An Apple a Day

How the drought can impact your best health
August 26, 2015

Riverside County residents are certainly feeling the heat throughout much of the region this summer. But the drought conditions will linger long after the warm temperatures move on.

We’re all doing our part to conserve our water resources with shorter showers, dirty automobiles and brown lawns that are mostly inconvenient and unsightly. Flickr Joyce Cory.jpg

But did you realize that there are also real health concerns associated with the drought? According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, health issues can actually result from the unusually dry conditions:

What can you do to mitigate the drought-related health risks to your family?

First, understand that dry weather conditions pose a significant potential hazard for wildfires. Create a defensible space by clearing your front and back yards of old brush and flammable materials. And use fire-resistant plants, such as succulents and iceplant, in your home landscaping designs in order to minimize fire risk.

Also, be aware that bacteria can pollute ground and surface water when there is no significant rainfall to keep the water flushed and flowing.  If your drinking water comes from a private well, you and your family may be at greater risk for drought-related infectious disease. Check your well regularly for contaminants and check with your local water purveyor to ensure water quality.

Air quality suffers when conditions are dry because of how easily dust and other pollutants can get kicked up into the atmosphere. In the event of poor air quality conditions, remain indoors with recycled air and windows closed until public health officials advise it is safe to be outdoors. And avoid outdoor exercise and activities that will bring bad air into your lungs.

The County of Riverside Department of Public Health wants your best health! Visit us on Twitter @rivcodoc or Google +.  And be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website at www.rivcoph.org.



President Jimmy Carter’s cancer diagnosis spotlights melanoma

August 20, 2015

Former President Jimmy Carter’s revelation today that his cancer originated with a melanoma somewhere on his body offers us all an important reminder to be aware of this potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, the cells that color the skin and make moles. Moles that have a risk of being melanoma tend to be abnormally dark or strangely colored, or have irregular borders.

Read: What does a melanoma look like?

What makes melanoma the deadliest form of skin cancer is its ability to burrow deep and spread to the lymph nodes and other organs as it did for the former president, who indicated that the melanoma has spread to his liver and to four places on his brain. He will begin radiation treatment today.

According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, it is expected that approximately 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Stage I-IV  melanoma in 2015, resulting in nearly 10,000 deaths. Another 63,000 melanoma in situ will be diagnosed.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Since research suggests that nearly 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, it’s best to seek shade and/or limit your time in the sun when possible, avoid tanning beds, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and do a monthly scan of your body to check for suspicious-looking moles, including your fingers, toes and even behind your ears. Your primary care physician or dermatologist can examine them to see if a biopsy is needed.

To learn more about melanoma, its treatment and how to find and receive support, visit www.melanoma.org.

The County of Riverside Department of Public Health wants your best health! Visit us on Twitter @rivcodoc or Google +.  And be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website at www.rivcoph.org.



Play ball! Keep it fun and safe in youth sports

August 13, 2015

Summer is winding down and that means that the fall youth sports season is heating up. Did you realize that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.6 million children up to 19 years old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports and recreation-related injuries?

As parents drag their kids, coolers and lawn chairs to football and soccer fields throughout Riverside County, it’s important to take a time-out for a few safety reminders.

Go to the doctor. Before even stepping onto the field, a physical exam will help to rule out any hidden health issues that could pop up suddenly under exertion. In fact, your school or sports team may insist on it.

Protect your kids. Some youth sports, like football, call for some intense contact. Make sure your child has all the necessary protective gear. These may include: shin and mouth guards, helmets, knee and elbow pads and gloves. Additionally, be certain that your child is wearing all that gear properly for best safety results.

Keep your kids cool. Let’s face it – playing fall sports in Southern California does not necessarily mean that we can expect cooler weather. Hot temperatures and dry Santa Ana winds have a way of kicking up trouble for young athletes. Always apply sunscreen and keep your kids hydrated before, during and after their games.

Be prepared. If your child looks to be in overwhelmed on the field, talk with the coach about finding a position where their abilities will be most appropriately utilized. And then practice at home whenever possible in order to give your child the tools needed to be successful on the field.

Have fun. Playing a youth sport is one of the most exciting and challenging things a kid can do. It grows their physical and teamwork skills and gives their self-esteem a healthy boost, too!

The County of Riverside Department of Public Health wants your best health! Visit us on Twitter @rivcodoc or Google +.  And be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website at www.rivcoph.org.



West Nile Virus cases should not be ignored |
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August
11, 2015

If you have been following the local news, then you know that there have been three confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in Riverside County. They are the first cases to present in 2015.

The good news is the patients are expected to recover.

