Do You Know the Warning Signs of Meningitis?

Meningitis is one of the 10 leading causes of death with over 1.2 million worldwide cases and 135,000 deaths per year.

But what exactly is meningitis and what should you know about it? 

“There is a protective lining of tissue around the brain and spinal cord called the meninges. Meningitis is inflammation of these tissues,” said Dr. Calvin Martin of SIMEDHealth Urgent Care.

Spread similarly to the common cold or flu, anyone can catch meningitis through close contact with anyone who has it by kissing, sharing beverages eating utensils, sneezing or coughing. The most common symptoms of meningitis are headaches and a stiff neck. However, according to Dr. Martin, there are a number of other symptoms to watch out for.

“If the cause is infectious, then there is usually high fever, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes a rash. Additionally, meningitis can cause widespread problems in the body including sepsis (which may lead to organ failure), brain swelling (which may cause brain tissue to be squeezed out of the skull), seizures, altered mental status, blood clots (which may lead to paralysis), and death,” Dr. Martin said.

There are a number of factors which may put you at risk for this life-threatening illness. According to Dr. Martin these risks include:

  • Being over 65 years of age
  • Being in close conditions to someone with meningitis
  • Head trauma
  • Recent upper respiratory infection
  • Being a diabetic
  • Being an alcoholic
  • Injection drug abuse
  • Those with implanted medical devices in the skull

The best way to prevent against meningitis is to get immunized, said Dr. Martin. Other precautions include hand washing, avoiding exposure to those with the illness, eating well, getting good sleep and exercise to maintain a strong immune system. At SIMEDHealth we believe preventative care is the best way to ensure a healthy life.

“If you feel that you may have meningitis and have minor symptoms such as a headache, slightly stiff neck or low lever fever, consider being evaluated at First Care to determine your risk and symptoms,” Said Dr. Martin.

Set up an appointment with your primary care doctor today to request the meningitis vaccine. 

School Tips for Parents

school supplies, stick figures waving, SIMED wishes everyone good luck for school
School is starting soon, and it’s important for both parents and children to feel prepared for the change in routine that comes from starting a new school year. 
SIMED Dr. Calvin Martin, an urgent care physician, has compiled a list of tips to help parents prepare for a healthy new school year. 

1. Enforce a regular sleeping schedule

During the summer, your children might become accustomed to getting up later, so it’s important to get them adjusted to going to bed at a reasonable time, even weeks before school starts.
Children should get at least 8 hours of sleep (preferably more) each night. Get into the habit of enforcing your child’s bedtime. Children should have regular sleep and wake times.
Put rules into place and make sure your children understand it’s important to follow them. For example, parents can make sure children don’t use technology after a certain time by creating a spot on the kitchen counter where children have to place their devices when it’s time to go to bed. The children can then get the devices back in the morning.
Parents: You should also adjust your sleeping habits to ensure you get a good night’s sleep when you have to wake up early to get your children ready for school.

infographic with back to school health tips for parents


2. Pack healthy lunches and plan healthy meals

Make sure to prepare good quality food to pack for your children’s lunches.
One way you can ensure your child has healthy meals each day is to plan those meals in advance. If you know your schedule you can plan to make food ahead of time in preparation for busy days and plan when to cook. 
Avoid fast food, and don’t let children drink caffeine (like soda) later in the day. 
Create alternatives for unhealthy snacks and make them easily accessible. For example, prepare portions of fruit wedges or vegetable slices and leave them in baggies in the fridge.
If your children eat school lunches, make sure what you’re feeding them at home compensates for the lack of nutrition. 

3. Schedule everything

Scheduling can be helpful to make sure you don’t forget about anything. You can schedule your grocery trips, your children’s practices, your children’s rehearsals and other weekly activity to make sure you maximize your own time and avoid burnout. 
Make lists or keep a schedule on the fridge that has information about who is going to be where and when. Making schedules can reduce stress, and schedules offer a way for parents to quickly look up what they’re doing so they don’t forget anything.
Having everything organized and everyone’s schedule in one place can make school days easier for the whole family.

