Have Questions about Wildfire Smoke? Alicja Gonzales, PA-C, Has Answers.

ZOOM+Care provider offers tips on dealing with wildfire smoke.
Alicja Gonzales is PA-C at ZOOM+Care.

Maybe you don’t need us to tell you this, but: there’s a lot going in the world right now.

While our country grapples with COVID-19, the Pacific Coast is on fire, its residents cocooned in a thick blanket of smoke under an eerie red sky. Air Quality Index numbers are—quite literally—off the charts in both rural and major cities across the west. 

With smoke levels at hazardous levels, you’re bound to have questions about how air quality affects your health. To answer your q’s, give you some peace of mind, and get tips on reducing exposure risk, we sat down with ZOOM+Care provider Alicja Gonzales.

Hi Alijica! First of all, what are the symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure? 

Symptom severity can vary, but common symptoms include a scratchy throat, nasal and eye irritation, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and chest pain. 

Who is most likely to experience health effects from wildfire smoke exposure? Who is THE most vulnerable?

Individuals with preexisting lung and heart conditions, the elderly, and pregnant women are at higher risk for complications. Children are also at a higher risk because they breathe more air per pound of bodyweight than adults. 

Finally, the longer you are exposed to pollutants from smoke, the higher your risk of developing smoke-related illnesses.

What can I do to protect myself from the smoke?  

Avoid outdoor exposure as much as possible. Exercise indoors when possible. Keep all doors and windows closed, and consider applying weather sealing if you detect smoke leaking in. 

Do not add to indoor air pollution. Avoid lighting candles, smoking, vacuuming, and using your fireplace.

 As a last resort, consider seeking shelter elsewhere—especially if you are at high risk for complications. 

Are there any effective home remedies to cleanse the air? We’ve heard a lot of talk about boiling herbs, wet towels and bandanas, etc. 

The above remedies are unlikely to improve actual air quality, but they may temporarily alleviate minor smoke exposure symptoms. 

To improve the air quality in your home, try these tips:

  1. Change home air filters to high-efficiency ones. 
  2. Use a portable air cleaner/purifier.
  3. Again, do not add to indoor air pollution. Your house might feel stuff from being shut up, but avoid lighting candles or using scented air fresheners. They do nothing to improve air quality, and can actually make it worse.

How can I tell if wildfire smoke is affecting my family or me? 

If you’re told to stay indoors, do so! Stay informed and monitor air quality indexes closely in your area. Know the symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure, and seek care if you’re concerned. 

If I’m experiencing side effects from wildfire smoke, when do I need to see a doctor?  

Minor symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, throat, nasal and eye irritation should gradually resolve as air quality improves.

If you have severe chest pain symptoms, shortness of breath, cough, rapid heart rate, or dizziness, you should immediately call 911 or the nearest emergency facility.

If you’re feeling off, or just worried, there is no harm in consulting your healthcare provider. Often, evaluation and medical guidance can bring much-needed reassurance. 

Should I be worried about long-term effects from wildfire smoke?  

It’s natural to feel worried, but the wildfires in our region will only temporarily affect the air quality. Long-term physical effects are unlikely.

Many of us feel really anxious right now. Is this normal?

Feeling anxious is a normal human reaction. Even in stressful situations, it’s important to try to find the positive in any situation. Consider turning anxious energy into ways to connect and help others in your community who are likely to be feeling the same way. 

Like Alicja said, it’s normal to off right now. Whether you need help coping with anxiety or processing what’s happening in the world right now, our Mental Health Specialists are here to help.

Getting Your Flu Shot Is More Important Now Than Ever. Here’s Why.

Schedule your 5-minute flu shot on our phone or mobile app.
Go to zoomcare.com to schedule your 5-minute flu shot today.

During a typical year, many of us are likely to put off, neglect, or outright refuse to get our flu shots. Now, with COVID-19 coursing through the country, Americans are feeling more reluctant than ever to visit crowded pharmacies and doctors’ offices. 

But health officials say that 2020 really isn’t the year to skip your shot—and a big reason is the coronavirus.

While the flu is notoriously unpredictable, influenza activity typically starts to increase in October. With COVID-19 not yet under control, we could be looking at the collision of two potentially deadly viruses this fall. (Or, as some are calling it—a “twindemic.”) 

In the words of CDC Director Robert R. Redfield: “This fall, nothing can be more important than to try to increase the American public’s decision to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.”

Why are flu shots so crucial this year? 

For starters, flu shots can cut down on the number of trips people take to the doctor. If someone gets sick with the flu and has to go to the hospital or doctor’s office, they run a higher risk of being exposed to someone infected with COVID-19.

“Because influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses, they have similar symptoms,” says ZOOM+Care CMO, Dr. Erik Vanderlip. “Some people may think they have COVID this fall, but really, they have the flu. The flu shot can help prevent unnecessary trips to the doctor, and reduce the severity of the flu, if you do happen to become infected.”

Another reason to get vaccinated is to prevent additional strain on our healthcare system.

