they are often more easily treated. In addition, screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol can help identify people at risk for heart disease. By getting preventive screenings and making lifestyle changes as needed, you can decrease your risk of illness and hospitalization in the future."
Dr. Mitchell reminds us, "Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cigarettes kills more than 480,000 Americans yearly. Given the significant health risks associated with smoking, it is essential to avoid starting smoking or quitting if you currently smoke. One way to do this is to prevent situations where you are likely exposed to cigarette smoke. For example, if you have friends or family members who smoke, ask them not to smoke around you. Avoid places where people are smoking, such as bars or nightclubs. You can also take steps to make your home and smoke-free car zones.
In addition to avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke, quitting smoking can dramatically reduce your risk of developing severe health problems. Smoking has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It can also help improve lung function and increase lifespan. If you are considering quitting smoking, many resources are available to help you, including support groups and cessation programs. Taking steps to avoid smoking or quitting if you currently smoke is one of the best things you can do for your health."
Don't Stop Taking Your Medications Because "You Feel Better"
"It can be tempting to stop taking medication as soon as you start to feel better," Dr. Mitchell states. "After all, why continue to take something if it is no longer needed? However, it is essential to remember that medications are prescribed for a reason. For example, stopping a course of antibiotics early can lead to drug-resistant bacteria. And while it may seem like stopping other medications will have no consequences, this is not always the case. In some instances, abruptly discontinuing medication can increase your risk of needing hospitalization in the future. So, if you are considering stopping your medication, talk to your prescriber first. Then, they will be able to give you the best advice on how to proceed."
Don't Ignore Changes in Urinary Habits
Dr. Mitchell shares, "Urinary tract infections are prevalent, but in particular at-risk individuals, such as diabetics, those with neurological deficits, and the elderly, to name a few, a urinary tract infection can become severe and lead to an infection in the blood (sepsis), which will require hospitalization. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include increased frequency of urination, urgency, burning with urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and low-grade fever. If you have any of these symptoms, it is essential to see your healthcare provider so that they can perform a urinalysis to confirm the diagnosis and start you on antibiotics if necessary. Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition characterized by high fever, chills, rapid heart rate, and difficulty breathing. If you or someone you know has any of the above symptoms, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately."
Have Solid Social Networks
Dr. Mitchell emphasizes, "There is no denying that humans are social animals. We are hardwired to crave connection, and research has shown that social interactions play a vital role in our physical and mental health. For example, studies have shown that maintaining strong social networks can decrease your risk of developing physical and mental illnesses. Additionally, social networks provide an essential support system that can help you recover from illness more quickly. Having a solid social network is essential for maintaining good health. So go out there and make friends- your body will thank you for it!"
Stay Physically Active
Dr. Mitchell says, "Staying physically active is very important for various reasons. Staying active can reduce your chance of illness, reducing your chance of ever needing hospitalization. However, staying physically active doesn't just reduce your chance of heart disease. It can also reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. In addition, staying active can improve your mental health, increase your energy levels, and help you sleep better. With all of these benefits, it's clear that staying physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health."
Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."