Category Archives: Health & Wellness


Tips to prepare now for severe winter weather ahead

CHICAGO—Cold temperatures, heavy snow, and treacherous ice storms are all risks of the impending winter season.

“Severe winter weather can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people who don’t take the proper precautions,” said FEMA Region V acting administrator Janet Odeshoo. “Preparedness begins with knowing your risks, making a communications plan with your family and having an emergency supply kit with essentials such as water, food, flashlights and medications.”

Once you’ve taken these steps, consider going beyond the basics of disaster preparedness with the following tips to stay safe this cold season.

Before winter approaches, add the following items to your supply kit:
Winterize your winter supply kit
• Rock salt or other environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways
• Sand to improve traction
• Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment
• Sufficient heating fuel and/or a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove
• Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

Stay fire safe
Keep flammable items at least 3 feet from heat sources like radiators, space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.

Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home. Check it on a monthly basis. Keep warm, even when it’s cold outside:
If you have a furnace, have it inspected now to ensure it’s in good working condition.

If your home heating requires propane gas, stock up on your propane supply and ensure you have enough to last an entire winter. Many homeowners faced shortages due to the record freezing winter weather last year, and this season there’s the possibility of lower than normal temperatures again. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide by installing battery-powered or battery back-up carbon monoxide detectors.

Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.

Prevent frozen pipes
If your pipes are vulnerable to freezing, i.e., they run through an unheated or unprotected space, consider keeping your faucet at a slow drip when extremely cold temperatures are predicted.

If you’re planning a trip this winter, avoid setting your heat too low. If temperatures dip dangerously low while you’re away, that could cause pipes to freeze. Consider draining your home’s water system before leaving as another way to avoid frozen pipes.

You can always find valuable information to help you prepare for winter emergencies at Bookmark FEMA’s mobile site,, or download the FEMA app today to have vital information just one click away.


Let’s talk turkey Balancing family traditions and food safety

ST. CHARLES—As the holidays approach, special family meals take center stage, and with them come many family traditions of how to prepare and present those meals. However, some customs may contradict today’s food safety recommendations.

“Our food system, and what we know about food safety, has changed drastically in the last few decades, and that can contradict some more traditional methods of cooking the holiday feast,” said Laura Barr, Nutrition and Wellness educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. “We hear much debate this time of year about how to thaw, prep and stuff a turkey. Too often, misconceptions of recommended practices can lead to people getting sick.”

The truth about thawing
Thawing a turkey is done in many ways, but not all methods are safe. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that a package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter for more than two hours is not ever at a safe temperature.

“There is no bacterial growth in a frozen turkey, and the danger zone for food is between 41 degrees F to 135 degrees F,” Barr said. “A product starts thawing from the outer layer first at room temperature. Therefore, the outer layer is in the danger zone for an unacceptable amount of time. It is unsafe to thaw any meat at room temperature, especially a large bird.”

Barr said there are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven.

The USDA advises to allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees F or below, and a fully thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator one to two days before cooking it. Be careful to contain juices from the thawing turkey so as not to cross-contaminate other foods and surfaces.

“It may seem simple, but this will take some planning,” Barr said. “For example, it will take at least three days for a 15-pound turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. Be sure to accurately schedule when to take out a frozen bird based on the cooking day.”

If thawing in cold tap water, water must be changed every 30 minutes until the product is completely thawed. Additionally, the product needs to be packaged in a waterproof container to prevent cross-contamination and an undesirable texture change in the meat, Barr said.

“The same 15-pound turkey would thaw in seven hours in cold water, versus three to four days in a refrigerator,” she said. “But the cold water method is more labor intensive, and you must always cook a cold-water-thawed turkey immediately.”

When using a microwave, the USDA advises to “follow microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions for defrosting a turkey.” It also recommends cooking the thawed product immediately because some areas of the food may be warm and susceptible to bacteria growth.

“However you choose to thaw, consider it a critical control point to ensure safety, taste and texture of your holiday meal,” Barr said.

The proper prep
In the past, families would start preparing their holiday birds much earlier in the food process. The bird was butchered, plucked, washed and cooked in the home, Barr said.

“Some consumers today wash poultry because the practice has been passed down through the generations,” she said. “However, running water in and over a turkey, or other poultry, is a waste of time, as it is cleaned in the packaging process.

“In fact, washing the bird at home actually increases the potential for food-borne illness, as it spreads salmonella and other pathogens in the sink and around the food preparation area. By cooking poultry thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, and maintaining that temperature for 15 seconds, you will destroy any bacteria.”

Stuffing safety
There still remains the controversy about cooking holiday birds with or without stuffing.

“In support of optimal safety and consistent doneness, cooking the stuffing separately is the recommendation,” Barr said. “Following tradition, some cook the stuffing and turkey together. However, the turkey will reach doneness before the stuffing inside the bird. In this case, a probe food thermometer is essential to ensure stuffing has reached the proper internal temperature.”