It’s usual for hospitals to see a bump in admissions due to influenza. This seasonal rise, combined with coronavirus, could quickly overwhelm our healthcare system. And because flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses, doctors treat them with the same limited medical equipment and supplies, including ventilators.

With healthcare facilities already struggling to accommodate COVID-19 patients, they may not be able to handle the additional influx of flu cases. Getting your flu shot can help ease the burden on the healthcare system and preserve life-saving resources.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the CDC warns of the possibility of co-infection—meaning, having flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. Health experts are still studying how common this occurrence is, but contracting COVID-19 on top of the flu could prove devastating for a patient.

“Getting a flu shot lowers the chances you’ll get influenza—and if you do, it will most likely be a milder infection,” says ZOOM+Care CMO, Dr. Vanderlip. “We have no idea what co-infection with flu and COVID would be like, but a flu vaccine reduces your chances of finding out. Plus, it helps limit the spread of coronavirus by preventing extra trips to the doctor.”

Keep calm and get your flu shot on.

If all of this sounds terrifying, don’t panic! Just get your flu shot, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. If enough of the U.S. population gets vaccinated—hopefully, more than the 45% who did last flu season—we could head off a nightmare scenario in the coming months. 

Even more good news? The pandemic has underscored the importance of handwashing, sanitizing, masking, and social distancing—measures which also curb the spread of flu. So, if the public continues to follow the advice of health experts and gets vaccinated for the flu, we could have the “best flu season” to date, according to Redfield. 

It’s not too early to get a flu shot. 

Although flu season can last into May and beyond, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated sooner rather than later. That’s because it can take two weeks for your body to develop antibodies to protect you against the virus. 

To try and ward off a twindemic as flu season approaches, healthcare providers, ZOOM+Care included, have made the vaccine available earlier than usual this year. 

“Now is the time to get the flu shot, because we don’t know when the flu wave will be coming,”  says Dr. Vanderlip. 

Who should be vaccinated? 

No one is immune to the flu, which is why everyone over the age of six months should consider getting vaccinated. 

This is especially true for people in high-risk categories, like:

  • Young children ages five and under
  • Aldults 65+ 
  • Women who are pregnant, postpartum, or nursing 
  • People with long-term health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.

Little pinch. Big payoff. For your best shot at a flu-free fall and winter, get vaccinated at any of our neighborhood clinics today

6 Flu Shot Myths, Busted

It’s nearly fall, which means two things: pumpkin spice lattes (yay?) and flu season (boo!). While the CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu shot, less than half of Americans will heed this advice. In fact, during the 2018-2019 flu season, a mere 45% of adults were vaccinated. 

The flu shot is by far the best way to protect against this potentially deadly infection—so why do so many people doubt its safety and efficacy? The answer to that question lies in myth and misinformation. Many of the rumored side effects (like that the shot can give you the flu) are simply untrue. 

We’d like to clear the air about this much-maligned vaccine, but—before we bust some myths—we want to make our stance on vaccines clear. While ZOOM+Care strongly advocates for vaccination, we believe in listening to patients’ perspectives first and foremost. We want to be a non-judgmental source of knowledge, offering evidence-based information about immunizations. 

If you have concerns about the safety and efficacy of the flu shot, here are six common myths—and facts to debunk them. 

Myth #1: The Flu Shot Gives You the Flu 

This is perhaps the most pervasive myth about the flu shot, and it endures for a reason: many people report feeling unwell after receiving the vaccine. 

Because the flu shot is made from dead viruses, it cannot (repeat, cannot) give you the flu. However, it can trigger an immune response from your body—which may cause you to experience mild, flu-like symptoms. (I.e., achy muscles, soreness, redness at the injection site, or a low-grade fever.) 

It’s important to note: while irritation around the injection site is common, only 1 to 2 percent of people who get the flu shot will have fever as a side effect. 

Myth #2: The Flu Shot Doesn’t Work 

The effectiveness of flu shots indeed varies from season to season, it’s true. 

Like any viral infection, the flu rapidly mutates and creates new strains every year—and the vaccine can’t protect you from all of them. However, that doesn’t mean the flu shot doesn’t work. In the 2017-2018 flu season, the vaccine reduced the risk of illness by around 47%, according to the CDC. 

The flu shot’s effectiveness varies by population, too. For instance, the vaccine tends to be less effective at protecting the elderly. However, even though elderly people who are immunized may still get sick, they’ll likely get less sick. For many older folks, the flu vaccine can be the difference between a trip to the doctor and a trip to the hospital.

Myth #3: Healthy People Don’t Need the Flu Shot 

We hate to break it to you, but sometimes, even the strongest immune system falls victim to the flu. No one (except maybe Superman) is invulnerable to the virus—and getting vaccinated is always your best bet at staying protected. 

Even if you never, ever get the flu, it’s still a good idea to get a flu shot—and doing so could save lives. While you may not develop flu symptoms yourself, you can still carry the virus and pass it on to those more vulnerable. Almost anywhere you go, you can come in contact with a cancer patient on chemotherapy, a newborn infant, or someone with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. All are especially at risk of serious complications (or even death) from the flu.

