The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends over delicious food and drinks (make mine water). But be careful to incorporate safety precautions into your meal prep to help keep everyone you love in good health. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 48 million people get sick; 128,000 are hospitalized; and 3,000 people die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States. Continue reading “Holiday Food Safety”
The following is provided for informational purposes only. Allied Universal is not a medical expert. Consult your healthcare provider before pursuing any vaccines or taking any medication.
It’s that time of year again. Leaves are turning, football has begun, the weather is cooling off, and it’s time to fill backpacks with school necessities—pens and pencils, notebooks, laptops and bacon. But when you check that all important “to-do list” this year for your student, make sure to include the most important item on the list—inoculations. Continue reading “Back-to-School Safety: College Vaccinations”
Part 1 in a Series
Extreme weather causes some of the most devastating natural disasters known to man and beast. Already this year, the United States has faced six weather and climate-related major disaster events, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports have resulted in 36 deaths and economic losses exceeding one billion dollars. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) breaks these disasters into eight major categories: extreme heat, floods, hurricanes, landslides and mudslides, lightning, tornadoes, tsunamis, and winter weather. I’m not sure why cats aren’t included on the list, since they’re the number one cause of disasters in my world. This week, we will discuss extreme heat. Check back for future posts, which will conclude our series about extreme weather-related disasters. Continue reading “Extreme Heat: Severe Weather Disasters”
With sudden onset of congestion, body aches, fever and chills, over the past few months, millions of Americans have been battling Influenza, aka the flu. Worse yet, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that, worldwide, somewhere between 300,000 and 646,000 people die each year from seasonal flu-related respiratory illnesses.
Out of concern for everyone who was directly or indirectly affected by recent traumatic events, for this week’s post, I will dispense with my usual “firedog-isms.” Check back next week to read my unique “canine take.”
The term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD) was originally coined to refer to veterans of war. Now, doctors diagnose PTSD in anyone who has experienced a shocking, scary or dangerous event and suffers associated long-term physical and/or psychological symptoms. With the recent prevalence of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, active shooting events and other manmade and natural disasters, 13 million people worldwide are believed to suffer from the malady. Continue reading “PTSD & Mental Health”
Did you know that poison can be found in vitamins, toys, coins, thermometers, and cosmetics? That’s a little creepy, if you ask me. These products, and your basic over-the-counter medications and cleaning products, contain the substance—albeit at very small amounts. With so many hazards to be aware of, drawing attention to the dangers of potential poisoning is the purpose of National Poison Prevention Week, March 19 to 25. Sponsored by the National Poisoning Prevention Council (NPPC), the weeklong observations will center on the following themes:
- Monday, March 20 – Children Act Fast … So Do Poisons (Puppies act fast, too!)
- Tuesday, March 21 – Poison Centers: Saving You Time and Money
- Wednesday, March 22 – Poisonings Span a Lifetime
- Thursday, March 23 – Home Safe Home
- Friday, March 24 – Medicine Safety
Here are some reasons that poison prevention is extremely important:
- According to the Global Children’s Fund, 800,000 kids are rushed to emergency rooms in the United States each year due to accidental poisoning.
- The Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers reveals that someone in America called a poison control center every 14.5 seconds.
Says the NPPC about the campaign:
“Unintentional poisoning from a wide variety of substances and environmental hazards can happen to anyone, and represents a substantial public health burden in the U.S. The National Poisoning Prevention Council is an inclusive community comprised of representatives from the public, nonprofit, and government organizations with a shared commitment to poisoning prevention and education. The Council provides a collective voice to raise awareness among the American public about the risks, frequency, and consequences of unintentional poisoning occurrences, injuries, and fatalities.”
Follow these tips to reduce the risk of accidental poisoning:
- Don’t share prescription medicines. That’s a wise statement. If you are taking more than one drug at a time, check with your healthcare provider, pharmacist, or call the toll-free American Association of Poison Control Centers’ helpline (1-800-222-1222), to find out more about possible drug interactions.
- Carbon monoxide is a form of poison. Keep a working carbon monoxide detector in your home. The best places for a CO detector are near bedrooms and close to furnaces.
