Friday, September 30, 2011

Get Ready mailbag: How can I stay healthy at high school?

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

Q: I’m in high school. Everyone seems sick right now and I don’t want to catch it. What should I do?

A: When you share a campus with the same people for eight or more hours a day, it seems inevitable that you’ll end up sharing their germs, too. It’s easy to assume that if everyone around you in class is sneezing that it’s only a matter of time before you will be also. In fact, almost 22 million school days were lost last year because of colds. But, luckily, there are a few “dos and don’ts” you can follow to stay healthy at school.

On the “do” list:
• Wash your hands. The surfaces in a school — desks, doorknobs, keyboards, lunch tables, gym lockers — are touched by hundreds of hands each day, making them perfect places to pick up germs.

• Get your flu shot. If 22 million seemed like a big number, consider the fact that 38 million school days were lost last year because of the flu. Getting your yearly seasonal vaccine is a simple way to stay healthy during flu season.

• Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth — they’re the places where germs most often enter your body.

On the “don’t” list:
• Use someone else’s makeup. It’s an easy way to land a case of pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis.

• Share drinks — or food, or lip balm, or anything else that goes in or around another person’s mouth. And on that note, be careful who you kiss!

Use common sense. That, along with good hygiene, should help protect against any sickness that’s infected your classmates. And finally, remember the golden rule and help others out if you do become sick by covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze, throwing away used tissues and staying home from school.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Text messages, feeds and podcasts to help keep you safe during an emergency

“There’s an app for that.” Sound familiar? With all that can be added to a cell phone or mobile device — from games and news updates to social networking and shopping apps — many of us can have a hard time taking a break from the screen.

But here’s some good news for those of you who are just a little too attached to your device: Your cell phone habit may be what keeps you safe during a disaster. 

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched its new emergency text messaging service to cut down on the time it takes for health and safety information to reach you and your family. The service features a list of 14 pre-written messages for situations ranging from storms to prescription drug problems to post-emergency cleanup. Each message comes with a short set of instructions, followed by a number to call and a link to more information. In the case of a power outage, for example, you can expect to see this:

“Keep generators 25 ft outside door/window. Don't grill inside. Fumes can kill. More info from CDC 800-232-4636.”

The text messages are available for download by state and local health agencies, which then send them out through their existing emergency message systems. In order to receive these messages, check with your state or local health authority to see if the service is available in your community, and make sure to register your phone number to receive updates.

For those of you who aren’t quite so attached to your cell phones, don’t worry. The messages are also available as podcasts and YouTube videos.

You can also subscribe directly to CDC’s emergency response and preparedness Twitter feed and the Get Ready campaign’s Twitter feed to get timely tips sent to your phone.

Your mobile device isn’t just for checking sports scores and connecting with friends. It may also be what helps keep you safe when disaster strikes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

School-based health centers help students, communities be prepared

Does your child’s school have a school-based health center? With more than 1,900 centers located on school grounds nationwide, chances are pretty good it does. School-based health centers are a great community resource, providing easy access to health services and information. More than 2 million kids and teens visit such centers each year.

School-based health centers are also a resource during health emergencies such as disease outbreaks. In 2009, when there was an outbreak of H1N1 flu that was making many Americans sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccines be provided on school campuses as a way to reach more kids quickly. The recommendation worked! Many school-based health centers that already provided routine flu vaccinations were easily able to give federally subsidized vaccines to students. In states like Maryland and Alabama, school-based health centers helped distribute vaccines to area schools. With their link to kids and teens, school-based health centers were able to help students stay healthy and not miss classes.

School-based health centers can also play a role in preparing for natural disasters. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that schools develop plans that spell out what to do in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency. Having a school-based health center work hand-in-hand with school staff to design and help launch an emergency plan can benefit students, schools and the community.

This year on Get Ready Day, Sept. 20, APHA’s Get Ready campaign encourag school-based health centers to hold Get Ready events. In fact, the school-based health center that has the best activity can win $500 from Get Ready. Now’s the time to start planning your event!
To learn more about school-based health centers, check out APHA’s Center for School, Health and Education or the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Mark your calendars for Get Ready Day, Sept. 20, 2011

It is that time of year again — when you, your family and your community have an opportunity to get ready for public health threats and emergencies. As we all know, disasters can strike at any time so here are some tools to help you prepare and make Get Ready Day on Sept. 20, 2011, a success.

There are many ways to get involved. Hold an event such as a preparedness fair, set up a booth on campus or distribute fliers in your community. No time for an event? Add a link to your website, sign our pledge or enter our Get Ready video contest. We have plenty of planning tips to help you get started. And we have lots of fact sheets, handouts and other resources to support your efforts, including a Get Ready Event Guide.

Not only is learning about how to prepare for emergencies important, but it can be fun too. Check out our Get Ready Games Guide made especially for kids. Educate yourself, loved ones and your community about emergency preparedness while figuring out brain teasers, connecting the dots, solving a crossword puzzle, competing in a memory game and more. Try them out and tell us which one is your favorite by commenting below.

Tell us about your activities via the Get Ready Calendar. Then after your event, share what you learned. Take pictures of your Get Ready Day activities or of you and your friends playing your favorite Get Ready games, and share the photos on APHA’s Flickr pool.

Preparing for emergencies may not be all fun and games, but keeping it enjoyable sure can help.

Good luck, have fun and prepare well!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Get Ready campaign offers tips to help seniors prepare for emergencies

Having preparations in place to get through disasters is important for everyone — but it becomes especially critical when you are older and may need special assistance because of impaired mobility or health.

The Get Ready campaign asked Jim Judge, a member of the American Red Cross’ Scientific Advisory Council and chair of its Disaster Health Subcommittee, for insights on how older Americans can stay safe and healthy during an emergency. Here are a few of his tips:

• Decide your shelter plan: Depending on the type of emergency, you may decide to “shelter in place,” staying put in your home until the situation passes. For seniors, however, a safer bet might be a special needs shelter, which is a community-operated facility with medical staff and equipment on hand. Some of these facilities may have services to transport people with wheelchairs or other mobility issues.

• Personalize your emergency kit: Make sure that you have extra glasses, hearing aids and batteries or other items that you may need to see yourself through the emergency.

• Get informed: Check out your local American Red Cross chapter and look up the emergency management services your community offers.

• Communicate with your senior living facility: All assisted-living communities and nursing homes are required by law to have an emergency plan. If you live in such a facility, ask to look over their plan to learn about their evacuation procedures and their preparations for food, water and medicine in case of disaster.

For more tips on senior preparedness, download a PDF of the free Get Ready fact sheet on the topic, which is available in English or Spanish.

Read the interview with Judge on the Get Ready website, or listen to it as podcast.