If it has not maintained that internal temperature of 165 degrees F for 15 seconds, Barr said to keep cooking the turkey together with the stuffing until it does. Otherwise, the undercooked stuffing may likely contaminate the cooked meat, she said.

Critical cooling
It also is critical to refrigerate Time and Temperature Control foods (TCS) quickly after serving the meal. This includes meats, stuffing, casseroles, cooked grains and vegetables and sliced fruit. The fastest bacterial growth occurs between 70 degrees F and 125 degrees F, which is close to room temperature, Barr said.

“So, if a TCS food sits out for two hours, it is best to toss it,” she explained. “As the saying goes, ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’ As bacteria multiply, so does the risk of food-borne illness. The less time TCS foods are in the danger zone, the safer the food for consumption.

“A good rule of thumb is to monitor time and temperature carefully to ensure food safety with each and every step.”

For more information on the University of Illinois Extension programs in your county, visit University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.

Caregivers support group at Community Congregational Church

ELBURN—Are you or someone you know caring for a family member or friend who can no longer take care of themselves—perhaps someone with physical or mental impairment?

While such caregiving is a labor of love, it can result in enormous physical, emotional and financial impact. Caregivers can find themselves feeling alone and not knowing where to turn for support.

A caregiver support group meets at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at Community Congregational Church, 100 E. Shannon St., Elburn, to provide emotional, educational and social support for caregivers. The group will be led by staff from Rachel’s Place, which is part of Fox Valley Older Adult Services, a licensed adult day care service provider.

There is no fee to attend the group, but registration is requested. For more information or to register, call Andrea McNeal at (708) 363-5425 or Pastor Ben at (630) 360-0040.


Program employs horses to treat PTSD

Photo: Veteran Jack Erwin of St. Charles says hello to Honey Nut Cheerio during a program on Boots and Hooves, soon to be known as Hope and Promise. The program employs equine-assisted psychotherapy to treat veterans with PTSD and other mental-health issues relating to their military service. Photo by Debbie Behrends

MAPLE PARK—Jack Erwin compares the equine-assisted psychotherapy program, Boots and Hooves, to some aspects of military life.

The St. Charles Army veteran participated in the first session of the program in March, and returns to volunteer when his teaching schedule allows.

Hosted by Promise Equestrian Center in Maple Park, the program is the first in the area to assist veterans—and caregivers—dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues related to their military service. Volunteer Sue Koestler, with the help of Kelly McCaughey and her horse Honey Nut Cheerio, demonstrated a relay exercise at Tuesday’s community spaghetti dinner, sponsored monthly by the Elburn Lions Club.

“There’s not a lot of riding,” Erwin said of the program. “There are team-building exercises, discussions and group therapy sessions.”

The groups are small—no more than 10 people during each session—which Erwin said helps to create a feeling of closeness and camaraderie.

“You can connect with the other people there because they’ve faced similar experiences in the military,” he said. “I made friends in the program that I am still in contact with.”

Koestler said many of the people who participate in the program have never been around horses.

“Overcoming the initial fear of being around the big animals is a lot like the fears one faces in the military,” she said.

The five-day program is offered to veterans free of charge. Elburn Lion Chris Halsey said he invited the volunteers to talk about the program to get the word out.

Koestler stressed that the program is confidential and does not affect veteran benefits. All meals are provided, and anyone traveling from a distance is provided with lodging for the week.

Everyone involved in providing the program, from the horse owners to the cooks to the therapist, is a volunteer. Koestler said participants are expected to work at the riding center each day they are there as a way to take ownership of the program. That work might include mucking stalls or mending fences.

Modeled on the equine assisted psychotherapy philosophies developed by Greg Kersten, the program is one of hundreds worldwide that honors and integrates natural horse and herd behavior for the treatment of stress and PTSD.

To learn more about participating or becoming a volunteer, find Boots and Hooves on Facebook. Koestler said the name of the program is changing to Hope and Promise, and she hopes the website,, will be online soon.

Hope and Promise Board members anticipate holding its next five-day program in April 2015. For more information, contact Sue Koestler at (815) 587-4952 or Gary Kempiak at (815) 764-5081.

Bird tests positive for West Nile

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department recently found a bird in Batavia that tested positive for West Nile Virus. This is the second bird found in Kane County that has tested positive. The first one was found in Campton Township in June.

The Health Department monitors for WNV activity in this area. You can visit to view a map of the Health Department’s trap locations throughout the county. Also, as part of its West Nile program, the Health Department is collecting dead birds to be sent to the state lab for testing. Call (630) 444-3040 to report the presence of freshly dead birds (such as crows or blue jays) to determine if WNV testing is recommended. The birds must not show any signs of decay, trauma, maggot or insect activity.

