How to Avoid the West Nile Virus

How is West Nile virus spread?

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected female mosquito. The mosquitoes acquire the virus through biting infected birds. Crows and jays are the most common birds associated with the virus, but at least 110 other bird species also have been identified with the virus.

Most people who are infected never get sick. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have mild to severe symptoms. There is no vaccine for West Nile virus, so the best way to prevent infection is to avoid mosquito bites.

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid mosquito bites:

  • If possible, stay indoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • During mosquito season, wear socks and shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing is best.
  • Apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin. Spraying the outside of your clothing provides extra protection. Use a repellent that contains DEET. Choose a strength based on the number of hours of protection you need. Products that contain more repellent aren’t stronger—they just last longer. Always use repellents as directed.

What do I need to know about insect repellents?

  • Sweating, perspiration, or water may require reapplication of the product.
  • If you aren’t being bitten, it isn’t necessary to reapply repellent.
  • Don’t apply aerosol or pump products directly to your face. Spray your hands and then rub them carefully over the face, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
  • Don’t allow young children to apply their own repellant, apply it for them. Don’t apply any type of repellent to children’s hands because they tend to put their hands in their mouths and may rub their eyes.
  • Use products with a low concentration of DEET, 30 percent or less, on children between ages 2 and 12. Some experts suggest that it’s acceptable to apply repellent with low concentrations of DEET to infants older than age 2 months. For children younger than age 2, only one application per day of repellent containing DEET is recommended.
  • Don’t use DEET on infants under 2 months of age. Instead, you can use oil of lemon eucalyptus and cover your child’s stroller or playpen with mosquito netting.
  • Use enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing. Don’t apply repellent to skin that’s under clothing. Heavy application isn’t necessary to achieve protection.
  • Don’t apply repellent to cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
  • Don’t spray aerosol or pump products in enclosed areas.

According to the CDC, repellents containing a higher concentration of DEET provide longer lasting protection:

  • A product containing 23.8 percent DEET provides an average of 5 hours of protection from mosquito bites.
  • A product containing 20 percent DEET provides almost 4 hours of protection from mosquito bites.
  • A product with 6.65 percent DEET provides almost 2 hours of protection from mosquito bites.
  • Products with 4.75 percent DEET and 2 percent soybean oil are both able to provide roughly 1.5 hours of protection from mosquito bites.

Reduce mosquitoes in your yard and neighborhood: 

  • Remove anything that can collect water, such as old tires and empty cans, barrels, and flower pots.
  • Change water in birdbaths at least once a week. Clean a pet’s outdoor water bowl every day.
  • Drain unused swimming pools and remove collected water from pool covers.
  • Clean clogged gutters.
  • Install or repair door and window screens.
  • Report any dead birds to your local or state health department.

Call the Doctor If You Have Any of the Following:

  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever over 101°F
  • Confusion
  • Tremors (shaking muscles)
  • Paralysis (loss of movement)

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Come Hungry, Leave Healthy

Norah McNally, Registered Dietitian, HealthAlliance Hospital

“Consulting with a HealthAlliance Registered Dietitian is the most effective way to reach your dietary goals. We offer the following nutritional services:”

  • Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Weight Management
  • Heart Health
  • Kidney Disease
  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Food Allergies & Intolerances
  • Nutrition for Children & Adolescents
  • Eating Disorders
  • Wellness & Disease

To talk with a HealthAlliance Registered Dietitian call:
(978) 466-2971

To schedule an appointment with a HealthAlliance Registered Dietitian:
Ask your primary care physician to send us a referral.  Once the referral form is received from your physician, a representative from HealthAlliance Central Scheduling will confirm your insurance coverage and call you to schedule a one-hour initial appointment.

Goodie Monster

HealthAlliance Hospital posted on its Facebook page a picture of the Goodie Monster, a healthy vending machine with his own Facebook page. Norah, what do you think about the Goodie Monster, and should we get one for the hospital?

“I believe in society today we have so much pressure to get more done and in a shorter amount of time it leaves people pressed for time and ultimately causes them to choose higher carbohydrate, higher fat options from traditional vending machines or in the form of fast food.

I think having healthy options while on the go from sources like the Goodie Monster vending machine is great, however patrons need to be aware that while the low nutrional valued snacks are being replaced, some of the healthier options such as almonds, protein bars, etc. can be high in calories even in small quantities. If they are over consuming calories with these healthier products they can still in fact gain weight. People just need to be aware of this. I do believe that these new healthy vending machines are great for the pure fact they contain better foods than the typical fast foods and drinks loaded with fat and calories that are available around every corner. If we had the Goodie Monster here one good thing would be that it provided more healthy options.” 

My Fitness Pal

Here is the My Fitness Pal smartphone application that Norah uses to monitor calories and progress, but she notes, “it should be used in conjunction with our dietary services for the most effective results.”


“When I was diagnosed as being a diabetic, my doctor recommended that I consult with a nutritionist to learn the effects of diet on my disease. I was teamed up with Dietitian Norah McNally of HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster. Norah helped me understand the connection between the foods I ate and how those foods affected blood sugar and diabetes. She set up a dietary budget that I followed daily and I had to record my daily food and drink intake for review. Norah taught me both the benefits and the hazards of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and sugar intake in my diet as related to diabetes.

Norah was a coach. I believe this was the most important part of this team relationship. Meeting with her periodically, reviewing my progress and developing the next steps needed have made my battle to beat the disease of diabetes and to stay insulin free possible. Her coaching and analysis of my efforts have resulted in the loss of over forty pounds and has increased my aerobic exercise levels. My important health markers (A1C, cholesterol, blood pressure) have moved into safe ranges. With her professional advice and her enthusiastic support, Norah has helped me to make the nutritional lifestyle changes needed to continue battling diabetes and to keeping the disease in check. As I continue to develop my new lifestyle I look forward to greater weight loss and better health markers in the future thanks to Norah’s professional advice.”

-Don Pierce

General Tips to Eating Healthy: 

Vegetables are a major source of fiber. They’re also packed with vitamins needed for health and growth. Sneak vegetables into every meal. Eat plenty of colors to get a variety of nutrients. Dark green vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, kale, and broccoli; bright red and orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, and tomatoes; and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and squash are great choices. Canned vegetables often have lots of salt.

Like vegetables, fruit contains fiber and plenty of vitamins. But the great thing about fruit is its flavor. If you have a sweet tooth or just want a little treat, fruit is the healthiest way to indulge. And you’re probably not eating as much of it as you should. An apple a day doesn’t cut it anymore. Most fruit is seasonal so your options change with the time of year. Take advantage of the seasons to keep healthy eating fresh. Most of your fruit should come from whole fruit. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick out two fruits you’ve never tried.

The dairy group includes foods that are made from milk and are also high in calcium, a nutrient that builds strong bones. Calcium is found in other food like leafy greens such as mustard or collard greens, and from calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice and soy products. Drink nonfat milk.

Grains, also known as starches, make up foods such as bread, pasta, rice, cereal, and tortillas. Grains provide iron, B vitamins, and other nutrients the body needs to function. And they give your body fiber, which helps your digestion. Fiber also helps you manage your weight, because it’s low in calories but fills you up. Eat foods that have whole grains as the first ingredient such as whole wheat or whole rolled oats. Ingredients are listed from most to least, so if a whole grain is first, you know the food has a lot of it. Eat foods that are made with whole grains, such as oatmeal, barley soup, wild rice pilaf, and buckwheat (soba) noodles.

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. This food group includes oils you cook with, plus foods that are mostly oil, such as mayonnaise and salad dressing. Oils give the body vitamin E and essential fatty acids, which keep cells and tissues healthy and help the body heal. But oils and other fats are high in calories. Eating too much fat leads to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease.

Fat Facts

Some fats are liquid. Others are solid. And all of them can be bad for you if you eat too much. Food labels tell you which fats a food contains. Some are healthier than others:

  • Unsaturated fats are found in some oils (such as olive, peanut, and canola), nuts, seeds, and fish. These are the healthiest fats. They can be good for your heart in moderate amounts.
  • Saturated fats are found in animal foods such as butter, lard, beef, and high-fat dairy. These are less healthy, and should be limited.
  • Trans fats are found in some fast food, such as French fries, snack foods (like chips and cookies), and some margarines and shortenings. These are the worst fats for you. Avoid them when you can.

Be Smart About Fats

  • Out with the Bad: Check food labels for trans fats. And stay away from foods that have them. Trans fats are mostly found in processed foods. So, choose unprocessed foods more often.
  • In with the Good: Choose unsaturated fat over saturated when you can. Use olive or canola oil instead of lard or butter.


This group includes foods that are high in protein. Protein helps the body build new cells and keeps tissues healthy. Most Americans get enough protein without even trying. It can be harder for vegetarians, but plenty of non-meat foods are rich in protein, too. It’s best to get protein from a variety of sources.

Nutrient-Rich Choices
There’s a lot more to this food group than just meat and beans. It also includes nuts, seeds, and eggs. There are all sorts of nutrient-rich choices:

  • Chicken and turkey with the skin removed
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Lean beef, pork, or lamb (without visible fat)
  • Soy products, such as tofu, soybeans (edamame), tempeh, or soymilk
  • Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and lentils (Note: beans and peas count as both a protein and a vegetable)
  • Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, as well as foods made from these (such as peanut butter or tahini)
  • Eggs and foods made with eggs (such as quiche or frittata) 

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Teenagers need to understand exposure to loud noise either from concerts or personal listening devices can lead to hearing loss. With multiple exposures to noise over 85 decibels, the tiny hair cells may stop functioning and the hearing loss may be permanent.

Concerts can range from 82 to 110 dBA
and can average close to 100 dBA.

Experts say today’s small music players also pose a big risk of hearing loss. One reason: The “earbuds” used with iPods and other MP3 players fit into the ears, not over them. That makes the sound more intense than old models. Their digital songs are distortion-free, too. That invites kids to dial up the loudness with no loss of clarity. Most portable music players can reach 120 decibels, louder than a lawn mower or chain saw.

Such constant pounding by loud noise can cause permanent harm to the fragile hair cells of the inner ear. Because it doesn’t cause pain, the damage can sneak up on kids years later. Even moderately loud noise can permanently damage the hair cells if the noise continues over time. The hair cells help send sound information to the brain; if they are damaged or destroyed, hearing loss results. The hair cells don’t recover or produce new hair cells to replace damaged cells.

Preventive steps

To lessen the odds of hearing loss, experts offer this advice:

  • Don’t allow a child younger than 12 to regularly use a portable music player.
  • Encourage your child to tune the player no higher than 60 percent of the top volume, or a little over halfway on the dial. The volume should be low enough to hear surrounding sounds and conversation.
  • Have your child use earphones that sit on top of, not inside, the ear.
  • Limit the amount of time the player is used each day.
  • Wear ear plugs at concerts
  • Use a smartphone sound meter application that measures decibel levels -
    iPhone –
    Android –
  • See a doctor if ringing or buzzing in the ears lasts more than a day.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets maximum time limits on exposure to sound levels:

A more immediate risk involves so-called “iPod oblivion.” Users tune out their surroundings so much that they risk accidents or assaults.

Limiting the amount of time the portable music player is used each day also counteracts the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of childhood that is contributing to the obesity epidemic among youngsters.

As we age we loose high frequency sensitivity. Business has capitalized by using what’s called The Mosquito to deter teen loitering. It emits an annoying 17.4kHz tone that only young people can hear. Teens also use Mosquito ringtones, in classrooms for example, because adults cannot hear them. If you can hear this tone chances are you are under 25 years of age – Mosquito Tone

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital physician about your hearing call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health and wellness.


Quit Smoking

The first day after you quit smoking, as the nicotine leaves your body, you’re likely to notice symptoms of withdrawal. These are signs of your body recovering from smoking. For some people, withdrawal is mild. Others have a harder time. In any case, withdrawal should begin to lessen after the first few days. Use the Four D’s listed below to beat withdrawal.

Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Snacking more
  • Getting headaches
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling low on energy
  • Feeling cranky or restless 

The Four D’s

Withdrawal symptoms and smoking urges are strongest the first few days. Use the Four D’s below to help when you crave a smoke:

  • Deep-breathe. Inhale through your nose. Try to feel as if you are breathing into your stomach. Then slowly exhale all the air through your mouth. Repeat this 4 to 5 times. This can help calm the urge to smoke.
  • Drink Water. This keeps your mouth fresh and flushes nicotine from your body. 
  • Do Something. File your nails. Learn a nursery rhyme. Write a note to a friend.
  • Delay! Put off smoking. The urge to smoke lasts only 3 to 5 minutes. 

Facing Facts

When you smoke, your breathing becomes shallow and your lungs fill with smoke. Smoking cigarettes fills your body with over 4,000 chemicals, including formaldehyde, arsenic, and lead. Dozens of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.

The High Cost of Smoking

Add to the cost of cigarettes the cost of extra over-the-counter and prescription medications for illnesses related to smoking. Add in the cost of more expensive health and life insurance premiums. You’ll also spend more on copays because of more frequent doctor visits. And don’t forget increased dental expenses.

High cost to health

Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Smoking-related illnesses cause nearly one of every five deaths each year in the United States.

The CDC, American Lung Association, and American Cancer Society report:

  • Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • Smoking and tobacco use account for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking doubles a person’s risk for stroke.
  • Smoking may increase by 10 times your risk of dying from chronic obstructive lung disease.
  • Smokers are at greater risk for complications after surgery. These include infections and pneumonia.
  • On average, adults who smoke die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.

Give it up

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it can be done. If you don’t quit, over time, the health and financial toll will keep growing. To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital physician about quitting smoking call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health events like our free smoking cessation classes. More information about quitting smoking can be found at the CDC or

Bee Stings

The two greatest risks from most insect stings are allergic reaction, which occasionally can be fatal in some individuals; and infection which is more common and less serious.

Most insect stings cause only minor discomfort, but stings can be painful and frightening. Over 95 percent of stings are from honey bees or yellow jackets.

What are the symptoms of a sting?

The following are the most common symptoms of insect stings. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Local skin reactions at the site or surrounding the sting, including the following:
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Redness
    • Itching
    • Warmth
    • Small amounts of bleeding or drainage
    • Hives
  • Generalized symptoms that indicate a more serious and possibly life-threatening allergic reaction, including the following:
    • Coughing
    • Tickling in the throat
    • Tightness in the throat or chest
    • Breathing problems or wheezing
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Dizziness or fainting
    • Sweating
    • Anxiety
    • Itching and rash elsewhere on the body, remote from the site of the sting

Treatment for stings

Specific treatment for stings will be determined by your doctor. Large, local reactions usually do not lead to generalized reactions. However, they can be life-threatening if the sting occurs in the mouth, nose, or throat area. This is due to swelling that can close off the airway.

Treatment for local skin reactions may include the following:

  • Calm the individual and let him or her know that you can help.
  • Remove the stinger by gently scraping across the site with a blunt-edged object, such as a credit card or dull knife. Do not try to pull it out, as this may release more venom.
  • Wash the area well with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to help reduce swelling and pain (10 minutes on and 10 minutes off for 30 to 60 minutes).
  • If the sting occurs on an arm or leg, elevate the limb to help reduce swelling.
  • To help reduce the itching, consider the following:
    • Apply a paste of baking soda and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Apply a paste of nonseasoned meat tenderizer and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Apply a wet tea bag and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Use an over-the-counter product made to use on insect stings.
    • Apply an antihistamine or corticosteroid cream or calamine lotion.
    • Give acetaminophen for pain.
    • Give an over-the-counter antihistamine, if approved by your doctor.
    • Observe the individual closely for the next hour for any signs of allergic reaction that would warrant emergency medical treatment.

Call 911 or your local emergency medical service (EMS) and seek emergency care immediately if the individual is stung in the mouth, nose, or throat area, or for any signs of a systemic or generalized reaction.

Emergency medical treatment may include the following:

  • Intravenous (IV) antihistamines
  • Epinephrine
  • Corticosteroids or other medications
  • Lab tests
  • Breathing support

Prevention of insect stings

Some general guidelines to help reduce the possibility of insect stings while outdoors include the following:

  • Avoid perfumes, hairsprays, and other scented products.
  • Avoid brightly colored clothing.
  • Do not go outside barefoot.
  • Spray clothing with the appropriate repellent.
  • Avoid locations where hives and nests are present. Have the nests removed by professionals.
  • Teach your child that if an insect comes near to stay calm and walk away slowly.

Some additional preventive measures for people who have a known or suspected allergy to stings include the following:

  • Carry a bee sting kit (such as EpiPen) at all times and know how to use it. These products are available by prescription.
  • Make sure your child wears long-sleeve shirts and long pants when playing outdoors.
  • See an allergist for allergy testing and treatment.

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital allergist call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health.

Hand Hygiene is the #1 way to Prevent the Spread of Infection

Prevention is the key to stopping the spread of many infectious diseases and sometimes can make the difference between life and death. Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection. Unfortunately, improper or infrequent handwashing continues to be a major factor in the spread of disease. Other important ways to prevent infection include following the appropriate immunization schedule, and using precautions with pets and on the job.

