A person washes their hands properly after reading Dr. Rosenberg’s 7 quick health tips with a dark overlay.Compliance is a critical component of benefiting from the instructions given to you by your physician.

And often, patients intend to be compliant. They want their health to improve, and they seek medical advice because they believe it can help them.

The trouble is, patients must thoroughly understand what they need to do in order to comply with their instructions. But miscommunications occur. Unforeseen roadblocks pop up. And sometimes, doctors don’t realize they need to provide more explanation regarding the details that are so routine to them.

Today, I’m going to walk you through some routine, common health skills to show you the proper way to carry them out from a medical perspective. If you learn the right way to practice these minor skills, you can improve the effectiveness of your medical care and your health outcomes.

If some of these items strike you as very obvious, I encourage you to read (or watch) on — you may be surprised by what you learn.

1. Easily Swallow a Pill

Most people go about swallowing pills the way we usually see on television — tossing them toward the back of their throat and tilting the head back to swallow. But television gets it wrong.

The easiest way — the one with the highest success rate and the lowest likelihood of choking you — goes like this:

  • Set the pill on your tongue.
  • Take a sip of warm water and swirl it around in your mouth until the pill becomes slippery.
  • Tuck your chin.
  • Swallow the pill.

2. Apply Antibiotic Ointment

Instead of trying to put the ointment directly onto your cut, apply a small, pea-sized amount to the sterile square of gauze on an adhesive bandage, like a Band-Aid. Then — this is the best part — you’re going to spread the ointment evenly over the gauze without touching it.

How? You’ll get a clear understanding if you watch the short video clip, but I’ll give it a try with words as well. Grasp the sticky ends and gently maneuver the bandage until the gauze square folds over on itself, like you’re folding a piece of bread in half for a sandwich. From the exterior of the bandage, loosely rub the gauze back and forth a bit so the ointment spreads evenly over the surface of the square.

Clear as mud? Watch the video for a quick demonstration.

3. Check Your Temperature

There are multiple ways to check your body temperature, using either a touch (contact) thermometer or a remote (no contact) thermometer. Below are the pros and cons of the various methods in each category.

Touch thermometers come into contact either with the forehead, mouth, armpit, or rectum to read the body’s temperature. Rectal thermometers are most often used in children under the age of three who can’t reliably hold a thermometer under their tongues. Rectal readings are considered very accurate. Readings from the armpit and forehead are less accurate.

The under-the-tongue method is the best compromise between convenience and accuracy, so it’s what we use in our office. The only downside to the oral method is that you need to wait 15 minutes after eating or drinking to get an accurate reading.

Remote thermometers are more expensive and less accurate, but they are very quick and convenient. Remote, infrared readings of the forehead are the least accurate, but they’re useful for large groups or quick readings. There’s also a remote ear thermometer, called a tympanic thermometer, whose readings tend to be more accurate than the forehead reading.

Which thermometer should you choose? The one that’s most comfortable for you and which gives you the most accurate reading. For me, that’s the oral thermometer.

4. Check Your Blood Pressure

It’s possible that the blood pressure readings you get at your doctor’s office paint an unrealistic picture of your actual blood pressure — not because the readings were taken incorrectly, but because they don’t reflect your usual blood pressure.

Maybe you had to rush to get to the office. Maybe you get nervous about having your blood pressure taken. Maybe you’re thinking about the next thing you have to do and wondering if you’ll be on time.

For these reasons, I encourage people to check their blood pressure at home. Keep a spreadsheet of your readings — including the dates, times, and the reading in 120/80 format — and bring this information to your appointments with your physician.

This kind of information gathered in a relaxed environment at home can be a more accurate snapshot of your blood pressure over time. However, that’s only true if you know how to take your blood pressure properly. These tips will help you get an accurate reading:

  • Sit down and take a few deep breaths to relax.
  • Rest your arm at heart level on a surface.
  • Remove any tight-fitting or bulky clothing.
  • Wrap the blood-pressure cuff around your upper arm.
  • Make sure the tube runs down along the center of your inner elbow.
  • Uncross your legs during the reading.
  • If you check both arms (for increased accuracy), wait 60 seconds between readings.

5. Put in Eye Drops

Many people — myself included — have eyes that don’t appreciate being approached with objects. This can make taking eyedrops ineffective, messy, and sometimes mildly traumatic. Here’s an easy alternative.

Close your eye, tilt your head back, and THEN apply the eyedrops. Squeeze the prescribed number of droplets as close to the inner corner of your eye as you can manage with your eye still closed. Then, with your head still tilted back, open your eye.

When your lid opens, the drops flow into your eye. Much easier!

6. Wash Your Hands Like a Surgeon

For a truly clean hand-washing experience, follow these directions:

  • Turn the water on and leave it on for the duration of the washing.
  • Wet your hands and apply soap.
  • Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds.
    • Use your nails to scour the soap onto your palms.
    • Pay some attention to beneath your nails, too, since bacteria love to lurk there.
    • Interlock your fingers to rub soap between them.
    • Remember to wash the backs of your hands.
    • Wash at least to your wrists.
  • Rinse the soap off.
    • When you do this, let the water wash over your hands toward your wrists. This sweeps away any bacteria away from your fingers.
  • Dry your hands with clean paper towels. Use those towels to turn off the water (and open the bathroom door if necessary).

7. Use of Steri-Strips

Steri-Strips are customizable wound dressings available over the counter at most pharmacies. They can be a helpful way to avoid a visit to urgent care for minor lacerations (maybe an inch or less).

Here’s how I recommend using them:

  • Cut the size Steri-Strips you’ll need.
  • Apply some benzoin to either side of the cut, using a cotton applicator such as a Q-Tip. (Benzoin is a mild antiseptic that helps Steri-Strips adhere better, also available over the counter.)
  • Peel off the number of Steri-Strips necessary.
  • Apply the Steri-Strips across your cut, with the ends over the benzoin. If possible, try to pinch the sides of your cut together (or have someone help you) when doing this.
  • Expect to have Steri-Strips on for about a week. Over time, the edges will peel up; you can simply trim those down as needed until the strips fall off.

Bottom Line

Sometimes, hidden frustrations can lie in the little details of a task. And in medicine, performing tasks improperly can lead to ineffective — or even negative — outcomes.

If you’ve been prescribed eye drops or pills but can’t get them into your body correctly, they can’t do you any good. Or, if you check your blood pressure incorrectly, you get a falsely high or low reading.

I hope these video demonstrations help to make life a little easier — and healthier! — for you.