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This past week it seems as though Fall has arrived in full force. The cooler temperatures, shorter days, changing leaves, and farmers working in the fields into the wee hours of the night signals Fall is here to stay. With the arrival of Fall, many think of football, pumpkins, bon fires, sweaters, as well as the upcoming holiday season. One of the most important, and often overlooked aspects of Fall, is the flu vaccine and remaining healthy throughout the holidays and into Spring.

Having worked in healthcare for over 22 years prior to joining ExteTeddy bear with tissues, thermometer, and cough medicinension, I would never think of NOT getting my flu shot. I witnessed first-hand some of the serious consequences of the flu, especially in those who are at high risk for contracting it. I consider my health to be better than average, but many of the people I interact or come into contact with may be at increased risk. The CDC considers the following groups to be at high risk for flu complications:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially younger than 2 years old;
  • People 65 and older;
  • People with asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions;
  • People with blood, kidney, liver, endocrine, and metabolic disorders, including diabetes mellitus;
  • People who have a weakened immune system due to disease or medication;
  • Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The CDC also suggests these reasons to get a flu shot:

  • Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu illnesses and reduce the risk of flu hospitalization, ICU admission and even death in children.
  • Flu vaccine also is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes).
  • In addition to helping to protect pregnant woman from flu illness and hospitalization, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy has been shown to help protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth, before he or she is old enough to be vaccinated.
  • A 2017 study showed that flu vaccine can be life-saving in children.
  • Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick. (For example a 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.)

Most of us probably know someone who is skeptical about getting a flu shot. The CDC has listed some of the misconceptions people may have about the flu and the flu vaccine. So, if the millions of people who are hospitalized each year with complications related to the flu are not enough to convince you or those you know and love, perhaps knowing the facts about the flu and the flu shot will.

Written by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Amy Meehan, MPH, Healthy People Program Specialist

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control (9/24/18). Vaccination Remains Your Best Flu Protection. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/flu/index.html

Centers for Disease Control (9/25/18). Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.html

Centers for Disease Control (10/2/18). Seasonal Flu Shot. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm

https://pixabay.com/en/allergy-cold-disease-flu-girl-18656/

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The weather outside is very cold and I begin to feel that scratchy throat. I am seeing my daughter’s nose running and hear her squashcomplaining about her ear hurting.  Amidst the holiday celebrations and more contact with friends and family, contagious illnesses are making their rounds.  Besides the number one action of washing our hands frequently, how can we best prepare our bodies to fight off these pesky germs?  The American Institute for Cancer Research has a helpful article, “Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables.”  What a timely topic!  So what are the recommended tips we should put into practice?

Make sure you are eating the rainbow.

  • Deep orange vegetables like pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet potatoes will provide you with Vitamin A and fiber.  See a great reduced fat recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole below.
  • Red Peppers will provide Vitamin E and Vitamin C while tomatoes will provide Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A).
  • Deep red, purple and blue berries and all the varieties of apples are also rich in antioxidants.
  • Green broccoli, mustard and turnip greens (and others), spinach and brussel sprouts all provide a variety of wonderful vitamins and minerals that keep our body healthier and able to battle infections.

Eat a variety of foods and do not overcook them.

  • Red meats and poultry, whole and fortified grains and breads provide the minerals zinc and selenium that help to build our immunity.
  • Grapes, beans, onions, etc.  are part of the many fresh fruits and vegetables and are nature’s vitamin pills.  In addition to their great taste they help to maintain our healthy lifestyles.
  • Overcooking and boiling our foods causes vitamins to escape and be poured down the drain.

Flavor foods naturally.

  • Ginger is known to fight inflammation and colds.  Other herbs and spices also help to keep our bodies running strong.

These food tips along with regular physical activity and drinking lots of water to keep us hydrated will not prevent every sneeze or sniffle this frosty season, but it should help us to prevent some illnesses and shorten the symptoms of the ones that get us down.

Try this tasty slimmed down version of sweet potato casserole for some great Vitamin A:

Sweet Potato Casserole

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

3 egg whites

1⁄2 cup sugar

12 ounces evaporated milk, nonfat

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon ginger

Instructions

1. Rinse sweet potatoes in cold running water and pierce with a fork.

2. Microwave sweet potatoes on full power until tender, about 15 minutes. Turn them half way during baking.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove skin from sweet potatoes and mash with hand beaters or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

4. Pour mixture in an 8 inch square baking pan. Bake until casserole is firm in the center, about 40 minutes.

5. Remove pan from oven. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then cut into 10 squares.

6. Serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers.

Notes:  You may want to experiment with using canned sweet potatoes.

Sources: Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables, (2013).  American Institute of Cancer Research.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=17467&news_iv_ctrl=2303

Super Foods for Optimal Health, (2013). WebMD.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health

Sweet Potato Casserole, (2013). United States Department of Agriculture:  SNAP-Ed connection.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/recipes/sweet-potato-casserole

Author:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region, spires.53@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Liz Smith, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, NorthEast Region, smith.3993@osu.edu

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