Maureen Hodson, Infection Control

What is the best way to wash hands?

At home or work, wash your hands often—and properly:

  • Use clean, running water; if available, use warm water.
  • Wet your hands before applying soap.
  • Rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to wash all surfaces well, including your wrists, palms, backs of hands, and between fingers.
  • Clean and remove the dirt from under your fingernails.
  • Under running water, rinse your hands thoroughly to remove all soap.
  • Dry your hands with an air dryer or a clean paper towel.
  • Turn off the faucet with a paper towel.

If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used to clean your hands. When using this type of product:

  • Apply the gel to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until they are dry.

How often should I wash my hands?

Hands should be washed often—more frequently than most adults and children do. Because bacteria and other germs cannot be seen with the naked eye, they can be anywhere. According to the CDC, handwashing is especially important:

  • Before preparing food
  • Before meals
  • Before and after treating an open sore, cut, or wound
  • After using the restroom
  • After touching animals or animal waste
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone to the restroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After handling garbage
  • When hands are dirty
  • When someone around you is ill

What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

Cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. Cleaning simply refers to using soap and water to remove dirt and most germs. Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to cleaning solutions that contain ingredients that kill bacteria and other germs. Many surfaces look clean, but may be contaminated with germs.

The CDC recommends the following when cleaning and/or disinfecting:

  • Wear rubber gloves when cleaning up blood, vomit, or feces, and when you have cuts or abrasions on your hand that make it easy for an infection to enter the body. 
  • Read the directions on the cleaning product label, including the precautions.
  • First, clean the surface with soap (or another cleaner)* and water.
  • Second, use a disinfectant on the surface, and leave it on for a few minutes, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Third, wipe the surface dry with a paper towel, and throw the paper towel away, or use a cloth towel that is washed afterward.
  • Fourth, wash your hands thoroughly, even after wearing gloves.*Always store cleaning solutions and other household chemicals in their original containers and out of children’s reach.

The two most important household areas to clean and disinfect properly are the kitchen and the bathroom. In the kitchen, bacteria from raw food can contaminate surfaces and food preparation areas. Without proper cleaning, this can spread disease. Other important areas that require proper cleaning include children’s changing tables and diaper pails.

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Keeping Children Safe in and Around Water

Playing in the pool, the ocean, and even the bathtub can be good fun and exercise for a child. But did you know that a child can drown in only an inch of water? Hundreds of kids drown each year, so practicing good water safety is critical. Three important things you can do to keep your child safe are:

  • Always supervise your child in the water—even if your child knows how to swim.
  • If you have a pool, use multiple barriers to keep your child away from the pool when you’re not around. A four-sided fence is an ideal barrier.
  • If possible, learn CPR.

A fence with the features shown above is an effective way to keep children away from a swimming pool.

An easy way to help keep your child safe is to learn infant and child CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). This simple skill could save your child’s life.

  • All caregivers, including grandparents, should know CPR.
  • To find a class, check for one given by your local Red Cross chapter by visiting Or contact your local fire department for CPR classes.

Swimming Safety Tips

  • Supervise at all times.
    • Have a “water watcher” while kids are swimming. This adult’s sole job is to watch the kids. He or she should avoid talking on the phone, reading, or cooking while supervising.
    • For young children, make sure an adult is in the water, within an arm’s distance of kids.
    • Make sure all adults who supervise children know how to swim.
    • If a child can’t swim, pay extra attention while supervising. Also, don’t rely on inflatable toys to keep your child afloat. Instead, use a Coast Guard-certified life jacket. And make sure the child stays in shallow water where his or her feet reach the bottom.
  • Have your child take swimming lessons.
    • Give lessons according to your child’s developmental level, and when he or she is ready. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting lessons after a child’s fourth birthday.
    • Make sure lessons are ongoing and given by a qualified instructor.
    • Keep in mind that a child who has had lessons and knows how to swim can still drown. Take safety precautions with every child.
  • Make sure every child follows these swimming rules:
    • Only swim in designated swimming areas in pools, lakes, and other bodies of water.
    • Always swim with a buddy, never alone.
    • Never run near a pool.
    • Dive only when and where it’s posted that diving is okay. Never dive into water if posted rules don’t allow it, or if the water is less than 9 feet deep. And never dive into a river, a lake, or the ocean.
    • Listen to the adult in charge. Always follow the rules.
    • If someone is having trouble swimming, don’t go in the water. Instead, try to find something to throw to the person to help them out, such as a life preserver.
  • Follow these other safety tips:
    • Have swimmers with long hair tie it up before they go swimming in a pool. This helps keep the hair from getting tangled in a drain.
    • Keep toys out of the pool when not in use. This prevents your child from reaching for them from the poolside.
    • Keep a phone near the pool for emergencies.
    • Do not allow children to swim outdoors during thunderstorms or lightning storms.

