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:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- 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:
- Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
- Rub your hands together.
- 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:
- 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.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- 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.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/
Florida Department of Health – http://www.floridahealth.gov/
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?
- Help remove excess fluid levels in the body.
- Make vitamins that control growth.
- Activate Vitamin D for healthy bones.
- Filter wastes from the blood.
- Control the production of red blood cells.
- Release hormones that help regulate blood pressure.
- 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.
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?
- Swelling in your face, hands, abdomen, ankles, and feet.
- Blood in your urine or foamy urine.
- Puffy eyes.
- Difficult, painful urination.
- Increased thirst.
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.
National Kidney Foundation – https://www.kidney.org/
Center for Disease and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/
One of the best ways to help prevent the flu this season is to get vaccinated. Even if you still get the flu, the severity and length of illness may be diminished. (Photo source: UF/IFAS file photo)
The holiday season has passed and now we are well on our way into 2020 with a very severe flu season. You are the best person at making sure you do not get the flu. Here are a few tips that you should consider as this flu season continues and still has not reached its peak.
- GET VACCINATED. It takes, on average, two weeks for the flu vaccine to reach its full potential, so if you have not gotten the flu shot, get it NOW. Even if you still get the flu, it will likely be shortened in time and strength if you are vaccinated.
- WASH YOUR HANDS. Washing your hands frequently will help protect you from the flu. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- AVOID CLOSE CONTACT WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK. Be sure to avoid direct contact with anyone that is sick. If you must come in contact with them be sure to wash your hands once you leave. If you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE. Germs are spread quickly when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. So make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face.
- COVER YOUR MOUTH AND NOSE WHEN YOU COUGH AND SNEEZE. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or sneeze/cough into your closed elbow. These steps may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- STAY HOME WHEN YOU ARE SICK. If possible, stay home from work and school when you are sick. This is the best way to avoid spreading your germs to other people. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. They also recommend that your fever should be gone for 24 hours (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine) for you to no longer be considered contagious.
- PRACTICE GENERAL GOOD HEALTH HABITS. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, and school, especially when someone is sick. Wash backpacks, coats, and other items regularly. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Follow the tips above and maintain the best health practices possible and hopefully you will be one of the lucky people that avoids the dreaded flu this year. Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2020!
Hanging with friends at 4-H Camp. Melanie Taylor as a 4-H Teen Counselor (right). Photo source: Melanie Taylor
Spring is upon us and 4-H Summer Camp preparations are in full swing. As a 4-H Agent preparing for our week of county 4-H camp, my days are busy with phone calls and emails from parents, teen counselor trainings, adult volunteer screenings, paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. Although this is a very busy time for me as a 4-H Agent, it also allows me to reflect on why I chose this career path and why there is a sense of nostalgia as I prepare for 4-H camp.
I attended 4-H camp in Virginia, where I grew up, every year from age 9-18. I was a camper who grew into a counselor-in-training and then a counselor. Those weeks of 4-H camp were filled with hot days and warm nights, but it was worth it all for the memories I will have for a lifetime. I can still smell the cafeteria food and hear the sounds in the gymnasium as kids played basketball and pounded at their leathercraft projects. I can feel the chills I would get as the entire camp sang around the campfire circle and patiently waited for the canoe to land on the lake’s edge; the camp staff would carry a flame as they entered the campfire circle and ceremoniously light the fire. Most importantly, I am still connected with my 4-H camp friends through social media and/or as close friends and we continue to share our old, blurry camp pictures from the 1990’s each year on Facebook.
Morning flag raising ceremony at Camp Timpoochee. Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District
So, as I work hard to prepare camp for my county campers and teen counselors, I want to create similar memories for them. In ten, twenty, and thirty years from now, I want them to think back on the fun moments they experienced in the Florida 4-H camping program. I also want them to form friendships and make camp connections for a lifetime, whether it is learning to kayak, fish, make arts and crafts, cook over a campfire, sing camp songs, etc.
With all of this said, I hope you as parents will consider giving your child(ren) these special moments. The days will be long, but fun, and their nights will be filled with campfires and hanging out with friends. When they arrive home on Friday, they will be exhausted, but so excited to share all of the camp songs with you (prepare yourself for lots of loud, enthusiastic singing). They will have new friends they want you to meet and they will tell you camp stories they will always cherish.
In Northwest Florida, there are two 4-H Camps, Camp Cherry Lake in Madison and Camp Timpoochee in Niceville. Each county in these camping districts has one county week of camp each summer. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office now to find out the details and register your child for a week of fun and memories.
Northwest Florida 4-H Camp Dates 2019. Photo source: UF/IFAS Extension
Be mindful and enjoy the moment.
Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District
Now that the busy holiday season is over, it is time not only to reflect on the past, but to prepare and refocus for the New Year ahead. As we focus on the New Year, it is always refreshing to have a clean slate. As the year begins to unfold, there are tips to help you manage your day-to-day stress levels. It begins with mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” –Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)
Mindfulness is best thought of as a way of being rather than an activity in and of itself. Almost any activity can be carried out with mindful awareness.
Mindful awareness has three key features:
Purpose – mindfulness involves intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
Presence – mindfulness involves being fully engaged with and attentive to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future that arise are recognized simply as thoughts occurring in the present.
Acceptance – mindfulness involves being nonjudgmental toward whatever arises in the moment. This means that sensations, thoughts, and emotions are not judged as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; they are simply noticed as “happening,” and observed until they eventually pass (Naik, Harris, and Forthun 2016).
Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that has been found to benefit both psychological and physical health. The primary psychological change that occurs during mindfulness practice is an increased awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. Over time, mindfulness practice can help you to become aware of the space between noticing experiences and reacting to them by letting you slow down and observe the processes of your mind (Black 2010). The ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is for you to take advantage of this space so you can make more intentional decisions – to wake up from living life on autopilot, based on unproductive habits of mind (Black 2010; Walach et al. 2007).
According to the American Psychological Association, some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include the following (Davis & Hayes 2011):
Increased awareness of one’s mind
Significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and negative emotions
Increased control over ruminative thinking (a major cause and symptom of depression and anxiety)
Increased mental flexibility and focus
More working memory
Decreased distracting thoughts
Decreased emotional reactivity
Increased capacity for intentional, responsive behaviors
Increased empathy, compassion and conscientiousness of others’ emotions
Enhanced immune system functioning
Increased brain density and neural integration in areas responsible for positive emotions, self-regulation, and long-term planning
Lowered blood pressure
Lowered levels of blood cortisol (a major stress hormone)
Greater resistance to stress-related illnesses such as heart disease
Increased self-insight and self-acceptance
Increased acceptance of others
Increased compassion and empathy
Increased sense of morality, intuition, and courage to change
Increased control over automatic behaviors
The question is: how many of us would like to benefit from mindfulness if it provides these positive benefits? All of us should strive to lower our stress level and enjoy our daily lives with a more positive attitude and more attentiveness. So, how can we incorporate this into our lives? The majority of this practice is about familiarizing yourself with what it feels like to be mindful, and getting better at “remembering” to maintain mindful awareness.
Experiment with creating your own mindfulness practices throughout your day. Being mindful of the sensation on the soles of your feet as you walk to your car or the taste and texture of your morning coffee can transform routine moments into deeply satisfying practices. However, having a ritualized and structured practice can be beneficial. To find out more about practicing mindfulness and how to incorporate a more structured practice in your life visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu, Publication # FCS2335 – Mindfulness: An Introduction.
Source: Mindfulness: An Introduction. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Publication # FCS2335.