4. Make sure your children get their school physicals

If your child is playing fall sports, make sure they get their sports physicals. If they’re going to a new school, get them a checkup and make sure their immunization records are up to date. SIMED First Care offers back to school and sports physicals.

5. Remind your children about common risks

Make sure your children know to use hand sanitizer and wash their hands.  This could help them avoid diseases.
Children should understand that they need to wash their hands after using the restroom and before and after eating if they show any symptoms or signs of infection. Children should also be careful to wash their hands after gym class. 
It’s useful to buy your child a small bottle of portable hand sanitizer they can use in emergencies.
When children wash their hands make sure they know to use soap and water and wash for at least 30 seconds or however long it takes them to say the entire alphabet.
As the new school year approaches, it’s important for both parents and children to get into healthy habits. These tips will ensure you and your children are best prepared for staying healthy during the school year.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Martin, call 352-373-2340 or request an appointment online.
If your child needs back to school or sports physicals, call 352-373-2340 or request an appointment online.

Back to School Means Back-To-School Physicals

First Care of Gainesville is offering “Back to School” physicals for sports programs, school entrance requirements and other school activities!

If you need to get your kids in for a physical, walk-in anytime or contact our office and schedule an appointment today! First Care, SIMED’s Urgent Care clinic in Gainesville, FL is offering “Back to School” physicals for high school and below sports programs, school entrance requirements and other school activities.

First Care’s Board Certified Family Medicine physicians and experienced physician assistants are here to take care of your urgent care health needs. Our on-site labs, x-ray and specialized radiology departments provide speedy/ rapid results to support your health care. Referrals to our in-house specialists are seamless and provide integrated services throughout your care. Why go anywhere else?

Also remember Flu season is coming and flu shots will be available in the first week of September. Although the flu season doesn't typically begin until October, flu cases were reported early last year. Flu shots are recommended for anyone aged six months or older.

First Care is open Monday – Friday 7:00am – 6:00pm. You can reach us at (352) 373-2340 or click here to request an appointment online.

College Safety Survival Guide

College Safety Survival Guide

The start of a new college semester can be a very exciting time in a young adult’s life. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in one’s journey through college, filled with new classes, living arrangements, friends, jobs, and life experiences. These new experiences will help shape the student’s future and mold them into the adults they will become.

For many students a new semester can mean living away from home the first time. This can lead into a very stressful time in a young adult’s life and leave students with many questions especially about health and safety. Dr. Calvin Martin of First Care, SIMED’s Urgent Care facility gives us a few pointers on how students can tackle their health and safety like an adult.

Staying healthy is a plus:

By living a healthy and active lifestyle young adults will be ahead of the curve in terms of health. Make sure to follow a diet and exercise program keeps one accountable and helps them stay on track with their health plan (Adults on average need around 2 hours and 30 minutes of exercise per week). Avoid sugary drinks such as sodas that may be adding extra empty calories that the body does not need. Think outside the box and get creative on how to sneak some exercise into your daily routine. Walk or jog to class, take the stairs instead of the elevator, ride a bicycle instead of driving, or join an intramural sports team such as flag football, softball, basketball, soccer, tennis or volleyball.

Don’t stress it:

According to the CDC (Center of Disease Control) suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for young adults between the ages of 15 to 24, so feelings of distress or depression are not to be taken lightly. The proper amount of stress is healthy for us as it keeps us on track and motivated but too much stress can lead to unhealthy traits and habits. Ways to manage stress include getting adequate sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol, get perspective by connecting socially with peers and also making sure to getting enough “me time” for oneself. If feeling overwhelmed from stress it’s a good idea to reach out to one’s family doctor or contact a local psychologist to help cope with the stress levels.

