Friday, April 20, 2018

Child care centers and flu: Are they prepared?

By monkeybusinessimages courtesy iStockphoto
Child care centers do lots of things to make sure the kids they watch over are protected. Safe play spaces, healthy food and an attentive adult eye are common features.

But when it comes to a serious, widespread outbreak of flu, child care centers may not be so prepared, scientists found recently.

In a study published last year, researchers surveyed more than 1,000 child care center directors about practices such as infection control, communication, immunization and health care training.

Unfortunately, the study found readiness was low: Only 7 percent of directors had taken actions to prepare their centers for a pandemic flu outbreak. The study looked at pandemic flu in particular because it has the potential to be very dangerous, especially for young children — the main users of child care centers.

Pandemic flu is different than seasonal flu for a few reasons: It’s easily spread, it’s a new type of flu most people don’t have immunity to and there won’t be a vaccine. And as the name implies, it’s happening around the world, meaning lots of cases.

Child care centers can be doing more to protect kids from the flu, the researchers said. Directors should be trained by licensed professionals, such as health consultants, to educate staff on health and safety issues. That will help to increase awareness and knowledge of the flu pandemic.

Parents should also be actively involved. Ask questions. Learn how your child care center is taking action in preventing the spread of the flu. That’s important whether there is a flu pandemic or if it’s just a regular flu season.

There are also lots of ways that you can protect your child from the flu beyond the child care center. 

Remember, an annual flu vaccination is the best way to prevent your child from flu.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Stress less with preparedness

Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Eighty percent of Americans report at least one symptom of stress a month. And with Tax Day just around the corner, a lot of people are feeling some big-time stress right now.

It makes sense that April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day, a time for people to assess their stress and make plans to address it. Luckily, planning for disasters is one thing that doesn’t have to be stressful. More planning means less stress when an emergency occurs.

With that in mind, APHA’s Get Ready campaign is here to make your disaster planning easy:

  • Step 1: Know the risks in your area. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to preparedness. Different regions have different risks. If you live in southern California, it makes sense to be more prepared for earthquakes and wildfires than snowstorms. You never know what might happen, though, so sign up for emergency alerts to be notified when an emergency happens.
  • Step 2: Make an emergency plan for your household. Be sure everyone knows what to do, where to go and how to get in touch with each other during an emergency. It’s also a good idea to work together with members of your community. 
  • Step 3: Assemble your emergency supplies. Think about your family’s specific needs and plan accordingly. You know you’ll need food, water and first-aid supplies, but don’t forget extra litter for kitty, hearing aid batteries for grandma or allergy meds for junior. Also, be sure and create a “go-bag” that you can easily grab in a hurry.
  • Step 4: Practice! Make sure you know your evacuation routes, the locations of all your supplies and your emergency meeting locations.

Four steps later and you’re a pro! Being prepared for a disaster can help lower stress during a high-intensity time. After all, protecting your mental health is good for preparedness.

Check out the Get Ready site for even more easy planning materials.

Monday, April 02, 2018

National Public Health Week: The perfect opportunity to promote preparedness

Get your party hats on, because it’s National Public Health Week!

This year, APHA is using April 2-8 to highlight issues that are important to the nation’s health. NPHW is a week filled with fun and exciting educational activities. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to share information on preparedness so that you and your community will be ready to tackle any unexpected disaster! After all, a prepared community is a healthy community.

The theme of this year’s NPHW is “Healthiest Nation 2030: Changing Our Future Together.” Each weekday of NPHW highlights a specific area within public health:

  • Monday, April 2: Behavioral health. About 1 in 5 U.S. adults have a mental illness. Share information about mental health and disasters from Get Ready. 
  • Tuesday, April 3: Communicable diseases. Get Ready has great materials to share on this topic, including fact sheets on flu, Zika, dengue and Ebola. They’re perfect for passing out at your community or campus health fair.
  • Wednesday, April 4: Environmental health. Help maintain a healthy planet and protect human health. Our heat waves and floods fact sheets can raise awareness of threats. 
  • Thursday, April 5: Injury and violence prevention. Preventable unintentional injuries are among the leading causes of death in the U.S. Learn about policies and safety measures that can be taken to reduce them.
  • Friday, April 6: Ensuring the right to health. Everyone deserves the right to live, learn, work, worship and play in a healthy environment, free from preventable disease and disability. 

