Friday, November 28, 2008

Got asthma? An extra reason to get your flu shot

Fever, aches and chills. Yuck! Flu season is upon us, and for many who come down with these symptoms, a few days in bed and plenty of fluid may be just what the doctor orders. But if you’re one of the more than 22 million Americans with asthma, the flu can lead to conditions that are much worse.

When you have asthma, your airways are already somewhat inflamed. They overreact to irritants and allergens, including viruses. Rather than fighting the virus, your lungs may secrete substances that promote inflammation. Making matters worse, viruses can replicate themselves more extensively in lungs affected by asthma than in healthy lungs.

Therefore, many health experts recommend that people with asthma get an annual flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with asthma are at high risk of developing complications after contracting the flu virus, yet most adults with asthma don’t get their annual flu shot.

So if you have asthma, take steps to protect yourself from flu: Avoid people who are sick. Wash your hands regularly. And if you haven’t gotten your flu shot, get one today.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Join a team of heroes and help protect your community

Citizens of Metropolis face an uncertain threat. They are not prepared for an emergency. Potential disaster looms. Who do community leaders call? The Avengers? Justice League of America? The Fantastic Four?

No, they contact their Community Emergency Response Team. Response teams don’t possess superpowers, but they do rely on heroes in our communities — people like you and me — who are dedicated to preparing for an emergency.

In towns around the country, teams organize and train volunteers to safely help themselves and others in case of an emergency. Teams don't seek to replace emergency service providers, but they do help prepare average residents to take care of themselves and others if responders cannot immediately assist them.

Trainees in Community Emergency Response Team programs learn the basics of utility management, fire safety, search and rescue, incident planning and organization, and disaster medical operations so they can safely assist themselves and others. Teams also support their local emergency response providers by participating in preparedness drills and other community events that require extra help.

Response team members come from all walks of life — young, old, working, in school, stay-at-home or retired, it doesn't matter. If you want to be better prepared or help your community, you can join! Some members already have emergency response or public health experience, but many are just ordinary residents looking to better prepare themselves, their neighborhoods and their workplaces for minor and major emergencies.

Ready to help? Check out the Community Emergency Response Team Web site to locate a group in your area. Find out how you can join a team of heroes and help protect your community (superhero capes and tights not required).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flu vaccine key for both mom and newborn-to-be

Pregnancy can be an exciting time: Baby names, baby showers and, oh, those cute little baby clothes. It's also a key time to focus on health, both for mom and her newborn-to-be.

Expectant moms know that it is important to eat nutritious food and get preventive health checkups while pregnant. But it's also important to get your flu shot. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that flu shots — which are "both safe and effective for pregnant women" — be a routine part of prenatal care.

And flu shots are also good for babies whose moms are vaccinated while pregnant, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Babies born to moms who were vaccinated while pregnant had 63 percent fewer cases of flu, the study found. Also a plus, respiratory illnesses among both moms and newborns decreased by 36 percent, meaning the flu shot protected them both. The finding is especially notable, the researchers said, because flu shots aren't licensed for infants under 6 months of age, who have the highest rates of hospitalization from influenza among U.S. children.

Unfortunately, while health professionals have been recommending the flu shot for pregnant women in the United States since 1997, fewer than 15 percent of pregnant women are vaccinated each year — meaning lots of moms and babies are missing out. So if you are pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting a flu shot. And if you run into any other moms-to-be while you are out shopping for those baby buggies, bibs and so-adorable little shoes, spread the word about getting a flu shot. It will be worth it for both mom and baby when they are healthy and flu-free.

Graphic credit: Courtesy Microsoft ClipArt Gallery

Friday, November 07, 2008

Drop, cover and hold on

When the ground shakes, rattles and rolls — drop, cover and hold on. That’s the guidance from the organizers of next week’s Great Southern California ShakeOut, designed to help residents prepare for a big earthquake.

A major earthquake is an inevitable part of Southern California's future, earthquake experts say, though no one knows when the big one will hit. With 22 million people living and working in the region, such a natural disaster could result in catastrophe.

To help people prepare, millions of Southern Californians are expected to participate Nov. 13 in the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history. The drill centers on the ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario, which outlines a hypothetical 7.8 magnitude earthquake — similar to the 2008 one in China — and could devastate the region.

The key to minimizing damage from a massive earthquake is for people to be prepared. In addition to creating disaster plans and supply kits, Southern Californians are being asked to "drop, cover and hold on" during the drill. According to event organizers, the best thing to do during an earthquake is to drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on until the shaking stops.

These are general guidelines, of course If you're in bed, driving or in other situations, you'll need to take other actions, the details of which are outlined on the Great Southern California ShakeOut Web site.

If you live in Southern California, pledge to take part in the drill this Thursday and register now online. You'll receive information on how to plan your drill, connect with other participants and talk with others about earthquake preparedness. There's also lots of earthquake preparedness information on the Great Southern California ShakeOut Web site. So if you live in a earthquake-risk area, here's your chance to get ready. Let's shake on it.

Have you ever been in an earthquake? Share your experience by commenting on this blog entry.