Stay protected:

The college years may be associated with new or risker sexual activity, leading to increase prevalence of STD’s among college students. Many sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented, most are treatable and also curable. According to the CDC nearly half of all new sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) occur amongst young adults under the age of 25. It is advised for sexually active young adults to be tested for STD’s including HIV and learn how to protect them and their partners. According to the CDC one in 5 college women have been sexually assaulted. Women are encouraged to protect themselves by staying in groups, never leaving a drink unattended and being aware of resources available to them should they become victim of assault.

Be cautious of the binge:

College life is known for its extracurricular activities including social events that involve alcohol at Greek social parties and bars. The CDC confirmed that 90% of drinking by youth under the age of 21 is binge drinking. Binge drinking is generally defined by 5 or more alcoholic drinks for a male and 4 for a female in a short period of time, usually considered within 2 hours. Binge drinking increase chances of problematic situations because it impairs ability to make decisions and react rapidly to situations which can lead to vehicle crashes, DUI, violence, alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behavior and death.

Just Say No:

One of the most common problems in college amongst young adults is substance abuse and smoking. According to the CDC in 2013 around 21% of 18-25 year olds reported use of illicit drugs in the past month. Heroin use more than doubled among this age group in the past decade. 99% of cigarette smokers have reportedly at least tried smoking by the age of 26. Vaping has recently become very popular as a “safer” smoking alternative, be cautious however because many vaporizer pens have much stronger levels of nicotine intake per inhalation than a cigarette. For need help with substance abuse contacting 1-800-662-HELP can get you in touch with people and information to assist you with recovery.

Establish a health care provider:

Remember it is important stay connected with a primary care doctor, soon after moving into town establish a relationship with a primary care physician. SIMED Primary Care has multiple family medicine and internal medicine physicians to choose making it easy to establish with a doctor and schedule an appointment. SIMED First Care is an urgent care facility located in Gainesville in case of an emergency or if you are just seeking a walk in appointment.

Sources for this article where cited from the CDC Office of Women’s Health: Family Health (/family) March 7, 2016 for more information regarding College Health and Safety please visit

STDs, and What You Need To Know

April is STD Awareness Month and Dr. Scott Wilson of First Care, SIMED’s walk in urgent care center provides valuable information on sexual health.

The CDC estimates there are 20 million new sexually transmitted infections in the United States each year. Nearly HALF of all new sexually transmitted infections in the US are in young men and women. - CDC 2015

April is STD Awareness Month and Dr. Scott Wilson of First Care, SIMED’s walk in urgent care center, provides valuable information on sexual health.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), are infections that are transmitted through sexual activity. The route of transmission may be oral, anal or vaginal contact. Many STDs cause no or minimal initial symptoms in the infected individual, which is why it is important to get tested regularly.

STDs can be broken up into 3 categories: viral, bacterial and protozoan parasites. Viral Infections - HIV, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis A/B/C, and Herpes I/II- are examples of vital STD’s. When encountered these are often able to be controlled with certain medications or procedures; however, they are not curable at this time.

HIV: With HIV, there may be a flu-like illness that occurs with the initial infection. Then, the infected individual may have no signs or symptoms of infection for months to years. HIV can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is lifelong disease in which certain cells of the immune system are destroyed, allowing multiple infections to cause disease in various areas of the body, and if untreated death.
HPV: The most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States is Human Papillomavirus (HPV). An infected individua,l especially females, may have no symptoms, or they might experience genital or anal warts. When left untreated, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to cervical cancer in women, emphasizing the importance of regular PAP smears for sexually active females. A vaccine is recommended for all young men and women to reduce risk of HPV infection.
Hepatitis B, and C: Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the liver. Hepatitis B and C can be acquired from sexual contact and are the leading cause of liver cancer, and the most common reason for liver transplantation. Vaccines are available to prevent Hepatitis A and B, but to date not for Hepatitis C.
Herpes I, II: With Herpes the initial infection is usually the most severe with sores/blisters appearing on the mouth, rectum or genital area. Some individuals also experience flu-like symptoms that occur with the initial outbreak of infection. Subsequent outbreaks may be very mild, without any symptoms or blisters present.

Bacterial Infections - can be cured with antibiotics. Common STD bacterial infections include Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease.
With Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, there may be burning with urination and a discharge from the penis or vagina. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease in women, the infection can spread to the reproductive organs causing infertility, and sometimes chronic pelvic pain.

With Syphilis, there may be an initial painless sore or lesion in the genital area. If it goes into the secondary phase, a rash appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Syphilis, if left untreated, can lead to serious problems up to 10-30 years after infection, such as difficulty coordinating muscle movement, dementia, blindness, paralysis and even death from damage to internal organs.

Protozoan Parasites - are parasites that are spread through sexual activity. For example, Trichomonas is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite. It is treatable with antiprotozoal medications. Trichomonas may cause burning with urination and a discharge from the penis or vagina.

How You Can Protect Yourself?

Prevention for sexually transmitted infections can be accomplished by:

 1- Getting vaccinated for those diseases with available vaccines, such as HPV, Hepatitis B
 2- Practicing safe sexual protocols, like using condoms consistently and correctly 
 3- Reducing your number of sexual partners 
 4- In certain high risk populations for HIV, getting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to lower your risk

When to Get Tested?
The CDC’s Recommendations for Sexually Transmitted Infection Screening are:
 1- All adults and adolescents should be tested at least once for HIV (however, one may need to be tested more frequently if not practicing safe sexual procedures)
 2- Annual Chlamydia and Gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women 25 years old and younger, as well as older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners
 3- Annual Gonorrhea screening for sexually active women
 4- Syphilis, HIV, Chlamydia, and Hepatitis B screening for all pregnant women; Gonorrhea screening for at risk women at the first prenatal visit;
 5- Trichomonas screening in women at high risk of STD’s and annually in all HIV-infected females;
 6- Screening at least once a year for Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and HIV for all sexually active gay men and bisexual men.

SIMED offers STD testing in our Urgent Care at First Care and Primary Care offices. If you have questions about sexual health or would like to request a STD test, request an appointment online by clicking here.

Alcohol and Its Cost To Society

Alcohol and It's Cost To Society

"The cost to society for alcohol consumption is enormous," says Dr. Calvin Martin, an Urgent Care physician at SIMED's First Care. "An estimated $746 per person per year is expended in the United States on healthcare, crime and making up for decreased productivity due to alcohol consumption."

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Dr. Martin wants to increase awareness about what alcohol does to the body and mind, and how its lesser known consequences affect your wellbeing.

Alcohol is popular, because its effects start to be felt soon after drinking. Alcohol is primarily absorbed in the small intestine and rapidly enters the bloodstream. In short, it delays the signals that are sent between nerve cells.

Different alcoholic beverages contain different percentages of ethanol - the toxic part of alcohol that impairs functioning. As far as beverages go, the ethanol is the same chemical no matter the type of alcohol – be it wine, beer, clear liquor or dark liquor. The other ingredients in those beverages are what change the taste, calories and other qualities.

"Thirty percent of Americans have less than one drink per week," said Dr. Martin. "However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, ten percent of drinkers in America consume 74 drinks per week. That's not one or two people. That means there are quite a few people among us in our everyday lives that drink that much."

The average American consumes 552 drinks per year, which is a little over 1.5 drinks per day. Since 70% of all Americans consume alcohol, the other 30% are likely to be affected by the alcohol consumers.

But why are these numbers important?

Monitoring your consumption could very well save your life.

According to Dr. Martin "low amounts of alcohol consumption can be very beneficial."

Decreased risk of diabetes mellitus, blood clots and heart attacks is seen in regular consumers of low amounts of alcohol. Also, bone density increases, the "good" cholesterol – HDL – increases, and the "bad" cholesterol decreases.