No time to plan an event? No problem! Anyone can show their support for National Public Health Week. It can be as simple as sharing a post on Facebook or Twitter, or hanging information on your workplace bulletin board or fridge.

For more ideas on how you can get involved, check out APHA’s NPHW page.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Changing our future through food safety

Today’s guest post is by Adam Ghering, public affairs specialist with the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

As National Public Health Week approaches and we work to become the “healthiest nation in one generation,” we can all practice simple food safety steps to prevent illness. For starters, following the four steps of food safety anytime we handle, prepare or eat foods can help.

Clean: Clean hands, surfaces and utensils with
 soap and warm water before cooking. Always
wash hands for 20 seconds before handling foods.
Separate: Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat and poultry and ready to eat foods.
Cook: Confirm meat and poultry are done — Don’t just guess! — by using a food thermometer to verify they have reached a safe internal temperature.
Chill: Chill foods promptly if you don’t plan to consume them immediately after cooking. Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two

How can we combine these food safety steps with other healthy activities? Maybe you have made a goal to eat more fruit, vegetables and lean meats. Great! But don’t forget to wash those fruits and vegetables before peeling or eating. On the other hand, don’t wash raw meat and poultry before cooking, as washing can cause cross-contamination of bacteria through your kitchen.

If you are trying to save money and eat healthy by preparing multiple meals in advance of your work week, remember that once foods are cooked, they need to be refrigerated within two hours, or within one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or above.

The best way to quickly cool foods is to place them in small shallow containers and then into the refrigerator. Leftovers in your refrigerator are good for three to four days. When reheating, make sure the food reaches 165 degrees, as measured by a food thermometer for maximum safety. If you don’t use those leftovers in three to four days, you should freeze or dispose of them.

Foods in the freezer should be consumed within two to three months if they contain meat, and within one to two months if they don’t contain meat. These freezer storage times are for best quality, and frozen foods are safe indefinitely.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or email or chat at

Have a healthy National Public Health Week!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Resiliency: A winning trait for communities

Resiliency. You fall, get back up and continue on with your day. But communities, not just individuals, also need to be resilient.

Recent hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters have reminded us that community resiliency plays a role in keeping neighborhoods and cities healthy, happy and safe.

Community resilience is “the sustained ability of communities to withstand, adapt to and recover from adversity,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If a community can build itself back up after a disaster, life is better for the people there.

To be resilient, community leaders can work together to make plans that meet the needs and wants of community members before a disaster hits. Some easy things you can do today to help your community build resiliency include:
Photo by Michael Rieger, courtesy FEMA

  • Connect with people in your community. Get to know your neighbors! Build relationships with the people around you.
  • Learn new skills or use what you already know. If you can cook, you can help feed your neighbors in an emergency. If you can drive, you can drive people to safe locations.
  • Understand your community and its goals. Think about possible weaknesses your community may have and work together to strengthen them so when disaster hits, you’re ready.

Resilient people make up a resilient community. To be personally resilient in your daily life and deal with challenging situations, you can:
  • Take action: Even if it seems tough, make a decision and stick with it.
  • Think positively: Trust in your ability to solve issues.
  • Keep things in perspective: In the long run, things may not be as big of a deal as you think.
  • Self-care. Engage in healthy activities that you find enjoyable. Eat well, sleep well, play well. 
  • Encourage your neighbors to live a healthy lifestyle, stay informed and be prepared. You can only bounce back if you’ve planned ahead. 

For more information on how to build community resilience, check out this great toolkit from Rand.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Don’t forget your furry, feathered and finned friends! Preparing your pets for disasters

Photo courtesy Susan Polan
Are your pets ready for a disaster? Now’s the time to get them in shape!

We’re not asking you to put your pets through boot camp and run them through escape routes. But before a disaster hits, it’s important that you — the one who loves them the most — come up with food, transportation and shelter options for your pets.

That last one can be especially important to think about in advance. According to research in APHA’s American Journal of Public Health, when disasters hit, some pet owners find it difficult to find shelters that accommodate pets.

Sometimes that means that people stay behind when they shouldn’t, risking the lives of both themselves and their pets. During Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, for example, almost half of people who refused to evacuate did so at least partially because they wouldn’t leave their pets, the AJPH study noted.

And it’s not just the general public that’s affected. As many as a third of health workers may be unable to work during a disaster if they don’t have a safe place for their pets, research shows.
However, if you locate pet-friendly places to go before a disaster, you can increase your ability to find a safe place for you and your pets to go when needed. You can find directories of pet-friendly hotels online. Print out a list of those in your local evacuation area and keep it in your supplies. Home-sharing services with pet-friendly options, such as Airbnb, are another option to keep in mind.
Some public shelters accept pets as well. To find out if there is a pet-friendly shelter near you, contact your local animal shelter or emergency management office.

Pet owners should also prep an evacuation kit, sometimes called a “go-bag.” Include three days’ worth of food and water, garbage bags for clean ups, a leash, a first-aid kit, a crate or other pet carrier and a litter box and poop bags. Don’t forget toys, blankets and pet beds.

Pack so your pet will be comfortable during an emergency. It’s also important to have copies of your pet’s vaccination and medical records.

By planning ahead, you can protect your pet and yourself, too. For more tips, check out our fact sheet.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

What to do when there is a water main break

By Ridofranz, courtesy iStockphoto
A huge water main break occurred in Atlanta this week that left many residents with very little water.  Neighborhoods and major highways were flooded, and officials issued a boil water notice for everyone who uses the county water system. Children were sent home from school and businesses shut down — including Emory University, the Dekalb County Board of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention campuses.

Water main breaks can happen any time and without notice. Which may leave you wondering what to do if this happened in your community.
  • First, it’s important that you are signed up for emergency alerts for your community. You don’t want to find out that you’re not supposed to be drinking water after finishing off a big glass. Updates are happening every minute and you wouldn’t want to miss them.
  • Don’t start using the water again until you have heard the all-clear from a community official. That’s because water can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and other substances that can make you sick.
  • Boil your water if told to. To correctly boil your water, bring your tap water to a rolling boil for one minute and then set it aside to cool down.
  • Watch out for flooding. The water main break in Atlanta caused major flooding, reaching cars and buildings. Remember to stay away from flooded areas. If you are driving and encounter a flood, turn around. It is extremely important that you never drive through flood water.
  • Create a water stockpile. Every U.S. home should have a three-day supply of water stored, with one gallon of water per person per day. This water will come in handy when you need to flush the toilet, wash the dishes, brush your teeth, wash your hands and feed your pets.
If a water main break can disrupt activities at CDC — our nation’s leading public health and preparedness agency — imagine the problems it can create for unsuspecting families and businesses.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Daylight saving time begins March 11: Use it as a reminder to check your food supplies

Spring is almost here and so is daylight saving time. And you know what that means: Time to set your clocks and check your stocks!

When you change your clocks March 11  — or when they change themselves, as so many of our electronic devices do these days — use it as a reminder to update your emergency stockpile. That way you won’t be caught in a bind when an emergency happens.

There are lots of things you should have in your stockpile, such as water, batteries and first-aid supplies. We have awesome lists and fact sheets on our website that show you everything you need and why you need to update it.

But today we’re going to talk about one particular thing you need: An emergency food supply.  Preparedness experts recommend having at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food. Here’s why.

Disasters often strike with little to no warning. You may not be able to run out to the store, and if you do there could be huge lines and frantic shoppers. It’s better for your peace of mind and safety to have your food supply ready and waiting at home.

Not sure what you need for your emergency food supply? Follow these tips:

  • Choose foods that your family likes to eat. If your family hates pea soup normally, they won’t want to eat it while sheltering in place either.
  • Avoid foods that are salty, as they will make you thirsty.
  • Ensure that the foods you stockpile don’t need to be refrigerated. Soups, pudding, peanut butter, shelf-stable milk, granola bars and cereal are all good ideas.
  • Buy food that is ready to eat or needs little preparation. Keep in mind your power may be out and you may not be able to heat things up or wash dishes.
  • Look for canned fruit packed in water or fruit juice, not syrup.
  • Don’t forget food for your family members with special needs, such as infants, seniors and pets.
  • Make sure to pack a manual can opener!