- Keep chemicals, household cleaners, medicines, and potentially poisonous substances in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children. Never mix household or chemical products together. Doing so can create a dangerous gas. And gas is a bad thing in a confined space.
- Keep cleaning products, art products and antifreeze in their original containers. Never use food containers (such as cups or bottles) to store household cleaners and other chemicals or products.
- Food can become poisonous if handled carelessly. And it’s criminal to waste good food! Wash hands and counters before preparing food. Use clean utensils for cooking and serving.
- Store food at the proper temperatures. Refrigerated foods should not be left out at temperatures above 40 degrees F° (5 degrees C°).
- Be sure that everyone in your family can identify poisonous mushrooms and plants. When it comes to poison ivy, remember this tip: “leaves of three, let it be.”
- Venom is a form of poison. So, I guess eating snakes is right out? Good to know. Find out if poisonous snakes live in your area. Wear proper attire (boots, etc.) when hiking outdoors.
- Check the label on any insect repellent. Be aware that most contain DEET, which can be poisonous in large quantities.
If someone ingests poison:
- Remain calm. Not all medicines, chemicals, or household products are poisonous. Not all contact with poison results in poisoning. That’s a relief.
- Call the Poison Help line(1-800-222-1222), which connects you to the local poison center.
- Follow the advice you receive from your poison center. Good idea!
Take steps while waiting for help to arrive:
- If someone has inhaledpoison, get him or her to fresh air immediately. Fresh air is always a good idea.
- If poison has touched the skin, rinse skin with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- If poison gets in eyes, rinse them immediately with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.Remember that safety around toxic chemicals is important for everyone across the country, all year long. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
What’s in the Water?
Identifying the Danger of Algae and other Contaminants
According to UNICEF, in 2015, nine percent of every child’s death, worldwide, resulted from illnesses caused by toxic water. Poor water quality contributes directly to life-threatening ailments as common but potentially deadly as diarrhea to as rare and dangerous as malaria and schistosomiasis. Thankfully, in most parts of the U.S., the water supply is exceedingly clean — especially when compared to what’s available in developing countries. Nevertheless, United States’ officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the presence of toxic algae in dozens of areas in the Midwest. In Flint Michigan, for example, poor water supply (and mismanagement of the same) has caused serious health problems for residents, as well as massive political fallout. Personally, I prefer muddy water when it comes to splashing and playing.
Algae in a Nutshell
Present in all bodies of water, algae plays an important role as a building block in the food chain.
- It functions as a carbon sink, which pulls excess CO2 from the air, reducing the risk of climate change.
- Blooms are outsized algae growths which often occur due to increased temperatures, as well as fertilizer and wastewater runoff.
- The most dangerous kind of algae is cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. This type is toxic to animals and humans.
How Algae Affects Humans
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently noted an alarming rise in incidences of algal blooms in drinking water reservoirs. They identify golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) as a frequent culprit relative to algal blooms, which include those which have affected Lake Erie in the recent past. Steps taken to mitigate the problem include better monitoring, and, in the case of Lake Erie, an ongoing effort to minimize farm runoff — which has contributed directly to the algal bloom. Algal bloom sounds like the name of a band.
Sometimes, large geographical regions can be affected. For example in 2014, the entire city of Toledo, Ohio had to avoid drinking tap water due to the presence of Cyanobacteria. More than 500,000 residents were impacted, including thousands of business owners who had to think quickly in order to provide alternative drinking sources for staff and visitors. Since Cyanobacteria are not killed by boiling, the only viable solution is to use bottled water during an algae-related water supply crisis. Boiling kills most micro organisms; so this makes me wonder just how tough these bacteria are!
To combat algal blooms, the water source must be treated. This includes restricting usage of fertilizers and other agricultural runoff sources, adding phosphorous, suction dredging, and wetlands conservation.
Other Common Water Contaminants
Beyond algal blooms, there are many other water contaminants that must be properly monitored and treated:
- Lead seepage was the main problem relative to the drinking water crisis in Flint. This is typically caused by corroded lead pipes which leech contaminants into the water supply, over time. Lead is exceedingly toxic, especially for children, and causes damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, and compromises affects brain development.