On the contrary, high alcohol consumption rates can cause problems throughout the body, including cancer, anemia, heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, gastritis, pancreatitis, increased risk of diabetes, and impaired brain functioning.

Alcohol consumption also limits your freedom:

  • Injuries are much more likely to occur when impaired. Driving, power tools, heavy equipment, and anything that would be dangerous to use when your reaction time is delayed should be avoided whenever alcohol is consumed.
  • Mixing some prescriptions with alcohol can enhance the effect of the alcohol and increase the side effects of the medicines.
  • Alcohol lowers inhibitions, which increase the risks of trauma and sexual misadventures. Many unwanted pregnancies and STD's occur from alcohol enhanced encounters.

"You may think that your own consumption is normal or below average," said Martin. "The shocking truth is that half of all the alcohol consumed by adults is consumed during binge drinking."

Binge drinking is defined as whatever amount of alcohol intake gets you to the legal limit of being drunk.

Martin recommends downloading an application on your smart phone to track your consumption.

If you or someone you know is concerned about their alcohol consumption, ask the CAGE questions:

  • Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, or if you have questions about your alcohol consumption, click here to request an appointment with a SIMED physician.

Urgent Care or Emergency Room? Which Choice is the Right Choice?

Urgent Care or Emergency Room? Which Choice is the Right Choice?

When an acute injury or illness strikes, as a patient, you have some important decisions to make.  Sometimes the injury or illness isn't serious enough to warrant going to an Emergency Room, but it certainly needs medical attention. Often it's difficult for you to be seen at your Primary Care doctor's office so what are your choices?
With the increase in the number of Urgent Care clinics which have opened many patients see this as a unique alternative to their healthcare.  They are able to be seen without an appointment (although the payoff is that there might be an extended wait depending on how many other patients had the same idea), and many Urgent Care centers offer a variety of services.
Employers also look to Urgent Care centers to help employees who have been injured on the job.  Employers are able to have their employees examined, treated and are able to have more direct lines of communication with the provider so they can work together to make sure the employee is recovering and back to work as quickly as possible.
Urgent Care centers are a great alternative to busy Emergency Rooms.  They're outpatient medical clinics (in most cases) and are able to charge non-ER rates.  Urgent Care centers can also offer basic preventative treatments such as some vaccinations and medications for travel, flu shots, sports or employment physicals and more. At First Care Urgent Care (SIMED's Urgent Care Center) we have the added benefit that if you are unable to be seen at your Primary Care doctor's office, any treatment you receive at First Care is included into your medical record.  There's no guessing by your Primary Care doctor and your medical record stays complete!
We asked our First Care physicians a few questions on what we should consider when selecting an Urgent Care clinic and what makes First Care a quality Urgent Care clinic in our area.  
“Is the clinic staffed by a Medical Doctor and is that Doctor on-site? Are they available to you when you're being treated?”

First Care has rotation of 3 Board Certified Family Practice Physicians and a Physician's Assistant who works directly with them.

“What services do they provide?  Will you need to make additional trips for labs, radiology services (x-ray, MRI, etc..)?”

First Care can draw and get results on stat labs, in-house x-rays, and if scheduling allows, ultrasound and CT, MRI.

“What type of Urgent Care center are they?  Some are affiliated with hospitals or are considered an extension of an Emergency Room which can affect your deductibles, co-pays or other insurance benefits.”

First Care is not affiliated with a hospital.  We are not an emergency room so that means no exorbitant Emergency Department charges!

“Is my injury appropriate for an Urgent Care center? Not all injuries or illness are right for an Urgent Care center setting.  For example, if I know if I experience chest pains, I should call 911.”

If you are unsure, just give us a call, and we can help direct you to the most appropriate care.

Remember to always have a plan in case you or your loved one is faced with an acute injury or illness and needs medical treatment but doesn't need an Emergency Room!  
First Care is open Monday - Friday from 8:00am - 6:00pm.  For more information CLICK HERE or call (352) 373-2340.