August 2013 Healthbeat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! This month’s column is a “Guest Column” provided by “Mr. Boomsma.”

Back to School Tips

back_to_school_supplies_800_clr_9051When it comes to getting ready for back to school, the one area we get a lot of help with is shopping! Not only are the displays overwhelming, there are often school supply lists available that will help you decide what items your child needs to have in his or backpack. But there’s a lot more to getting ready for school than pencils and rulers. You can help your child prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally as well.

Time was when a trip to the doctor was part of the annual ritual and, while no longer an absolute necessity, a review of any health concerns just makes sense. Annual checkups for children are recommended—making it part of the back to school plan will serve as a reminder. You’ll also want to inform the school of any required medications and allergies.

Re-establish routines and schedules—the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are almost over. Don’t wait until the day before school starts to establish bedtimes and other routines—the recommendation is that families should start forming these new habits at least a week before school starts. If reading hasn’t been a regular activity, you might consider established a pre-bedtime routing of reading. Routines can include establishing places to keep backpacks and lunch bags.

Talk with your child—formally and informally. During the summer one of my standard questions for the kids I meet is “Are you ready to go back to school?” Since this usually evokes only a yes or no answer, if time permits I’ll ask “why?” Obviously the conversation varies depending on age. I recently met a young lady who is excited because this will be her first year in high school. But she also admitted she’s scared. When I asked about her fears, she explained she’s had issues with one older boy while riding the bus and now they are going to be in the same school. We discussed a couple of her options and, while I’m not naïve enough to think the problem is solved, I think we both feel a little better.

These conversations become even more important when school starts. The bullying issue is an important one but the answer is not simply “tell the teacher.” It’s also important not to over-react. We need to allow children to share their concerns and try to teach them coping skills. Younger children especially need support during the transition back to school. Be quick to ask them about their day, take an interest in their work, and understand their nervous. Remember your first day on that new job?!

Partner with the school and teacher. The first weeks of school are busy and unsettled for teachers and staff too. A little patience will go a long way, but teachers do want parents involved. If concerns develop, do not hesitate to contact the teacher and let him or her know of your interest and concern. Take full advantage of things like open houses when parents are encouraged to visit school with their children.

The internet offers a wealth of resource information—a search for “back to school tips” may actually be a great project to start with your child. If there’s a trick, that’s it—to make getting ready for school a family effort with everyone contributing to making this the best year yet!

July 2013 Healthbeat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! 

bicycle_racer_5606Now that school is out for the summer motorists will see many more bicycles on the roads. About 85 million adults and children ride their bicycles for recreation and fitness every year. Unfortunately, adults and children can be injured or killed in bicycling accidents. More than 600 children die in bicycle accidents every year. It is important to follow bicycle safety rules.

Maine bicycling laws can be found at www.maine.gov/mdot/bikeped/safety/laws. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. They may use public roads, designated bike paths, and bike lanes. Bicycles are not required to be on shoulders or in bike lanes/paths in Maine. Sidewalk riding is not prohibited by state law but may be prohibited by local ordinances. Bicyclists must stop at red lights and stop signs. They must yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Bicyclists must ride with traffic and obey lane markings. Almost one-fourth of all bicycle-car crashes result from bicyclists riding against traffic.

Cyclists under the age of 16 must wear bike helmets. All bicyclists should wear properly fitted bike helmets every time they ride. A helmet is the most effective way to prevent a potential head injury. Football helmets can’t be substituted for bike helmets. The majority of bike crashes happen near home, in driveways, or in designated bike paths. So wear a bike helmet all the time, not just when  bicycling on streets. Help your child to develop “the helmet habit”! Replace bike helmets every five years. Always replace a bike helmet if it has had an impact.

Hand signals should be taught to children before they are allowed to ride in the street. Always signal your intent to turn and to stop.

It is never safe for a child to ride a bicycle at night. Adult bicyclists must have and use headlights, rear reflectors and pedal reflectors at night. Wear bright reflective clothing.

All bikes must have brakes that work.

For more information visit www.healthychildren.org., the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, or the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

June 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! 

hikers_400_clr_9598School is almost out for the summer. Many parents are planning various summer activities for their children. One of these activities might be a summer camp. Parents should research prospective camps for their children and then talk with and meet with camp officials and staff. Make sure adequate supervision will be provided. Find out how you will be notified if your child is ill. Find out how the camp will care for your child if he or she is ill.

