Family Health

Take precautions to avoid E. coli bacteria and stay safe in the water

The dictionary defines a germaphobe as any person who is obsessed with cleanliness and defeating bacteria. By that definition, we should all strive to be germaphobes — particularly when it comes to protecting ourselves from dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria.

E. coli bacteria live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. Most types of E. coli are harmless, but a few nasty strains can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Every year in the United States, at least 2,000 people are hospitalized and about 60 die from E. coli infections and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Breastfeeding challenge: Going back to work

You’ve brought a beautiful new baby into the world. You’ve made the decision to breastfeed and have been breastfeeding exclusively for the first weeks of your child’s life. But you’ll be returning to work soon. Now what?

Many new moms face the challenge of going back to work while breastfeeding. Continuing to breastfeed while working presents barriers and brings up many questions: Can I pump milk at work? How will I pump? How often should I pump? Where can I store breast milk at work? What if I have to travel while I work?

Don’t take your good health for granted

Never take good health or good health care for granted. I experienced that firsthand this week when my usually super-good health went downhill fast. I woke up one morning feeling terrific, ready to start the day in my typical zero-to-60 fashion. But a sudden throbbing in my left elbow gave me pause and made me wonder what I might have done to hurt myself. Except for the tiniest of scrapes, neither my husband nor I found much to worry about. Within hours, however, my elbow was swollen — as big as a tennis ball, quite red and hot to the touch. My oldest daughter, Katie, who’s a physician assistant, quickly diagnosed an infection and encouraged me to see my primary care physician. That’s rule No. 1: Everybody should have a primary care physician.

Setting a place for healthy eating

You’ve probably heard of the “Food Guide Pyramid” – that triangle diagram used for teaching the food groups. The Food Guide Pyramid was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1992 as a model for healthful eating. In June 2011, the USDA introduced a new symbol – “MyPlate” – to help us make better food choices. MyPlate is part of a communications initiative based on the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Keeping athletes safe in the heat

Summer is an active time of the year for children, especially high school athletes. When kids are playing sports or enjoying other physical activities outdoors, it’s crucial that parents and coaches ensure children are adequately hydrated in order to avoid heat-related illnesses. It is also essential that schools where athletes are training outdoors have an emergency action plan in place.

Calcium-rich foods

We all want strong bones. One way to help build strong bones is by making sure our diets contain enough calcium, a mineral that is essential for strong bones and other bodily functions. As much as 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our teeth and bones. Calcium works to ensure our bones have adequate structure. Not having enough calcium increases the risk for a number of health problems, including osteoporosis, high blood pressure and colon cancer.

Begin a walking routine to improve your health

Maybe you’re coming back from an injury or your schedule has just been too hectic. For whatever reason, you’re back to square one with your fitness routine. In fact, you don’t even have a routine. Or do you? Walking is the simplest way to get fit — anyone can do it anywhere, anytime.

The average American takes 5,117 steps a day, which is equivalent to walking just over 2.5 miles. Before you start patting yourself on the back, you’ll want to gauge just how close to “average” you are — and then boost your mileage to take full advantage of the health benefits walking offers.

Good hygiene helps keep norovirus away

Have you ever had the “stomach flu”? My family has and it’s the pits. What we commonly call stomach flu is a norovirus infection. Did you know norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 20 million Americans are sickened by norovirus every year, causing up to 71,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths. Norovirus is highly contagious and it can stay in your system for two weeks or longer, even after you feel better. The virus can spread through contaminated food, but it also can live on surfaces, such as countertops and serving utensils, for up to two weeks. The virus can spread quickly in closed places such as daycare centers, nursing homes, dormitories and schools, with most outbreaks in the U.S. occurring between November and April. Norovirus is not related to the virus that causes the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness.