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How to Assemble the Perfect First-Aid Kit

June 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm , by

Each morning, when I step into the jam-packed subway car to get to my job as the newest Ladies’ Home Journal editorial intern, I learn something new by watching my fellow commuters. The woman who almost pulled out the top row of her eyelashes with her eyelash curler taught me that makeup should always be applied at home. And the aspiring opera singer busking at the 6 train entrance showed me that a screeching soprano isn’t pleasant if you’ve missed your morning coffee. But perhaps the most notable thing I’ve learned is to pack a change of shoes. The women who pair their polished pencil skirts with sneakers aren’t unfashionable. They’re smart.

After tackling escalators and uneven pavement in heels, I learned the hard way that I should follow their lead. I now know I should wear what’s comfortable and wait to change into cute summer shoes at the office, but my feet are already covered in blisters. That’s why my first assignment—to cover the 125th anniversary of first-aid kits—was not only a cool opportunity but also a fitting reminder to always have Band-Aids and other supplies handy!

While at the event, I picked up a few tips from the pros at Johnson & Johnson on how to assemble a first-aid kit. Oh, and I got to meet actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (that’s her, in white, with me), who served as a celebrity spokesmom on behalf of being prepared for emergencies.

1. Start with the essentials: Every first-aid kit should include plenty of bandages in different sizes, surgical or nonlatex gloves in case you want to protect your hands from blood, gauze pads, a thermometer, scissors, antiseptic wipes, pain-relief medication and tubes of antibiotic and hydrocortisone ointments.

2. Now personalize: Whether you’re an athlete, gardener, fashionista or mom (or even all of the above), be sure to include items that will help heal potential injuries specific to you. If you spend a lot of time in the yard gardening, for example, you might include aloe for sunburns and ibuprofen for back pain, while a strappy sandal enthusiast (like me) might throw in a friction block stick and moleskin to soothe blisters.

3. Keep allergies in mind: If a family member has seasonal allergies, keep a supply of over-the-counter meds like loratadine. For skin rashes or hives, stash some calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream and diphenhydramine antihistamine pills.

4. Create a list of contents: It’s easy to throw health-care supplies inside a container, but labeling every item and creating an inventory will help you find the essentials when you really need them. Tape the list on the inside of the lid and keep it updated as you replenish supplies. You should also include the phone numbers of your doctor and specialists so anyone who uses the kit can reach help if needed.

5. Have more than one: Assemble one first-aid kit for the home and think about doing a smaller, portable one to take in your purse or keep in your car—especially if you have active, accident-prone kids. (Aren’t they all?) You’ll feel more confident if you’re prepared, says Gyllenhaal. “Having a bag ready and filled with supplies makes me a more chill mom when things come up.”


What You Need to Know About West Nile

August 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm , by

You may have already heard the scary news about West Nile: More than 1,000 people have reported symptoms of the virus and 41 have died, more cases than any year since the virus was first detected in 1999, according to the CDC. Enough to up the ante on your anti-mosquito efforts? I think so. But don’t panic. Most people won’t get sick, even if they get bit by a mosquito carrying the virus.

Aside from bug bites, there are a couple of other things to watch out for as you celebrate summer’s end this weekend. We’ve put together a little checklist to remind you about all three.

1. Buy some bug spray
This map shows the severity of the West Nile outbreak–every state save Vermont has seen some activity. Again, no reason to freak out, but you should know that people over 50 or those who have chronic conditions like kidney disease or diabetes are especially at risk. West Nile doesn’t spread via human contact. You can only get it from a mosquito bite, so a bottle of bug repellent can go a long way. Learn more about the best bug sprays and how to apply them here. It’s also a good idea to get rid of any standing water around your home and check your window screens for holes.

2. Wear sunscreen
It may not be all over the news, but the risk of sunburn (which can lead to skin cancers later on) is as real as ever. Dermatologists recommend sunscreens that have broad-spectrum protection and an SPF of 30. And to really get protection, you’ve got to slather it on thick like vanilla icing and re-apply every two hours. If you’re going to be outside all day, don’t forget to seek shade when you can and pack a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection.

3. Drink lots of water
This has been one of the hottest summers on record since 1950. Thankfully, things are cooling off a bit, but dehydration and other heat-related illnesses are still important to watch out for, especially in children and the elderly.  On a normal day, a 150-pound woman has to drink 65 ounces of water to replace what’s lost through sweating, peeing and breathing. So if you’re sweating even a little, you should drink throughout the day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty! And remember, regular old water is your best bet.

Have a safe and fun Labor Day from the LHJHealthLadies!


Hot And Healthy Fourth Of July

July 3, 2012 at 11:07 am , by

Looks like there are only two possibilities for this year’s Fourth of July forecast: hot or hotter. The record heat wave continues, with many states under a heat advisory and temperatures in the 90s and up across the country, according to the National Weather Service. Yikes.

But all sweat aside, a day off is a day off, and I’ll bet you’re forging ahead with your barbecue, beach day or other fun-in-the-sun plans. I know I am! So we’ve put together a few safety reminders for you—before you head outside.

Keep the Water Flowing
Sweat much? On a normal day, a 150-pound woman has to drink around 65 ounces of water to replace what’s lost through sweating, peeing and breathing. In heat like this, you need even more. Water is your best bet. Sugary liquid calories in sodas or sweet tea add up fast. Most people don’t need sports drinks, but if it’s really hot and the danger of dehydration is high, it wouldn’t hurt to pack some Gatorade in your cooler. Alcohol and caffeine can act as a diuretic and make you even more dehydrated, so limit those in the heat. Kids and the elderly are especially prone to dehydration, so if you’re heading to the beach or fireworks, pack plenty of bottled water for the whole family—and remind them to drink it.

