Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving and vaccinations: Turkeys aren’t the only ones who should get injections

Another Thanksgiving dinner has come and gone. The bird’s been picked clean, the dishes washed and tummies are full. (Maybe too full!)

Chances are you and your family are now wondering what to do with all that empty togetherness time. Sure, you can whip out the board games and the Wii, or slog out to the mall and bargain-hunt, but we’ve got some other ideas, and they’re better for your health.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that you use some of your holiday together time to talk with your relatives about your family health history. (As a matter of fact, Thanksgiving is officially National Family History Day.) That’s a great idea, and we here at the Get Ready campaign would like to expand on that to suggest you also take some time to talk about vaccinations. No matter their age, someone in your family probably needs a vaccination. Kids and teens need to stay up on their regular shots, adults need their boosters, and seniors especially need vaccinations for flu and pneumonia.

Take a second to think: Can you remember the last time you had a tetanus shot? They are only good for 10 years, so if you can’t recall, chances are you need one. What about pertussis, aka whooping cough? As recent outbreaks have shown, immunity can wane and your lack of protection can end up endangering those you care about. Come Monday, check with your doctor to see whether you are up to date on your vaccinations, and schedule an appointment if not.

And since you and your family are all together post-Thanksgiving anyway, how about taking a group trip to get your seasonal flu shots? The malls are going to be packed this weekend, but chances are the lines at the local pharmacy counter or in-store clinic will be wide open.

Everyone in your family — as long as they are older than 6 months of age — should get their flu shot this year, according to federal health officials. So give your drug or grocery store a call to see when they are giving flu vaccinations today. Then pile in the car and go do some good for your family health.

Since flu shots are an annual thing, use Thanksgiving as a reminder each year to double-check that everyone in your family is protected. (Who knows? It may even become a new tradition.) After all, it’s not just turkeys that benefit from injections.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Protecting yourself from flu, infectious diseases at work

Has a coworker recently called in sick? Have others at work come down with the sniffles? If so, your workplace is not alone. Each year, 15 million U.S. workers get the flu, and with cold and flu season upon us, more illness may be on its way.

How can you protect yourself and others from getting sick at work? APHA’s Get Ready campaign has some tips:

• Wash your hands often, especially after touching workplace objects like copy machines, phones, keyboards and cash registers. Don’t forget to wash after handling other shared things like books, magazines or information binders. (Ever seen anyone lick their fingers to turn pages? Could have happened right before you got there.) If you work in a health care setting, frequent hand-washing is especially important.

• Avoid touching frequently used objects with your hands, if possible. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases suggests using a tissue or your sleeve when touching door handles in offices, restrooms, cafeterias and other public places. Carry around your own pen or tools, and don’t lend them to others.

• Ask your employer to sponsor a workplace flu-vaccination campaign. Employer-sponsored flu vaccinations not only help protect employee health, but save businesses money. And getting vaccinated is your best protection from getting the flu.

• Stay home when sick. Rather than tough it out and go to work when you’re not feeling well, stay home. While many people feel pressured to go to work when sick, you may end up both annoying and infecting your coworkers — or your customers, if you work in a retail environment. Check with your manager or human resources department to find out what sick leave policies are now, before you get sick.

Play it safe and help keep your workplace healthy — and running smoothly — this flu season.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Smell gas? Leave the area, call for help

Remember that horrible gas pipeline explosion that happened back in September in California? Eight people were killed and 50 homes destroyed. It really opened the eyes of a lot of people around the country and made them wonder about their own risk.

Pipelines are used in communities all over the United States, whether for gas, gasoline or other energy products. Leaks or broken pipes can cause serious harm. Luckily, in most cases involving gas, the distinctive rotten egg-like smell can tip you off when there is a problem.

Here are a few tips on what to do if you smell gas:
• If you smell gas inside, don’t operate electrical equipment or turn light switches on or off, as it can cause a spark. Evacuate the area and call your utility department or gas company.
• If you smell gas outside, make sure the area is evacuated, then call for help. Don’t try to find the source of the smell — leave that up to the professionals. Never use a match or start your car if you smell gas, as those actions could cause a dangerous explosion.

If you own or rent a home, it’s a good idea to know where the underground pipes are located under your property. Never dig in your yard without locating your pipes first. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has an interactive map to allow you to locate areas with underground pipelines. The map is meant as a reference only, so before beginning any digging, call 811. Operators will be able to connect you to local officials who can tell you if it is safe. If a gas line is damaged when digging outside, call your utility company immediately, and don’t attempt to repair the pipe yourself.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks...and plan your next food drive: Daylight saving time ends Nov. 7

Daylight saving time ends Nov. 7, which means it’s time again to reset our clocks. It also means it’s time to check your emergency stockpile. For years, APHA’s Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign has been asking Americans to check and replenish their emergency supplies when they change their clocks.

This year, the Get Ready campaign is asking Americans to take go a step further and help improve the preparedness of their communities — namely, their community food banks.

Every year, millions of Americans go hungry. In fact, in 2008, more than 49 million Americans lived in households that didn’t have enough food, including 16.7 million kids. Many of those people depend on community food banks to make sure they have enough to eat.

If so many people need food on a regular basis, what happens when a disaster strikes? Unfortunately, history has shown that demand on already-strapped food banks increases when the worst happens. That’s why it’s important that food banks have enough supplies on hand at all times — no one knows when a disaster may happen.

One of the best ways to support your local food bank (besides making a donation or volunteering your time) is to hold a food drive. And thanks to the Get Ready campaign, planning your food drive just got easier. Our new Food Drive Toolkit (PDF) will help you plan, promote, organize and conduct your community food drive. From ideas on when to hold your food drive to ways to make it more interesting (stuff a truck! fill a bag! vote by can!), we’ve got you covered. (And our Q&A with a food bank official has even more tips.)

Our advice? Set your clocks and check your stocks this weekend. Then take some time to download our toolkit and plan your next food drive. After all, being prepared is not just about individuals — it’s about your community too.