Prevent Injuries When Clearing Ice and Snow

This is an excerpt from the article, “Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snow Blowing Injuries”  For more information please visit orthoinfo.aaos.org.

Snow removal is more than just another necessary household chore. All that bending and heavy lifting can put you at serious risk for injury. Snow removal can be especially dangerous if you do not exercise regularly.

According to the 2009 US Consumer Product Safety Commission:man_shoveling

  • Approximately 16,500 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually
  • More than 6,000 people were injured using snowblowers

The most common injuries associated with snow removal include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations.

General Tips for Safe Snow Clearing

  • Check with your doctor. Because this activity places high stress on the heart, you should always speak with your doctor before shoveling or snow blowing. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
  • Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the appropriate head coverings, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm socks. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
  • Start early. Try to clear snow early and often. Begin shoveling/snowblowing when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid dealing with packed, heavy snow.
  • Clear vision. Be sure you can see what you are shoveling/snowblowing. Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces.

Understanding Windchill

This is an excerpt from the article, “Winter Weather: Outdoor Safety”  For more information please visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov.

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Understand Wind Chill

The Wind Chill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool.

The Wind Chill Chart below shows the difference between actual air temperature and perceived temperature, and amount of time until frostbite occurs.

windchill_chart

Air Heaters – Usage Tips

The following is an excerpt from the article, “Stay Warm and Safe with Air Heaters.  For more information please visit www.safetyathome.com.

Many families find that portable electric air heaters are an excellent secondary source of heat. To help make sure that your family is safe and secure this winter, follow a few simple safety precautions recommended by UL:

  • Brunette_Woman_Warming_AirHeaterforegroundAir heaters on the market today are manufactured with such safety features as cut-off switches to turn heaters off if they accidentally tip over and heating-element guards to help prevent contact with combustible materials.
  • Pay special attention to children if there’s an air heater in the room. Remind children not to poke their fingers or objects through the protective guard. Even the slightest contact with a heating coil can cause a severe electric shock or burn, or start a fire.
  • Avoid using an extension cord with your air heater. If you must use an extension cord, it should have a rating 1.25 times the wattage rating of the heater. For example, you should use a cord rated at least 1,875 watts with a 1,500 watt heater.
  • Unplug your air heater when not in use.

We hope these safety tips will help keep you and your family safer and warmer while using electric air heaters. When you need peace of mind, look for UL.

What to Do If You Have Frostbite

The following is an excerpt from the article, “Winter Weather: Frostbite” for more information please visit cdc.gov.

What to Do

If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care. Because frostbite and hypothermia both result from exposure, first determine whether the victim also shows signs of hypothermia, as described previously. Hypothermia is a more serious medical condition and requires emergency medical assistance.

If  there is frostbite but no sign of hypothermia and immediate medical care is not available, proceed as follows:

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes—this increases the damage.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm—not hot—water (the temperature should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body).
  • Or, warm the affected area using body heat. For examOverShoulder_Brunette_Woman_Warming_ByFireple, the heat of an armpit can be used to warm frostbitten fingers.
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage it at all. This can cause more damage.
  • Don’t use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace, or radiator for warming. Affected areas are numb and can be easily burned.

These procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and frostbite should be evaluated by a health care provider. It is a good idea to take a first aid and emergency resuscitation (CPR) course to prepare for cold-weather health problems. Knowing what to do is an important part of protecting your health and the health of others.

Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. By preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.

Recognizing Frostbite

The following is an excerpt from the article, “Winter Weather: Frostbite” for more information please visit cdc.gov.

  • Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing.
  • Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes.
  • Seek medical care if you think you have frostbite.

man_white_warminghishands

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

Recognizing Frostbite

At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect
any exposed skin—frostbite may be beginning. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite:

  • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • numbness

A victim is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.

Stay Warm and Safe With Air Heaters

The following is an excerpt from the article, “Stay Warm and Safe with Air Heaters.  For more information please visit www.safetyathome.com.

Many families find that portable electric air heaters are an excellent secondary source of heat. To help make sure that your family is safe and secure this winter, follow a few simple safety precautions recommended by UL:

  • Carefully read the operating instructions and markings the manufacturer includes with the air heater before using the product. These instructions contain important information about how to use the product safely and maintain it properly.
  • Do not use the air heater unless you’ve carefully read the instructions. Avoid placing the air heater near water. The box or the instruction manual will indicate whether an air heater is intended for use in locations such as bathrooms or outdoors — if this information is missing, do not use the heater in either of these areas.
  • Carefully inspect your heater and its electrical cord and plug before use. Never use a heater that is damaged.
  • Use your air heater only as a supplementary source of heat. These devices are not intended to replace your home’s heating system and should not be used unless their use is supervised by an adult.
  • To prevent a fire, keep combustibles such as draperies, clothing and furniture at a safe distance — at least three feet away — from the air heater.