Myth #4: You Don’t Need the Flu Shot Every Year 

The bad news? Even if you got a flu shot last year, you’ll need it again this year. That’s because the virus rapidly mutates, rendering the previous year’s vaccine partially or completely useless. 

The good news is, scientists and researchers are constantly updating the vaccination so it’s effective against the strains they predict will be most common during flu season.

Myth #5: Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Get the Flu Vaccine

When you’re pregnant, you want to do everything you can to ensure your baby is healthy. Most expectant mothers are very careful about what they put into their bodies, and the flu shot is no exception.

As the busy flu season approaches, we have good news for pregnant women: not only is it safe for them to get the flu shot, but it’s especially beneficial for them to do so. When you’re expecting, your immune system is taxed. That means you’re more likely to get sick (and really sick), putting you at higher risk for flu-related complications. The flu can be a deadly disease for pregnant women, and the vaccine is your best bet at preventing it. 

Myth #6: The Vaccine is Poisonous

We’ll be real: some of the ingredients in the flu vaccine sound a little suspect. (Formaldehyde? Aluminum salts?) However, the myth that the flu shot is “poisonous” is far more dangerous than any of its additives. 

While the vaccine does contain small traces of ingredients that would be poisonous in large doses, research overwhelmingly shows that these additives are safe in the trace amounts contained in flu shots. All the ingredients are essential in either making the vaccine, triggering the body to develop immunity, or in ensuring that the final product is safe and effective. 

One thing is for certain: when it comes to the flu vaccine, the rewards far outweigh the risks. For your best shot at a flu-free winter, get vaccinated at any of our neighborhood clinics.

Have a Vagina? Here are 5 Reasons to See a Zoom Specialist

ZOOM+Care women's health and vaginal health.

From chugging cranberry juice to soaking tampons in yogurt, people have been treating common vaginal conditions at home since—well, forever. And while it’s tempting to put regular health checks on hold during COVID and DIY a diagnosis, sometimes, cranberry juice won’t cut it. 

Sometimes, you need professional help. (Also, putting food in your vagina probably isn’t the best idea—but we’ll get to that later.)

So, when these five issues crop up, put down the yogurt, walk away from the cranberry juice, and seek professional help ASAP. 

#1. You’re bleeding, but you’re not on your period. 

Spotting between periods is pretty typical for vagina-havers, especially if you’re on the pill. However, spotting for more than a few days or bleeding heavily between periods could mean something is wrong. 

Irregular bleeding can be a sign of a pelvic infection, cysts, fibroids, polyps, hormonal imbalances, endometriosis, a thyroid disorder, STI, or in rare cases, gynecological cancer.

If left untreated, these conditions can escalate and even affect your reproductive health. If you’re experiencing any of the above, it’s a good idea to check in with a healthcare provider pronto. 

#2. Your period is super painful. 

Cramps happen, but they shouldn’t leave you feeling incapacitated. If period pain is interfering with your ability to perform daily tasks, it could be a sign that something is wrong. 

So, how do you know if your cramps are “normal?” Here are a few things to look out for:

“Normal” cramps are relatively easy to treat with over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen. They usually start at the beginning of your period and last for two to four days. If you’re having intense cramps that linger and exceed your usual period pain, it’s probably time to talk to a provider. 

Never had cramps before? Period pain that starts suddenly later in life, or intensifies over time, can signify a benign tumor called a uterine fibroid. Sudden cramping or pelvic pain may also indicate infection, which, if left untreated, can damage the pelvic organs and lead to infertility.

Even if there’s nothing unusual about your cramping, don’t feel shy about talking to a provider. Most period pain is treatable, and there’s no reason to put your life on hold during your period.

#3. Something smells…off. 

Regular discharge—clear, odorless stuff you see in your underwear—is normal and healthy. The vagina is self-cleaning (kind of like an oven), and vaginal discharge keeps it healthy by getting rid of dead cells and bacteria.

Slight changes in your vaginal discharge are no cause for alarm. What’s more concerning is a sudden, strong odor or fishy smell, especially when accompanied by a change in discharge color, itchiness, pain, or irritation. These symptoms can signal infection—such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis—or STIs like gonorrhea or trichomoniasis.

Oh, and about those yeast infections. People often tout yogurt as a more natural way of treating them, but we don’t recommend it. Bacteria and yeast thrive in warm, moist places, so the old “soaking a tampon in yogurt” trick could cause infection rather than fight it. 

We know DIY options are temping during COVID, but—if you think you might have a yeast infection—we recommend getting it checked out by a doctor. You can even talk to one of our Women’s Health providers from the safety and comfort of your home. 

#4. You’re experiencing pain during sex. 

Pain during sex is surprisingly common. Sometimes, it’s caused by something situational, like lack of lubricant or an awkward position. However, painful sex may also be a sign that something’s going on internally. 

Pay attention to the kind of pain you’re experiencing. A sudden, sharp pain could indicate a ruptured ovarian cyst, while deep pain can signal endometriosis. Burning, stinging, itching, or rawness around the vagina can be a symptom of a condition called vulvodynia, or chronic pain of the vulva.

STIs or other infections can cause inflammation of the cervix, which also makes sex painful. 

