Monthly Archives: June 2016

No smoking zone is the best at home

There’s really no debating it: All homes should be smoke-free spaces. Not only does cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoke expose other people in your home to the dangers of secondhand (and third-hand) smoke, it sharply increases the chances of a house fire and makes your home less desirable to live in and visit.

The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is more dangerous than it sounds. Declared a human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke exhaled by the smoker and the smoke coming from the tobacco product itself. This double whammy increases the risk of serious health complications and death.

A smoker in your home compromises his life and the life of everyone around him. And that includes pets: Cats exposed to secondhand smoke have double the risk of developing malignant lymphoma.

Many state governments are taking the health risks of secondhand smoke and indoor air pollution so seriously that they have banned smoking in most public areas, including restaurants, workplaces, and bars. More than half the states and the District of Columbia have put comprehensive smoke-free laws into place.

Some of the specific potential health effects of secondhand smoke include increased risk of:

  • Lung cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Coughing
  • Excess phlegm production
  • Wheezing
  • Ear infection
  • Reduced lung function
  • Severe asthma symptoms

Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous to infants and young children, since their developing bodies are especially sensitive to the effects of secondhand smoke.

A Smoking Ban Should Be Part of Your Fire Safety Plan

Another way smoking in the home can endanger your family is by increasing the chances for a house fire. Smoking-related fires are the leading cause of house fire deaths — just one more excellent reason to ban cigarettes and smoking of any kind in the home.

If that’s not possible, be sure to never allow smoking in bed and carefully dispose of each cigarette that is smoked in and around your home.

What About Third-Hand Smoke?

The smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe not only seeps into hair and clothing, but can also get into rugs, upholstered furniture, curtains, and other fabric surfaces. Once these particles settle in, they stay long after the smoker has finished smoking. This type of long-term effect is now sometimes referred to as “third-hand smoke” — years later, people who were not even acquainted with the original smoker are still breathing in the smoke residue.

Eating Healthy Tips

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.

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.

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.