It’s smart to think ahead and imagine what dining from your stockpile will be like. What items will you wish you had on hand? Our stockpiling recipes and disaster cookbook can give you some great ideas.

Print out our shopping list before you head to the store.

For more tips on what to include in your emergency supplies, check out our website.

Friday, February 23, 2018

It’s time to bee ready for disasters!

Natural disasters and other threats to our well-being can be daunting to prepare for. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to get ready. Luckily, there are some amazing animals and insects that can inspire us!

• Black bears: It’s no secret that bears hibernate during the winter, but how do they prepare for the long, cold months? According to the North American Bear Center, one reason is because bears consume as much food and drink as possible before they settle in for the season — just like an extended Thanksgiving!

While we humans don’t spend our lives in bed during the winter, we can still take a page from the black bear book by keeping a supply of emergency food and water in our homes at all times.

Never made a stockpile before? No worry, Get Ready is here to help! Check out our campaign for free materials to help you create an emergency preparedness stockpile.

• Birds: Birds are everywhere — flying in the sky, waddling on the ground, bathing in the water — and often we don’t take a second look. Birds are fascinating creatures, and they’re excellent at preparing for natural disasters. They’re able to sense when the barometric pressure changes, and their impressive sense of direction helps them to know where to fly to escape bad weather.

Though nature didn’t give us wings, we can still approach disaster preparedness like birds. It’s important to pay attention to our surroundings and adjust our routes accordingly. Learn more about disaster preparedness while on the road.

By Michele Late
• Bees: Bzzzzzz. Compared to birds, bees are fragile. They can’t fly for hours in dangerous weather to escape storms and other threats. However, bees are excellent at building sturdy hives that are protected from the elements. When bad weather hits, bees can rely on their hive to keep them safe.

We should learn from bees and make sure our houses are both equipped with supplies and built to withstand the elements. Regular home maintenance is important when getting ready for natural disasters. Get tips on how to prepare your home for a disaster with our fact sheet.

Bears, birds and bees are just a few of the many amazing creatures we can learn a lot about preparedness from. Don’t let more time buzz by while unprepared. Get ready now!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Norovirus, an unexpected 2018 Olympic competitor

Athletic stars are not the only ones making an appearance at the Olympic Games in South Korea.

Norovirus has sickened nearly 200 volunteers and staff at the games.  

Health officials are working hard to figure out where the infections came from. Early reports have linked the outbreak to contaminated water that was used to prepare food at a training center. 

Norovirus, which can be spread through your poop, wins a gold medal for sprinting, as it quickly spreads from person to person. It’s especially common in crowded settings, which is why we hear about it on cruise ships so much. 

When you have norovirus, your stomach or intestines get upset, in a super yucky way. And it can last for days. Common symptoms include nausea, throwing up, stomach pain and diarrhea. But you can also have fevers, headaches and body aches.

By BrianAJackson courtesy iStockphoto
To avoid norovirus infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to: 

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands a lot and wash them well. Remember, it doesn’t take a lot for this virus to spread. Our Get Ready hand-washing pages have great tips you can share
  • Wash your fruits and veggies. Norovirus is most commonly transmitted through food, so it’s important to be careful.
  • If you’re sick, keep your distance. Don’t prepare food for others or care for people around you if you have norovirus or its symptoms.
  • Clean and disinfect everything. Norovirus can survive outside the body for several days. If your hand touches your counter, door handle, remote or anything else, it makes it easy for people around you to catch it. Wash your soiled clothing, towels and other linens right away.

Unfortunately, if you do come down with norovirus, there is no specific medication to treat it. CDC says to rest and drink lots and lots of water. If you get really dehydrated, call your doctor, as you may need to receive IV fluids at a hospital.

But what about the Olympic Games? Two Swiss skiers have contracted the highly contagious virus but the International Olympic Committee reports that there is hope for them to get better in time to compete. As for now, the athletes have been working hard to show off their strength and skill. So let the games continue!

Friday, February 09, 2018

When’s the last time you replaced your smoke alarms?

Photo by esp_imaging, courtesy iStockphoto
With many of us spending time cozied up indoors this month, now is a perfect time to check and replace smoke alarms.

That’s right. We said “replace.” Like your car, your computer and — gasp! — your phone, your smoke alarms don’t last forever.

