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.
Each February, the American Heart Association marks the month dedicated to love as the time to call attention to heart health. Although the iconic romantic symbol of a heart bears no resemblance to the physical organ that pumps blood to human tissue, the association is obvious: we should do whatever it takes to help loved ones stay healthy. I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with my wife and our son, JR. I love them both, with all of my heart. And to that end, heart disease prevention is paramount.
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which restricts blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can lead to a heart attack. Here are some of the most common types of heart conditions:
- Aortic Aneurysm – a bulge in a section of theaorta, the body’s main artery. The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Because the section with the aneurysm is overstretched and weak, it can burst. If the aorta bursts, it can cause serious bleeding that can quickly lead to death.
- Atrial Fibrillation – often called AFib or AF, is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way. When a person has AFib, the normal beating in the upper chambers of the heart (the two atria) is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart (the two ventricles). AFib may occur in brief episodes, or it may be a permanent condition. I wonder if those episodes are anything like what I see on TV at the fire station. Some of that stuff the characters go through is crazy.
- Cardiomyopathy – The normal muscle in the heart can thicken, stiffen, thin out, or fill with substances the body produces that do not belong in the heart muscle. As a result, the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood is reduced, which can lead to irregular heartbeats, the backup of blood into the lungs or rest of the body, and heart failure.
- Congestive Heart Failure – Does not mean theheart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. With heart failure, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs. I wonder if it would help to eat more bacon? Bacon seems to help with everything. But, in this case…maybe not?
- Coronary Artery Disease – This happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
- Heart Attack – This happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.
- High Blood Pressure – A common disease in which blood flows through blood vessels (arteries) at higher than normal pressures. Sometimes called “the silent killer,” uncontrolled high blood pressure (HBP) can injure or kill because HBP has no symptoms. So victims may not be aware that their arteries, heart and other organs are being damaged.
- Pulmonary Hypertension – High blood pressure that occurs in the arteries in the lungs. It is a different measurement altogether from systemic blood pressure, reflecting the pressure the heart must exert to pump blood from the heart through the arteries of the lungs.
- Stroke – A stroke is a “brain attack,” which can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost. These seem like pretty important areas of the brain.
The best way to prepare yourself and loved ones to handle heart-related health problems is to take care of yourself:
- Eat healthy.
- Stay active. Take your dog for more walks!
- Manage stress.
- Monitor your weight.
- Quit smoking. (Or, better yet — don’t start!)
- See your doctor regularly for routine checkups and lab work.
- Familiarize yourself with heart-related signs and symptoms. And call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest.
Heart Attack Symptoms
- Chest discomfort (It usually lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and returns. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.)
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
FAST (Stroke Symptoms)
- Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
- Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the victim unable to speak, or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
- Time to call 9-1-1– If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get him or her to the hospital immediately.
Cardiac Arrest Symptoms
- Loss of responsiveness
- Loss of normal breathing
Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just during Heart Health Month. 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 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), consumers spend about half of their food budget on meals prepared outside of their homes. This statistic is significant, because 60 percent of foodborne outbreaks are reportedly caused by fare which is prepared in restaurants. Does this mean you should baton down the hatches and resolve never to eat out again? Not at all. After all; 40 percent of food that has the capacity to make you sick is sitting in your own pantry or refrigerator. So the best course of action is to make sure you take necessary precautions to remain food-safe, no matter where you choose to dine. I choose to dine wherever there is bacon or pork chops. But that’s just me.
What is Foodborne Illness?
An infection or irritation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, foodborne illnesses are caused by foods or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, or chemicals. Yuck! Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills. In more severe cases, patients may experience headaches, tingling or numbness of the skin, blurred vision, weakness, dizziness, and paralysis. Yuck.
I’m glad dogs have a strong constitution. We can get sick from contaminated food, if it contains Salmonella, which is one type of bacteria. We can also suffer from what is known as Garbage Intoxication – ingesting decomposing carrion, garbage, spoiled food, moldy nuts or grains or infected compost. I guess this is a reason I should refrain from rifling through the fire station trash!