Regardless of its origin, don’t hesitate to talk to a provider if you’re experiencing pain during sex. Sex is supposed to be pleasurable, and you deserve to enjoy it. 

#5. You want to switch up your birth control. 

Finding the right birth control can take some trial and error.  If your current method is causing unwanted side effects or isn’t the right fit for your lifestyle, our Women’s Health providers can talk you through your options. There’s no reason to settle for a method that’s making you miserable with so many different kinds of contraception out there. For example, if you constantly forget to take your pill, you might want to chat with your doc about a more permanent method, such as IUD or implant. 


WE GET IT—IT’S TEMPTING TO PUT OFF REGULAR HEALTH CHECKS DURING COVID-19. IF YOU WANT TO TALK TO A CARING PROFESSIONAL FROM THE COMFORT OF HOME, WE OFFER WOMEN’S HEALTH VISITS THROUGH VIDEOCARE™. YOU CAN ALSO SEE A PROVIDER IN-PERSON, DEPENDING ON YOUR COMFORT LEVEL.

#TogetherWeZoom: Get to Know Mental Health Provider Ebony Blackmon Humphrey

ZOOM+Care Mental Health doctor Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey
As a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner for ZOOM+Care, Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey helps patients seeking mental health services at our Bellevue & 4th Street clinic.

A lot has been said about our business model, our proprietary technology, and our innovative approach to care. But make no mistake: Our people are the most important component of our success. Always willing to go the extra mile for our patients, this big-hearted group of professionals is what makes us…well, zoom! Our monthly employee spotlight is dedicated to celebrating the incredible work our employees do inside of ZOOM+Care—and the lives they lead outside it.

Last December, a long-held goal of ours was finally realized: We launched ZOOM+Care Mental Health in Seattle.

Similarly to Oregon, patients seeking mental-health treatment in Washington can face long wait times and limited options. Our Bellevue & 4th Street Clinic helps fill a critical need by providing quality, accessible mental healthcare to East Seattle residents.

Leading the charge at Bellevue & 4th is Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey: An experienced Doctor of Nursing Practice and Psychiatric Mental Health NP. (Officially, her title is DNP ARNP PMHNP-BC. Say that tens times fast!)

Keep reading to learn more about Ebony’s passion for helping others, her advice for prospective ZOOM+Care candidates, and her proudest moment on the job so far.

What inspires you most about your work?

My spirituality is the deepest part of me. It is my internal motivation. It helps me give all of myself clinically to each person trusting me to make sense of their story. I value, metaphorically the books called “people” I have read and will continue to read on my journey. Their stories mean everything to me.

What advice do you have for prospective candidates?

Love what you do, as people from all walks of life are trusting you to make sense of their life’s artwork. Stare at their life’s painting and help them understand that all of the markings are not permanent. Some markings will fade away in conversation, others with medication, but most of them will become less meaningful with time.

What are three words you would use to describe ZOOM+Care?

Cutting-edge, daring, and impactful.

What is your favorite Thing about our approach to care?

Zoom’s presence inside local communities makes care local and accessible.

What is your proudest moment at ZOOM+Care?

Anytime a patient returns to tell me about what has changed in their life for the better.

Do you enjoy helping others on their journey to better health? We’re hiring!

Supercharge Your Summer with These Simple Nutrition Tips.

summer nutrition tips. picture of watermelons on a blue background.

While we wholeheartedly reject the notion of a “summer body” and believe fad diets are less-than-effective, we do think summer days are the salad days of nutritious eating. Why’s that, you ask? All the fresh fruits and veggies in season, of course! (Plus, the heat makes us crave crisp veggies and fruit-filled smoothies like nobody’s business.)

To give you tips for trying new foods and creating healthy habits this summer, we sat down with our go-to nutrition expert, Dr. Benjamin Burton, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine here at ZOOM+Care. 

Hi, Dr. Burton! We want to be clear: We don’t co-sign the whole “trendy summer diet thing.”  That said, summer is as good a time as any to start incorporating nutrition-packed foods into our diets. Can you give us some bite-sized tips for doing so?

Dr. Burton: The health and diet industry has indeed created many interesting ideas around how, what, when, and where we should eat. Plus, there are diverging notions about what health is and what it isn’t—and a lot of disagreement on the subject. One thing is evident through all this: Eating “healthy” is an extremely personalized thing, and it looks different for everyone. I want to preface this advice by stating that health tips should not be approached from a “one size fits all” frame of mind.  

With all this said, I do think summer is a great time to mix it up and try some new patterns to see if there are aspects of your life you can change to improve your health. Here are some recommendations:

ZOOM+Care doctor Dr. Ben Burton.
Dr. Benjamin Burton is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at ZOOM+Care. 

Try something new.

Hate eating your veggies? Summer is the perfect time to experiment with them, since there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables that come into season this time of year. Broccoli is a great example. Summer is the time of year where broccoli is the freshest and most savory. It’s an excellent time to develop a taste for fresh, nutrition-packed foods!

Try an open-air or farmer’s market.

This is an excellent way to discover what foods naturally grow near you. When you make a purchase, ask the growers how they prepare the food. Local farmers and gardeners are passionate about natural foods, and they can provide fun ideas you may have never thought of. For example, having toast with sweet green peppers and almond butter, or eating tomatoes like an apple with a little salt after every bite.  

Move cooking outside.

Summer is a great time to experiment with some nutritious new recipes, too. Grilling, smoking, barbecuing, and even dutch oven cooking encourage experimentation, and are excellent during the summer, because cooking outside removes the heat of food preparation from your house.

In addition to nutrition…

another important part of creating a healthy lifestyle is finding hobbies and activities you enjoy. If you are trying to make a change in your routine, don’t focus on restricting. Instead, focus on adding—adding in nutritious foods, yes, but adding in activities as well. Summer is a great time to do this. Try these things out:  

Plan an adventure.

This goes without saying, but summer is the perfect time to get your heart rate up with activities like hiking, biking, and swimming. Grab a quick snack before you go, and embark on your adventure! As an added bonus: When you get home, you will be hungry—and your next meal will taste that much better.  

Experiment with new hobbies.

Maybe you don’t like, or are unable to participate in activities running or hiking, or—that’s fine! Grab your camera or your phone and get out and take some pictures. Try bird watching, flower pressing, go on an art walk, or explore the local architecture. All these activities will get you out of the house and into the outdoors. Summer is a great time to find an outside passion or interest, which in turn gets you moving. As silly as it sounds, having hobbies really promotes an active lifestyle!

Take advantage of summer to boost your mood.

People who spent 120 minutes a week in “green spaces” report a significant increase in both their mental and physical well-being, compared to those who don’t  go outdoors. Since the Pacific Northwest is often rainy in the fall, winter, and—let’s face it, spring—take advantage of the weather to soak up the mood-boosting benefits. 

In closing, if you’re trying to boost your energy and make healthy lifestyle choices, find that unique pattern that works for you. If you don’t see results, then mix it up and try something new! Summer is a great time to get to mixing. 

WANT MORE TIPS? ZOOM+CARE’S INTERNAL MEDICINE TEAM CAN OFFER EXPERT GUIDANCE TO HELP YOU ON YOUR WELLNESS JOURNEY. SCHEDULE NOW. 

Parents, Here’s Some Advice for Staying Sane during the Coronavirus

Daughter and mom wearing diy face masks for protetion against coronavirus, walking in the street.

Parents, let’s level with each other: As much as we love our kids, we also love dropping them off at school. As many a grandma loves to say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”—and that old adage rings truer than ever during the coronavirus. Being a parent is never easy, but it’s especially trying when there are no teachers and caregivers to tag in and give you a breather.

An estimated 1.38 billion kids are out of school globally, participating in e-learning programs or being homeschooled. To make matters worse, activities like team sports, play dates, and sleepovers are next to impossible to do safely. Add working from home and the virus itself to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for fatigue, anxiety, and a host of other challenging emotions. 

Even a superhero would struggle with feeding the kids, keeping them entertained, having a video call with grandma and grandpa, and doing the laundry on a weeknight (let alone finding time for self care). But there are little things parents can do that might help them feel less overwhelmed—and more in touch with their emotions during these challenging times.

Parenting during the coronavirus is complicated

If it seems like parenting is challenging right now, it’s because it is. A recent study found that many different factors influence parent stress, anxiety, and depression during the pandemic. Researchers found that good marital relationships, strong social bonds, families interacting harmoniously, and the absence of a family history of mental illness may have had a positive impact on parent mental health. Even the ages of kids in the house can have an effect. Parents with kids in middle and high school experienced higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than those of kids in elementary school.

Be patient with yourself—and have confidence in your parenting

Sometimes the easiest person to blame when things are difficult is ourselves, but try to keep self-blame in perspective. Remember that you’re doing your best, and that the coronavirus is unprecedented for most people. Be understanding and compassionate with yourself. Even if you feel overwhelmed, remember that you’re doing your best to raise kids during a tumultuous global pandemic. No one is expected to navigate this perfectly, so be gracious with yourself when you make mistakes.

Find creative ways to recharge

Even if you’re tethered to your home, try to find ways to unplug from “caretaker mode” through soothing projects or activities. A silver lining of the pandemic is having more time to focus on things you may not normally have time for. Gardening, drawing, reading, playing music—anything that feels soothing and fulfilling. If breaking off isn’t possible, think about ways that you can engage your kids in the same fulfilling activities. You might just find lovely family moments in the process.

If you’re co-parenting, consider scheduling time for each of you to break off and tend to your own needs. Walk around the neighborhood, go for a long bike ride, or read a book in the park. Spending time by yourself has proven psychological benefits, such as enhanced self-esteem and motivation.

Pay attention to your news and media consumption

With a global pandemic, national unrest, and elections around the corner, there’s a lot of stress in the media. Consider how the news you’re consuming is affecting your mental health. Staying informed is important, but the World Health Organization recommends limiting the amount of news coverage that makes you feel anxious or distressed.

Video calls with family and friends can be a great alternative to stressful media. They’re a great way to stay connected and engaged with the closest people in your life.