In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration says to replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. Like other electronics, smoke alarms can fail over time, and could be less likely to detect smoke or issue a lifesaving warning. So if you can’t remember the last time you replaced yours, now may be a good time.

One way to tell the age of your smoke detector is by checking the date it was made. For this, you’ll need to remove the alarm from the ceiling or wall. Look on the back for the manufacture date. If it’s more than 10 years old, time to shop for a new one.

During fires at home, 3 out of every 5 deaths happen in buildings without working smoke alarms.  The good news is that your risk of dying in a home fire is halved when they are working.
Regardless of the age of your smoke alarms, it’s a good idea to test them regularly. In fact, USFA says to do it monthly. You can make it easy to remember by putting a recurring reminder on your calendar.

And don’t forget about checking your smoke alarm batteries. A good way to remember is to check them with the twice-a-year clock change for daylight saving time. (Or now. Now works, too.)
Smoke alarms are already on many people’s mind after watching “This Is Us” so let’s put those thoughts into action!

For more tips on home safety, check out this graphic from Get Ready.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Don’t let the end zone become the danger zone: How to host a penalty-free Super Bowl party

Today’s guest post is by Meredith Carothers, food safety education intern with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

It’s almost time for the big game, which means it’s time to get ready to host your friends for your annual Super Bowl party! And where there’s a Super Bowl viewing party, there’s also plenty of food.

By following these food safety rules from our game-winning playbook, you’ll provide the best defense to avoid letting your teammates get sacked by foodborne illness this Super Bowl. You may also get voted as MVP for best Super Bowl party host!

1. Cook: Avoid a false start — Use a food thermometer to ensure that all meats, poultry and other cooked food items have been cooked to a safe internal temperature before serving. Any previously cooked foods must be reheated to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F, or steaming hot, before serving.

Making sure food items are properly heated and cooked will kill bacteria that may try to tackle your guests. Here are the recommended internal temperatures for some Super Bowl party favorites:
  • Chicken wings: 165 degrees F
  • Burgers and sliders: 160 degrees F
  • Chili and other reheated foods: 165 degrees F
2. Chill: Watch the clock — Once kickoff happens, partygoers and hosts are focused on the game, or patiently waiting until the halftime show). However, don’t let the play clock expire on those party foods, and consider putting foods out in batches to ensure they aren’t staying out longer than the two-hour time limit.

Before halftime, take a timeout. Check your food with a food thermometer to make sure hot foods are still hot and cold foods are still cold. Ensure that you’re keeping slow cookers with your buffalo chicken dip or spinach and artichoke dip on the “warm” or “low” setting. Always use a cold source, such as a bowl of ice, below cold foods and check throughout the party to make sure dips and cheeses are still cold.

3. Stop the clock — After foods have been sitting at room temperature for two hours, either place them in the refrigerator, change the cold sources or throw out foods you know have been sitting since pre-game coverage.

Bacteria love temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, and will grow rapidly if they are in this temperature environment for more than two hours. Read more about this “danger zone.”

4. Scoring the game-winning touchdown — The game is over, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose your food or your health! By following these tips at your Super Bowl party or gathering, you may be celebrating more than just a team victory.

Overall, remember to keep an eye on party foods and their temperatures, even when you’re celebrating touchdowns.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Or email or chat at

Friday, January 26, 2018

Get Ready mailbag: Is this season’s flu shot effective?

By Sean Locke, courtesy iStockphoto
Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

Does the flu shot work this year? Should I even get it?
Thanks for your question! With this flu season shaping up to be a doozy, there’s a lot of attention on vaccination. In short: Yes, you should get your flu shot. Now, the long answer.

How well the flu shot works varies from season to season. One reason is that officials try to predict way ahead of time what flu strains will be out there during flu season. Then they make a vaccine that targets those strains. But that estimate doesn’t always match up with what really happens.

 This season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that flu shot effectiveness will be about the same as last season, when it was 39 percent effective. If you’re saying “Whoa, that’s low. Should I even bother?” Again, the answer is yes.

That’s because even if the flu shot isn’t an exact match to the strains out there, getting vaccinated makes you a lot less sick if you do get the flu. Research shows that getting the shot means fewer people being hospitalized from the flu. And a study last year found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of healthy kids dying from flu by 65 percent.

