West Hills Hospital & Medical Center
West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is your community resource for better health. We have the capability and expertise to perform emergency open heart procedures, perform brain and spine surgery.

Knowing if you have a cold or the flu

When cold and flu season hits, every sniffle and cough could have you wondering which infection you have. Generally, telling the difference between the two based on the symptoms is difficult, and you may need to see a physician to get a definitive answer. Because the flu can lead to serious health problems that require emergency care, it can be helpful to know which illness you have.

What symptoms do colds and the flu cause?

Because colds and the flu are both viral, respiratory infections, they cause very similar symptoms. Both can cause:

  • Runny or stuffy nose (although this symptom is slightly more common with colds)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Fever (although this symptom is more common with the flu)

Not everyone with a cold or the flu will experience all of these symptoms. Typically, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms.

Does the color of phlegm hold any clue?

Many people have heard that they can tell if they have a cold or the flu based on the color of their phlegm. As discussed in the video, clear phlegm is often associated with allergies, while phlegm that is green or yellow usually indicates that you are fighting off some kind of infection, like the flu or a cold. Brown or reddish phlegm can indicate a serious infection.

The color of your phlegm can be a clue that you have an infection, but it generally doesn’t offer a clear answer as to whether you have the flu, a cold, or another viral or bacterial illness.

How can I get a definitive answer?

There are a number of different tests your physician can use to determine if you have the flu. Generally, these tests are most reliable during the early onset of symptoms.

Your physician may not recommend flu testing unless you have a high risk of complications. For instance, if you have diabetes or another chronic health condition, the flu may be more dangerous for you. In these cases, knowing for sure if you have the flu will help your physician create a treatment plan.

Whether you need emergency care in West Hills for your symptoms or a physician who help you manage your respiratory infection, choose West Hills Hospital & Medical Center for your treatment. Call us today at (818) 676-4321 for more information about emergency services or a referral to one of our providers.

Distinguishing between age-related memory loss and dementia

While a person’s intelligence will remain the same their entire lives, cognitive function can change as we age. Memory changes are also common with advanced age. Because age-related declines closely mimic the changes associated with dementia, it can be tricky to differentiate between the two. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s health or your own cognitive function, consider talking to a physician about the signs and symptoms. At West Hills Hospital our physicians and nurses provide a personalized model of high-quality care.

Understanding dementia
Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a disease, but rather an umbrella term for a group of symptoms with many possible causes. Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disorder, is considered a disease with dementia as a symptom. These symptoms affect the following functions of the brain:

  • Learning
  • Recalling information
  • Understanding written language and spoken words
  • Using written language and speech
  • Judging where objects are

Dementia can also affect a person’s executive function. This refers to a person’s ability to:

  • Make plans
  • Solve problems
  • Focus on a task
  • Reason

Comparing symptoms of memory loss
Doctors generally assess a person’s cognitive decline in light of the extent to which the symptoms interfere with daily life. For example, walking into your living room, and then forgetting why you went in there would be considered a normal lapse in memory. Driving home from work, and then forgetting how to get to your house, might be characteristic of dementia.

The following symptoms are typically considered signs of age-related memory loss:

  • Forgetting details of an event that happened last year
  • Occasionally forgetting dates or where you last placed your keys
  • Occasionally having trouble finding the right word

In contrast, the following problems might be considered indicative of dementia, although only a doctor can make that diagnosis.

  • Having trouble recognizing family members
  • Not knowing the names of family members
  • Forgetting the details of a recent conversation
  • Frequently having trouble finding the right word
  • Frequently using unusual substitutions for words (e.g. “warm shirt” instead of “sweater”)

For all of life’s challenges, the dedicated healthcare providers at West Hills Hospital are here to help. We provide a full range of general and specialty medical services for the West Hills community, with an emphasis on compassionate, patient-centered care. Call (818) 676-4321 to speak with a friendly member of our trusted nursing staff.

Keep your hands safe this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without a turkey on the dinner table. If you’re responsible for carving the bird, keep in mind some basic safety precautions to protect yourself from serious hand injuries. From our family to yours, the emergency care team at West Hills Hospital wishes you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Choose a sharp carving knife

Use a whetstone to sharpen your carving knife before getting to work on the bird. If your knife is sharp enough, it won’t take as much force to cut through the meat, which can reduce the risk of injuries. Individuals using an electric carving knife should carefully follow the instructions and safety precautions in the user’s manual.

Avoid using a knife to try to cut through bones. Instead, sanitize a sharp pair of kitchen shears and use these for bones.

Set up the carving station properly

Carve the bird in a well-lit area of the kitchen or dinner table. If you’re having a candlelit Thanksgiving dinner, turn the overhead lights on while carving the turkey.

Sanitize and thoroughly dry the carving board, and make sure it won’t slide around on the counter or table while you’re working on it. The handle of your carving knife should be completely dry. Otherwise, your hands could slip and sustain an injury.

