In Case You Missed It: Favorite Posts of 2021

Best of 2021

Year’s end is a good time to reflect on the events of the past 12 months.

The Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) published about 30 posts to its Public Health Matters blog in 2021. Most of them include suggestions for how you can prepare for emergencies of all shapes and sizes.

In case you missed it: Here are some of our favorite posts from 2021.

Prep Your Mental Health for an Emergency

A man sits in the woods with his eyes closed.Traumatic events and most emergencies are beyond your control. You can, however, prepare your mental health for the stress of an emergency. Practice self-care, develop coping skills, and make social connections before an emergency happens. Taking care of yourself can also better equip you to take care of others.

This post suggests ways you can prepare your mental health for an emergency. They include practicing gratitude, staying connected with friends and family, and learning relaxation techniques like meditation.

Home Alone: Prepare Kids for Emergencies

Dialing 911 on a cellphoneMany children don’t have adult supervision 100% of the time. Parents and caregivers have jobs, errands, and other responsibilities that require them to leave their kids home alone sometimes.

Emergencies and no-notice disasters can happen when kids are home alone. This post includes tips from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services for how to prepare children to call 911 in an emergency.

Food Preservation: Home Canning Safety

Glass jars in a hot water bath.

Many of us have discovered new hobbies during the pandemic. Some found self-care in gardening and preserving the literal fruits—and vegetables—of their labors.

Food preservation is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of produce, meats, and seafood. It’s a practical skill that you can learn and use to supplement your emergency food supply. But it can be risky—or even deadly—if not done correctly. This post includes information on proper canning techniques.

Be Prepared for a Day at the Beach

A green flag.A “day at the beach” can turn into anything but if you aren’t prepared. Rip currents, ultraviolet (UV) rays, and harmful algal blooms are a few of the dangers to be aware of before setting foot on the sand or in the surf.

Swimming in the ocean isn’t like swimming in a pool. This summertime post includes a list of different things you should know before you go to the beach. They include knowing how to escape a rip current and the meanings of different beach warning flags.

Must-Haves for Your First-Aid Kit

First-aid supplies.First-aid kits make it possible for ordinary people to help until professional help arrives. That’s important because family, friends, coworkers, etc.—not first responders—are often first on the scene in a medical emergency.

Owning a well-stocked first-aid kit and the practical skill to use its contents can save a life. This post lists suggested supplies to keep in your first-aid kit. It also recommends practical skills you can learn and use to protect yourself and others during an emergency.

Volunteers Prepare for Another Season of Disaster Response, Relief Work

Red Cross volunteer Gaenor Speed feeds a dog in a carrier.This post was published by CPR in partnership with the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The author introduces us to Gaenor Speed, a volunteer with the Red Cross South Florida Region.

Speed had responded to more than 20 disasters across the country going into the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Volunteering with a volunteer organization active in disaster is one way you can get involved in your community.

Emergency Preparedness Tips for Parents of Children with Special Healthcare Needs

A young girl in sunglasses enjoying the beach.Emergency preparedness can be stressful for all families, especially those with children with special healthcare needs. Children with special healthcare needs may have:

  • A hard time moving from one place to another.
  • Urgent or constant medical needs.
  • Difficulty communicating.
  • Trouble with transitioning to different situations.

This post was written in observance of National Autism Awareness Month in April. It emphasizes the importance of emergency action planning. Knowing what to do during an emergency can help maintain calm and keep your family safe.

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Get Involved with Your Neighbors During Hi Neighbor Month

A person pushing a doorbell button.

December is Hi Neighbor Month.

Social connections are important to your personal health preparedness. The relationships we build with others are ties that bind during an emergency. One of the more important social connections you can make is with your neighbors.

The Importance of Neighbors

Neighbors can be an important source of assistance in the days after an emergency. Because they live close—maybe even next door—neighbors might be your first and best option for help after a tornado or during something like a power outage.

Research shows that people who think they’re prepared for disasters often aren’t as prepared as they think. Forty-six percent of people surveyed by FEMA expect to rely heavily on their neighbors for help within the first 72 hours after an emergency.(1)

Yes, ask your neighbors for help if you need it, but—if possible—try to be the helper. The more prepared neighbors are to meet the basic and personal needs of their families on their own, the more resilient the community.

Be a Good Neighbor

There’s no science to being a good neighbor. But there are things you can do to create a feeling of community where you live. Here are some neighborly suggestions on how you can build trust with your neighbors.