Swimming Pool Safety

  • Inground pools:
    • Use several barriers, such as fences and doors, around the pool. No barrier is 100% effective, so using several can provide extra levels of safety.
    • Use a 4-sided fence that is at least 5 feet high. It should not allow access to the pool directly from the house.
    • Use a self-closing fence gate. Make sure it has a self-latching lock that young children can’t reach.
    • Install loud alarms for any doors or gates that lead to the pool area.
    • Tell kids to stay away from pool drains. Also, make sure you have a dual drain with valve turn-off. This means the drain pump will turn off if something gets caught in the drain. And use an approved drain cover.
  • Above-ground pools:
    • Follow the same barrier recommendations as for inground pools (see above).
    • Make sure ladders are not left down in the water when the pool is not in use.
    • Keep children out of hot tubs and spas. Kids can easily overheat or dehydrate. If you have a hot tub or spa, use an approved cover with a lock.
  • Kiddie pools:
    • Empty them of water after every use, no matter how shallow the water is.
    • Always supervise children, even in kiddie pools.

Other Water Safety Tips

  • At home:
    • Don’t use electrical appliances near water.
    • Use toilet seat locks.
    • Empty all buckets and dishpans when not in use. Store them upside down.
    • Cover ponds and other water sources with mesh.
    • Get rid of all standing water in the yard.
  • At the beach:
    • Supervise your child at all times.
    • Only go to beaches where lifeguards are on duty.
    • Be aware of dangerous surf that can pull down and drown your child.
    • Be aware of drop-offs, where the water suddenly goes from shallow to deep. Tell children to stay away from them.
    • Teach your child what to do if he or she swims too far from shore: stay calm, tread water, and raise an arm to signal for help.
  • While boating:
    • Have your child wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest at all times. And have him or her practice swimming while wearing the life vest before going out on a boat.
    • Don’t allow kids age 16 and under to operate personal watercraft. These include any vehicles with a motor, such as jet

If an Accident Happens

If your child is in a water accident, every second counts. Do the following right away:

  • Yell for help, and carefully pull or lift the child out of the water.
  • If you’re trained, start CPR, and have someone call 911 or emergency services. If you don’t know CPR, the 911 operator will instruct you by phone.
  • If you’re alone, carry the child to the phone and call 911. Then start or continue CPR.
  • Even if the child seems normal when revived, get medical care.

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Healthy Foods On-the-Go for Your Child

What can you do if you’re not near a grocery store or farmer’s market? You can find healthy choices in a corner market or convenience store. Even fast-food restaurants offer some good choices for the whole family. 


At a Corner Market or Convenience Store

Do you shop at corner markets or convenience stores? You can still find healthy foods for your family. Look for:

  • Canned vegetables and fruits (packed in water, not heavy syrup). If you have to buy fruit packed in syrup, rinse the fruit with water and throw away the syrup.
  • Whole-grain products like brown rice, corn tortillas, and whole-wheat breads. Look for the words “whole grain” on the package, not just “wheat.”
  • Good sources of protein like canned beans, tuna canned in water, eggs, low-fat or non-fat milk, and low-fat or non-fat cheese and yogurt.
  • Avoid junk foods!  Don’t be drawn in by chips, candy, soda, and sugar-filled cereals.

At a Fast-Food Restaurant

Eating healthy at fast-food restaurants means choosing the right foods.

  • Instead of fried foods, try grilled meats like chicken and fish. Look for baked potatoes topped with vegetables or salads. Order low-fat or non-fat milk instead of soda. Get fruit or yogurt instead of milkshakes or cookies.
  • If your child isn’t ready for you to stop ordering french fries, get one serving for everyone to share. This gives everyone a taste without making french fries the center of the meal.
  • Lead by example. Make healthy choices for yourself. Kids watch how and what you eat. They’ll be more likely to eat healthy foods that you eat, too.