Here are some additional facts about foodborne illnesses:
- Each year, an estimated 48 million people in the United States experience a foodborne illness.
- Most foodborne illnesses are acute, meaning they come on suddenly and are short-lived. They certainly aren’t “cute.” So I’m glad to clear that up!
- Many people who contract foodborne illnesses wrongly assume they have the stomach flu.
- Most victims recover on their own, without medical intervention.
- For people whose immune systems are compromised – such as the sick, children or the elderly – foodborne illness might lead to more serious complications.
- In the U.S., foodborne illnesses cause 128,000 hospitalizations and about 3,000 deaths each year.
- Assess the scene. Look for certificates that show food-safety practices (e.g., most recent health inspection score and manager’s completion of food-safety training). Note whether the glasses, silverware, napkins and table cloths and restroom are clean. As a rule, restaurateurs who keep facilities clean also pay attention to the condition of their kitchens.
- Cook it well. Make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked. It is particularly important for foods like meat, poultry, and fish to be cooked thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria.
- Pick the right place. To be safe, eat sushi only in A-rated kitchens, which purchase sushi-grade fish. If you feel uneasy at a restaurant, don’t second-guess the instinct. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Ask before ordering. Beware of potential hazards in raw foods and undercooked eggs, chicken, pork or fish. Ask for meats to be well-done. Check to make sure sauces have been commercially pasteurized.
- Refrigerate leftovers—post haste. Unless you are heading right home, leave leftovers behind. As a rule, food should be stowed in cold storage within two hours of being served or, one hour if temperatures are above 90°F. So, storing leftovers in the car while you see a movie is a bad idea. Better idea? Give it to the dog, when you get home, just to be safe. The takeout containers they provide at restaurants are called “Doggie Bags” for a reason!
Five Steps for Food Safety When Dining In
1. Follow proper food preparation rules. When it comes to food prep, proper hygiene is critical. Wash your hands before handling food. And, as you work, pay close attention to which surfaces and utensils come in contact with raw meat and juices. Scrub everything in hot soapy water.
2. Keep hot food hot. Once food is cooked, it should be held at an internal temperature of 140°F or above. Storing food on top of the stove to keep it warm (between 40°F and 140°F) is not safe. Use a food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the food and, when in doubt, throw it out!
3. Keep cold food cold. Follow the above rules for cold foods, as well. But make sure internal temperature is kept at or below 40°F.
4. Follow the two-hour rule. Throw away perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles and side dishes containing eggs or mayonnaise, if they have been left at room temperature longer than two hours (or one hour if temperatures are above 90°F).
5. Eat leftovers sooner rather than later. If you prepare more food than your family consumes at any given time, put leftovers in the fridge or freezer—and eat them within three to four days.
How to treat foodborne illness
The most common treatment for mild cases of foodborne illness is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. If you suspect you have contracted foodborne illness, drink plenty of liquids such as fruit juices, sports drinks, caffeine-free soft drinks, and broths. Older adults and adults with weak immune systems should also drink oral rehydration solutions to prevent dehydration. I drink plenty of water for maximum hydration.
Over-the-counter medications may also be helpful, as they can be used to halt diarrhea in adults. However, these could pose a danger to infants and children, so contact your healthcare provider for information about treating children. As you begin to recover, gradually reintroduce a bland, “BRAT” diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). Also recommended for recovery are easy-to-digest foods such as potatoes, bread, cereal and lean meat. During recovery, also avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar, or which contain dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol.
We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy and avoid contracting foodborne illness. 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. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), this year’s strain of Influenza (flu) has already hit epidemic proportions across the United States, with at least 15 associated deaths of children so far this season (most in Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and California.) The most common strain thus far, is known as Influenza A (H3N2). Sounds pretty scary. But I guess any illness with an official name and number is creepy.