(Side note: You may have heard people saying the flu shot is only 10 percent effective this year, which isn’t completely true. Research in Australia found that the flu shot used there was 10 percent effective against one particular strain, known as H3N2. It’s not known why that happened there. But again, that’s not a reason not to be vaccinated. The flu shot protects against other strains as well.)

As to whether you still can and should get your flu shot, it’s another big yes. It’s not too late. With flu so widespread right now, vaccination makes sense, even with the two weeks it takes for antibodies to take effect.

And don’t forget: Flu vaccination is about more than just you. When you get your flu shot, you’re protecting people around you. Babies, young kids, seniors and people whose immune systems are weakened from conditions like cancer or HIV are at higher risk for flu. Getting your flu shot can help keep other people around you healthy, too.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Have a few minutes? Help us track the flu

Flu Near You tracks influenza-like illness based on self-reports from its users. The rate of influenza-like illness has risen among Americans in recent months.

Today’s guest blog post is by John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and director of HealthMap.

If you can spare a few minutes each week, you can become a disease detective and help scientists track flu.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are hospitalized due to flu and complications stemming from the disease. Anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people die annually.

As you may already know, we're currently in the midst of a particularly severe flu season. Last week, the rate of Americans being hospitalized for flu nearly doubled. Flu Near You is a citizen science project developed by HealthMap of Boston Children’s Hospital and Ending Pandemics, in partnership with APHA.

Each week, we ask volunteers if they’ve experienced any of 10 symptoms that could indicate the spread of flu. Reminders come via push notifications to your mobile phone or through email. It only takes a few seconds to complete each week. All reports collected are completely anonymous.

Across the U.S., doctors and epidemiologists employed by state and local health departments work tirelessly alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the spread of flu in order to plan for the use of vaccines and antiviral medications, staff up hospitals and clinics and identify when changes in the virus occur.

Flu Near You supports these efforts by freely sharing anonymized data with many state and local health departments as well as CDC. These data help to track influenza spread at the community level and ensure that doctors and hospitals have the resources they need to help those who fall ill.

Can you spare a few minutes to report your health this week?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Think you might have the flu? Our new Get Ready graphic can help

Ah-choo! Oh, no! Am I getting sick? Is it the flu?

Spot your symptoms this flu season with Get Ready’s quick and simple flowchart graphic. 
You can trace your symptoms to help determine if you’ve got the flu, and then learn what to do.

Share this infographic with your friends, family, neighbors and classmates to help them be a little more prepared this flu season.

If you have flu symptoms and they continue to get worse, you should see a doctor. Whether or not you have the flu, it’s important to get a flu shot every year and wash your hands with soap and water.

For even more flu-fighting tips, check our flu and hand-washing fact sheets.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Enjoying the winter weather? Watch out for hypothermia and frostbite

Winter can be wonderful: Think hot chocolate, cozy fires and fuzzy socks. But the freezing cold weather? Not so wonderful. Just ask folks on the East Coast this week.

In fact, researchers found last year that even in Texas, which is not known for its harsh winters, cold weather increases risk of death. The risk is especially high for people with heart conditions or breathing problems.

The reason cold weather is dangerous is because when the temperature drops, your body has to work harder to keep your blood circulating and maintain a healthy body temp.

One way cold weather can cause serious health problems is through hypothermia. It’s caused by long exposures to really cold temperatures. Your body begins to lose heat fast and you use up your stored energy.

If you’re out in cold weather, watch out for shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, fumbling of your hands and drowsiness. If you notice these signs, check your temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, get medical help right away, as it’s an emergency.

Frostbite is another serious risk when you’re outside in the cold. It happens when parts of your body — usually fingers, nose or toes — become so cold that blood can’t flow to them. Watch out for white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy or numbness.

The best way to avoid hypothermia and frostbite is to wear lots of layers, hats, gloves and water-resistant shoes when you go outside in cold weather. This is especially important for seniors, people with heart or circulation problems, young children and anyone who will be outside in the cold for a long time.

All this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in winter weather. Snowball fights, ice skating and snow angels are irresistible. Just be sure to play it safe when you’re out there.

For more tips for staying safe this winter, check out Get Ready’s Winter Ready page, with free fact sheets you can share. And take a look at this great graphic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.