Meet Your FCS Agent – Melanie Taylor

Meet Your FCS Agent – Melanie Taylor

Melanie Taylor

Melanie Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Extension Agent III, Bay County

Melanie Taylor grew up in Virginia. After getting married in January 2009 and wanting to support her husband’s career in Panama City, she officially moved to Bay County. Melanie received her bachelor’s degree from Radford University. She then furthered her education with a M.S.Ed from Virginia Tech in 2004 while working full time for Virginia Cooperative Extension. She followed in her Dad’s footsteps by becoming a 4-H youth development Extension agent and worked with Virginia Extension for over eight years. Upon moving to Bay County, she worked in Gulf County as the 4-H and Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent for 10 years. She transferred to UF/IFAS Extension Bay County in December 2019. Her FCS focus areas are health and wellness, prevention of chronic diseases, and strengthening families within our communities.

Melanie at the 4-H booth at the Sunbelt Expo

Melanie is very excited to now work within the community in which she lives and to assist with helping Bay County residents recover from Hurricane Michael and Covid-19 damages. Be sure to contact Melanie if you have any needs in the area of family and consumer sciences. She is ready and willing to answer questions and design programs virtually for now and face-to-face in the future.

Like so many in Bay County, Melanie’s home in the Cove was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael, but she is excited to announce they finally moved back into their repaired home on September 26. She and her family could not be happier (her family includes husband Bryan and their two cats, Sonny and Cali). Outside of work, Melanie is active in the Junior League of Panama City. It is very likely you will see her out and about with her husband at local events.

Melanie Taylor, Family & Consumer Sciences, Bay County

Is Gathering In-person During the Holidays Worth the Risk?

Is Gathering In-person During the Holidays Worth the Risk?

2020 has been a year of many changes and challenges due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which unfortunately will continue into our holiday season. To protect our friends, family and community members we must continue following the science-based guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state and local guidelines to prevent exposure and the spread of the virus.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 epidemic numbers are rising again. Gatherings of any kind, both small and large, are contributing to the rise in positive cases. We can all make choices based on the scientific research that can protect us and others by making small changes in our 2020 holiday celebrations. Limiting the risk and being diligent in our actions should be our main goal until a vaccine is approved and dispersed throughout the country.

Thanksgiving dinner

Holiday Dinner
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

Some unique and easy ways to celebrate the holidays this year are to “gather virtually” with those not in your immediate household or to gather in-person only with members of your own household. These two types of gatherings offer the lowest risk for spreading the virus. Your household is anyone who currently lives and shares common spaces in your home. People who do not currently live in your home, such as college students who are returning home from school for the holidays, should be considered part of different households. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including those college students returning home, offer varying levels of risk. The level of risk is difficult to determine because people may have been exposed and/or are a carrier and may not be aware of it.

Here are some specific things to consider when deciding how to celebrate your holidays.

  • Number of cases in your community – Be sure to know the number of positive Covid cases in your community. If the numbers are rising or are already high you should take precautions based on the data. You can check your specific county or city Covid rates at your local health departments website.
  • Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, rest stops and hotels are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. Be aware if you will be traveling or if you have guests traveling to your home.
  • Location of your gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation, expose your family to more risk than outdoor gatherings.
  • How long will your gathering last? – Time is an important factor to consider. The longer the gathering lasts the more risk those attendees will have of being exposed. Being within 6 feet of someone who has Covid for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people bring more risk than gatherings with fewer people. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations.
  • Behaviors of attendees before the gathering – People who do not consistently follow social distancing, wearing masks, regular handwashing and other prevention behaviors cause more risk than those who consistently practice the recommended safety measures.
  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing, offer less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and may make it more difficult to practice Covid safety measures.
picture of a cell phone on a flowered material case on a woodgrain desk

Be sure your technology is charged and ready for your virtual holiday visit. Photo Source: Kendra Zamojski

Other high-risk holiday related activities to avoid to help prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Going shopping in crowded stores.
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded parade, race or other holiday celebration.
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household.
  • Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice Covid safety measures.

Things to consider before your gatherings:

To make the holiday less stressful be sure to practice a virtual session before the virtual holiday gathering. Make sure everyone involved knows how to connect to the virtual holiday celebration so the gathering will go more smoothly and hopefully experience less technical problems on that day.

We all had to adapt to many unexpected changes this year and the holidays will be no different. Just remember being diligent now will protect family and friends and help control the spread of the virus in our communities. Be sure to enjoy your unique holiday season this year, but here’s hoping for a less challenging 2021.

Stay safe! Enjoy your family and friends from a safe distance! Happy Holidays!

 

Source:

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

 

 

Add Apples to your Menu this October

Add Apples to your Menu this October

As I write this article it is the first day of Fall. Many people are enjoying the cooler temperatures, school is in full swing, a few trees are changing colors and everyone is adjusting to shorter days. As Fall begins and we move forward through this unusual and stressful year, many of us need to focus on healthier lifestyles and eating well to be our best self.

Many of us know that fresh fruits and vegetables should be a staple in our daily diets. Apples ripen and are ready for harvest in September or October, making October National Apple Month. So be sure to eat a crisp apple on a nice Fall day. They are refreshing, and you can find ones that are sweet or tart for anyone’s taste buds. They are also a low-calorie food. One medium apple only has about 80 calories. Apples are also a great source of fiber, especially if you eat the peel, and a good source of vitamin C and potassium.