Antiviral Medications are a Second Line of Defense Against Flu

This is an excerpt from the article, “Flu Activity Picks up Nationwide.”  For more information please visit cdc.gov.

antiviral_graphicSo far this season, most (91%) of the influenza viruses that have been analyzed at CDC are like the viruses included in the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine. The match between the vaccine virus and circulating viruses is one factor that impacts how well the vaccine works. But Bresee cautions that other factors are involved.

“While influenza vaccination offers the best protection we have against influenza, it’s still possible that some people may become ill despite being vaccinated,” says Bresee. “Health care providers and the public should remember that influenza antiviral medications are a second line of defense against influenza.” (For more information about why people may become sick with influenza after vaccination, see 2012-2013 season Questions and Answers.)

CDC has recommendations on the use of antiviral medications (sold commercially as “Tamiflu®” and “Relenza®”) to treat influenza illness. Antiviral treatment, started as early as possible after becoming ill, is recommended for any patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious influenza-related complications, including young children, people 65 and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Treatment should begin as soon as influenza is suspected, regardless of vaccination status or rapid test results and should not be delayed for confirmatory testing.

To estimate how well influenza vaccines work each year, CDC has been working with researchers at universities and hospitals since the 2003-2004 influenza season conducting studies using laboratory-confirmed influenza as the outcome. Interim VE estimates will be published as soon as they are available. Bresee concludes, “These estimates will provide more information about how well this season’s vaccine is working.”

Radon Myths #2

This is an excerpt from the article, “Citizens Guide to Radon.”  For more information please visit cdc.gov.

radon_element_symbol_inverted

MYTH: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.

FACT: It’s not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.

MYTH: Everyone should test their water for radon.

FACT: Although radon gets into some homes through water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If your water comes from a public water supply that uses ground water, call your water supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1 800-426-4791 for information on testing your water.

MYTH: It’s difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.

FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is some times a good selling point.

MYTH: I’ve lived in my home for so long, it doesn’t make sense to take action now.

FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you’ve lived with a radon problem for a long time.

MYTH: Short-term tests can’t be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.

FACT: A short-term test, followed by a second short-term test* can be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4 pCi/L, the less certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk. Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below.

* If the radon test is part of a real estate transaction, the result of two short-term tests can be used in deciding whether to mitigate. For more information, see EPA’s “Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon“.

Radon Myths

This is an excerpt from the article, “Citizens Guide to Radon.”  For more information please visit cdc.gov.

radon_element_symbol

MYTH: Scientists aren’t sure radon really is a problem.

FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of prevent

able lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.

MYTH: Radon testing is difficult, time consuming and expensive.

FACT: Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon test company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.

MYTH: Homes with radon problems can’t be fixed.

FACT: There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs; check with one or more qualified mitigators. Call your state radon office for help in identifying qualified mitigation contractors.

MYTH: Radon affects only certain kinds of homes.

FACT: House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homs of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes.

MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.

FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is to test.

H3N2 Viruses – Responsible for the High Rates?

This is an excerpt from the article, “Flu Activity Picks up Nationwide.”  For more information please visit cdc.gov.

CDC tracks influenza activity year-round and publishes a report weekly on Fridays. According to this surveillance, the proportion of people seeing their health care provider for ILI in the United States has been elevated for four consecutive weeks, climbing sharply from 2.8% to 5.6% during that time. Last season, which was relatively mild, ILI peaked at 2.2 percent. Comparatively, during 1998-1999 and 2003-2004, which were moderately severe seasons, ILI peaked at 7.6%. During 2007-2008, another moderately severe season, ILI peaked at 6.0%. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, ILI peaked at 7.7%.

h2n2

While the timing of influenza seasons also is impossible to predict, based on past experience it’s likely that flu activity will continue for some time. During the past 10 influenza seasons, ILI remained at or above baseline for an average of 12 consecutive weeks, with a range of 1 week (2011-2012 season) to 16 weeks (2005-2006 season). During the pandemic, the proportion
Twenty-nine states and New York City are now reporting high levels of influenza-like-illness and another 9 states are reporting moderate levels of ILI. Ten states are still reporting low or minimal ILI. (These are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wisconsin). The District of Columbia and 2 states did not have enough information to calculate an activity level. of visits to doctors for ILI remained above the national baseline for 19 consecutive weeks.

Information about flu-related hospitalizations is collected from 15 states to calculate a rate of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations. Right now, cumulative influenza hospitalization rates are 8.1 per 100,000 people. According to Bresee, “This is high for this time of year.”

Influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reportable to CDC since the 2004-2005 season. To date, CDC has received reports of 18 pediatric deaths this season. More information about reported pediatric deaths is available at the Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality web application.

One factor that may indicate increased severity this season is that the predominant circulating type of influenza virus is influenza A (H3N2) viruses, which account for about 76 percent of the viruses reported. Bresee explains “typically ‘H3N2 seasons’ have been more severe, with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, but we will have to see how the season plays out.”