A contagious respiratory illness, the flu can cause mild to severe illness, which can result in hospitalization or even death. Most at risk are the elderly, young children and other people with weaker-than-average immune systems. Most health professionals contend the best defense against catching the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Apparently, dogs can catch the flu, too. But we are susceptible to different strains than our human counterparts.
Carefully monitoring flu activity across the country, the CDC reports: “As of late December, all national key flu indicators are elevated and about half of the country is experiencing high flu activity. Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks, with increases occurring especially in those states that have not yet had significant activity.
The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year, and right now all of CDC’s influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated activity. Influenza-like-illness (ILI) has been over baseline for the past several weeks, virological surveillance shows a lot of flu is circulating, and the hospitalization surveillance system shows increasing hospitalizations rates, especially in people 65 years and older. Also, the surveillance system that tracks mortality shows that the country is in the midst of this season’s flu epidemic. During influenza seasons, ILI increases first, and then hospitalizations increase, and then increases in deaths occur, so what is being observed is a typical pattern for the flu season.”
Although this year’s flu season started a few weeks earlier than usual, pharmacists across the country don’t expect the virus to peak until early to mid-February, which means there is still time to get vaccinated, as the shot generally takes two weeks to reach full effectiveness. I don’t understand why some people are afraid of needles. Even my young son, JR, gets boosters without a whimper. As you weigh the pros and cons of vaccination, it might help you to consider the differences between symptoms of a common cold and the flu:
- Often begins with a sore throat, which usually lasts for just one or two days
- Nasal symptoms, runny nose, sneezing and congestion follow
- A cough manifests by day four or five, typically due to sinus drainage and associated nasal congestion
- Fever is uncommon in adults but slightly more common in children
- Symptoms generally last for up to one week
- Persistent sore throat
- Fever (100-102 degrees, which is typically higher than for a cold)
- Severe headache
- Severe muscle aches
- Fatigue, weakness
- Extreme exhaustion
- Chest discomfort
- The Swine flu is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.
Although many symptoms overlap, people who catch colds are more likely to suffer far less and rebound much more quickly than those who succumb to the flu. Also of note, while people who vomit often think they have the flu, stomach pain and diarrhea are far more likely to be the result of food-borne illness (food poisoning) than attributable to a case of the flu. I think this is interesting, because people are always saying they have the flu when they are probably suffering from bad Chinese food.
Five Ways to Avoid Catching the Flu
- Wash your hands – Even if you are exposed to the flu (by touching a germ-infested counter top at a doctor’s office, for example) if you clean your hands before you touch your face, there’s little chance the germs can reach your eyes, nose, or mouth, all of which are the usual ways they enter your system and start wreaking havoc.
- Try not to touch your face – LiveScience.com reports that the average person touches his or her face some 3.6 times per hour. Since cold and flu germs pass from infected surfaces to orifices such as the nose and mouth, the best way to guard yourself is to keep your hands in your lap. Also, try to avoid habits like biting your nails.
- Keep surfaces clean – From your home to your cubby a work, the importance of cleanliness cannot be overstated. Take time to disinfect your keyboard, telephone and desk. In fact, set up a reminder to thoroughly wipe down surfaces each time you eat. You might also want to use disinfectant spray or wipes. She always said it’s good to keep things clean. I guess Mother knows best.
- Moisturize Your Air – Women’s Health Magazine reports that very humid air might be toxic to flu viruses. Although scientists aren’t quite sure why, one possibility is that droplets that contain the virus shrink quickly in arid environments, allowing them to float around longer. In moist air those same droplets might remain heavy and fall to the floor faster.
- Stay home – Although we aren’t recommending you become a hermit, you will lessen your chances of getting sick if you stay away from large crowds. Also, if you are sick, stay home from work so you won’t infect your co-workers. If you’re sick, you probably won’t be at your best, anyway. So take care of yourself and go back to work when you are back in top form. Makes sense to me.
We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy in 2015 and beyond. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.