I rejoice when the weather is warm enough to swim! Swimming is one of the most healthful ways to exercise, and is broadly enjoyed by people of all ages, from babies to the aged. People can get into the pool and enjoy themselves so much that they don’t even know how much beneficial aerobic (heart-pumping) exercise they’re getting.
Aerobic exercise itself has important health benefits: it reduces harmful inflammation linked to many diseases; lowers stress; lowers blood pressure; strengthens muscles (including the heart), and can even help smokers to quit. In fact, swimming is one of the most highly-recommended types of aerobic exercises, according to Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed. D. In addition, it’s one of the best exercises for older adults, as it’s easy on the joints.
Most swimmers in Howard County don’t have access to natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, so we swim in the neighborhood pool, kindly supplied by Columbia Association, one of the neighborhoods in other towns, or by a private owner. The water in these pools needs to be carefully maintained for cleanliness, because the people splashing around bring bacteria into the standing water of the pool. The operators of these pools add chemicals to the water. Without chlorination, health risks would prevent our swimming in a pool.
Most pool operators maintain water cleanliness with chlorine-based chemicals, then test the water for the correct balance of pH (acid-alkaline balance) and chemicals several times throughout the day. Although several alternatives to chlorine exist, each has a disadvantage, including a substantial differential in price. So additions of chlorine seem to be the default choice for water cleanliness.
But chlorine use has its side affects: it’s drying to skin and hair, and may make swimmers’ eyes redden and burn. Some some people are undeniably allergic to chlorine; some people suspect chlorine of causing serious diseases of the respiratory tract or even cancer; but research on these serious side effects is not conclusive.
But (sniff) what’s that sharp smell? Smells like too much chlorine!
Actually, that smell is the result of inadequate amounts of chlorine. Here’s the science: molecules of chlorine combines with molecules of nitrogen or ammonia being thrown off our bodies (organic matter). This is what smells bad. Whenthere is more chlorine in the water, the chlorine can do its job and the odor should be minimal. It’s inadequately-chlorinated water that is most irritating to the skin and eyes, and may be implicated in swimmer’s ear, a common ear infection due to constantly-wet ear canals and bacteria in the water.
And why is the water so cloudy? It’s due to any combination of these events: particles forced out of the water by imbalanced water, poor filtration or sanitation, or heat. Hot days can contribute to cloudy water.
Unless there are other health-related risks, the health benefits, fun, and social value of swimming far outweighs the disadvantages posed by chlorine. One of the rites of summer is swimming, especially out of doors on a hot Maryland day.
The Center for Disease Control’s Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming go into depth on ways to keep everyone healthy when in the water. The most important and easiest of these include:
- Staying out of the water if you are ill, especially illness of your digestive tract. Also stay out of the water if you have a cut or other break in your skin. Being aware of potential water-borne problems.
- Showering before you swim to rinse off the organic materials on your skin. This way, you won’t be contributing to what the chlorine as to break down.
- Regular bathroom breaks for children and adults are crucial. Urine, after all, in another organic material.
- Protecting yourself with eye goggles, an after-swim shower, shampoo, and body moisturizer.
- Questions to ask the pool operator: “Are chemical levels checked at least twice per day, or more often when the pool is heavily used?”, “What is the latest pool inspection score?”, and “Has the pool operator completed specialized training in pool operation?”Have a great swim!
Posted by HCGH_CL on Feb 2, 2016 in Cardiac, Safety | 0 comments
Like ham and eggs or sunshine and summer, with winter comes snow and shoveling the white stuff. Snow shoveling can be a good source of aerobic exercise, but it doesn’t come without risks. Improper shoveling can cause injuries to your back and shoulders. And the American Heart Association says the risk of heart attack can increase while shoveling since cold temperatures and physical labor make the heart work harder. This may be partially due to the sudden demands that snow shoveling puts on the heart, especially for those who live a fairly sedentary lifestyle.
