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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Christmas Trees and Trappings Can Fan Fire Risk

The risk of burns increases over the holiday season because people are cooking more, putting up potentially flammable decorations and using fireplaces and candles.

“We see a significant increase in burn patients between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your holiday, which should be full of joy and celebration, can quickly turn tragic,” Dr. Jeff Guy, director of Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center in Nashville, Tenn., said in a Vanderbilt University news release.

Many of these injuries are easily preventable if people are cautious and eliminate potential dangers that could lead to burns.

Guy outlined a number of ways to prevent burns and have a safe holiday season.

Staying in the kitchen and being attentive while cooking can prevent most cooking fires. Keep pot holders, wooden utensils, towels, food packaging and anything else that can catch fire away from the stovetop.

Use turkey fryers outdoors and keep them a safe distance from the building. Never overfill a fryer with oil and never leave it unattended.

When you buy an artificial Christmas tree, select one with a “fire resistant” label. When buying a real tree, check for freshness. It should be green, the needles should be hard to pull, the trunk should be sticky with resin and the tree shouldn’t lose many needles when it’s hit.

Keep fresh trees away from fireplaces and radiators and keep the tree stand filled with water. A well-watered tree is usually safe but it can take just a few seconds for a dry tree to be ablaze, Guy said.

Check new and old sets of Christmas lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, and discard damaged sets. Don’t overload extension cords and never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

Don’t burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, because it can ignite suddenly and burn intensely. Place candles away from trees and other decorations and in locations where they can’t be knocked over. Never leave candles unattended.

Tips to Prevent Burglaries

Ever wonder if your home is a target for burglaries — if burglars look hungrily at your poorly lit, flimsy front door? View your home the way a burglar would, and think about what you see. Boosting your home security will give you peace of mind, and help prevent a robbery.

How to Make Your Home More Secure

You don’t have to barricade your doors and windows to keep burglars out of your home. But you do need to make sure that your home is protected, with no weak spots where burglars can enter or hide out. Here are some ways to strengthen your home security:

  • Door security. Use solid metal or wood doors with deadbolt locks, and hinges without removable pins when possible. If you have sliding glass doors, secure them with screws that keep them from being lifted off their tracks and lock them with a deadbolt lock. Make sure all doors in the house, including patio and side doors, are secured at all times.
  • Close the garage. Keep your garage doors and windows closed and locked, including those doors leading from the garage into the home.
  • Light your home. Make sure doors and windows are well lit. Exterior and interior lighting is important for deterring burglars. No burglar wants to get caught trying to break in through a door or window with a light shining brightly on him or her.
  • Lock windows. All windows on the main floor of your home — which are probably pretty easy to get into — should be securely locked. Also secure all screens and storm windows, and basement windows as well.
  • Protect upper floors. If you home is two stories or higher, don’t underestimate a burglar’s ability to climb up to get inside. Keep trees trimmed away from windows to prevent climbing in, and make sure there is no access to a ladder. If upper windows have locks, use them; if they don’t, consider installing them.
  • Trim shrubbery. Don’t give burglars a place to hide by allowing landscaping to get too lush or overgrown, blocking windows and doors. Keep all trees and bushes around your home neat and trimmed.
  • Talk to neighbors. If you are concerned about home security and burglaries, talk to trusted neighbors. Neighbors can do more than lend a cup of sugar — ask them to let you know if they see anyone suspicious around your home, and offer to do the same for them.
  • Fence in your yard. A fence, particularly one with only a narrow gate, may deter burglars. A fence makes it more difficult to get in and out, especially lugging big, awkward items like a TV out of your home.
  • Consider a burglar alarm. An alarm can certainly scare off burglars and offer you peace of mind. A loud alarm will sound when your home is broken into, and some alarms automatically call the police or a security company when triggered.
  • Take a self-defense class. If you’re worried about how to react if an intruder breaks in, consider taking a self-defense class. You’ll learn how to surprise a burglar, and have him heading for the door — and you’ll feel more confident in your abilities.
  • Get a dog. Most dogs make a lot of noise when they hear something suspicious, and the last thing a burglar wants is for people to be made aware of his presence.

Home Security When You Travel

You may be particularly concerned about home protection while you’re traveling or on vacation, and rightly so. Burglars look for good opportunities, like plenty of time to break in without worrying about someone coming home and disrupting them.

Take these extra precautions before heading out of town so that you don’t leave your home vulnerable to burglary:

  • Make sure all doors and windows are securely locked.
  • Leave lights on inside and outside your home, such as front porch lights, and side and back door lights.
  • Turn on a radio to make it seem like someone is home. Better yet, install a timer to turn on lights and a radio or TV at specific times of the day.
  • Instead of boarding your dog, leave Fido home and hire a pet sitter to care for your dog – and your home.
  • Have mail and newspapers collected every day, or stop delivery ahead of time.