  • Introduce yourself. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2018 found that most Americans (57%) knew only some of their neighbors.(2) Starting an initial introduction with neighbors you don’t know can help them and you feel more comfortable about asking for help.
  • Show kindness. Look for small ways you can be kind to your neighbors. For example, offer to watch their house, collect mail, put out trash cans, or water their yard while they are on vacation.(3)
  • Be a responsible pet owner. Use a leash in public and clean up after them properly. Cleaning up after your dog helps to keep the environment clean and reduces the risk of diseases spreading to people and other animals.(4)
  • Lead by example. Pick a regular time to take a walk around the neighborhood. Use your walk to meet new neighbors and model community-minded behaviors, such as picking up trash or litter.(3)

Other simple ways to build goodwill with neighbors include maintaining the exterior of the house and lawn, keeping the noise down, and respecting property lines and personal space.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

People who live in communities in which members are regularly involved in each other’s lives are more empowered to help one another after an emergency.(5) Here are some ways you can get involved in your community.

  • Offer to help your neighbors, especially older adults and people who live alone or with a disability or chronic disease or rely on electricity-dependent equipment, prepare for emergencies. You can offer to help them collect supplies, sign up for evacuation assistance, and collect and protect important paperwork.
  • Join neighborhood groups on social networking sites.
  • Volunteer with an organization active in disaster, such as your local Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
  • Emergency plan with neighbors. Just 13% of respondents to FEMA’s 2021 National Household Survey said they plan with neighbors.(6) But involving trusted neighbors in your emergency action planning can help improve your resilience. At a minimum and if possible, exchange contact information so you can reach each other in an emergency.

Learn more ways to prepare your health for emergencies.

Resources

References

  1. https://www.ready.gov/neighbors
  2. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/05/22/how-urban-suburban-and-rural-residents-interact-with-their-neighbors/
  3. https://www.apachejunctionaz.gov/
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/dogs.html
  5. https://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Pages/community-resilience.aspx
  6. https://fema-community-files.s3.amazonaws.com/2021-National-Household-Survey.pdf

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Burn Institute Teaches Kids Burn Prevention, Fire Safety

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

A cast of green and purple puppets breaks into song. The audience of 3-year-olds responds as you’d expect, by dancing in their seats.

Puppets, song, and dance are how the performers of “Let’s Stay Safe from Fires & Burns” introduce preschoolers to the topics of fire safety and burn prevention. Puppets named Greg and Jen teach children about the dangers of matches. “Mr. Match” emphasizes the importance of stop-drop-and-roll.

After the show, students receive bags of educational materials, including coloring books, stickers, and a safety checklist to share with their families.

“Burns Don’t Discriminate”

The Burn Institute in San Diego leads the effort to reduce burn injuries and empower people with burn injuries in the area. They place particular focus on children.

Susan Day is the Burn Institute’s executive director. “Burns affect people of all ages,” she said. “Burn and fire prevention education can never start too early.”

Children age 5 and under have more than double the risk of dying in a fire than any other age group. The rate of child deaths from burns is seven times higher in low to middle-income countries, as compared to high-income, per the World Health Organization.(1)

Tessa Haviland is the institute’s director of marketing and events. “Burns don’t discriminate based on any age, demographic, socioeconomic status, or anything like that,” she said. “So, it’s really important that we reach all communities.”

Fire-Safe Kids

In 2009, the Burn Institute developed the Fire-Safe Kids program in collaboration with the local fire department and the University of California San Diego Burn Center. The goal is to teach kindergarteners through third graders about fire safety.

The Burn Institute’s team of staff, interns, and volunteers tailor programs to the needs of different age groups and communities. Puppets and songs are used with young children. Presenters rely on active storytelling and games to teach older kids. These presentations tell the story of three friends and their dog as they learn about best fire practices, escape plans, and burn management.

The program was expanded in 2015 to include fourth through sixth graders and incorporate topics like kitchen safety, the risks of electricity, and the consequences of fire-play. Maria Leushina is a former intern at the Burn Institute who now leads Fire-Safe Kids as the prevention education coordinator.

“We keep the presentations interactive,” Leushina said. “We ask the kids questions as we go. We have them demonstrate stop-drop-and-roll, crawling to a door, and checking it with the back of their hand. We also have some videos as well.”

A Family Approach

Tessa Haviland underscores the importance of taking a family approach to fire prevention and emergency preparedness.

“When an emergency happens, there’s not always time to sit down and make sure that everyone knows [the plan],” Haviland said. “If everyone’s part of the [planning] process, they’ll know what to do, where to go, and how to get out of the house.”

For more information on how to make a home fire escape plan, visit the Ready Campaign website.

Inclusion Creates Community

In its outreach efforts, the Burn Institute also strives to bring down societal and language barriers. The Institute recently added Spanish captions to all the Fire-Safe Kids slides. Pre-recorded presentations are available in multiple languages. And the puppet show is performed in English and Spanish.

The Burn Institute also leads outreach efforts to help people with burn injuries and survivors of fires cope with trauma. The institute hosts support groups, holds retreats, and offers specialized programming to help people care for each other and heal.

“The trauma of a burn doesn’t end when you leave the hospital; some of that emotional and long-term scarring can last throughout a lifetime,” Haviland said. “The commitment of the Burn Institute to form communities for these burn survivors [so they] have a safe space where they’re able to connect and mentor each other about the struggles, but also [share] the successes that they have––it’s something truly motivational.”

References

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/burns
  2. https://www.kidsdata.org/topic/765/linguistically-isolated65/table#

Resources

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Project Firstline Reaches Frontline Healthcare Workforce with Infection Control Training

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing gaps in infection control knowledge and understanding among the frontline healthcare workforce. Since the onset of the pandemic, healthcare-associated infections and antibiotic-resistant infections have increased, reversing national progress made before 2020.

Infectious disease threats like Ebola, COVID-19, and antibiotic resistance will continue to emerge. It’s more important than ever that we equip our nation’s healthcare workforce with the infection control knowledge they need to protect themselves, their patients, and their communities.

One year ago, this month, CDC launched Project Firstline. Project Firstline provides engaging, innovative, and effective infection control education and training for U.S. frontline healthcare workers.

Meeting the Needs of the Diverse Healthcare Workforce

Project Firstline’s innovative content is designed for all healthcare workers, regardless of their previous training or educational background. The program’s training and educational materials provide critical infection control information in a format that best meets healthcare workers’ needs.

During its first year, Project Firstline and its partners hosted more than 300 educational events on infection control and developed more than 130 educational products. The products are accessible on a variety of digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and CDC and partner websites. Products currently available on the CDC Project Firstline site include:

Maximizing Impact through Partnerships

Project Firstline brings together academic, public health, and healthcare partners plus 64 state, local, and territorial health departments to provide infection control educational resources to healthcare workers nationwide.

Our partners have used a diverse range of products and activities to reach healthcare workers with tailored infection control information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these activities include Twitter chats, podcasts, videos,  and virtual training events simulcast and translated into multiple languages.

Additionally, Project Firstline launched the Community College Collaborative in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the League of Innovation in the Community College. The program is integrating enhanced infection control content into the health programs of community college classrooms. The program was piloted this summer with faculty cohorts from 16 participating colleges across a range of community college settings. Faculty came together to tailor the infection control curriculum for each professional area, with a plan to phase it into their coursework. Professional areas included:

  • emergency medical services
  • respiratory care
  • nursing
  • practical nursing and nursing assistants
  • medical assisting

This effort will help ensure that the future healthcare workforce starts their careers with key infection control knowledge to protect themselves and their patients.

The Future of Project Firstline

Project Firstline aims to become the go-to resource for infection control among healthcare workers. It will focus on building a strong culture of infection control within all healthcare facilities.

Using insights learned during its first year, the program will create a new suite of readily available and easy-to-consume education materials. The new materials will be designed to help strengthen infection prevention and control capacities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Healthcare Workers “Pop Up” to Help Vaccinate in IL Communities

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

The sound of live music and the smell of fried food filled the air on a warm July evening in Moline, Illinois’ Hispanic Floreciente neighborhood. Peggy Newkirk, 73, a retired nurse practitioner, stands behind a folding table in the shade with other volunteers.

Most people crowd to Mercado on Fifth—a weekly open-air cultural fest and market—in the summer to shop, eat, and dance. But Newkirk and her fellow volunteers were there with other plans—to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. “We make it as convenient as possible so that if somebody is even considering it, you’re right there before they have a chance to change their mind,” Newkirk said.