Red apple on tree

Apple Time
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

Selecting Apples: When selecting apples, they should be smooth skinned, crisp, juicy and a nice color for the variety. Handle apples gently to avoid bruising. Over 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, and around 100 varieties are grown commercially. Commercially grown apples will be what you see sold in most grocery stores.

Storing Apples: Apples will remain crisp and juicier longer if refrigerated. Store refrigerated apples in plastic bags with small air holes to maintain a high moisture level and delay withering. When storing apples in the refrigerator, they will last 6-8 weeks. Apples stored at room temperature typically last less than a week and lose their crispiness.

Preparing Apples: Simply rinse, refrigerate and enjoy. The best way to prepare your apples is to rinse them under cool tap water and dry with a paper towel. You may use a vegetable brush if you feel it needs more cleaning. Know that when apples arrive to the packing facility, they are washed to remove any dirt from the orchard, but you still need to rinse them. Apples can be cooked, canned, dried and frozen. Be sure to check out some healthy apple recipes from Michigan Apples, and The American Heart Association and preservation recipes from The University of Georgia.

Be sure to enjoy some delicious apples this October!

Sources:

American Heart Association https://www.heart.org

Michigan Applies https://www.michiganapples.com

So Easy to Preserve https://nchfp.uga.edu/

Food and Fitness from Harvest to Health http://missourifamilies.org/

Best Practices to Prevent COVID-19

Best Practices to Prevent COVID-19

doctor speaking with a patient

Speak openly with your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding your health. (Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

We are in the depths of flu season and now the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Although we need to proceed with caution, we also want to avoid causing a panic. Both viruses are very concerning, but with good hand washing skills and a few other daily steps you can do your best to prevent you and your family from becoming sick.

Hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.  You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Follow these Five Steps Every Time You Wash Your Hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

 Use Hand Sanitizer When You Can’t Use Soap and Water

You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.

  • Sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations.
  • Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.
  • Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
  • Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.

How to Properly Use Hand Sanitizer:

  1. Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  2. Rub your hands together.
  3. Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.

Caution! Swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning if more than a couple of mouthfuls are swallowed. Keep it out of reach of young children and supervise their use.

Conclusion – Other Basic Tips to Prevent Spread of Illness:

  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  4. Stay home when you are sick.
  5. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Be sure to utilize credible sources to find your information.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health are excellent resources.

CDC page Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

CDC frequently asked questions (FAQs)                                                                                                                      https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf

Florida Department of Health frequently asked questions (FAQ)                                                                                  http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/faq.html

If you have further questions or concerns, please contact your local Department of Health for assistance.

Sources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/

Florida Department of Health – http://www.floridahealth.gov/

 

March is National Kidney Month

March is National Kidney Month

This month brings awareness and education about the importance of our kidneys in maintaining a healthy life. Kidney function is unique because you may not notice the symptoms until the function is already far gone. The CDC reports chronic kidney disease is a condition that 1 in every 7 adults (age 18 or older) in the United States has, as well as people with end stage renal disease who need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

How do your kidneys keep you healthy?

  1. Help remove excess fluid levels in the body.
  2. Make vitamins that control growth.
  3. Activate Vitamin D for healthy bones.
  4. Filter wastes from the blood.
  5. Control the production of red blood cells.
  6. Release hormones that help regulate blood pressure.
  7. Help regulate blood pressure, red blood cells, and the amount of certain nutrients in the body, such as calcium and potassium.

There are many complications associated with kidney disease. They include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, heart attack, weak bones, high blood pressure, stroke, anemia/low red blood cell count and of course kidney failure.

doctor speaking with a patient

Speak openly with your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding your health. (Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

The main risk factors for kidney disease and the problems associated with it are high blood pressure, diabetes, family history, and being 60 years old and above. Out of these four problems, two of them – high blood pressure and diabetes – may be managed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, taking medications as prescribed, regular visits to your doctor and exercise. If you have been diagnosed with either of these two, you need to regularly monitor your blood pressure and glucose levels, take medications if prescribed, and speak openly with your doctor about concerns or questions you may have. Family history and being over the age of 60 are not issues you can control, but you can strive to live a healthy lifestyle and regularly have blood work drawn so your doctor can help catch any issues that are becoming a problem. Learning to maintain and follow your doctor’s orders will go a long way to keeping you and your kidneys healthy longer.

What are the symptoms you may notice if you are experiencing kidney problems?

  1. Swelling in your face, hands, abdomen, ankles, and feet.
  2. Blood in your urine or foamy urine.
  3. Puffy eyes.
  4. Difficult, painful urination.
  5. Increased thirst.
  6. Fatigue.

If you notice any of these problems or are just concerned because of family history, your family doctor can order the blood work to check your kidney function.  If you find out you are experiencing kidney problems you should see a nephrologist – a kidney specialist.

Although many people ignore the importance of their kidneys, they play a very important part in our daily bodily functions in regulating minerals, fluids, blood pressure, and so much more. Striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle will help to ensure your kidneys keep working hard for you. Be sure to show your kidneys some love this March to celebrate National Kidney Month.

Sources:

National Kidney Foundation – https://www.kidney.org/
Center for Disease and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/