To help prevent injuries pack protective gear like helmets and life jackets if the camp does not provide these items. Pack insect repellent containing DEET and sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to protect against mosquitoes, ticks and the sun. A check list of things to pack is helpful and should include things like sleeping bags and bedding, extra blankets, hats and sunglasses, healthy snacks and water, hand sanitizer, and any needed medical information.

Teach kids to avoid wild animals that can carry diseases that are harmful to people. Teach kids to avoid hair to hair contact, to avoid sharing combs and brushes, and to avoid sharing hats to prevent head lice.

Campers may get sick during their time away because of the close living conditions at camps. Make sure your kids vaccinations are up to date. Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to keep your child and other campers healthy at camp. Teach kids to wash their hands frequently with soap and water and to use a hand sanitizer. Tell children to notify camp staff if they become sick or if they notice that another camper is not feeling well. Keep your child home if he/she is sick.

Homesickness is very common. Try to involve your child in choosing a camp and in preparations for camp. Be positive about the camp experience but also be honest about homesickness. If your child has not had many sleep-overs, do practice sleep-overs with friends and family before your child goes to camp.

For more information visit www.healthychildren.org, www.cdc.gov/family/camping, or www.vaccines.gov.

April 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!  This month’s column is provided by Vic Morin of the JD Foundation.

The JD Foundation created the Connecting with Spirit program to give people the opportunity to come together, form community bonds, exercise their bodies, and to take advantage of the natural healing effect that nature has on the mind, body and soul.

Think of what has happened to us as a society over the past few centuries  the movement from a rural lifestyle to one where most of us live and work indoors with little or no contact with nature. Studies indicate that the lack of exposure to sunshine, fresh air and hands-on contact with the outdoors negatively impact those suffering from depression. A sunny day may do more than just boost your mood  it will also increase your levels of Vitamin D and adequate levels of Vitamin D have been linked to less depression symptoms, as well as a reduced incidence of osteoporosis and several types of cancer. Having suffered from depression off and on throughout my life, I know first-hand how important sunshine, exercise and contact with nature are to mental health.

The JD Foundation is located on an interval between the Piscataquis River and the Kingsbury Stream, providing a beautiful location for some of our walks. Standing under a 200-year-old oak tree along the shores of the stream, gazing upward through its outstretched branches, allows the mind to wander, and wonder, at what that tree has seen during all those years. We walk those same shores in the spring as the wildflowers make their first appearance and in late summer when the mushrooms explode from their underground homes on warm, rainy days.

Each fall, we hike to Little Wilson Falls after a heavy rain to experience the rushing water tumbling 45 feet into a gorge lined with towering walls of moss-covered slate. Each winter we do a walk to Houston Brook Falls, frozen solid in the below-zero temperatures. This allows us to walk to the outlet stream and stand touching the frozen falls while rushing water is visible beneath the clear blue-tinted ice. Experiences like this help put day-to-day troubles into perspective and restore our sense of awe. In conducting these walks, we are sharing the gifts that I and other volunteers have experienced over the past 50 years spent in the Maine woods.

Since our initial snowshoe walk on New Years Day three years ago, we have been able to see what a great affect these outings are having on those who participate. We have witnessed introverted people become more outgoing through sharing these experiences with others; seen those who knew nothing of the flora and fauna in our area now yearning to learn the names of wildflowers and birds; and most importantly; we have seen the amazement of young people after spending time in the woods  some for the first time in their lives.

To date we have conducted 55 walks averaging 10-12 persons per walk, accomplished through volunteer efforts, and donations from people who believe in what we are doing. As a leader on these walks, I feel that this effort shows our dedication to making a difference for those who suffer from depression, and for those who now have a safe, healthy alternative to remaining cooped up indoors all winter, which could lead to depression.

Our walks have included two men in their 80s, children as young as 2, and everyone in between. Everyone benefits from these walks, and we will always include all ages groups, but we do want to do more walks specifically for school-aged children. We feel that there are many benefits to working with this age group beyond just the mental health aspects, such as exercise to combat Maines rising obesity epidemic, and establishing that vital spiritual connection to all living things in the young people who will grow up to be the stewards of our forests.