“Pop Ups” Put Shots in Arms

The Rock Island County Health Department has held pop-up vaccine clinics at Mercado on Fifth and at community gathering places in other minority neighborhoods across Rock Island and Moline. The health department also held clinics at the Islamic Center of Quad Cities in Moline and the Second Baptist Church in Rock Island.

About 42% of the population of Rock Island County was fully vaccinated as of August 31, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.(1) About 52% of people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.(2)

Nationally, vaccination rates are lower on average among people from racial and ethnic minority groups, according to CDC.(3) The goal of the pop-up vaccine clinics in Rock Island County is to reach disproportionately affected communities and remove barriers to vaccination access.

The clinics were run by health department staff and Rock Island County Medical Reserve Corps volunteers. Most volunteers are retired healthcare workers like Newkirk. They’re trained to fill the gap of first responder and medical staff shortages in emergencies.

“We’re just trying to reach anyone and everyone we can,” said Kate Meyer, manager of emergency planning and response for the health department. “And we couldn’t have done all of our response without the Medical Reserve Corps.”

“Like Giving People Hope.”

Deborah Freiburg, 70, is another Medical Reserve Corps member. She retired in Rock Island after 40 years as a nurse at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “Going from working such a heavy job and just all of a sudden retiring, you can’t just sit at home,” she said.

When Freiburg’s planned trip to the Galapagos fell through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she called the health department and offered to help, first as a contract tracer, then later at the vaccine clinics.

Things were hectic at first. Freiburg remembers standing for six hours at a time in an ice-covered parking lot outside the Tax Slayer Center, the site of Rock Island County’s first mass vaccination clinics. Her job was to monitor vaccine recipients for adverse reactions.

People poured into the clinics. They came by car, bus, and on foot. The health department partnered with public transit company that serves Rock Island and Moline, to provide free bus rides to vaccine appointments. Once dropped off at a clinic parking lot, volunteers would pick up people with mobility issues in golf carts. Peggy Newkirk remembers a family of three generations that came together to get their vaccines.

One man told Freiburg he had waited in his car overnight for his shot. “It was the most exciting thing,” Freiburg said. “Because, you know, it was like giving hope to people. No matter how cold it was outside, or how long you were on your feet, everybody was just excited to be part of this part of history.”

Volunteers and staff were giving out 800 or more vaccine doses each day earlier this year, but the numbers have dropped. Still, regular clinics are set to continue indefinitely.

Hurdles of Hearts and Minds

Many factors influence vaccine decision-making, including cultural, social, and political factors; individual and group factors; and vaccine-specific factors.(3) Newkirk said some of her family members won’t get the shot, despite her best efforts to build COVID-19 vaccine confidence.

Newkirk is undeterred. Confidence in the vaccines leads to more people getting vaccinated, which leads to fewer COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. “Everybody wants to get society back to normal and the best way to do that is to get the people who aren’t vaccinated, vaccinated,” she said.

References

  1. https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/vaccinedata?county=Rock%20Island
  2. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations_vacc-total-admin-rate-total
  3. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccination-demographic
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/vaccinate-with-confidence.html

Resources

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Summer Camp Inspires, Prepares Students for Medical Careers

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

Students in Dr. Abdullah Hasan Pratt’s emergency preparedness program have seen friends and family die. They’ve been in positions to help others during health emergencies but didn’t know how.

Pratt is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Chicago. He started the Medical Careers Exposure and Emergency Preparedness program in 2018. His purpose is to address health disparities in some of Chicago’s most underserved communities.

The South Side communities that neighbor the University of Chicago campus rank among the highest in the city for heart disease, strokes, and incidents of gun violence.(1) Pratt said the program teaches teens who live in those areas the practical skills they need to stay calm and respond in a medical emergency.

Inspiring Leaders

“Emergency preparedness skills help empower them to do something, to act, to be a leader when these situations happen,” Pratt said. The seven-week summer program comes at no cost to the students. Each session includes a lecture, followed by a practical component that puts the students’ new skills to the test. Weekly topics vary and include first aid, clinical skills, doctor-patient interaction, and medical career advice.

Samantha Morris is a rising second-year medical student from New Orleans. She said the opportunity to engage with local communities in Chicago was a reason that she got involved with the program.

“I love teaching and enjoy interacting with students,” said Morris, after showing two of the program’s participants how to take a blood pressure reading. She said the practical sessions help students gain confidence in their skills.

The program includes a medical careers exposure component. Pratt said it aims to address the disparities within healthcare professions in the community. “There’s a paucity of young doctors that actually come from the community that they advocate for,” he said.

Pratt explains the driving forces behind the program are the medical school and community volunteers. They come from similar neighborhoods in Chicago and across the U.S.

“How often do you get someone who’s first generation? How often do you get someone who comes from Roseland or Englewood? How often do you get someone who’s lost a brother and four of their closest best friends to gun violence?” he said.

Having volunteers and medical professionals that can relate to the students personally helps the program succeed.

“I think that’s why you don’t see as many of these programs,” Pratt said. “Because it takes an intimate knowledge of the problems almost to the point where you’ve suffered. You’ve been traumatized, you are no different than your patients, no different than these students. I don’t see them as any different than me.”

Building Relationships

The program works to foster long-term relationships and mentorship that encourages participants to give back to the community throughout their careers.

“And that’s what I want for them. I want them to look up one day and say, ‘That’s my big sister, and now they’re a young doctor or nurse practitioner, and they can now collaborate on things,’ but it’s been built for years, that relationship,” Pratt said.

It’s not just the program participants who benefit from the mentorship. The volunteers, all of whom are at different stages of their medical careers, are mentees to the students and each other. Pratt sees the benefits of mentorship first-hand. “We’re continuing to guide them in their careers,” he said. “They’re meeting people who are going to help them become better applicants, better candidates to get into the schools or the professions that they choose.”

Nycholle Warne is a certified nursing assistant who joined the program as a volunteer to give back to the community. She said if a program like this had been available to her in high school, she’d be further along in her career.

“The resources, support, and reaching out to people put you in the right direction,” Warne said. With Pratt’s guidance, she recently started working towards her master’s in nursing.

Pratt’s program prioritizes the students rather than overheads. Free use of university facilities and donated equipment help him keep the focus on preparing teens in disproportionately affected communities. Pratt would like to see the program replicated in cities across the U.S. He hopes that other communities with limited resources can create programs inspired by what they’ve built in Chicago.

“A dream of ours is that any student fresh off the streets can hear about what we do, go to our website, and be linked to the corresponding programs,” Pratt said. “My goal is to connect them with people who they can say ‘I’m her. I want to be him. I’m already him. He walked my shoes. He did it. I can do it.’”

References

  1. https://chicagohealthatlas.org/indicators

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Create Co(i)mmunity. Get Vaccinated.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an annual observance highlighting the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.

Life has been anything but routine lately. A sometimes overlooked result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people have missed routine medical checkups, routine screenings, and recommended vaccinations.

Recommended vaccines

Vaccines aren’t just for children. Adults need them to avoid getting and spreading certain serious diseases that can result in missed work, medical bills, and problems taking care of others, as well as serious illness, or even death.(1)

Vaccines for adults are recommended based on different factors like a person’s age, health, lifestyle, jobs, and travel. All adults need:

  • Flu vaccine. An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone but is especially important for adults with certain chronic health conditions, pregnant people, and those who are 65 years and older.
  • Tdap vaccine: If they have never gotten one before, a Tdap vaccine helps protect against pertussis (whooping cough). Pregnant people should get a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.
  • Td vaccine:(tetanus, diphtheria) or Tdap shot every 10 years.(1)
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): If they are 65 years and older or 19–64 years old and have certain health conditions or smoke cigarettes. In addition, adults 65 years and older may discuss and decide, with their clinician, to receive a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against serious illnesses like meningitis, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.
  • Shingles vaccine: Two doses of shingles vaccine for everyone 50 years of age and older. Your risk of shingles and complications increases as you age. Shingles vaccine provides strong protection from shingles and long-term nerve pain.
  • HPV vaccine: HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger. For adults aged 27 years and older, talk with your doctor about HPV vaccine.
  • COVID-19 vaccine: CDC recommends vaccination for all adults and children of certain ages.(2)

Take this quiz to find out what other vaccines may be recommended for you. Then talk with your doctor to make sure you get the vaccines that are right for you. Some adults with specific health conditions should not get certain vaccines or should wait to get them.(1)

Staying up to date on vaccinations helps protect you and others in your family and community. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans get sick and some die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.(3)

Vaccine records

Today, people move, travel, and change healthcare providers often. This can make it hard to keep an accurate vaccination record. If you don’t have copies of your vaccination records, ask for help from:

  • Your current or previous doctor or medical provider
  • Your parents or caregivers
  • Your high school or college health services group
  • Previous employers (including the military) that may have required vaccinations
  • Your state health department to see if they can direct you to their immunization registry

It’s a good idea to try and keep track of your own vaccinations. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or vaccination provider for a vaccination record form or download one. Take it with you to health visits. Ask your vaccination provider to sign and date the form for each vaccine you receive.(4)

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, you should get a small, white card with information about which vaccine you received, when you received it, and where you received it. This card is a vaccination record.(5). As such, it is important that you take steps to check and protect it:

  1. Check your card to make sure everything is correct.
  2. Take a picture of the front and back of the card with your cellphone or a camera.
  3. Use plastic envelopes for vaccine cards. Lamination is not recommended in case future shots are recommended. A photocopy can be laminated.
  4. Store your card in a secure, fireproof, and water-resistant bin or safe.

Vaccination records are examples of important paperwork that you need to collect and protect. Keeping a record and storing it in a safe place can save you time and unnecessary hassle later.

Important paperwork

The term “important paperwork” applies to any documents and personal data that you might need in an emergency or disaster.

What to collect

How to protect

Once you’ve collected your important paperwork, take steps to proofread and protect it. Store paperwork someplace that is a) easily accessible and b) safe from theft, fire, flood, and other emergencies.

Some ways to keep your important paperwork safe and secure include:

  • Scanning or saving to your computer important paperwork and personal items, like family photos. Creating digital duplicates of originals makes it easier to share the information, helps preserve the original, and serves as a backup in case the original is destroyed
  • Storing external drives and hardcopies of important papers in a fireproof and water-resistant file organizer, container, or storage bag with a trusted friend or relative or in a safety deposit box
  • Telling family members, friends, or trusted neighbors where you keep your important paperwork

Learn more ways to prepare your health for emergencies.

Resources

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/index.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/your-vaccination.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/vaxwithme.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/vaccination-records.html#record-vacc
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect.html

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

 

Therapy Dogs Work from Home to Help Young Readers

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

Blake wears a hat to his online classes because he’s self-conscious about his hair. The second grader from Illinois is learning to read and write. Skills that are tough to learn without having to do it over videoconference. Blake practices writing by drawing letters on a tablet and reads aloud to his classmates over the computer.

To get him extra practice, Blake’s family signed him and his siblings up for a program called K9 Reading Buddies of the North Shore. The program, based in the Chicago suburbs, gives students practice reading to therapy dogs in a judgement-free environment.

This reading practice has had other benefits, too. Blake’s family noticed he doesn’t wear a hat when he reads to the dogs.

“It made me recognize that when he reads in front of the dog, he’s focused on the dog and the reading. He doesn’t have the anxiety,” said Blake’s mother, Heather. “It’s increased his confidence quite a bit.”

Sit. Stay. Roll over. Zoom?

Over 50,000 therapy dogs in the United States provide emotional support to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, and airports, reported National Geographic in 2018. During the COVID-19 pandemic, therapy dog programs across the country have reimagined their service models. Some bring their animals up to the windows of hospitals and retirement homes or parade their pets outside.

Some programs sent cardboard cutouts of their therapy animals to the places they visited before the pandemic. Others became pen pals with the people they used to see, said Billie Smith, executive director of The Alliance of Therapy Dogs. The organization certifies all the dogs involved in the K9 Reading Buddies group.

Typically, K9 Reading Buddies has 40 volunteers who visit schools and libraries, and about half of them have been doing virtual reading sessions. Students can now choose from among 22 dogs to schedule an online visit with.

“[The students] miss the physical touch. Being in the same room with a dog [can] lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety,” said Carole Yuster, executive director and founder of K9 Reading Buddies of the North Shore. “But you can tell they still get that reward. The kids are relaxed and want to read to the dog. And anytime that happens, that’s a plus.”

Sessions begin with the handler greeting the student and asking them their name and grade. The dogs wear red bandanas, a signal to them that they’re “at work” and need to stay calm. Then the child begins to read.

Children get excited to read to the dogs. It’s like they are a teacher and the dogs are their students. They hold picture books up to the webcam to show the animals and even withhold what they think are scary images “because they don’t want to upset the dog,” Yuster said.

The volunteers ask students to explain the story to the dog, which helps build reading comprehension skills.

Sessions usually end with the dogs performing a trick.

Online services were an adjustment, but they’ve allowed K9 Reading Buddies to connect with new students from across the country. And for dogs like Yuster’s puppy, Nala, who doesn’t travel well, virtual therapy gives them the flexibility to work from home.

“The reading programs took off fairly quickly with the virtual visits,” Smith said. “If this is something that was normal for them before the pandemic, then it is very helpful for them now.”

Soothing student stress

The pandemic has affected different students in different ways. Blake hasn’t been able to learn or socialize with other kids in a classroom like he’s used to. His older brother, Bennett, who entered middle school this school year, hasn’t had the chance to make new school friends.

“My initial fear was the academic loss during COVID-19,” Heather said. “But at the end of the day, the academic loss is secondary to the social-emotional wellness of these children.”

Social isolation is one of the things that can increase mental health struggles for children, according to the CDC. According to a recent report by CDC, the proportion of emergency department visits for children’s mental health concerns increased by 24% in 2020 for kids ages 5 to 11 and by 31% for ages 12 to 17.

Though interacting with a dog on-screen isn’t the same as playing with friends their age in real life, Heather said the K9 Reading Buddies virtual sessions have given her kids something to look forward to during the pandemic.

“It’s been a highlight of our week for a very long time,” she said.

Blake and his siblings weren’t involved with K9 Reading Buddies before COVID-19 but plan to attend in-person sessions, which are slowly starting up again. Heather said “there’s no doubt” the program has improved Blake’s reading.

“He was not willing to just sit down and read a book … Now, he will choose to read a book by himself,” Heather said. She’s quick to add, “He still loves to read to the dogs—that’s not over.”

Resources

Must-Haves for Your First-Aid Kit

A first-aid kit and supplies.

First-aid kits are nothing new. They go back over 100 years to when, as the story goes, Robert Wood Johnson debuted the first-aid cabinet in 1888.(1)

First-aid kits have changed over the years, but they are as useful as ever. They make it possible for ordinary people to be the help until professional help arrives. You don’t need a special certification to provide first aid, but you do need the right supplies and education.

First-aid kit checklist

Kate Elkins is an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and 911 specialist in the Office of EMS and the National 911 Program. An active paramedic, Elkins also responds to 911 calls and serves as a medical specialist with Maryland Task Force 1, a FEMA urban search and rescue team.

First-hand experience has shown her how important having a well-stocked and maintained first-aid kit can be. “There are certain things you need to have at hand in the moment. In a crisis, you’re not going to have time to go to the store to get what you need,” Elkins points out.

The American Red Cross suggests that a first-aid kit for a family of four include the following items:

  • A first-aid guide
  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 emergency blanket
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets
  • 1 3-inch gauze roll (roller) bandage
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 3 x 3-inch sterile gauze pads
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • A thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers

Supplement basic items with personal needs and bleeding-control essentials. Things like a commercial tourniquet, bandages, and a felt-tipped pen. Take bleeding-control training to use such and prepare for a bleeding emergency.

Remove, throw away, or use and replace any supplies before they expire. Set a calendar reminder on your smartphone to update the supplies in your kit every six months and/or as the healthcare needs of your family change.

Customize your kit

Think about the healthcare needs of your family when putting together a first-aid kit. For example:

  • If you have a family member with a severe allergy, include antihistamine medicine and an epinephrine injector.
  • If you have elderly family members with fragile skin, including a roll of paper tape can be useful for protecting delicate skin.
  • If you or a family member lives with diabetes, include a juice box, glucose tablets and gels, and an emergency glucagon injection kit.
  • Chewable, baby aspirin might help someone who has coronary artery disease, provided the person is not allergic to aspirin.

Elkins also suggests attaching a note to your kit with instructions on where to find other items around the house and how to act in specific emergencies. For example, you can use a note to remind you where sugary drinks and foods are kept in case of a diabetic emergency.

A person who is using a first-aid kit in an emergency might need to call 911 for assistance. Having the home or office address written on the outside of the kit itself can give users a handy location reference for 911 operators.

First aid as practical skill

A first-aid kit is a tool, but any tool is only as good as the person using it.

First-aid kits are one place where personal needs and practical skills come together. There are ways to prepare for emergencies that have nothing to do with collecting supplies. This includes learning practical skills that you can use to protect yourself and others.

Many practical skills are easy to learn. Some require special certification or formal training. Others just education. Practical skills include learning how to:

Family, friends, coworkers, and bystanders—not first responders—are often first on the scene in a medical emergency. Elkins has seen this many times in the field. “One time, we had a patient who had a very bad accident with a circular saw,” she recalls. “There was a lot of blood on the floor. The patient’s coworker, who had no formal training, put all his body weight on the wound and used it to slow the bleeding. He yelled for help until others came and called 911. He saved his coworker’s life because he made the right decision and took action.”

