Health – The Pagosa Springs SUN The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 16 Jan 2020 21:46:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cervical Health Awareness Month: A Pap test is the first line of defense to prevent cervical cancer Sat, 18 Jan 2020 12:00:59 +0000 By Jessica Bralish
Special to The PREVIEW
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and the state health department encourages women ages 21-74 across Colorado to start the year by talking with their health care providers about scheduling a Pap test. A Pap test is the first line of defense against cervical cancer. When cervical cancer is found early, more than 92 percent of women had a five-year survival.
“Cervical Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to remind women that these tests could be the difference between life and death,” said Dr. Daniel Shodell, department interim chief medical officer. “Women’s Wellness Connection offers free screenings. We can help women stay safe from cancer, even if they have not been able to afford these tests before.”
Every year in the United States, approximately 13,170 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,250 women die of the disease. African American women and Latinas have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer and African American women have a higher cervical cancer death rate. The department acknowledges that social, economic and environmental inequities result in adverse health outcomes and have a greater impact than individual choices. Reducing health disparities through systems change can help improve opportunities for all Coloradans.
The Women’s Wellness Connection offers free cervical cancer screenings and any necessary follow-up testing to Colorado women. The program offers free cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to women ages 21 through 64 who have little or no health insurance and meet income requirements. To be eligible for the Women’s Wellness Connection, the women must earn less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level and have no health insurance or have health insurance with high deductibles or co-pays.
About Women’s Wellness Connection
Women’s Wellness Connection provides free, confidential breast and cervical cancer screenings — clinical breast exams, Pap tests and mammograms — to eligible women at more than 100 sites through cooperative efforts with multiple statewide providers.
The Women’s Wellness Connection has served Colorado’s low-income, uninsured women for over 25 years, with one-third (34 percent) of its almost $6.3 million budget coming from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For more information on where to find a provider, go to or call (866) 951-WELL (9355). Women’s Wellness Connection’s statewide hotline number, (866) 951-WELL (9355), is made possible through an in-kind donation from the American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society staff members operate the hotline to answer questions, provide additional information about the program and help women make appointments with local Women’s Wellness Connection providers.

Take charge of your health at April 25 health fair Wed, 15 Jan 2020 12:00:46 +0000 By Sharee Grazda
Special to The PREVIEW
Happy New Year’s greetings, fellow Pagosans.
Now that you are starting to fill your 2020 calendar, please be sure to highlight April 25 as the day you, your family and friends take charge of your health at the 40th annual 9Health Fair in Pagosa Springs.
Our event will run from 7 to 11 a.m. at Pagosa Springs High School, 800 S. 8th St.
There will be low-cost blood screenings, as well as free screenings for hearing, vision and spine, and the opportunity to speak one-on-one with several local physicians, nurse practitioners and other health and wellness providers.
Look forward to more articles in The Pagosa Springs SUN about how you can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
As always, this event is planned, coordinated and presented to our community by a dedicated group of over 150 medical and nonmedical volunteers, and supported by local businesses and statewide donors.
Would you consider taking a role in presenting this event to our community? We always welcome new volunteers and you can “walk alongside” experienced leaders who will share their particular job knowledge in our effort to continue to provide this valuable service.
For more information, please contact our local fair coordinator, Lorena Medina, by text or phone at (720) 372-0410, or by email at

National Radon Action Month: Workshops and radon test kits offered Fri, 10 Jan 2020 12:00:08 +0000 By Claire Ninde
Special to The SUN
January is National Radon Action Month, and San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) will hold free radon testing workshops and provide free radon kits to participants.
Approximately half of Colorado homes have radon gas levels that exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level. In Colorado, radon is estimated to cause 500 lung cancer deaths each year.
Radon gas has no odor or taste, is not visible and occurs naturally in the soil. Radon enters homes and buildings through small openings. The U.S. surgeon general lists radon exposure as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
The Colorado State Board of Health has declared January as Radon Action Month and state environmental officials hope residents will take the time to test their homes.
“The best protection against radon is to test in your home and January is the ideal time to test because radon is more likely to enter a home and stay there during the coldest months of the year,” said Brian Devine, interim environmental health director for SJBPH.
Radon workshops will be held on the following dates:
• Jan. 14 at 6 p.m.: Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association, 230 Port Ave., Pagosa Springs. Register at:
• Jan. 15 at 6 p.m.: San Juan Basin Public Health, 281 Sawyer Drive, Ste. 300, Durango. Register at
Additional workshops will be offered in Durango, Bayfield and Pagosa Springs in late January and February; check for the updated workshop schedule.
Workshop participants will receive as many free short-term radon test kits as they need and the confidence to use them correctly. Preregistration is strongly encouraged; individuals can preregister for a workshop at the Eventbrite links above.
More information can be found at or call 335-2060.

