Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breast is best, even during emergencies

Every mother knows that breastfeeding is the healthy choice when it comes to feeding her baby. In fact, experts recommend that all babies be breastfed exclusively for at least the first six months of life.

But did you know that breastfeeding is especially important during disasters?

Breastfeeding is the safest option for feeding your baby during emergencies, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, as clean drinking water and sterilization may not be readily available for formula. Using unclean water for feeding can expose your baby to water-borne diseases such as cholera as well as diarrhea.

Plus, nursing comforts your baby. Breastfeeding increases skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby. During disasters, a mom’s warmth can help soothe a baby in distress. While stress may lesson a mother’s milk supply, breastfeeding helps to reduce her stress, too, says the March of Dimes.

According to the World Health Organization, breast milk contains antibodies that strengthen a baby’s immune system, which can be at risk during severe weather. Even better, breast milk is just the right temperature for babies and can help prevent hypothermia, when body temperatures drop too low. And best of all, breast milk is readily available.

If you must use formula during a disaster, the March of Dimes advises that you use ready-to-feed options that don’t need mixing or water.

For more information, check out the March of Dimes website and download our Get Ready fact sheet for pregnant women and new moms.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Keeping food safe during flooding and power outages

Disasters can strike when you least expect them. Knowing how to properly store food ahead of time can help keep you and your family safe from foodborne illnesses.

Two of the most common emergencies that can happen in the summer are flood and power outages, both of which can affect your food and make it unsafe to eat.

Keeping food safe during power outages:

It’s important to keep meat, poultry, fish, eggs and other perishable food at or below 40 degrees and frozen food at or below 0 degrees. But how can you tell what the temperature is if the power is out? The answer is with an appliance thermometer. You should have one for both your refrigerator and freezer.

To keep your foods cooler for longer during a power outage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises you to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours and a full freezer will stay cold for about 48 hours, or 24 hours if it is half full. (It’s a good idea to print this information out and save it somewhere you can find it when the power goes out.)

If your refrigerator has been without power for more than four hours, discard any perishable food, USDA says. Never taste the food to test its safety!

Keeping food safe during and after floods:

After a flood, drink only bottled water, as public water supplies may be contaminated. If bottled water is not available, boil tap water for safety. Before using dishes, metal pans or utensils that have touched floodwater, wash them with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water.

Losing food to flooding can be devastating, particularly if you have a lot of it. It’s normal to want to save it. But it’s just not worth risking your health or the health of your loved ones.

After a flood, make sure to throw away any of the following if there is any chance it came in contact with floodwater:
  • food in cardboard boxes, paper, foil or cloth;
  • spices, seasonings, flour, sugar, grain, coffee and other staples;
  • unopened jars with wax cardboard seals, such as mayonnaise and salad dressings;
  • all canned foods; and
  • wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

For more information, check out our Get Ready food and water safety fact sheet and get more tips on food safety from USDA.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How to prepare for wildfires

Although people living in wilderness areas enjoy the beauty of the environment, they face a real danger from wildfires. As recent emergencies in California, Arizona and elsewhere have shown, wildfires can spread extremely fast, consuming homes and endangering lives. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, you can reduce your risk by preparing before a wildfire strikes.

Here are some steps you can take to help protect your home, family and property from wildfires.
    • Practice wildfire safety: Make sure the roads leading to your home are visible, wide enough to accommodate firefighting equipment and are clearly marked. Immediately report any hazardous conditions that could lead to a wildfire.
    • Follow good design: Landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Avoid using materials and plants that have the potential to fuel the fire such as pine, evergreen, eucalyptus, junipers and fir trees.
    • Have a kit: Put together an evacuation kit that includes a battery-operated radio, flashlight, bottled water, a first-aid kit, cellphones and chargers, important documents and needed medications. 
    • Be ready to leave: Post emergency assistance phone numbers next to all the phones in your home. Plan several escape routes from your home, both by car and by foot. Practice your evacuation plan, and if advised to leave the area, do so immediately.
     For more information, check out our Get Ready fact sheet on wildfires.

    Thursday, July 04, 2013

    Five tips to travel safely this summer

    Vacations are as much a part of summertime as cookouts, fireworks and celebrating the red, white and blue. If your summer plans include travel — whether near or far — here are some tips to help you have a safe and fun trip.

    Know your destination: Some areas are prone to earthquakes. Others may experience hurricanes or tornadoes. Know what threats you may face, and then find out how to prepare for them with fact sheets from the Get Ready campaign.

    Pack smart: Place a copy of your driver’s license, passport or other travel documents in your suitcase in case you lose the original. Don’t forget to leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.

    Put together a portable health kit: Include prescribed medications and first aid supplies. Don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent.

    Keep germs at bay: Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to cut down on germs and prevent disease. Learn hand-washing basics from APHA’s Get Ready campaign. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

    Watch what you eat: Pay attention to your health while on vacation. Be careful about food and water to reduce your risks from infectious diseases.

    Protect yourself from insects: Stay safe from summertime pests like mosquitoes and ticks. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, dresses or skirts, boots and hats. Tucking in shirts, tucking pants into socks and wearing shoes instead of sandals may reduce risk. Repellents applied to clothing and gear can provide extra protection. Learn how to use repellents safely with these tips from EPA.

    Planning ahead and following basic safety tips can help make sure your summer travel doesn't include a trip to the emergency room.

    For more tips on having a healthy summer, visit the Get Ready Summer Safe page.