Wherever your family goes, healthy eating can still be easy for you and fun for your kids. Pack sliced vegetables, fruits, and non-fat or low-fat dips in plastic bags or containers. Make fun and easy snacks like celery with peanut butter and raisins. Bring plenty of bottled water. Anywhere you go, you’ll be ready when you and your child feel hungry.

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital nutritionist call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health and nutrition.

To Learn More

To get more info on healthy grain products:


Air Quality Reports

American Lung Association State of the Air –

Air Quality Smart Phone Application from the American Lung Association –

Asthma Capitals –

Air Quality Improving in Many U.S. Cities

Air quality in America’s most polluted cities has improved significantly over the past decade, according to a new report from the American Lung Association.

Even Los Angeles, famous for its morning smog, is the cleanest it’s been in 13 years, the association noted. Santa Fe, N.M. leads the pack, having been ranked as the cleanest city in the nation.

Despite progress in reducing the level of smog and soot in the air, the “State of the Air” report warned that unhealthy levels of air pollution still persist around the country.

“‘State of the Air’ shows that we’re making real and steady progress in cutting dangerous pollution from the air we breathe,” Charles Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in an association news release. “We owe this to the ongoing protection of the Clean Air Act. But despite these improvements, America’s air quality standards are woefully outdated, and unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist across the nation, putting the health of millions of Americans at stake.”

In rating the air quality in cities and counties around the country, the lung association takes into account the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which alerts the public about unhealthy air conditions. The report, released Wednesday, also used data collected by the EPA from 2008 to 2010 on ozone and particle pollution.

The report found drastic improvements in 18 of the 25 cities most polluted by ozone. Nine out of the top 10 cities most polluted by ozone were in California. Topping the list was Los Angeles, although it showed the lowest smog levels since the report was first published back in 2000.

Particle pollution also dropped significantly in 17 of the 25 most polluted cities, including Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. This mix of microscopic bits of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols can lead to early death, heart attacks and strokes.

Four cities — Pittsburgh, San Diego, Philadelphia and Visalia, Calif. — dropped to their lowest levels of short-term particle pollution on record, the report noted. Birmingham, Ala., Detroit and York, Pa., dropped off the list of the 25 most polluted cities entirely — a first for all three.

The lung association cautioned that much work remains to be done to improve air quality in the United States. Forty percent of Americans, or 127 million people, live in areas where air pollution poses a threat to their health. These people are at greater risk for wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death, the report noted.

Infants, children, seniors and anyone with lung diseases, heart disease or diabetes are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution. Those with low incomes or jobs that require them to work outside are also at greater risk.

The report revealed that 38.5 percent of Americans live in counties that received an “F” for air quality because of unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution, which can cause chronic health problems. Meanwhile, almost 50 million people in the United States live in counties with unhealthy surges in particle pollution levels. Year-round particle pollution threatens another 6 million Americans.

The standards set under the Clean Air Act are a driving force behind the improvement in air quality in the United States, according to the lung association. The legislation aims to clean up major sources of air pollution such as coal-fired power plants and diesel engines to reduce the amount of ozone and particle pollution in the air. The EPA estimated that cutting air pollution through this measure would prevent at least 230,000 deaths and save $2 trillion annually by 2020.

The report warned, however, that the positive trend in U.S. air quality will not continue if opponents of the Clean Air Act gain the upper hand on Capitol Hill.

“We still need to fulfill the promise of clean, healthy air for everyone, and that can only become a reality through the full implementation of the Clean Air Act. The American Lung Association strongly opposes any efforts to weaken, delay, or undermine the protective standards the law provides,” said Connor. “The American Lung Association has been leading the fight for clean air for decades, and we are as determined as ever to give every American the clean air they deserve to breathe every day.”

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital physician about asthma or allergies call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about asthma and other heath related topics.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on air pollution.

SOURCE: American Lung Association, news release, April 25, 2012

Your Health Connection – Newsletter Mailing – Summer 2012

Health Screenings for Men
Exceptional Cancer Care Close to Home
Primary Care Physicians Accepting New Patients
Photo Contest Winner! Cover photo submitted by the Lashua Family, Westminster, MA
YouTube Contest! See back cover for details

To view the cover photo contest click here

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