Vaccinations important in preventing diseases Wed, 08 Jan 2020 12:00:54 +0000 By Claire Ninde
Special to The SUN
San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) reminds the community that vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent diseases such as measles, hepatitis A, flu and pertussis (whooping cough).
SJBPH has confirmed local cases of flu and one local case of hepatitis A. Three unvaccinated children who are visiting Colorado from another state tested positive for measles after traveling to a country with an ongoing measles outbreak. Additionally, pertussis cases have been reported throughout Colorado in school-aged children.
Colorado has low coverage for MMR (the vaccine that protects against measles), leaving the state vulnerable to an outbreak. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) school report data shows that only 87 percent of kindergarteners are up to date on MMR vaccine, much below the 95 percent community immunity needed to prevent disease from spreading.
The highest burden of preventable illness occurs in infants and young children. Among children in Colorado who were hospitalized for vaccine-preventable disease, 66.5 percent were 4 years of age or younger.
A vaccine-preventable disease can be introduced into a community by under- or unvaccinated individuals. Thus, all Colorado counties have people who are vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. Following the appropriate vaccine schedule not only protects yourself, but others in your community.
Vaccines are a safe and effective tool for preventing dangerous diseases. Worldwide, vaccines save 2.5 million children’s lives each year.
Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH said, “We know parents want what’s best for their children. Vaccinating is the best way to keep them healthy when they are exposed to these diseases.”
We can prevent unnecessary illness and hospitalization, especially for those most vulnerable such as young children with asthma, cancer or other high-risk health conditions, and older adults. Safe, effective vaccines are the best way to do that. For more information about the safety of vaccines, see
About hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the feces (poop) of people with hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is spread by eating contaminated food or beverages, during sex, or through close contact, like living with an infected person.
Those most at risk for infection include:
• People experiencing substance use issues.
• People experiencing homelessness.
• People incarcerated in city or county jails.
• Men who report having sexual contact with men.
Illness can appear 15-50 days after exposure and people can be sick for several weeks. In some cases, people can die.
For hepatitis A information, symptoms and prevention, see
About measles
• Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.
• If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
• Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.
For measles information, symptoms and prevention, see
About flu
• Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness.
• Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death.
• Some people, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
• There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
For flu information, symptoms and prevention, see
About pertussis
• Pertussis is a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough and is a very contagious bacterial disease.
• People with pertussis usually spread the disease to another person by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near one another. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
• Infected people are most contagious up to about two weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.
• Pertussis is most dangerous for babies. About half of babies younger than 1 year who get the disease need care in the hospital.
• While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100 percent effective. There is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease. If you have gotten the pertussis vaccine but still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.
For pertussis information, symptoms and prevention, see
If you have questions about vaccines or illness symptoms, see your doctor or contact SJBPH at 247-5702.

Why New Year’s resolutions can be a bad idea Mon, 30 Dec 2019 12:00:23 +0000 By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW
While wanting to see positive changes in your life isn’t a bad idea, the way most New Year’s resolutions come together is usually complicated, often helps little and may even be harmful.
Most of us are pretty bad at setting reasonable goals for ourselves. We usually think in terms of absolutes: “I’m going to lose 20 pounds next month.” “I’m going to stop smoking now.” “I’m going to get that job promotion this quarter.”
There are a several problems with resolutions like these, the main one being that they seldom achieve success. Such resolutions are based on negative emotions, things about yourself with which you aren’t satisfied or happy. These may seem motivating at first, but they actually can create feelings of anxiety and decreased self-worth. This focus on negative feelings seldom provides long-term motivation.
Another problem with those “absolute” resolutions is that they set you up for failure. They start based on issues you don’t like about yourself and then present a good opportunity for you to fail, thus helping to lower your self-esteem even more. And no, you don’t make a resolution planning not to achieve it, but the reality is that most of us don’t reach our ambitious goals. One study even named Jan. 12 as “Quitter’s Day,” the point when large numbers of people begin to falter in working toward their New Year’s goals.
A major problem with most New Year’s resolutions is that they focus on the goal and not on the process. If weight loss, traditionally this nation’s No. 1 resolution, is the goal, it’s easy to become discouraged and depressed if you see little change on the bathroom scale or if you make some progress but then backslide a bit.
Rather then focusing on the final goal, experts advise paying more attention to the small steps, the process, that will take you to that goal. In many cases, they advise to not even set a final goal. If weight loss, for example, is what you want to achieve, instead of imagining how many pounds have to disappear, set a positive objective of “eating healthier.” It’s something you can do in small steps (i.e., no donut at work every day, but instead a handful of carrots for that mid-afternoon snack).
Setting small changes makes them easier to achieve and makes you more likely to bring about the final results that you desire.
“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at