Shield Yourself From the Sun
If you don’t wear sunscreen, you’re probably going to get burned, and that can lead to scary skin cancers. Dermatologists recommend sunscreens that have broad-spectrum protection with at least an SPF 30. No matter how high the SPF, you’ve got to really slather it on and re-apply every two hours—even if it’s cloudy. Make sure the kids do, too.  And no sunscreen can protect you all day, so plan ahead and bring a tent or sun umbrellas and a wide-brimmed hat.

Watch Out For Heat Exhaustion
If it’s too hot and humid out, your body’s natural cooling system may have trouble keeping up. One way to stave off heat-related illnesses like heat rash, heat exhaustion and the more-serious heat stroke is to stay well hydrated. If you’re feeling overheated, stay in the shade whenever possible, and lay off the beach volleyball. Look out for symptoms like a racing heart rate, muscle cramps, confusion, weakness or headaches.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Photo via Shutterstock


6 Weeks to a Younger You: Week 2

August 17, 2011 at 11:45 am , by

Beautiful woman at the beach putting sunscreen on her bodyWelcome to week 2 of our plan! How’d you do with your pedometer and your colorful fruits and veggies last week? I made some progress and I’m feelin’ good. Hope you are too! So what’s on tap for this week?

BIG D AND SUNSCREEN
You need to protect your skin from the sun (to look young and avoid skin cancer). But you need vitamin D for strong bones and maybe even to prevent cancer and heart disease. So how to do you do both? It’s a problem I’ve wrestled with.

My doctor called me a few days ago to tell me that everything on my recent blood test looked good, except one thing: I’m deficient in D. In winter, sure. But in August? Well, I avoid the sun like the plague, thanks to my history of skin cancer. That means wearing sunscreen every day, staying on the shady side of the street—and donning a hat when it’s high noon.

Yes, I take a 1,000 mg D3 supplement almost every day, and I always take it with some nuts or cheese since it’s fat soluble, to improve absorption. But apparently it’s not enough. Supplements just don’t work as well as the sun. My doc suggested I go to 2,000 mg a day—a level that most experts think is safe (although more research needs to be done). And maybe just a few unprotected minutes of sun a day on my arms and legs might be a good idea, too. But just a few!

UNDER PRESSURE?
Aren’t we all? Stress can raise your blood pressure, and so can the junky food you crave when you’re having a bad day. You know that lowering your bp can help your cardiovascular system, but here’s news: healthy blood pressure is good for your memory and brain health! High blood pressure causes no symptoms, so you’ve gotta get checked out. If you can’t see your doc right now, try out one of those drugstore kiosks where you can stick your arm in the cuff. You want to be at 120/80 or lower, and many experts say 115/75 is ideal. If you’re higher, take some deep breaths and take another reading. If it’s still high, make an appointment with your doc.

CALM IT DOWN
A great way to reduce stress (and your blood pressure!) is meditation. It can also improve your memory and boost your immune system. And anyone can learn it. All you have to do is sit quietly and focus on your breathing. The trick is carving out and committing to a few quiet minutes a day. I studied transcendental meditation back in the ’70s (hey, it was good enough for the Beatles!). I remember how  tough it was to learn to sit still and let go of all those busy, busy thoughts—without judging myself every time I felt I wasn’t doing it “right.” I’m going to commit to meditating for 20 minutes every day this week if you will. Cheers to a younger you!

Photo copyright goodluz—Fotolia.com


New Sunscreen Rules: Why You Should Care

June 15, 2011 at 7:34 am , by

Closeup of beautiful woman spreading sunscreen on her shoulderFinally, the gavel has dropped on the Food and Drug Administration’s new sunscreen rules. By next year, sunscreen manufacturers will have to pass a standard test to claim broad-spectrum protection.

Dermatologists across the country are rejoicing in the streets. Okay, not exactly, but they are pretty happy that the FDA has gotten around to issuing a ruling, says Ronald Moy, M.D., president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “This has been years in the making. It’s going to make it a lot easier for consumers to find a product that they can be sure is protecting them from UVA as well as UVB rays,” he says.

I know what many of you are thinking: What’s the big deal?  That’s how I felt when I started doing research for our June story about getting the most out of your sunscreen. But I learned that finding the right product and applying it correctly is a lot more complicated than I thought.

We’re all familiar with the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, but that only accounts for protection against UVB. While UVB rays are what cause dreadful burns, the lesser-known UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin. Experts used to think exposure to UVB alone was what caused skin cancer, but we now know that in addition to being the main cause of wrinkles, UVA rays also play a major role in the development of skin cancer.

Until now, products could claim broad-spectrum protection without any basis for it. Maybe you didn’t leave the beach the color of a tomato, but your sunscreen may not have been shielding you from the more subtle damage caused by UVA. So in other words, this is a really big deal. And organizations like The Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the American Academy of Dermatology are applauding the changes.

Claims like “waterproof” or “sweatproof” are also being banned from sunscreen because those terms are inaccurate and make people feel like they don’t have to reapply, says Dr. Moy. The FDA also proposed that SPF labeling be capped at 50, since there is little evidence that those super-high SPFs work any better. “You’ll never get 100 percent coverage from a sunscreen, so these changes take away the false sense of security,” says Dr. Moy.

Companies have a year to comply with the new rules, so to save your skin this summer you’ve still got to take a look at the ingredients list. Check out “Screen Test,” our guide from the June issue, to learn what to look for in your sunscreen and how to apply it for best results.

Photo copyright goodluz, fotolia.com.


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