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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Protect Yourself and Others from the Flu

Flu season has arrived in Arizona. The Flu (Influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, extreme tiredness, stomach symptoms, etc.

Last week, everyone in my family received their flu vaccinations. We each did it differently.

My husband was at his doctor’s office for a regular check-up. The nurse asked him if he’d like to get the shot. He paused to consider it. He is a “I don’t take medicines unless I am near death” type of person. He also never gets sick. This is true. I can count the number of times he has truly been sick on three fingers in the past 10+ years.  So why would he need to get a shot to prevent him from getting sick? Because he has a family, not to mention I asked him to. 

My daughter is four years old and in preschool. I called her pediatrician and made an appointment to get her vaccinated. We went in at the appointed time and talked about the two options: a shot given in the upper arm or a nasal spray. My daughter had received her four-year- old shots a few months ago and still remembered the pain of the needles, so she chose the nasal spray.

I was a bit hesitant about the nasal spray. We tried it last year. She didn’t sit still for the entire amount. She got the flu last year, and it was no fun to see my child sick and listless for a couple of days. However, this year, she sat still and took the entire vaccine like a champ.

I was the only one left. I didn’t feel like making a special appointment at my doctor’s office.  Instead, Iwalked into my local pharmacy. I filled out some paperwork, provided my insurance information, and waited about 10 minutes. My name was called, I walked into a small exam room, and after a few minutes of discussion about my health, I rolled up my left sleeve and took my shot.

Besides your doctor and pharmacy (or grocery store) walk-in clinics, you can get a flu shot at local immunization clinics, community health centers, and even at county health departments.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has good information about the flu, where you can get a vaccine, and more.

I teach my daughter to stop the spread of germs. She knows to cough into her elbow, and washes her hands to the tune of the A-B-C song. And I keep her home from school if she is sick – even if I am ‘too busy’ to miss a day of work.

If you do get the flu, please contain it by staying home from school or work. The flu is not something that we want to spread to others. It may just take you out of commission for a couple of days, but it can have more serious consequences for children and infants, seniors, pregnant women, and people with existing health conditions.

Protect yourself and those around you and get a flu vaccine.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cover please

Last week, my husband and I were flying back from a trip to North Carolina. It was a perfect fall weekend - sweaters and jeans, a coat at night. We had some great meals with our friends and attended a football game. Settling into the long flight home, I opened my iPad and looked for the book I was reading. I was soon engrossed in the story.

Halfway through the flight, I leaned over to grab a snack from my bag under my seat. As anyone knows, this is always tricky. You have to twist and turn to reach under that seat these days, especially if the person in front of you is reclined. As I twisted my face towards the window and stretched my arm down, the person behind me sneezed. I was hit with the full force blow of his sneeze on the left side of my face. Seriously, it rippled my hair. I turned around to see an older gentleman (in a suit) with his head down, wiping his nose.

I was in complete shock. So much so, that I didn’t say anything to him (which is very unlike me).

Fast forward a few days. I wake up with a stuffy head, runny nose, and achy body. However, my head was clear enough to immediately target who most likely got me sick! When my husband asked me what was wrong, I said, “that man on the plane who sneezed all over my face is what’s wrong!”

He smiled at me, grabbed a box of tissues, brought me some juice, handed me the TV remote and took our daughter out to play. “Mommy is staying home today,” I heard him say on the way out. “And we don’t want to be anywhere near her and her germs.”

Flu and cold season is here people. Do your part to protect yourself and others. It’s fairly simple to stop the spread of germs:
  • ·         Wash your hands and use alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • ·         Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • ·         Sanitize your surroundings.
  • ·         If you are sick, stay home.
  • ·         Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • ·         Get a flu shot.

And most importantly (at least at the time for me):
  • ·         Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow.

All of these are pretty much common sense tips. At least I thought so. My four-year old daughter coughs and sneezes into her elbow (or sometimes mine – but she’s only four).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a lot of information online about the flu. So does your doctor’s office and the Department of Health Services

Friday, October 10, 2014


I’m 6 foot, 3 inches tall.

I weigh 230 pounds.