What Kids Should Know About Home Security

Security measures should become second nature for every member of the family, even the youngest ones. Try these strategies:

  • Teach children to be careful about keeping doors locked, and not be careless about forgetting to lock or close a door or window here or there.
  • Make sure children know not to open the door for strangers. This can never be repeated enough.
  • Once old enough, kids should know how to operate the burglar alarm system, and have it on when they’re home alone.

Home security is a family affair. It takes everyone’s involvement. No matter how safe your neighborhood, don’t be careless around your home — someone may be waiting to take advantage of it.

Simple Ways to Prevent Fireworks Injuries

Many Fourth of July fireworks-related injuries could be prevented with some common sense, according to experts who advise people to avoid using fireworks at home — even if they’re legal.

“There’s no such thing as completely safe fireworks,” Dr. Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said in an ACEP news release. “A few minutes of well-intentioned fun can result in lifelong disabilities.”

Every Independence Day, an average of about 200 people end up in the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Most of these injuries are burns and nearly half of these incidents involve people’s hands and fingers. The CPSC notes that 34 percent of fireworks-related injuries affect people’s eyes, head, face and ears.

Although sparklers may seem safe, they carry hazards as well. A sparkler can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is as hot as a blowtorch, according to the release.

The ACEP recommended the following fireworks Dos and Don’ts to ensure people’s safety this year:

Do:

  • Anyone using fireworks should be supervised by an experienced adult.
  • Only buy fireworks from reputable dealers.
  • Be sure to read fireworks labels and follow directions carefully.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or bucket of water nearby.
  • Light fireworks one at a time.
  • Discard fireworks as directed.

Don’t:

  • Young children should never use fireworks, including sparklers.
  • Never light fireworks inside or near other objects.
  • Do not stand over fireworks while lighting them and back up immediately after lighting them.
  • Never point fireworks towards people.
  • Never try to re-light fireworks that fail to ignite.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
  • Fireworks should never be set off in glass or metal containers.
  • Never carry fireworks in pockets.

“The safest and only thing you should do is watch a professional fireworks display managed by experts who have proper training and experience handling these explosives,” Sama recommended. “Have fun and enjoy this great American holiday. As always, we’ll be ready to treat you, but we don’t want to have to see you in the ER.”

Guide to Eating Healthy in an Emergency

In the case of a hurricane or tropical storm, your family’s physical safety is your first concern, so it’s important for you to prepare an emergency plan in advance. But even if your home is not directly hit by a storm, your neighborhood or community could be affected for several days or longer by power outages, blocked roads, and damage to grocery stores, gas stations, and other businesses.

Hurricane disaster experts with the National Hurricane Center, the Red Cross, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency advise each household to put together a preparedness kit that includes such basics as a flashlight, a radio, batteries, maps, a first-aid kit, a manual can opener, medications — and, of course, food and water. But exactly what foods should be included?

Healthy Meal Plans

Every household should stock up on healthy, easy-to-store food items, but it’s especially important to include diet-specific foods for any family members who have high blood pressure, diabetes, gluten allergy (celiac disease), or another health condition that requires a special menu.

Read the shopping lists and sample menus below for choices that can help your family eat healthfully during an emergency; these lists include options for those with diabetes, high blood pressure, a heart condition, food allergies, and more.

Hurricane Healthy Meals Kit

To start, plan to create a “hurricane healthy meals kit” that includes essential nutrients from three of the five food groups, says Stacey Whittle, a registered dietitian and co-owner of Healthy by Design Nutrition Specialists, in Santa Monica, Calif. “The most important group is protein, then vegetables and fruits, and then so-called fillers, or starchy items.” A balanced meal would include something from each group.

In an emergency, the top priority is to get enough calories and stay hydrated. “You need to stay fueled and focused and not get sick,” Whittle says. She suggests that the hurricane healthy meals plan provide three meals a day, spread out as evenly as possible. Each meal should have a protein source as its main component, as well as something from each of the other major food groups.

Shelf life is another consideration. “Keep foods that require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration, in case utilities are disrupted,” says Mitali Shah, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical and research dietitian at Boston Medical Center’s Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes, Nutrition, and Weight Management.

“Plan to have at least a three-day supply of food on hand,” she says. “Canned foods and dry mixes will remain fresh for about two years, but date all food items, and use and replace food before it loses freshness.”

While you’re stocking your pantry, remember to include plastic utensils, paper plates and cups, and cooking fuel, such as canned sterno or propane for a camp stove.