Take note: if you are at risk for heart attack, you need to take special precautions. The National Safety Council and the National Institutes of Health recommend the following tips for safe snow shoveling:
When I was ten years old, I got two unforgettable cases of poison ivy. A nature girl, I spent spare time out of doors, digging in the dirt, and climbing trees and fences. In the spring of that year, I was digging a hole (purpose, unknown) and found some pesky roots in the way. In pulling up the poison ivy roots, I released urushiol oil all over my hands and next day, my hands were covered with huge weeping blisters. I missed a week of school, as the medication of choice at that time was calamine lotion, which was totally ineffective. That winter, I left a Christmas party to hike and climbed a vine-covered fence. In climbing the fence, I again exposed my hands to urushiol, and missed another week of school with the misery and pain of poison ivy. Because at least 75% of people react to poison ivy, you might know what I’m talking about.
I took these experiences as a personal affront, and swore a vendetta on this innocent plant. Its urushiol oil covering conserves moisture in hot Maryland summers, and is not a defensive measure. Its green leaves are commonly enjoyed by wildlife such as deer and bears, and birds relish the seeds in the fall. In fact, birds which consume the seeds are responsible for the sudden appearance of the plant in your back yard.
Because the plant flourishes where light is prolific in the forest edges, not in the shade, more poison ivy grows in Maryland in 2015 than before the European colonists cleared the trees. And we may be seeing more of it in the future. A Marine Biological Laboratory study found that the plant is highly sensitive to greater carbon dioxide levels. With climate change bringing rising CO2 levels, poison ivy will enjoy an ideal growing environment.
Depending on the severity of the rash and the location on your body, a case of poison ivy rash can make people a little itchy or endanger their health. Calamine cream may help minor rashes. Medical help should be sought for heavy rashes, swelling (especially on the face and genitals), or breathing problems. Strong medications and even hospitalization may be necessary.
Prevention always beats treatment. Learn (and teach your kids) what how to avoid skin contact with urushiol-covered plants. The American Academy of Dermatology’s website includes excellent photographs of poison ivy, oak, and sumac, all of which produce urushiol.
Wear clothes with long sleeves & long pants when you spend time in the woods or in the garden, removing and washing the clothes after use. After suspected exposure (gardening, walks in the woods), immediately wash a soap or cream such as Tecnu or Zanfel to remove the urushiol. If your pet has run through poison ivy, she won’t get a rash- but she can bring the rash to you, so wash her, too.
Posted by HCGH_CL on Jul 14, 2015 in Parenting, Safety | 0 comments
For many, summer means pool time! Though splashing around with family and friends is a highlight of the summer, it is important to keep pool safety and caution in mind. With drownings and pool injuries a valid concern, make water safety your first priority.
Follow these simple guidelines to keep pool time safe and fun for everyone:
- Never allow children near or in the water unattended, even if lifeguards are present
- Make it a rule for your kids to never go in or near the water without an adult nearby
- Teach your child to swim or sign them up for swimming lessons
- Designate a water watcher. Choose a responsible person to keep an eye on the water every time children are in or near the water
- Make sure your child knows basic water safety skills
- Stay in arm’s reach of young children
- Have young children who are inexperienced in swimming wear a life jacket near the pool
- Learn CPR!
- Make your child wait at least 30 minutes after eating to swim
- Establish safe pool rules and enforce them such as: no running near the pool, always swim with a buddy and no diving
- Make sure children know that drains and suction fittings in the pool or hot tub are always off limits
- If you have a pool in your back yard, make sure there is proper fencing and/or barriers around it
- Always wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30
By following these simple safety guidelines, you are sure to have a summer full of fun at the pool and create great memories!
Resources: Poolsafety.gov and the American Red Cross
Posted by HCGH_KS on Mar 10, 2015 in Parenting, Safety | 0 comments
National Poison Prevention Week is March 15-21
Call 1 (800) 222-1222 for accidental poisonings.
At some point, almost everyone will experience the horrible realization that a child, family member or friend may have accidentally ingested some kind of poison: the two-year-old smiling and licking his lips with a half-empty bottle of sweet, red, baby acetaminophen in his hand; the toddler who thought the amber chemical in an unmarked bottle was apple juice; the elderly relative with limited vision and memory taking the wrong number of pills at the wrong time; the husband who decided to sand a table not knowing it was covered with lead-based paint; or the friend who inhaled toxic vapors by mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia to clean the floor. A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount, and there are endless ways for accidental poisonings to happen. According to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, poisoning exceeded the number of traffic accident deaths for the first time since 1980. More than two million poisonings are reported each year to the 57 poison control centers across the country and more than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home.