The JD Foundation
107 Main Road
Abbot, Maine 04406
207-876-2295
207-343-1732

www.thejdfoundation.org

March 2013 Health Beat

Reducing Lead Poisoning Risks…

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Hazard WarningEvery year hundreds of children in Maine are poisoned by lead. Lead poisoning is hard to detect and many times there are no signs or symptoms until dangerous levels have accumulated. Lead can be very harmful to children under the age of six. Increased amounts of lead in children often build up over a period of months or even years. More than half of Maine homes may have lead paint in them. Lead was used in many products, including paint, before the risk to children was known. Paint purchased before 1978 still has lead in it. Exposure to lead is most common in buildings built before 1950 and in homes built before 1978 where repainting and/or remodeling was done.

Lead dust from old paint is the most common way children get lead poisoning. Lead dust can come from opening and closing old painted windows, peeling or chipped paint, repair and renovations done that disturb old paint like sanding or scraping, and worn painted floors and stairs. Less common places to find lead are in the soil around the foundations of old buildings, on old painted furniture and toys, imported painted toys and jewelry, lead pipes found in old plumbing, while participating in hobbies like stained glass and furniture refinishing, and in certain jobs like metal-cutting and recycling, construction work, and auto repair-especially with auto batteries.

Lead dust is found on many surfaces where children put their hands and play with their toys. Children then put their hands into their mouths. Lead dust enters their bodies and causes damage. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavior problems, hearing damage, speech delays, and lower intelligence. Lead can have serious and permanent effects on a child’s growth and development.

All children should have blood lead tests done at age 1 and at age 2. Your child may be at risk for lead exposure if you live in an older home, if your child spends a lot of time in an older home-like at day care, if your child puts everything into his or her mouth, if there is chipping or peeling paint close to where your child plays, or if your child is exposed to lead dust from a person living in the home working at a high risk job.

By law, lead hazards are identified by a Maine licensed lead inspector while doing a lead inspection. Maine DEP regulations define the paint conditions and amounts of lead in dust, soil, and water that may be considered a lead hazard. It is possible to have lead paint in a home without it being a lead hazard.

There are many things a parent or caregiver can do to reduce a child’s exposure to lead dust. Don’t scrape or sand old paint. If possible, avoid old house renovations until children are older. Pick up paint chips and throw then away. Wet mop floors where children play. Place barriers like furniture in front of old windows so that your child is not able to reach these areas. Wash the wood around windows and doors. Avoid opening and closing windows when possible. Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Don’t let children play in the dirt next to the house. Provide covered sand boxes and grassy areas to play in and around. Wash children’s hands, toys, and pacifiers frequently. Feed children at a clean table or in a high chair. Do not allow children to eat food off the floors. Wet clean vehicle interiors and child safety seats. If you work in a high risk environment, take your work clothes and shoes off in an enclosed area that is separate from the living area of your home. Put your work clothes in a covered container and wash them separately from other clothes. Shower before interacting with your child. Do not allow children to play with work shoes. Lead in water is not usually a problem but you can have your water tested for lead. Always use cold tap water for drinking and cooking. Always run your water for a few minutes if the tap has not been used in a while like first thing in the morning.

Go to www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health to get more information or to request a free lead dust test kit. At your child’s 1 and 2 year old well child checks be sure to discuss lead testing with your child’s doctor.

 

February 2013 Health Beat

If you’re feeling sad, it might be SAD!

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Now that the holidays are over, are you feeling sad? Many people also feel sad this time of the year due to the short winter days and the cold winter temperatures.

The “winter blues” are very common. Winter blues are often related to something very specific like a stressful holiday season, a slump after the activities and fun of the holidays have ended, or reminders of loved ones that could not be with us for the holidays. The winter blues usually clear up in a short period of time without any treatment.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a clinical diagnosis that is related to the shortening of daylight hours. It occurs more often in women than in men and usually develops in a person’s early twenties. SAD follows a regular pattern appearing each year as the seasons change and going away several months later, usually in the spring or summer. SAD is more common in northern parts of the United States. SAD can lead to a very gloomy outlook. People can feel worthless, hopeless, and irritable. They may lose interest in activities they have previously enjoyed. People with SAD tend to have low energy levels, sleep a lot, crave comfort foods high in carbohydrates, and gain weight. With children, watch for feelings of low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating on school work, and low grades.

Begin by discussing your symptoms or your child’s symptoms with your doctor. Light therapy is often recommended for treatment of SAD. Try to begin light therapy in the fall before the symptoms of SAD begin. Light therapy does not work for everyone. Certain antidepressants and counseling have been shown to be effective for the treatment of SAD as well.

Other things you can do at home include eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, trying to get outside more-even on cloudy days, trying to exercise more often, and spending time with friends and in group activities.

If you notice symptoms of SAD in yourself or symptoms of depression in your child, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY!! Get help RIGHT AWAY if you or your child have any thoughts about harming yourselves or others. Call the toll-free Suicide Prevention Crisis Lifeline at 1-888-568-1112.

For more information about the winter blues, SAD, or depression in children visit www.nih.gov, www.aarp.org, www.maine.gov/suicide/help, or www.healthychildren.org.

Webmaster’s note: For those in the local area, we have a great local suicide prevention resource in the JD Foundation located in Abbot, Maine. Check out their website, find them on Facebook, or give them a call!

January 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

firefighter_running_400_clr_5899The local Maine weather report states frigid temperatures are expected. The high cost of home heating fuels and electricity have caused many people to look for other sources of warmth. More than one third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, and/or space heaters as their primary source of heat. Wood stoves cause over 4,000 residential fires every year. People living in rural areas are more than twice as likely to die in a fire as those living in a city or those living in the suburbs. Heating fires account for 36% of residential fires in rural areas every year.

The United States Fire Administration and FEMA offer the following recommendations for people using wood stoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces. Make sure the fireplace or wood stove is installed properly. Wood stoves should be placed away from combustible surfaces. Stoves require proper floor support and protection. Use seasoned wood only for wood stoves and pellet stoves. Burn the stove hot at least twice/day for fifteen-thirty minutes to reduce creosote build up. Avoid excessive amounts of paper to build a fire. Creosote can ignite in a chimney by over building a fire. Allow ashes to cool, place them in a metal container, and place the container outside and away from the house. Stack firewood outside at least thirty feet away from your home. Never use flammable liquids to start a fire in a wood stove or in a fireplace. Keep a glass or metal screen in front of a fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, to prevent unwanted material from going in, and to prevent the possibility of burns to people in the house. Keep flammable items off the fireplace mantel. Never leave a fire in a fireplace unattended. Before you go to bed at night, make sure your fireplace is out. Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. This can force carbon monoxide into the house.

Inspect your chimney every year and have the chimney cleaned when necessary. You should never burn charcoal in a house. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide. Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm. Also place fire alarms inside and outside of sleeping areas. Check fire alarms every month and change batteries at least once/year. Plan and practice a home escape plan. Always supervise children wherever a wood stove, pellet stove, space heater, or fire place is being used. Consider child proof fencing to keep children at least three feet away from these heat sources. Contact your local fire department for any questions about home fire safety.

For more information, visit www.usfa.fema.gov. Stay warm and stay safe.

December 2012 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Parenting children during the holiday season can be very challenging. Sometimes it feels more like the “holi-daze”! As parents, our own expectations of the holidays are often unrealistic. In a perfect world, Christmas is family time. All family members get along well. The Christmas dinner magically appears on the table with an abundance of pies and other home-baked treats for dessert. Everyone gets everything they wanted as they open their holiday gifts on Christmas. Our homes are decorated perfectly. These images rarely match up with reality.

But it’s not a perfect world! Parents should begin by making realistic goals for the holiday. Before the holiday arrives, make a list of the things you would like to do during the season. Then, look at this list and decide which ones are family priorities. Try to limit your “to do” list to three or four activities and then stick to the list!

Don’t start holiday activities too early. Children have a hard time waiting weeks for Christmas to arrive. Do have children make their own wish lists but in addition have them describe the reasons why they want those items. They will begin to think about their requests and to determine which items are really important.

Try to keep your routines, especially for bedtime and meal times. Young children find comfort in routines. Adequate sleep and a healthy diet help children cope with the additional activities associated with the holidays. Decreased child stress helps to reduce parent stress.