I have on more than one occasion being called “country strong,” which I think is a nice way of saying “husky.”

Are you impressed yet by my apparent manilness? Don’t be. My wife is more “man” than I am. She isn’t afraid to go to the doctor’s office.

Just so you know this blog isn’t going to read like the personal preparedness musings you’re used to reading here. It’s not about evacuation plans or wildfire prevention or kit cook-offs.

So what’s the connection with emergency preparedness? In truth, there probably isn’t any. But as I see it the following is a public service message, and since I’m long overdue to write a blog I can only write what I know. What I know right now is fear.
I scheduled a physical exam for next Monday—my first since college. I feel “white coat” hypertensive just thinking about the blood draw. Do you remember that scene in the first Star Wars movie (really the fourth) where Darth Vader enters Princess Leia’s cell followed by floating orb holding a huge hypodermic needle? I imagine Monday looking and feeling something like that.

I won’t pretend my reasons for avoiding regular physicals are rational, but the anxiety I feel about going to the doctor’s office is real.

I’ve always understood that “taking charge” of your health by getting regular checkups and staying current with immunizations is important. But I’ve also always had an anxiety about needles and lived with the impression that the reason you go to the doctor’s is to find things that are wrong with you. I thought that was what ex-girlfriends are for?

This might sound stupid but I don’t want a real doctor to tell me there’s actually something wrong. I don’t need professional help to stress out; I do a good job on my own. I’ve diagnosed myself with West Nile virus, tonsillitis, cancer, and menopause just this week.

I know a fear of needles and doctors isn’t unique. I’m sure you know at least one person with the same phobias ... maybe worse than mine. But I also know there are people who tough it out anyhow. Typically, I’m not one of those people. I’m the type of person that thinks those type of people make my type look bad, which begs the question, “why did I make an appointment?”

Since March 29, 2013, I’ve lived by the credo “happy wife, happy life.” Yes ladies and gentleman, I’m going to see the doctor because my wife said so. It’s not the first time—nor do I pretend it’ll be the last—that this was the reason for me doing something I don’t really want to do.

For all those in the audience who are either too scared or being volun-told to schedule a physical examination, here’s what you can expect. Typically, a physician will:

·         Quiz you about lifestyle behaviors like smoking, excessive alcohol use, diet and exercise. The doctor will also check on your vaccination status and update your personal and family medical history.
·         Check your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature.
·         Take note of your general appearance. Your doctor gathers a large amount of information about you and your health just by watching and talking to you.
·         Listen to your heart for an irregular heartbeat, a heart murmur, or other clues to heart disease.
·         Listen to you breathing for crackles, wheezes, and other clues to the presence of heart or lung disease.
·         Ask you to say "ah.” The quality of your teeth and gums also provides information about your overall health. Ears, nose, sinuses, eyes, lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries may also be examined.
·         Tap your abdomen to detect liver size and presence of abdominal fluid.
·         Listen for bowel sounds with a stethoscope, and palpate for tenderness.
·         Test your reflexes and balance.
·         Examine your skin.

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Preparedness Month is the Perfect Time to Update Plan and Kit

September is National Preparedness Month. In honor of that, my family and I sat down to review our emergency preparedness kit and family communication plan.

We took the kit out and looked through it. My husband pulled out some toddler food that our daughter used to enjoy, as she’s “too old for that, Mama. I’m a big girl now.” Out it went.

We noticed some canned goods were close to their expiration date. We swapped those for some fresh ones. We replaced the water. We added some new favorite foods - my child has discovered Nutella. My daughter took out a package of diapers and an old toy. She then added a stuffed bear and a puzzle, saying “I like these better.”

The bear and toy are a great idea for children. A comfort item can really help in an emergency situation.

We then looked at our family communication plan. Right away, we noticed some changes that needed to be made. My daughter has switched schools since the last time we updated the plan. And the neighbor whose house we planned to meet if we had to evacuate had moved. My four-year old suggested a friend’s house and we wrote it down.

We then decided to practice our evacuation plan. I set my phone’s alarm and we all went to separate areas in the house. Beep, beep, beep. “Mama, mama, let’s go,” shouted my daughter. I met her in the hallway and we headed out the door.

