From health.com

Worrying Too Much: It’s easy to get carried away, with all the hype about the scary swine flu virus; however, it’s important to look at things in perspective. Overall, H1N1 has not proven to be anymore of a threat than the regular seasonal flu, and most people who do catch the virus fully recover.

Worrying Too Little: The healthiest approach to flu season is to take a position somewhere between panic and indifference. Typically, high-risk flu patients are at least 65 years old, under age 2, pregnant, or have preexisting medical conditions. But H1N1 seems to be able to cause severe illness in some otherwise healthy children and young adults, and people over age 65 are less likely to get ill. The bottom line: Age group or health status doesn’t make you invincible, and we should all take flu prevention seriously.

Hugging, Kissing, Shaking Hands: Close contact with infected individuals is one of the easiest ways to pick up a virus. That doesn’t mean you should be antisocial all flu season long, but you should be aware of possible transmission opportunities. If you are in a situation where physical hellos or good-byes are necessary, try not to touch your mouth or eyes afterward until you can wash your hands.

Smoking: Smoking cigarettes weakens the tiny disease-fighting hairs tucked inside nasal passages and the lungs, which trap and dispose of germs. This can leave your body more susceptible to attack. Plus, research shows that H1N1 burrows deeper into the lungs than seasonal flu, leading to infections that may be more severe than those caused by the latter.

Hitting The Gym: Some behaviors that in moderate amounts keep you healthy can actually weaken your immune system when taken to the extreme. For example, over exercising can leave your body struggling to cope with added physical stress—especially if you’re not sleeping, hydrating, and fueling your body adequately. Unfortunately, the gym is also a great place to pick up viruses, from the sweaty treadmill to the benches in the locker room; plus, germs likely even catch a ride home on your gym bag. Wipe down the machines and mats before and after you use them.

Drinking Alcohol: A recent study in BMC Immunology found that mice who consume large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time are left with weakened immune systems and might have a harder time fighting off infections for at least 24 hours. Another side effect from drinking too much: Alcohol can quickly and easily dehydrate you, which interferes with your nose’s and throat’s ability to trap germs and expel them in the form of mucus.

Relying Solely On Sanitizing Gel: First, check the ingredients in your hand sanitizer: It should contain 60 to 95 percent alcohol, ethanol, or isopropanol, to work best. Second, don’t replace old-fashioned hand-washing. Hand sanitizers are effective germ killers when a sink is not available, but there is no research to prove they actually kill viruses. Using soap and water is still your best bet to washing away the flu.
Washing Hands Incorrectly: The U.S. earned a measly B- on a recent report card that was issued by the Soap and Detergent Association based on the results of an independent telephone survey. Frequent hand-washing, as often as 10 times a day, is one of the most recommended defenses against the flu, but 39 percent of respondents seldom or never wash after coughing or sneezing. And almost half of the respondents who do wash only do so for 15 seconds or less, despite recommendations to wash for 20 seconds or more. Whistle “Happy Birthday” twice while scrubbing all surfaces on hands and between fingers, and dry hands completely. Turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door with a paper towel to keep hands clean.

Mishandling A Face Mask: If you’re going to wear a mask, make sure you’re using it, and removing it, correctly—or it’s bound to do you little good. Masks accumulate the virus, and you have to be extremely careful taking the mask off. Make sure the mask doesn’t brush against your nose or mouth or eyes; throw it out, and definitely wash your hands after. Remove the mask by the straps or strings in the back so you avoid touching the front of the mask, which will be the most contaminated.

Taking Flu Drugs Prematurely: In the midst of the swine flu panic, some patients have rushed to stock up on antiviral medications like Tamiflu. The majority of people won’t need these drugs—ever—and taking them unnecessarily could increase the risk that the virus will become resistant to these medicines


Have you ever had one of those nights where you just can’t fall asleep, no matter how tired you are? Or, what about when the quality of your sleep is so poor, it feels like you never even shut your eyes? Well, there’s help. Here are a few simple fixes for the three most common sleep problems, from CNN.

• The first sleep problem: night waking. This is when you fall asleep normally but a few hours later you’re wide awake. There are a couple of solutions here. First, look into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to learn some relaxation techniques. You can find a Behavioral Therapist at NACBT.org. The easiest fix is just taking that alarm clock with the bright red numbers off your nightstand. Even a small amount of brightness is strong enough to enter your retina when your eyes are closed, and that sends a signal to your brain that upsets your internal clock and tells you it’s time to be awake. An eight-week study in Finland found that sleep quality improved after just six days without an illuminated alarm clock.

• Next sleep problem is getting up too early. This is when you wake up at four in the morning and are exhausted by dinner time. It can be a vicious cycle, but breaking it is simple. Decide on a morning wake up time, then count backwards eight hours to get your bedtime. Then stick to those times like glue, even on weekends! Getting your body on a regular sleep schedule will increase your energy and make you feel more alert!

• Third common sleep problem: constant worrying. You feel like you just can’t turn your brain off. Stress and insomnia are related, and scientists believe that, in insomniacs, the area of the brain that controls stress is more active at night. So, you need to calm your brain down. Try distracting yourself by concentrating on your breathing, as you do this, your mind calms and you fall asleep.

