Keep Kids & Family Healthy this Holiday / Winter Season – Cold & Flu

prevent cold & flu

Photo Courtesy of TheTelegraph

Have you have ever been awakened early morning with a very sick child, only to realize that you have a house full of family members coming in a few hours for Thanksgiving dinner?  There is nothing worse than trying to comfort a sick, little one while trying to mash the potatoes, stuff the turkey and keep Grandpa’s coffee cup full. Trying to keep your family healthy during the holiday season is a challenge as it happens to occur right in the middle of cold and flu season.

It doesn’t have to be this way… there are good, proven strategies that we can use to help protect our children and families from dreaded cold and flu viruses.   According to a recent report on WebMD there are some easy to follow tips to help prevent the spread and contraction of those pesky viruses:

  1. Wash those hands!  If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times.  Frequent hand washing with soap and warm water, for a minimum of 20 seconds is a proven, effective way to kill germs. In a crunch, hand sanitizer will work also.  I also find myself saying “keep your hands off of your face/ out of your mouth/nose and away from your eyes” at least once per day.  Children’s hands do not remain clean very long, so remind them…. wash often, hands off face.
  2. Get your flu shot (or the nasal spray vaccine)!  This goes for the entire family above 2 years of age.  Although this will not guarantee that your child won’t get the flu, the CDC says it is about 65% effective.  If the flu is still contracted after the shot, the symptoms should be much milder and last a shorter duration.
  3. Practice healthy habits! That’s right.  What we should all be doing year round anyways will go extra far during cold and flu season.  Eat right.  Get plenty of quality sleep.  Exercise every day.

 

In addition, research has been conducted and found that investing in a quality home humidifier can help fight the flu. “It seems that [the influenza virus’] ability to survive and be transmitted person-to-person is greatly affected by how dry or wet the air is,” says Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, of Oregon State University in Corvallis, whose study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The flu virus thrives in low moisture, dry environments, so by using a humidifier, you are able to control the indoor humidity level, thus reducing the potential spread of the virus.

Also, make sure you change your home’s HVAC air filters. By design, these filters are made to remove dust, mold, pollen, allergens and bacteria from the air.  By removing these airborne particulates, you will be breathing cleaner, healthier air.

Fight back this year against cold and flu season.  My Grandma always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” So, enjoy the holidays this year… with a healthy family!

Fall Leaf Burning…Hazardous to Your Health & Leads to Air Pollution

burning leaves - air pollution

Photo courtesy of TheGazette.com

When asked your favorite season of the year, many people choose fall.  Milder weather means more time spent outdoors enjoying nature. Apples, pumpkins and other harvest decorations come out of storage and the holiday season kicks off.  One of the tell tale signs that fall has arrived is the smell of burning leaves. You know the drill.  That time of year when the seasons change and your grass is suddenly completely covered in fallen, dead leaves.  Many of us remedy this issue by spending the day or days ranking leaves into piles meant for burning.  Although this may be an annual tradition for many of us, it may not be the best idea.

Aside from the fact that burning leaves is against the law in many places due to safety concerns, did you know that it can also be hazardous to our health?

The smoke produced from burning leaves contains high concentrations of microscopic particles and dust. Once inhaled, these particulates can embed deep within lung tissue.  According to The Breath Campaign, breathing these particulates can lead to respiratory infection, reduce the volume of air inhaled and impair the lungs’ ability to use that air. Particulate matter can also trigger asthma attacks in some people. Various toxic gases and chemicals, called hydrocarbons, are produced by the burning leaves. These can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation.

In addition to health concerns, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), multiple leaf and yard waste fires burning at the same time in a particular geographic region can cause air pollution similar to that from factories and motor vehicles.

There are other ways to deal with your yard full of dead leaves which are safer, more environmentally friendly and without health risks.

  • Mulching: use your lawn mower to chop the leaves and allow them to return nutrients to the grass and soil
  • Composting: add your yard waste, including grass, leaves and branches to a compost pile
  • Pick up service: some communities will collect yard waste on certain days or you may drop off your waste at a local landscape disposal site
dont burn leaves

Image Credit: Mt. Lebenon, PA Official website

Let this be the season that you break your traditional leaf burning routine and instead use one of the above referenced alternatives.  Better enjoy your time outside while breathing fresher air this fall!

Harmful Effects of Air Pollution – How Does Your Air-fare?

 air pollution - worst cities - solutions

Breathing clean air is no longer a guarantee in the United States.  Many of our most populated metropolitan areas, as well as some surprisingly less populated regions are considered to have unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution. According to the American Lung Association, 131.8 million people live in an area that gets an “F” rating on air quality.  Major health risks such as asthma, heart attack, lung cancer, overall cardiovascular health, low birth weight, infant mortality and even premature death have all been linked to breathing polluted air.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to air pollution. Combustion engine vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses and jet airplanes produce toxic exhaust which creates smog and holes in the ozone layer. Factories, power plants, office buildings and personal residences also contribute to smog by burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal.  Other contributing factors can include pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and dust from fertilizers.

So, how does your air fare?

Top 5 U.S. Cities* – Highest Levels of Air Pollution:

  1. Bakersfield, CA
  2. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  5. Fresno-Madera, CA

Cities in the Midwest such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Louisville round out the top 10, so you can see that air pollution reaches from coast to coast in the United States.

Top 5 U.S. Cities* – Cleanest Air:

  1. Cheyenne, WY
  2. Santa Fe, NM
  3. Bismarck, ND
  4. Great Falls, MT
  5. Honolulu, HI

If you are not lucky enough to live in a region with the cleanest air quality, there are steps you can take to improve your own personal space.

  • Walk or bike when possible. If not, use public transportation or car pool.
  • Choose fuel efficient, low-polluting vehicles
  • Consider replacing old wood burning stoves with new energy saving EPA certified models. Buy Energy Star (environmentally friendly) products for lighting and appliances.
  • Invest in a quality furnace filter, to capture debris, dust, and more from your air and make sure to change your home’s air filters on a regular basis as recommended by the manufacturer.

 

To fill all of your air filtration needs, please visit http://www.filtersfast.com/

 * The American Lung Association State of the Air 2012 report