There are many ways to involve children in holiday activities. Children can help with holiday baking. Making home-made gifts is a good way to involve children beginning with the plan for the “right” gift, a trip to the local craft store, and then putting the gift together. Children can help wrap presents. Allow children to help decorate the Christmas tree and talk about favorite family ornaments. Get children involved with contributing to a local charity, a homeless shelter, or a hospital. Take children for a drive to see the local Christmas lights. Listen to Christmas music together. Involving children in holiday activities gives children extra parental attention and provides opportunities for parents to talk with their children.

Children love to “help”. Be honest with your children and tell them when you need their help. Make sure your request is age appropriate ie: help making dinner, setting the table, or help with folding laundry.

With some planning and flexibility, any family can enjoy the holidays.

For more information, visit www.mpf.org, www.aap.org, or www.healthychildren.org.

November 2012 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

The holiday season is right around the corner!  All is calm, all is bright. Not always!

Holiday related injuries like falls, cuts, bruises, and burns are increasing. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms between November and December 2010 for injuries involving holiday decorations. Many of these injuries occurred due to falls from ladders while hanging indoor and outdoor holiday lights. Injuries also occurred while hanging other Christmas decorations. Other causes of injuries include cuts from broken glass ornaments and burns from candle fires and live tree fires.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following safety tips to help keep your home safe this holiday season. If you buy a live tree, make sure that it is fresh. A fresh tree is green and the needles are hard to knock off of the branches. Tap the tree on the ground. A fresh tree should not lose many needles. Place Christmas trees away from heat sources like fireplaces, heating vents, and radiators. Monitor water levels in a live tree carefully and keep the tree stand filled with water. If you buy an artificial tree, look for a label that says “fire resistant”. Avoid sharp and breakable Christmas decorations and keep all decorations and trimmings out of the reach of children and pets. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish candles before you go to bed, before you leave the room, or before you leave the house. Keep all candles away from children and pets. Avoid placing candles next to items that can catch fire easily. Use indoor and outdoor holiday lights that are UL approved. These lights have met strict requirements for safety. Throw out any damaged lights. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. Use heavy duty extension cords. Do not burn wrapping paper in a fireplace. Holiday wrap can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

For more information on holiday safety, visit www.cpsc.gov. Have a safe 2012 Holiday Season

October 2012 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

We know… you don’t want to think about it!

Winter driving conditions in Maine can be dangerous! The best time to prepare for winter weather driving is before winter arrives. The Three P’s of Safe Winter Driving are Prepare for the trip; Protect yourself; and Prevent crashes.

There are many things you can do to prepare your vehicle for the winter months. Make sure tires are properly inflated and have the tread needed for traction. Replace a weak battery. Make sure all lights are working and make sure they are clean. Check all fluid levels including windshield washer fluid and make sure they are all full. Replace windshield wipers that streak. Check for proper operation of your brake system. Replace worn spark plugs.

When you have to drive in winter weather conditions, make sure to remove ice and snow from your vehicle. This includes ice and snow on windshields, headlights, rear lights, directional lights, and brake lights. Warm up your vehicle before you start driving. Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area like a garage. Slow down! Posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions. Be alert. Black ice can make a road look shiny. Always buckle up. Children 12 and under are safer in the back seat. Never drink and drive. Avoid driving if you are tired. Slow down when you are approaching a bridge because steel and concrete bridges are likely to be icy even when there is no ice on the road. Do not use cruise control when driving on slippery roads. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze up. Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running. Remember, stopping distances are longer on snow and ice.

Be prepared for an emergency. Keep a bag of sand, a snow shovel, an ice scraper, booster cables, extra windshield washer fluid, a blanket, a flashlight with extra batteries, warm clothing, a cell phone, a list of emergency numbers, warning devices like flares and triangles, and emergency food and drink in your car.

Remember, storm patterns can change very quickly. Do not take a chance if you do not have to go out. If you must go out, always let someone know where you are going and when you will be home.

For more information, visit AAA.com, www.Maine.gov/mema/weather/winter, www.osha.gov/Publications/SafeDriving, or dial 511 to check the road conditions in your area before leaving your home.