Don’t let the holiday season get the best of you Tue, 24 Dec 2019 12:00:52 +0000 By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW
The holiday season leaves many people feeling anxious and nervous as they receive invitations to holiday office parties, family gatherings and other social events that they would rather avoid. It’s understandable, for while such events can be a great time to socialize, they also can lead to disaster.
Stories are common of that guy who had one drink too many at that holiday office party and ended up doing permanent damage to his career.
Of course, family holiday gatherings offer the same sort of opportunities to mess things up. A few drinks, then a desire to share family secrets, to rekindle an old disagreement or to share an opinion better left unshared — all opportunities for trouble.
If worries about upcoming holiday celebrations have you nervous and tense, here are some suggestions on how to make such events less stressful and more enjoyable.
When an event of any type has you anxious that something could go wrong, take steps to limit the opportunities for disaster. Rather than be a no-show, arrive early, visit for a short time, then thank your host and leave. And, if it turns out that your anxiety was ill-founded and you’re having a good time, then stay and enjoy yourself.
A good rule to avoid problems and embarrassment is to skip the alcohol. Even one or two alcoholic drinks can affect judgment. If a host forces a drink on you, say thanks, but don’t feel obliged to drink it.
You can also avoid holiday party trouble by simply avoiding potential problem areas. A holiday party is not the place to share negative or critical comments about others. Even things said in confidence have a way of getting repeated to all the wrong people.
It’s also important to mind your manners. Avoid excessive drinking, don’t overdo it at the buffet table and be sure to thank your host.
Often problems arise at holiday parties because of problem people. If there’s someone who always knows how to push your buttons, focus instead on staying close to those you enjoy and avoid that person. If he or she corners you to argue, simple refuse to respond and instead politely excuse yourself.
You don’t have to fear or avoid the holiday party. Focus on being sober, polite and sociable, and you may find even a holiday party you’re “required” to attend just might be a pleasant experience.
“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at

Holiday tips for caregivers Wed, 11 Dec 2019 12:00:20 +0000 By Kay Kaylor
SUN Columnist
For San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA), I am not only a part-time long-term care ombudsman, advocating for residents at Pine Ridge, a 24-hour extended care home, and BeeHive, an assisted living residence. I also am an aging and disability resource specialist and trained Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor. Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.
In the spirit of the holiday season, I am grateful for the many advocacy groups who testify before Congress and fight to improve or at minimum maintain the quality of life and care for elders and who work to create laws to help keep people in their homes as long as possible. I also am thankful to encounter, try to help and learn from elders in this community.
Tips for caregivers during the holidays
As noted in an online AgingCare article by Carol Bradley Bursack, caregivers may focus too much on making holidays perfect for others and neglect their own health and enjoyment. Here are some ideas from the author to avoid caregiver guilt.
Wipe out memories of “perfect” holidays of other decades and celebrate in a new way that fits your current life. Add a funny and touching, but perhaps imperfect, holiday movie to your traditions, and watch even more than once to elevate everyone’s mood.
If we accept where we are in life, it is easier to work toward gratitude; even slight feelings of appreciation may improve our attitudes and see what is truly important, Bursack notes.
Communicate to everyone how you need to also spend time with others, from the very young to an elder in your care, even if that person lives with dementia. They might gain more realistic expectations and even give you a hand or encourage you to spend time with others.
Simplify your plans and forgive yourself if you limit your decorations, shopping and holiday cards to increase everyone’s quality of time. Your own health and peace of mind are your gift to those you love.
SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call me at 264-0501, ext. 1 or send an email to