Healthy Proteins: Canned tuna, chicken, and salmon are healthy protein choices, with a portion size equaling half of one can. Other good proteins include beans, boxed tofu, nuts, seeds, and nut butters.

Pick “superfood” proteins and you’ll get the added nutritional benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, says Caroline Apovian, MD, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center and associate professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “Sardines or?tuna fish packed in water, salmon packed in its own juices, and walnuts all have protein plus omega-3s, DHA, and EPA,” she says.

Low-sodium canned goods are necessary for those who have high blood pressure, plus they’re a better choice for all family members because salty foods can cause excessive thirst, and water for drinking may be limited in an emergency. “If you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, you can rinse the canned food in a colander before eating it,” says Shah.

Protein powder is another excellent source, since it can be mixed with water and provides good nutrition and filling calories, says Whittle. Lactose-free, gluten-free, and rice-based protein powders are available for those who have dietary restrictions; whey protein and soy protein are also available. “Protein powders can be hard to mix without an electric blender,” Whittle says, “so your kit should include a BlenderBottle, a plastic container with a wire whisk for mixing.” Two protein shakes and a serving of tuna or beans would provide sufficient protein for a day.

Healthy Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables have a high fiber and water content — important for maintaining digestive health — so be sure to have these foods on hand. Eat any fresh fruit and vegetables first. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a good second choice, and if power is lost, they’ll keep in the freezer for 24 to 48 hours.

Canned foods are generally a less nutritious option than fresh and frozen foods, but Apovian recommends that you include unsweetened canned fruit, shelf-stable applesauce, and dried fruit in your healthy meals kit.

As always with canned food, throw out any cans with damaged seals or dents, which can pose a danger of botulism. And remember to put a manual can opener in your kit.

Healthy Fillers: It’s important to include starches in a balanced meal. The potatoes in your refrigerator drawer are actually edible raw; in addition, they’re a good source of potassium. Dehydrated potatoes are another option. “They have added milk and butter, so you only need water to make mashed potatoes,” says Shah.

High-fiber, low-sugar cereals can be stored for a long time, and fortified cereals — those with added vitamins and nutrients — will help you and your family meet your daily nutritional requirements. Crackers are a good staple to have on hand, but choose a high-fiber, low-sodium option, such as rye crisps. Rice cakes are another nutritious choice — they’re good eaten with nut butters.

Whittle recommends energy bars as “fillers” because they offer a lot of healthy calories in a small package. Her pick for the hurricane healthy meals kit is Larabars: “an across-the-board bar which would suit pretty much everyone.” Larabars are vegan, have no gluten, and are packaged to last up to a year. For diabetics, Whittle recommends ExtendBars, which are available in a low-sugar (10 grams) version, and a little-to-no-sugar (0–1 gram) version; both bars are low on the glycemic index (GI).

Food Safety

If you are without power for longer than two hours, perishable food in your freezer will be safe to eat for up to 24 hours if the freezer is half full, according to guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If the freezer is full, food will last as long as 48 hours. Packing items close together in your refrigerator and freezer and keeping the doors closed as much as possible will help food stay cold longer.

Thawed frozen fruits should not be eaten if mold, a yeasty smell, or sliminess develops; thawed frozen vegetables can be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for a maximum of six hours, according to FoodSafety.gov, a Web site managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The site also advises that fruits and vegetables be washed in clean water and dried before storing.

More guidelines on food safety are available on the In an Emergency page on FoodSafety.gov and on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site. Both sites offer printable charts that list the shelf life of commonly refrigerated foods. “It’s one of those things that needs to go on the refrigerator as the ’emergency reference food checklist’,” says Shah.

The CDC recommends packing such items as dairy products, meats, eggs, and spoilable leftovers in a cooler or chest filled with ice. A food thermometer should be included in your hurricane healthy meals kit — it can be used to test foods requiring refrigeration. If such foods reach a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours, they should not be eaten. “Remember to never taste food to determine its safety,” cautions Shah.

Eating Well When the Power Goes Out

If you end up losing power, these healthy meals can be prepared without a heating source:

Breakfast

  • Bowl of dry cereal w/ canned evaporated skim milk or milk from a cooler with ice
  • Nutrition bar with canned fruit or apple sauce

Lunch/Dinner

  • Nut butter sandwich (or with crackers)
  • Tuna/chicken/salmon salad (with mayo from a cooler with ice or a balsamic vinegar dressing) on bread or crackers
  • Bean salad (mix of canned beans) dressed with olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings
  • Pre-prepared soup (from a thermos)
  • Rice and beans with vegetables (if you know a blizzard is coming, make rice ahead of time)