How ZOOM+Care can help.  

If parenting during the coronavirus has you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed, ZOOM+Care can help. Set up a visit with one of our on-demand mental health specialists today. We also offer virtual visits through VideoCare™ if an in-person visit isn’t the best fit for you.

ZOOM+Care’s on-demand mental health specialists give great guidance and help you take care of yourself, giving you tools to feel better on your own. They can also help with medication management, and give counseling referrals if needed.

#TogetherWeZoom: Get to know Clinic Associate Janee Meengs.

Janee Meengs is a Clinic Associate at our ZOOM+Super clinic.

ZOOM+Care is filled with whip-smart individuals, willing to roll up their sleeves, dive in, and get their hands dirty to change the future of healthcare. #TogetherWeZoom is our monthly employee spotlight, designed to celebrate these individuals.

For this month’s #TogetherWeZoom, we caught up with Janee Meengs—a Clinic Associate at our ZOOM+Super clinic.

For those who don’t know, ZOOM+Super is our alternative to the Emergency Room. Staffed with board-certified emergency doctors, Super offers more treatment options than urgent care—but it costs less time and money than an ER.

Read on to learn more about the work Janee does at ZOOM+Super, what she loves most about her job, and her advice for prospective candidates.

Hi Janee! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. What inspires you most about your work?

Our patients really inspire my work. It’s inspiring to have a positive effect on someone who isn’t feeling well and being able to turn their day around by simply supporting them and providing excellent care. It makes me strive to be better and do better, knowing that we brought light to them during a tough time.

What advice do you have for prospective ZOOM+Care candidates?

The advice I would give to prospective candidates to ZOOM+Care is to be adaptable and ready to embrace change. The advice I’d give to potential Super candidates is to come ready to learn and open to constructive criticism. I believe that change, adaptation, and embracing constructive criticism are things that we all will encounter in life. Learning them early in a professional setting can enable us to further our careers and professional relationships.

What three words best describe you?

Three words that describe me are quirky, observant, and dedicated. 

What do you like to do on your days off?

On my days off I like to read, sunbathe, and watch Netflix. (Kingdom is my current favorite).

What sets ZOOM+Super apart from a standard ER visit?

Cost, speed, and efficiency set Super apart from the standard ER visit. 

I think those are also the reasons that patients continue to seek care at Super for emergencies.

What would you say are the most common reasons people come into Super?

We commonly see chest and abdominal pain patients, concussions and lots of breaks and sprains!

What do you hear from patients about their experience with Super?

The number one comment I get from patients is about our efficiency, how streamlined our workflow is, and how we are all positive and genuinely care about them—and helping them get better!

What is your favorite feature or service offering that Super provides and why?

My favorite service that Super offers is our lab. Working in the lab has inspired me personally to pursue a career in pathology. Being able to see the biological markers of disease and relating them to specific symptoms or diagnoses is truly incredible. I also love that this service takes approximately 30 minutes, max! Meaning, Sarah can have answers/reasons for their ailment or peace of mind much more quickly than a standard Emergency Room or through their Primary Care Provider.

Do you enjoy helping others on their journey to better health? Are you looking for an entryway into the exciting field of healthcare? We’re currently hiring for Clinic Associates! 

Do Face Masks Cause CO2 Poisoning? And Other Questions, Answered.

Face masks are an important part of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

As coronavirus cases surge in the U.S., lawmakers and public health officials are urging Americans to wear face masks in public. And despite some confusion early on when officials were advising against mask use, the scientific community has reached a consensus: Covering your mouth and nose in public is a safe, easy way to reduce coronavirus transmission.

So, with the science clear, why do some Americans refuse to wear a face mask? The answer is, in part, because the issue is steeped in myth and misinformation. For example, many believe that masks limit their oxygen intake and expose them to harmful levels of CO2.

To address some common concerns about the safety and efficacy of masks, we had a socially distanced sit-down with Dr. Mark Zeitzer, our Medical Director of Acute Care Services. 

Dr. Mark Zeizter, pictured above, is ZOOM+Care’s Medical Director of Acute Care Services. 

Hi Mark! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk masks. First of all: is there any evidence to suggest that wearing a mask could cause CO2 poisoning?

Simply put, no. The use of cloth and paper masks can be uncomfortable or feel foreign. However, it does not cause CO2 intoxication or oxygen deficiency. There is simply no scientific evidence stating that there is any danger of CO2 poisoning created by temporary or prolonged mask use.  

Are masks even capable of catching or keeping unhealthy amounts of CO2 within the mask itself?

No, they aren’t. We’re lucky, because we’re not wearing masks that form a tight seal. Only an airtight face-covering could possibly cause carbon dioxide to build up to dangerous levels. Cloth and paper masks, which allow for a certain amount of breathability, are perfectly safe.

The biggest thing to remember is that masks create a barrier between your germs and other people. They catch things in our expired air, and respiratory droplets that come out of our noses and mouths. This helps decrease the spread of the virus.

Can regular or frequent mask-wearing deplete oxygen levels? 