When my husband joined us a moment later, she asked him what took him so long. ‘Well, I went out the back,” he said. “I pretended I couldn’t get out the front door like you and mom.”

Of course, she wanted to do it again, leaving the house another way. Little did I know she and daddy decided the only way out was through the back bedroom window! While I waited at the neighbor’s house, they were having a grand time climbing out the window.

And it’s ok that they were having fun. The important thing was that we were practicing our evacuation plan. Her having fun just meant that she will remember it better. If the time comes when we need to evacuate, I am fairly certain she will know exactly what to do.

Get your family involved and make preparedness fun. If you don’t have a family communication plan or know what to put in your kit, visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN) website, for helpful preparedness information and resources.

For tips on what to put in your emergency supplies kit, has checklist. If you prepare together, everyone will better understand what to do if an emergency or disaster does strike.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What Camping taught me about Preparedness

My earliest childhood memories are of family camping trips. Not just camping, but backpacking – Mom and Dad carrying food, water, the tent, sleeping bags, etc. on their backs. My brother and I shouldering much smaller backpacks with room enough for just a few items. When you are preparing for a trip where you carry everything on your back, you must plan very carefully in order to bring all your necessities, and still be able to carry the backpack.

Photo Courtesy of NPS Photo

This week, as I began to plan and prepare for my family’s non-roughing it camping trip (no items will be hauled on our backs), it made me think about how comparable planning for a camping is to preparing for potential emergencies.

The first thing I always do is make a list of needed supplies. Then I go through the garage and kitchen, gathering items and placing them in the center of the room. I check them off my list one by one as I place them into the plastic tubs that will go in the back of the car. I double check the important items (mosquito repellant, matches, water, tent, air mattress, etc.), knowing that if we don’t have one of those, the family will be miserable.

A few years ago, we forgot to pack the pump for the air mattress. While you don’t need an air mattress to survive while camping, it sure does make the experience nicer. My husband and I were both slightly grumpy most of that trip, due to sore shoulders and backs. My friends forgot their tent cover one year, and it started to rain right before nightfall. They slept, rather uncomfortably, in their truck. When they learned it was most likely going to rain the next night, they drove home. It didn’t rain, and they missed out on the fun and games that day.  

When preparing an emergency supplies kit, most people remember the large stuff – water, food, first aid. But what about a manual can opener? It would be pretty tough to open all those canned items you stocked without one. Or is there something new in your life, such as a puppy or kitten? If so, add supplies for him or her.

When we purchase a new item for camping, I always try it out before we leave. Have you ever tried to set up a new tent in the dark? No fun. If you purchase a water purifier or a satellite phone for your emergency supplies kit, make sure you know how they work before you need to use them. When you create an evacuation plan with your family, practice evacuating so everyone is comfortable leaving the house and getting to the meeting place.

I tend to write out plans for the entire trip out when we are going camping. I plan, and write out, the menu ahead of time. It’s no fun when you have a missing main ingredient, like beans, when you are trying to make chili in the middle of nowhere.  Or even worse, no marshmallows when you are about to make s’mores (check out this Emergency Kit Cook-Off recipe for Ultimate S’mores) with your toddler, who has been talking about said s’mores all week. Even though we have a map feature on our phones, I print the maps out. How do I know we will have a cell signal driving the winding canyon roads? I make a list of our planned hikes and share them with a friend. I also let a friend know when we are expecting to return home.

Just like planning for a trip and writing down important information, everyone needs to plan for an emergency and write down their important information – phone numbers, doctor information, family meeting places, evacuation plans, etc. Having all the necessary information in one place eases the panic that can set in when you are trying to find Dr. Smith’s contact information when your cell phone isn’t working.

Doing the work before the camping trip ensures that I will relax and have a great time with my family out in the middle of the woods. I will be in the moment, helping my daughter fish for the first time, and laughing at my dog splashing in the water. I will enjoy those sticky s’mores, instead of worrying about what I forgot and how to fix it.

If you write your family communication plan and create an emergency supplies kit now, you will be one step ahead if a disaster does affect you.

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