You can take action today. “You Are the Help Until Help Arrives” and “Stop the Bleed” are examples of training that teach you how to provide first care. A good first-aid kit and the practical skill to use it can help you save someone’s life.

Learn more ways to prepare your health for emergencies on the CDC website.

Resources

Reference

  1. Johnson & Johnson First-Aid Kit History
  2. American Heart Association Aspirin Guidance

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Volunteers Prepare for Another Season of Disaster Response, Relief Work

A woman in a mask shakes the paw of a dog in a cage.
American Red Cross volunteer Gaenor Speed cares for a dog displaced by the Oregon wildfires in September 2020. (Photo: American Red Cross)

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

American Red Cross volunteer Gaenor Speed stood six feet away from a couple who lost everything in the wildfires that burned through the Cascade Mountains in Oregon last September. The first thing she wanted to do was hug them.

“I’m a hugger,” said Speed, 78, a retired nurse. “It’s really hard listening to a sad story from far away with masks on and not being able to just give them a hug.”

The couple told her about their photos — of their wedding, their children, their grandchildren — all destroyed amid the ash and rubble that was their home.

“They asked me, ‘Do you think we’ll find them? Our photos?’” Speed said. “It was so sad. You just want to hold them.”

Speed says the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult, if not impossible, for volunteers to comfort survivors in the ways they are used to. CDC recommends people stay at least 6 feet (or about 2 arm lengths) from others to prevent getting sick.

“Everything changed with COVID-19,” she said. “It was like everything went upside down. Those of us who had been on deployments before were used to big shelters with lots of people, where we’d go around, sit on the side of their cots, talk to them and listen to their stories. Now, it’s so hard to be able to empathize. We look like we’re standing off a long way, which we are.”

Speed, who lives in Cape Coral, Fla., is one of the most active volunteers in the Red Cross South Florida Region. She has responded to more than 20 disasters across the country since 2016. She’s helped with emergency shelters, distributed food and supplies, and provided emotional support to victims.

Speed racked up frequent flyer miles in 2020. She deployed to Puerto Rico in response to an earthquake, the Florida Panhandle for a wildfire, and Louisiana after Hurricane Laura. She spent September in Oregon for the wildfires and returned to Florida in November for Tropical Storm Eta.

The pandemic and a record number of natural disasters have tested the resilience of first responders, emergency management officials, relief organizations, and volunteers like Speed.

Things aren’t expected to get easier. Researchers predict an active Atlantic hurricane season in 2021.(1) NOAA will issue its initial outlook for the 2021 season in late May.(2)

Hurricane season starts on May 15 in the North Pacific and June 1 in the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Disaster relief organizations are preparing now.

The Red Cross partners with state and local agencies to put in place emergency plans for shelter, food distribution, and volunteer assistance. Those plans must also integrate mask requirements, facility temperature screenings, physical distancing measures, and cleaning and disinfecting practices.

“As we saw in 2020, disasters did not stop for the pandemic,” said Siara Campbell, regional communications manager for the South Florida Region. “It is imperative to make preparations now, and you need to prepare with the coronavirus situation in mind. You just have to be agile and ready to allocate resources that you may not have expected previously.”

Nicole Coates, director of emergency management and public safety for the Village of Wellington, Fla., agrees. The village is reviewing debris removal contracts, servicing generators, and putting emergency vendors on standby in advance of the hurricane season.

“The better prepared our residents are, the better prepared we are, so we start that public messaging as early as we can before storm season,” Coates said.

Speed knows the importance of preparing her community, as well. She’s helping to recruit volunteers in the hopes of finding others who, too, are willing and ready to deploy.

She believes everyone has something to offer.

“It’s the giving back,” she said. “We need everybody, and I like being in an organization where we’ve got different jobs, but we’re all working for the same goal: to deliver people from these terrible disasters and, as soon as we can, get them back to being able to carry on their lives again.”

Supporting voluntary organizations like the Red Cross is an example of how people can get involved during National Volunteer Month. Other ways you can help improve the preparedness and resilience of your community include participating in response drills and donating blood.

Visit the Prepare Your Health website for information on how to prepare for emergencies.

References

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.