There is no evidence that mask-wearing decreases oxygen levels or increases CO2 levels. It may feel like it, however, because wearing a mask can be uncomfortable. Most of us aren’t used to having our mouths and noses covered for long periods of time. 

But no, masks do not deplete oxygen levels. If you want to find out for yourself, you can do the simple experiment of putting a pulse oximeter (pulse ox) on your finger and wearing a mask for a few hours. You’ll find there is no correlation between decreased pulse ox levels and wearing a mask. You can even exercise with a mask on, and you will not see reduced pulse-ox levels.

Can regular mask-wearing compromise one’s immune system?

Interestingly, I haven’t heard this angle before. No, wearing a mask does not inhibit the use of our immune systems in any way. If anything, a mask acts as an ally to our immune system, because it protects the wearer from receiving particles from others. 

But really, what masks do best is protect other people. By serving as a barrier, they block what we’re breathing out. When we wear a mask, it decreases droplet and aerosol transmission tremendously, and it’s not inhibiting our immune system from working well. 

Should individuals with asthma or similar other pre-existing respiratory issues approach mask-wearing any differently?

You know, I can only encourage people with asthma to wear masks more frequently. That’s because asthma patients are at an increased risk to COVID-19, since their lungs don’t work as well. They could have broncho-spasm or things like that.  Actually, wearing a mask can help them. Asthma is a form of allergy, and if they’re wearing a mask over their nose and mouth, they will bring in fewer allergens. So, in reality, their asthma will be more well-controlled. 

Can wearing a mask cause or induce anxiety?

Not for someone who doesn’t already have anxiety. 

For those with anxiety, wearing a mask can get to their psyche—they may feel like they can’t breathe as well. It can make some people feel like they’re suffocating.  

This is a very stressful time for all of us, and everyone’s anxiety has increased. However, it can be reassuring to look at the facts. Masks are not harmful. When you wear a mask, CO2 is not retained, and oxygen levels are not decreased. It may feel uncomfortable to wear one for long periods of time, but it’s not detrimental to your health. 

If you’re anxious about wearing a mask, practicing wearing one at home, in an environment where you feel comfortable. It will help you get used to the sensation. 

“Really, what masks do best is protect other people.”

Dr. Mark Zeitzer

What sources can we trust when seeking information about the safety and risks of regular mask use? Doctors or social media investigators?

It’s a difficult question. We’re supposed to be in the information age, but the truth has become deceptive. I think you have to be exceptionally careful about what you’re reading online and seeing on social media. Social media posts aren’t editorialized. They’re just put there—anyone can say anything!  

When looking for information, you want to find things that are peer-reviewed. Pay attention to organizations whose statements are reviewed by multiple people. You also want to check to see if there’s a political or financial bend coming from that organization. Organizations like the CDC, the WHO, the Washington State Department of Health and the Oregon Department of Health provide useful information that is well-vetted. But again, you have to be very careful about what’s on social media. 

Is it safe for young children to wear masks? 

That’s a great question. The CDC recommends that anyone over two years old wear a mask when they’re out in public. However, mask-wearing is not indicated for kids less than two years old, and for kids while they’re sleeping. Those are two big things to remember. 

Because children don’t tend to get as sick with COVID, parents might be lax about having them wear masks. However, kids can certainly spread it. Also, we just don’t know enough about the virus at this time. There could be side effects that we see further down the road. 

It’s important to remember that children are amazingly resilient and adaptable. I see them wearing masks comfortably and getting used to it, which is really wonderful to see. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

This week, the CDC released more information about a situation in Missouri, where two hair stylists learned they had COVID-19 after they had interacted with 139 clients. An investigation found that none of these clients were known to be infected with COVID-19. The hair stylists and clients wore face coverings, which likely helped prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In other words—masks work. Wearing a mask is a selfless act that protects those around you, including your loved ones.

Interested in COVID-19 testing? ZOOM+Care offers both viral and antibody testing options. Learn more about the benefits and limitations, and get tested today.

As States Get Back to Business, Here Are Some Activities to Avoid

Pile of paper medical masks on blue background. COVID-19

It’s been six months since COVID-19 first hit our shores, and the pandemic is far from over. There is no vaccine and no cure. And yet, despite a recent uptick in cases, all 50 states have reopened in some way or another. 

For millions of socially-starved Americans, this news might come as a welcome relief. However, until there is a vaccine, we’re all living with some degree of COVID-19 risk. Just because you can chill at a bar, hit the gym, or grab a bite to eat at your favorite restaurant doesn’t mean you should. With COVID still looming large, some situations are riskier than others.

As more and more cities get back to business, it’s important to educate ourselves about potential hotspots for exposure. To help you figure out which plans to keep and which to cancel, we’re giving you the rundown on the most dangerous places to hang around during the pandemic.

#1. Bars and Nightclubs 

Heading to the local watering hole and throwing back a few with friends is a bonding ritual as old as time. But unfortunately, bars are among the worst places to hang out during a pandemic.  

Overall, crowded, indoor areas with poor ventilation pose the highest risk. Not only do bars encourage close quarters, but they make it difficult for people to wear masks. Even if someone walks into a bar wearing one, they inevitably have to remove their mask to eat or drink. What’s more, bars are jam-packed with people speaking loudly, shouting, and cheering—all of which have a higher potential for droplet spread. 

Finally, let’s be real—when’s the last time you made a really good decision in a bar? Getting intoxicated impairs judgment, which means you’re less likely to act in a safe manner. 

In the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, “Bars: really not good.” 

#2. The Gym

Who knew that taking a bunch of people, packing them into a small space, encouraging them to exercise (and expel droplets), then adding a bunch of difficult-to-clean equipment to the mix would create a petri dish for COVID?

Even before COVID, gyms were are a hotbed of germs. (We’re not kidding: One study showed that 63 percent of the surfaces in gyms are covered in rhinoviruses.)

Right now, outdoor activity is always safer than indoor exercise. If you do decide to go to the gym, be incredibly diligent about social distancing and stay six feet away from others at all times. Thoroughly wipe down all equipment you touch, including weights, bars, benches, buttons, machine rails, handles, and knobs. It’s also best to bring a personal water bottle and avoid communal drinking fountains entirely. 

Because well-ventilated buildings lower your risk of breathing in viral droplets, take a good, hard look at the ventilation system in your gym. If your go-to spot has always been—for lack of a better word—a little smelly, that’s a sign of poor ventilation. 

Finally, there’s the issue of masks. We know exercising while masked is unpleasant, but it’s essential while indoors. If you haven’t already, invest in a cloth mask before hitting the gym—they’re much more comfortable and breathable than paper surgical masks, which can become damp and lose their effectiveness.

Looking for a safer alternative to communal exercise? Try a group class outside.

#3. Hair and Nail Salons 

Beauty may be pain, but it really isn’t worth dying for. 

It’s physically impossible to stay six feet apart when getting your hair or nails done. That’s concerning, considering that COVID-19 spreads through close, person-to-person contact with infected people.  

While the safest grooming option is DIY, many folks don’t feel comfortable cutting their hair at home.

If you do decide to see a professional, keep in mind that exposure time plays a role in spreading the virus. The CDC definition of “prolonged exposure” is 15 minutes. So, if you’re getting a super-quick, 15-minute haircut, wearing a mask, and staying six feet away from other clients, going to the salon is relatively safe. 

Dyeing, bleaching, and other chemical salon treatments are riskier, however. That’s because you’re spending an extended period of time indoors in close contact with your stylist. If you choose to continue chemically treating your hair during COVID, try breaking your usual cut and color into two shorter appointments to avoid a prolonged encounter. 

Regardless of the salon service, make sure your stylist sterilizes their tools between each client. Finally, wear a mask while in the salon and clean your hands frequently, either through washing or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

#4. Public Transportation 

Riding public transportation means having prolonged exposure to other passengers in small, confined spaces. That’s risky. It’s virtually impossible to disinfect contaminated surfaces between each rider, too, upping your chances of contracting the virus. 

If you don’t have a car, walking and cycling are the safest choices. 

Your next safest option is a rideshare service like Lyft or Uber, or a private taxi. When riding, sit in the back seat to maintain social distance—even if you’re healthy. You should also wear a mask, wipe down any surfaces that you touch, and keep the windows open to increase air circulation.

We know that rideshares and taxis can get expensive, so you may occasionally have to board a bus or train. When you do take public transit, try to travel at off-peak times and avoid morning and evening rush hour. Stay away from super-packed train cars and buses, and don’t board if you count more than 10-15 passengers at a time. 

While using public transportation, wear a mask, and follow social distancing guidelines by staying at least six feet away from your fellow passengers. Even though transit systems have stepped up their cleaning and disinfecting efforts, don’t touch anything you don’t absolutely have to, including poles and handrails. And whatever you do, don’t touch your face while riding. 

As soon as you reach your destination, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

#5. Theaters, Sporting Events, Concert Venues

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—large groups of people crowding into enclosed spaces? Not great during a pandemic. Unfortunately, that means places like movie theaters, sporting events, and concert venues pose a high risk to attendees. 

Much like bars, concerts and sporting events are made extra dangerous by crowded seating arrangements, ultra-close contact, droplet-inducing shouting, cheering, and drinking. And smaller venues like movie theaters? Close quarters and air conditioning systems can quickly spread the virus. Plus, since movie theaters and popcorn are almost inseparable, people will almost certainly remove their masks to eat and drink. 

If you’re starved for summer fun right now, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are less risky options than catching a movie or heading to a game. 

Two of the safest summer activities are camping and hiking. Just be sure to stay at least six feet away from others, even outdoors, and bring disinfecting supplies along with you.

Camping with family or friends? It’s best to drive out with people in your household who are either uninfected or have been safely practicing social distancing for at least two weeks.

One thing to keep in mind while enjoying the great outdoors: Using public bathrooms, especially ones that don’t get cleaned frequently, ups the risk for contracting the virus. Finally, be sure to wear a mask while inside the restoom and wash your hands afterwards.

Interested in COVID-19 testing? ZOOM+Care offers both viral and antibody testing options. Learn more about the benefits and limitations, and get tested today.