Carve the turkey safely

Only cut away from yourself, and avoid placing your free hand in the path of the knife. Let each slice of meat fall to the carving board, instead of trying to catch it with your free hand.

Seek emergency care for serious injuries

If you do cut yourself, apply direct pressure with a clean cloth. If the bleeding won’t stop or is severe, an emergency care physician should treat you. You’ll also need medical care if you’re overdue for a tetanus shot, or you’re not sure if you’ve had this shot before.

This Thanksgiving and every other day of the year, the emergency care doctors and nurses are here to help. West Hills Hospital is a modern medical center with a newly renovated ER, short wait times and advanced medical technology. Call 911 for true medical emergencies, or call a registered nurse in West Hills at (818) 676-4321 if you have general healthcare questions.

Having a healthy pregnancy with gestational diabetes

Health is a top priority for expecting mothers. Certain conditions, like gestational diabetes, can make it more complicated to have a healthy pregnancy. That’s why the maternity team at West Hills Hospital firmly believes in delivering superior, family-centered care and exceptional patient education.

Understand the risks of gestational diabetes
Patients who understand their diagnoses are better able to make the informed healthcare decisions that protect them and their babies. Expecting moms with gestational diabetes have extra blood glucose that affects the developing baby through the placenta. This can result in a large birth weight, which increases the risk of shoulder injuries during birth.

Additionally, gestational diabetes can increase the risk of breathing problems of the infant. Later in life, the child may be more susceptible to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Keep track of blood glucose levels
Although gestational diabetes is a serious issue, it can be effectively managed with help from your maternity care team. Your doctor may ask that you check your blood glucose levels before and after eating a meal. He or she will let you know where these levels should be, and what you should do if your blood glucose is too high.

Follow a diabetes-friendly meal plan
A registered dietician can help you learn how to count carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are significant, because they raise your blood glucose level. Simple carbs elevate blood glucose quickly, while complex carbs release steadier energy over time.

The dietician may ask that you avoid or strictly limit the following:

  • Fruit juice
  • Desserts and sweets
  • Added sugars
  • Refined cereals

Instead, choose healthy foods like these:

  • Vegetables
  • Limited amounts of fresh fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Skinless poultry
  • Whole grains

Stay active during pregnancy
Talk to a maternity specialist before starting or changing your exercise plan during pregnancy. You may be asked to check your blood glucose before and after each work out.

Your doctor will help you develop an exercise program that’s safe for you and your baby. While every woman’s health needs are unique, the following workouts are generally considered safe for most:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Stationary cycling

You and your baby deserve nothing less than world-class care delivered by compassionate maternity specialists. The maternity team at West Hills Hospital invites you to tour our Family Birthing Center, and learn about our cutting-edge NICU. You can get in touch with a registered nurse in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.

What you need to do to improve your lung health?

Since breathing is involuntary, most people don’t give much thought to the health of their lungs on a day-to-day basis. But by making conscious decisions to support your lung function, you’ll be rewarded with a reduced risk of disabling and life-threatening lung diseases like cancer. Watch the accompanying video for a quick introduction to lifestyle choices that promote strong lungs, presented by one of our doctors from West Hills Hospital.

Quit smoking or don’t start
Thousands of chemicals are present in tobacco smoke, including carbon monoxide and tar. Smoking a cigarette or cigar causes both short-term and long-term changes in the lungs, including the following:

  • Increased production of thicker mucus
  • Suppressed ability of the cilia to clean the lungs
  • Increased risk of lung infections
  • Irritation, inflammation and narrowing of the airways
  • Destruction of lung tissue
  • Less oxygen available for the body
  • Increased risk of lung cancer

The health benefits of quitting smoking begin right away. Within a matter of days, ex-smokers will notice that it’s easier to breathe. As time passes, ex-smokers have a decreased risk of lung infections and cancer.

Stay away from secondhand smoke
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.5 million non-smokers have died since 1964 from health problems that developed because of their exposure to secondhand smoke. Non-smokers may develop:

  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Frequent, severe asthma attacks
  • Lung cancer

You can protect your lungs from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke by taking the following steps:

  • Prohibit smoking in and near your home
  • Prohibit smoking in and near your car
  • Walk away if someone near you lights up
  • Prohibit smoking on your company’s property, if you own a business

Test your home’s radon level
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that occurs naturally, and is present in many homes. Exposure to high levels of radon can lead to lung cancer. You can protect your family by purchasing a radon test kit to use in your home.

Exercise on most days of the week
Each time you exercise, your lungs get exercise, too. Everyone’s physical capabilities and needs are a little different. For most adults, doctors generally recommend getting moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

With our cutting-edge medical technology and genuinely compassionate healthcare providers, West Hills Hospital is your family’s partner in health. We pride ourselves on comprehensive preventive health services, but also offer cutting-edge interventional medicine by our Cancer Care team in West Hills. You can request a physician referral by calling (818) 676-4321.

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