March 15 to 21 is National Poison Prevention Week, and this year’s themes are: “Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons” and “Poisoning Spans a Lifetime.”
What can you do to help prevent accidental poisonings?
- Become familiar with the 50 poison prevention tips offered by the National Poison Prevention Week Council, including:
- General Safety—Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and household products and buy products in child-resistant packaging.
- Medicine Safety—Keep medicines out of reach of children, tell your doctor about all of your medications to avoid interactions, and use only the measuring device (dosing cup, dosing syringe, or dropper) that is included with your medicine.
- Household Product Safety—Keep cleaning products in their original container with original label, never use food containers to store household or chemical products, have your children tested for lead poisoning and remove poisonous plants from your house and yard.
- Learn the signal warning words for household and chemical products:
- Caution—slightly toxic if eaten, absorbed through skin, inhaled or in contact with eyes or skin
- Warning—moderately toxic
- Danger—highly toxic or deadly. The word “poison” must be included in red letters on front panel of the product label.
What should you do if you suspect a possible poisoning?
- Keep the Poison Control Center emergency phone number, 1-800-222-1222 in a handy and accessible place and make sure caretakers also know where it is.
- Do NOT administer syrup of ipecac.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should get rid of this syrup that for years was thought to be a good way to treat children who had swallowed something toxic by making them vomit.
- Recent studies show it can irritate the stomach and esophagus and that it can leave up to 50 percent of the toxin behind. The best bet is to call the poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222). If it is a true emergency, you should call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.
It is the time of year when many of us make resolutions to better ourselves. I always have a hard time making a New Year’s resolution because within a short time I have failed, and then, I need to think of yet another resolution! Eventually, I reach the point where it becomes ridiculous because I have made and broken so many resolutions that I run out of ideas!
It’s difficult to tackle resolutions at any time of year, even when there are sound reasons to do so. Change can be difficult. Start by educating yourself about the risks and benefits of making these changes. You also have to be careful that you do not replace one bad habit with another one. For example, the dangers of smoking are well documented, but the risks associated with e-cigarettes are still unknown. Yet some people who are trying to quit smoking are turning to e-cigarettes. There are also a number of people that have never smoked that are now “vaping” (using an e-cigarette). E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that often look like regular tobacco cigarettes. The way they commonly work is that an atomizer or heating element heats a liquid often containing nicotine and various flavorings. Flavoring options include tobacco and menthol flavor, and flavorings that might appeal to younger users like bubblegum, cherry and apple. The heated liquid converts into a vapor or mist that the user inhales. The vapor cloud resembles smoke, but does not have an odor, so it is harder to know later if someone has been vaping.
Recent studies suggest that e-cigarettes do not help people reduce or quit smoking. E-cigarettes do not contain carbon monoxide or tar, which are two of the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, but the Federal Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes for recreational use, so what’s in them can vary. The FDA is currently looking into extending its authority to include alternatives to tobacco products, which would allow them to use regulatory rules to impose age restrictions and review claims made that e-cigarettes reduce tobacco-related disease and death.
I applaud you if one of your resolutions this year is to quit smoking. I encourage you to educate yourself on the many resources available to help you. I recommend that you read the American Heart Association’s policy statement on the use of e-cigarettes. You may still find that e-cigarettes are a viable option for you or you can find a quit-method that may work for you here. If you live or work in the Howard County there are free Smoking Cessation & Tobacco Treatment Programs. Visit the library for resources on smoking and health-related issues.
This is a great time of year to reflect on major issues you would like to change in your life. You do not have to tackle everything at once. In fact, if you successfully tackle the little things it may give you confidence to tackle more major issues.
For me, I may try going to bed earlier one night a week, drinking a glass of water in the morning, taking a walk before lunch or dinner, exchanging a piece of fruit for candy as an afternoon pick me up, or using the stairs at work instead of the elevator to my resolution list. These small changes are more doable, and even I might just succeed this year in keeping a New Year’s resolution. Wish me luck! If some of you still need inspiration here are some resolutions that are popular each year with information on how to successfully achieve these resolutions.
Happy New Year!