… If you’re having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, you might have a serious sleep disorder like sleep apnea. So, contact your doctor and describe your symptoms. Know that you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation about 30 million people are suffering with you!


Winter’s just around the corner. While closed windows and doors are a no-brainer when it comes to keeping in the heat, they can also trap unpleasant household smells. So, here’s a quick lesson in odor removal (MSN):

 • Let’s start with a little instant dry cleaning for old clothes: Put a small amount of vodka in a spray bottle and lightly mist the garment. The alcohol kills bacteria without leaving a scent. Costumers use this trick to get the smell of mothballs, sweat, and mildew out of the vintage clothing in their wardrobes. 

 • Whenever you eat an orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit, run the peels through the garbage disposal. You’ll take care of sink stink without the risk harmful fumes.

 • Odor buster #3: Vanilla extract. If you wipe your freezer with a cloth dampened with vanilla, you’ll get rid of all the smells that linger on ice. To disinfect the freezer, use a solution of white vinegar and water. It gets the icebox clean without leaving a “chemical” smell.

 • To deodorize food storage containers, soak plastic ones in warm water and baking soda. For glass jars and dishes, use a mixture of one teaspoon powdered mustard to one quart of warm water. 

 • You can get rid of the musty odor in your basement by using an onion. Just slice it in half, put it on a plate and leave it overnight. The next morning there might be a slight onion smell, but that soon goes away – and takes the musty basement smell with it.

(From Justin) : I would love to hear about your “Easy Odor Removal” method. Comment on this blog and you might hear your method on the air. Just register as a user of this website, it’s free!


It’s important to know what ails you — so you can stop the spread of something serious by staying HOME. So here’s what your symptoms point to, and what you can do about it. We got this from Health magazine.

  http://interprep.com/images/icons/info.png  You have seasonal flu if your fever hits 101 or 102 degrees, and comes with chest discomfort plus major aches and exhaustion. That’s the word from Dr. Niel Schracter, author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu. He says take pain pills for fever and aches, get some rest, and drink lots of liquids. Those who are at a higher risk for flu complications — such as pregnant women, elderly adults and people with chronic illnesses — may need antiviral medications, such as Relenza and Tamiflu.

  http://interprep.com/images/icons/info.png  You have a common cold if you have a runny nose, a little cough, and a low-grade fever — a little high, but under 100 degrees. Your body won’t feel achy, like the flu. You need to stay hydrated, which will boost your immune system and help relieve congestion.

  http://interprep.com/images/icons/info.png  Then there are allergies. If you’re sneezy, itchy, and have a runny nose you may be having an attack. It’s a good idea to keep allergy medicine on hand. Using a saline nasal spray, and breathing steam to keep your sinus passages irrigated, will also help.

  http://interprep.com/images/icons/info.png  How can you tell if you have H1N1? Dr. Schracter says that the H1N1 virus feels a lot like seasonal flu — it may even feel milder — but it often comes with gastro issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea. This makes it even easier to become dehydrated. So again, drink plenty of liquids and follow the standard flu treatment. Also, a characteristic of swine flu is coughing — because it can get in your lungs. So stay home — since swine flu is highly contagious — and call your doctor if you’re in the high-risk category, or you aren’t better after a week. ANY flu can develop into pneumonia, and you want to avoid that.

(From Justin) : I got a fever, for more cowbell! :-) Have a great week and keep washing your hands.


How sharp are your food-safety skills? Check them against these guidelines provided by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a coalition of private groups and public agencies.

Before being cooked, chicken should be rinsed thoroughly under running water and patted dry.

FALSE: Rinsing poultry increases the risk that you’ll splatter salmonella and other contaminants around, outweighing the benefits of washing. Your best bet is to cook it until the meat inside is 165 degrees as measured by a food thermometer.

The best way to make sure a hamburger’s safe to eat is to cook it until the inside meat is brown.

FALSE: Cook ground meat just until a food thermometer says it’s 160 degrees. This will also keep you from overcooking your food.

You should wash cantaloupes and other melons before cutting them.

TRUE — and it’s true for any vegetable with a skin or rind, whether you eat it or not. Your knife blade could carry pathogens into the part you eat.

If you eat something suspicious but haven’t fallen ill after 48 hours, you’re in the clear.

FALSE: Incubation periods for food-borne illnesses range from 12 hours to a week or more; listeria can take up to 70 days.

Cutting boards need to be sanitized in the dishwasher or with chlorine bleach.

TRUE: It’s not necessary every day, but the board should be sanitized. Outside the dishwasher, use soap and hot water, then coat it with a solution of one tablespoon of unscented bleach to one gallon of water. Let it stand a few minutes, then rinse and dab dry with paper towel.

You can make sure sprouts aren’t contaminated by rinsing them thoroughly.

FALSE: The seeds from which sprouts sprout are often contaminated with E. coli or salmonella, and even thorough washing won’t help. People with compromised immune systems in particular should avoid eating raw sprouts.

You shouldn’t ever put hot food in the fridge.

FALSE: If you’re not going to eat it right away, you should divide hot food into small portions in shallow containers and stick them in the fridge. Bacteria multiply at temperatures between 40 and about 140 degrees, and food left in that range for more than about two hours is no longer safe to eat.