- Arsenic is another common contaminant typically found in private wells, as it is found in the earth’s crust. Detrimental health effects include cancers of the bladder, kidney, and skin, as well as blood vessel diseases.
- The EPA lists dozens of other potential contaminants including cleaning supplies, medications, and various other organic and inorganic substances. This makes me rethink my habit of dropping tennis balls and dog toys into my water bowl.
Ensuring the safety and availability of drinking water during a crisis requires diligent monitoring of water quality alerts and preparation of emergency supply kits containing sufficient stores of potable water. So remember to take proper disaster preparation steps and remember that safety is a daily priority. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or To subscribe, click here.
The CDC announced this week that, over the past three years, 1.8 million Americans were inspired to try to quit smoking and 104,000 have given up the dangerous habit for good, thanks — at least in part — to an aggressive national campaign initiated in 2014. And some people say that marketing is a waste of money? The educational, non-smoking crusade included public service announcements and ads that shared “Tips from Former Smokers.” Survey results were published on March 24, 2016 in the journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.
The ads featured various ways that people struggle with smoking-related health issues:
- Gum disease
- Premature birth
- Stroke caused by smoking combined with HIV.
About 80 percent of U.S. adult cigarette smokers who were surveyed reported that they had seen at least one television ad during the campaign. I’ve seen some of these PSAs. They are pretty crazy! Tips was the first federally funded anti-smoking media campaign, and is widely considered well worth the investment, since smoking-related diseases cost the United States more than $300 billion each year, including nearly $170 billion in direct health care costs and more than $156 billion in lost productivity. That’s a lot of lost money and productivity that’s going up in smoke!
“The Tips’ campaign is an important counter measure to the one million dollars that the tobacco industry spends each hour on cigarette advertising and promotion,” said Corinne Graffunder, Dr.P.H., director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “The money spent in one year on Tips is less than the amount the tobacco industry spends on advertising and promotion in just three days.”
The most recent Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress revealed that cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, killing about 480,000 Americans each year. I guess I take pride in the fact that dogs don’t smoke. But, in all honesty, doing so would be difficult without opposable thumbs.
For every American who dies from a smoking-related disease, about 30 more suffer at least one serious illness associated with first or secondhand smoke. And while the percentage of American adults who smoke is at the lowest level since the CDC began tracking such data, there are still an estimated 40 million adult smokers in the U.S.
Quitting smoking lowers the risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps the heart and lungs. Since life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than that of non-smokers, quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%. Likely for these reasons, surveys show that 70 percent of all smokers have the desire to quit. I know I have the desire for them to quit! As a dog, I smell smoke on everything it touches, even more than my human companions.
The American Cancer Society reports that quitting completely at any age has significant health and lifestyle benefits:
- Within minutes of smoking the last cigarette, the body begins to recover:
- 20 minutes after quitting, heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- 12 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in blood drop to normal.
- Almost immediately after quitting:
- Food tastes better.
- Sense of smell returns to normal.
- Breath, hair, and clothes smell better.
- Teeth and fingernails stop yellowing.
- Ordinary activities leave non-smokers less out of breath than their smoking peers.
- Minimizes the damaging effects of tobacco on appearance, including premature wrinkling of skin, gum disease, and tooth loss.
- Three weeks to nine months after quitting, circulation improves and lung function increases.
- Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- Cilia start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
- One year after quitting, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s.
- Heart attack risk drops dramatically.
- Five years after quitting, the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half.
- Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker.
- Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after two to five years
- 10 years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking.
- The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
- 15 years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
If you smoke and would like to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.cdc.gov/tips to view personal stories from the Tips’ campaign as well as detailed assistance developed by the National Cancer Institute to support smokers who are trying to quit. And I might add, if you don’t smoke, don’t start!
Remember that safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time, not just where smoking is concerned. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
Commonly known as MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a staph bacterium often (but not always) contracted in medical facilities, deeming it a super bug because it is resistant to many antibiotics. What a mouthful! No wonder they had to come up with an acronym! According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), in recent years, MRSA has evolved from a controllable nuisance into a serious health concern. Most MRSA infections are confined to the skin or in the nose. However, the infection can also burrow deep into the body, causing life-threatening infections in the bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves, lungs, and at surgical incision sites. It can even lead to pneumonia. I am against anything “burrowing into” my body.
According to the MRSA Survivors’ Network, more Americans die each year from invasive MRSA infections than from HIV/AIDS or H1N1 flu. MRSA was first discovered in 1961, and is resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other common antibiotics. I am resistant to cats in much the same way. The bug constantly adapts and changes, which leaves researchers hard pressed to keep up. Although approximately two percent of the population has MRSA on their skin, not everyone suffers ill effects from its presence. Troubling infections are most common among people who have weak immune systems. I was alarmed to discover that MRSA can even affect dogs.
MRSA infections are transmitted from person to person by direct contact with the skin, clothing, or area (for example, sink, bench, bed, and utensil) that had recent physical contact with a MRSA-infected person. Workers who are in frequent contact with MRSA and staph-infected people and animals are most at risk of contracting a MRSA-related staph infection. These include employees who work in healthcare, corrections, daycare, or veterinary medicine-related fields. However, alarmingly, MRSA has started appearing in healthy people who have not been hospitalized. This type of MRSA is called community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.
The good news (Finally!) is that Congress recognizes the threat to public health, approving $160 million in new funding to the CDC in fiscal year 2016, to combat antibiotic-resistant bugs. With the funding, the CDC will:
- accelerate outbreak detection and prevention in every state;
- enhance tracking of resistance mechanisms and resistant infections;
- support innovative research to address current gaps in knowledge; and
- improve antibiotic use.
Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be:
- Warm to the touch
- Full of pus or other drainage
- Accompanied by a fever
The CDC suggests taking these personal hygiene steps to reduce your risk of contracting a MRSA infection:
- Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Hand washing remains one of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent the spread of any and all germs.
- Keep cuts, scrapes, and wounds clean and covered until healed.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
- Seek medical attention early if you suspect you might have an infection.
Remember that health safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the American Cancer Society, February is not just the month set aside for heart health awareness. It is also National Cancer Prevention Month. Broadly defined, cancer is a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in the body. Note that cancer doesn’t just affect humans. Canines can get the disease, as well. In fact, 50 percent of dogs over the age of 10 will get some type of cancer during the remainder of their lives. An active cancer prevention campaign is crucial, since cancer affects so many Americans:
- More than one million people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year.
- Cancer is the leading cause of death for much of the U.S. population.
- 1,658,370 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2015.
- 589,430 people died from cancer-associated ailments last year.
- Approximately 39.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with all cancer sites at some point during their lifetime.
- The most common types of cancer diagnoses include cancers of the breast (females), lung and bronchus, prostate, colon & rectum, bladder, melanoma of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid, kidney and renal pelvis, and endometrial.
- Cancer isn’t fun.
The good news is that cancer diagnoses and associated death rates are declining in the U.S., due to increased awareness, early detection, new treatment protocols, and follow-through on prescribed treatments. Doctors determine the stage of a patient’s cancer relative to the extent cancer has progressed in the body. Staging helps physicians determine treatment options and has a strong influence on the length of survival rates post-diagnosis. In general, if the cancer is found only in the part of the body where it started it is localized (sometimes referred to as stage one). If it has spread to a different part of the body, the stage is referred to as regional or distant. So it’s a different stage than our son, J.R., enjoys performing on. The earlier cancer is caught; the better chance a person or a dog has of surviving five years after being diagnosed.
Each February, the AICR leads a campaign to inform the public about ways to prevent cancer. The institute considers these 10 lifestyle guidelines critical for cancer prevention:
- Aim to be a healthy weight throughout life.
- Be physically active every day in any way for 30 minutes or more. Limit sedentary behavior. Take your dog for more walks!
- Choose mostly plant foods, Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
- Limit red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meat. I guess this means bacon? The horror of it!
- Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to one per day for women and two per day for men.
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with sodium.
- Don’t rely on supplements to offset unhealthy dietary habits.
- Mothers are advised to breastfeed babies for at least six months before adding other liquids and solid food to their diets.
- Cancer survivors should consider treatments advised by medical professionals and should stringently follow recommendations for cancer prevention.
Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where human or canine cancer is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.