Quitting vaping may be a life-saving resolution Thu, 05 Dec 2019 22:47:46 +0000 Special to The PREVIEW
Electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices were once described as potentially “safer” and “healthier” methods of smoking, even by leading health organizations. Many former tobacco smokers even turned to e-cigarettes as a method to quitting traditional cigarettes. However, recent research into vaping and a rash of mysterious lung illnesses and deaths recently linked to vaping has led many to question if vaping is safe. Those who suspect it’s not may be wise to quit.
The illness toll rises
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that, as of September 2019, there were 530 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses. Eight people also died in six states, with the first confirmed death occurring in April. The first known vaping-related illness in Canada was documented on Sept. 18, when a youth from Ontario was put into intensive care for respiratory illness.
While federal and state investigators are largely focusing their investigations on vape cartridges that likely contained tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component linked to marijuana, as a potential source of these illnesses, all electronic cigarette devices are now under scrutiny.
A school epidemic
Vaping has quickly become an epidemic in schools. More than 3.6 million American middle and high school students currently use e-cigarettes, according to the latest National Youth Tobacco Study. Teen nicotine vaping rates in 2019 were double those of 2017, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says.
Despite the installation of vaping detectors, and some schools going so far as to remove doors from bathroom stalls, opportunities to vape still abound. Older students may leave campus to vape in their cars during lunch breaks. Laws restricting sales of e-cigarettes to youth in certain states have already been implemented. Lawmakers also plan to ban most flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods in an attempt to curtail their use among teenagers.
Mystery ingredients
Many adults look to e-cigarettes to reduce their dependence on tobacco products. However, Johns Hopkins Medical Center warns e-cigarettes are just as addictive.
Also, many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine through extra-strength cartridges or by increasing the voltage to get a greater hit of the addictive substance. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved vaping as a smoking cessation method.
People never can be certain about the ingredients in vaping liquids. And as the popularity of e-cigarettes grows, newer, cheaper and poorly regulated products are being imported from all over the world to meet the demand.
According to the CDC, exposure to such products may cause a range of symptoms, including cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. There also have been cases of “popcorn lung,” which derived its name from a former chemical flavoring (diacetyl) used in microwave popcorn linked to scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs, resulting in suffocation. Popcorn lung also has been linked to vaping use.
More evidence continues to point to vaping as an unsafe practice. Quitting the habit now can have profound, potentially life-saving effects.

Consider your choices for health insurance during open enrollment Thu, 05 Dec 2019 22:00:09 +0000 Special to The SUN
The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), is reminding those Coloradans who are in need of health coverage and who buy individual health insurance plans (meaning not from an employer) that now is the time to enroll in or renew coverage for 2020.

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Not letting that family gathering overwhelm you Sun, 01 Dec 2019 12:00:50 +0000 By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW
The holiday season is coming, which for many can mean family get-togethers. It would be wonderful if every family gathering was a Norman Rockwell-type scene, but, unfortunately, most families are a little less than Rockwell perfect.
If a big family event is approaching, there’s a good chance that while you may be looking forward to it, it may also be producing stress and anxiety. There are a number of reasons for such feelings, but there are ways to lessen that stress.
One common problem is that you’ve changed. You’re no longer the image of you that parents, siblings and other family members may still carry with them. Some might still see you as that little kid or immature teen and find it hard to recognize how you’ve grown and matured. When others can’t recognize all the changes that have made you who you are today, it can be annoying. And it can be difficult in a short holiday visit to really communicate much since often the person still underestimating you is more interested in himself or herself than in learning how you’re now a different person.
Family visits also bring with them family history. There may be old disagreements or awkward relationships that now come up again. Past family arguments or misunderstandings may resurface.
You can also feel stressed that you haven’t met family expectations. Recent job problems, financial issues or relationship difficulties can leave you feeling insecure knowing you aren’t presenting the image or results that the family had expected of you.
So, how do you deal with all this? Start by recognizing that the stress you’re feeling, whatever the source, is a very normal reaction. Next, identify what about that family gathering is making you feel anxious, then plan ways to avoid those anxiety-producing issues. Are there certain situations or people that you want to avoid? Maybe you simply have to accept that you won’t be having a wonderful time with everyone there.
Instead, try to seek out people and situations that will make your visit more enjoyable. Don’t bring up old problems or current issues you’d prefer kept quiet. Your goal is to make the visit as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
And if such a goal seems impossible, consider making the visit shorter or avoiding it all together. Some issues simply may not be fixable. Don’t let old problems ruin the holiday enjoyment for the current you.
“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at