The not so good news is that too many residents are unaware of the dangers of vector-borne diseases and how devastating they can be to someone’s health.

One of the reasons for this may be that many Southern Californians assume that West Nile Virus is a worry of folks living in the more mosquito-populated areas of the Midwest. 

The fact is mosquitoes become infected with the virus when they feed on infected birds. The virus is then transmitted to humans and animals if they are bitten by that infected mosquito. And that can happen anywhere in the world – including Riverside County. 

West Nile Virus can be serious. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of West Nile Virus can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or even paralysis. The elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system are especially at risk.

What can you do to protect yourself? 

  • Avoid spending time outside when mosquitoes are most active, especially at dawn and dusk, and wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and other protective clothing outside.
  • Apply EPA-registered insect repellent that contains DEET.
  • Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, such as old tires, buckets, flower pots and toys that can support mosquito breeding.

As always, bring your questions and concerns to your health care provider.

The County of Riverside Department of Public Health wants your best health! Visit us on Twitter @rivcodoc or Google +.  And be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website at www.rivcoph.org.



Strap on those backpacks – the school year is about to get underway |Back To Top 

August 7, 2015

School is just around the corner for thousands of Riverside County students and that means it’s time to get our kids ready for the school year.

There are a few things you can do to ease the transition from summer break to the classroom.

The first is to slowly re-establish a bedtime routine that allows for plenty of sleep. The body requires a good 7-8 hours of sleep in order to function well throughout the day. And kids often require more than that because of all the work their bodies are doing to grow.

This is also a good time to phase out the online games and limit television as a way of preparing for designated homework times.

What’s that? The kids are bored? Encourage them to pick up a book (yes, those are still around) and read. Pull out some multiplication flashcards. Or better yet, lead them to interactive and educational website where kids can re-awaken their science, math and reading skills.

Good nutrition is an important part of ensuring a child’s learning success, so shift away from the regular summer fare of hot dogs and French fries and work your way back to a healthy breakfast of whole grain cereals and fruit and lunches and dinners with a balanced mix of protein and vegetables.

Finally and, most important, make sure your child has received all the recommended immunizations before stepping onto campus. Doing so protects your child from harmful and potentially deadly infectious diseases that can spread to your family and to their classmates and teachers as well. Talk to your health care provider today to make sure your children have been properly vaccinated and let him answer all of your concerns and questions.

Here’s to a great school year!

The County of Riverside Department of Public Health wants your best health! Visit us on Twitter @rivcodoc or Google +.  And be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website at www.rivcoph.org.



Float your boat: Stay healthy on your cruise vacation | Back To Top 
 

August 3, 2015

Ah, the cruising life. What could be better than climbing aboard a luxurious ship and leaving all your cares and worries docked behind you?

Cruising to distant, exotic ports is certainly a wonderful experience. But, there are some hidden health dangers that could dampen your vacay. Previous experience tells us that contagious disease has a way of wreaking havoc on cruise lines, no matter how frequently the ships are sanitized. That doesn't mean cruise ships aren't safe and fun, but taking a few reasonable precautions will help avoid the unexpected.

Read on for some cruise travel tips from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):

Get vaccinated: “Regardless of your itinerary, you should be up-to-date on routine vaccines, such as measles/mumps/rubella, varicella, and seasonal flu. Crew members and fellow travelers often come from countries where these diseases are more common than in the United States and where vaccination is not routine,” according to the CDC.

If you travel on shore, other less common vaccinations might be recommended which you might need to get at a specialized travel medicine clinic. The CDC's travelers' health page can help suggest what you might need.

Avoid the bite: Even though malaria is uncommon on cruise ships, local mosquitoes can still get you if you're in port or if you travel on shore. Check the CDC travelers' health page to see if you'll be in an area where malaria is endemic and whether you should take prophylactic medications to prevent it. Most doctors can prescribe them for you. Whether or not you're in a malaria region, however, consider bringing insect repellent and dressing appropriately to prevent other bug bites from making your trip unpleasant. And don't forget -- we still have West Nile mosquitoes here at home!

Wash your hands: Wash your hands with soap and water before eating and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or touching things that other people have touched, such as stair railings. Try not to touch your face. And, if soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer

Visit your doctor: If you are worried that you will become seasick or have a respiratory or other disease, make an appointment with your health care provide to discuss possible medications. And if you take medicine for a chronic illness, make sure that you have enough to cover your trip and even a few days beyond in the event of a delay.

The County of Riverside Department of Public Health wants your best health! Visit us on Twitter @rivcodoc or Google +.  And be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website at www.rivcoph.org.