You can view more detailed monitoring results from previous years by visiting

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Only about two persons out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis, meningitis and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include the following:
• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn; use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present
• When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions; consult a physician before using repellents on infants
• Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens; repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night
• Change water in birdbaths weekly. Properly maintain wading pools and stock ornamental ponds with fish; cover rain barrels with 16-mesh wire screen; in communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes

Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Kane County Health Department’s website, You can also visit the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) website, People also can call the IDPH West Nile Virus Hotline at (866) 369-9710, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dental visits a good habit to start

NAPERVILLE, Ill.—While two-thirds of Illinoisans visit the dentist at least once a year, nearly half of them have gone three years or more without seeing the dentist.

“According to the Delta Dental of Illinois Oral Health and Well-Being Survey, most Illinoisans visit the dentist at least once a year, and those who do are more likely to report their oral health as good or better versus those who are in a dentist’s chair less frequently,” said Dr. Katina Spadoni, dental director for Delta Dental of Illinois. “Still, a lot of people take a break from routine dentist visits at some point in their lives.”

More than half of Illinoisans say they have felt fear or reluctance regarding a dental visit. Most said they had a bad past experience or were afraid to find out what care they needed. Younger Illinoisans ages 18 to 44 have felt more apprehension than those 45 years and older.

“Regular dental visits are part of important preventive care,” Spadoni said. “It’s good to stay in—or get back into—the habit of visiting a dentist. Your dentist can help you determine how often you need to visit, and preventive care is key to help avoid more comprehensive and costly treatment.”

For people with existing oral health problems, such as gum disease, or medical problems like diabetes or dry mouth, one dental visit a year may not be enough, according to Spadoni. For those at higher risk of developing oral problems, three or four visits a year may be best.

“On the other hand, if you have low risks, you will not need the same level of preventive treatments or exams,” Spaldoni said.

One way to stay in the habit is to find a regular dentist. One in five Illinoisans do not have a regular dentist, while nearly half say they’ve beenusing the same dentist for three years or more.

It’s more refreshing than a relief

Despite the fear and reluctance many Illinoisans feel in going to the dentist, most say they feel refreshed after doing so.

“More often than not, you feel good walking out of a dentist’s office,” Spadoni said.

For more information about how you can improve your oral health, visit

Every arm is needed this summer

AURORA—Heartland Blood Centers, an independent medical organization serving 57 hospitals in a 12-county region in Illinois and Indiana, asks all healthy individuals to “roll up their sleeves” and give blood in August. The need for blood is constant, especially in the summer months, when eligible donors have even less time in their busy schedules to give. If you have not yet made your summertime blood donation, you are urged to do so this month.

“Summertime is historically the time of year when blood centers across the country struggle with their blood inventory levels. We are no exception,” said Dennis Mestrich, CEO and president with Heartland Blood Centers. “Holidays, vacations, weddings, and other celebrations keep many regular donors from giving blood in the summer months. This compounds our challenge to collect the blood needed to maintain safe and adequate blood inventories.”

In the United States alone, someone needs blood every two seconds. This could be a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker or person you may never know. They all have one thing in common—the need for a lifesaving blood donation. Each and every day there are patients who depend on the transfusions of red blood cells, platelets and plasma to stay alive—including those with cancer, leukemia, and victims of accidents and other traumas. Blood and blood products cannot be manufactured. They can only come from volunteer blood donors who take an hour to attend a blood drive or visit a donor center.

“We not only need our loyal blood donors to continue to donate in the summer, but we need new blood donors every day to help replace those donors who are no longer eligible to donate,” Mestrich said. “We ask that all healthy community members visit a mobile blood drive or center location this summer to share their good health with others by donating blood. If you are unable to donate blood, please consider sponsoring a blood drive with us. We provide all the tools you will need to host a successful event.”

As a “thank-you” gift, blood donors will receive a $5 Subway gift card when they donate at any Heartland Blood Centers mobile or center location in August. Some blood drive or center locations may have an alternative “thank-you” gift to give.

For a list of convenient donation locations, visit for a Heartland center or community blood drive near you.

Blood donors receive free mini-medical exams on site including information about their temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure and hemoglobin level.

To be a blood donor, individuals must be at least 17 years old, or 16 with written parental permission; weigh at least 110 pounds; be symptom free of cold, flu and allergies; and be in general good health. Donors who have traveled outside the United States within the past 12 months should contact Heartland at 1-800-7TO-GIVE to determine eligibility.

Chiropractic office hosts ADHD natural remedies workshop

ELBURN—Vital Wellness Center will host a free workshop on ADHD entitled “Focus!” on Wednesday, July 30, at 6:15 p.m. The workshop will delve into natural ways to help eliminate the symptoms of ADHD, as well as the truth behind ADHD medications.

There are millions of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD, and that number continues to rise each year. With this continual increase of diagnosed cases, more people than ever before are prescribed medication to treat the symptoms. There is hot debate as to whether or not these methods are safe and effective, and symptoms return as soon as medication ceases.

The natural remedies discussed in this workshop aim to treat the cause of the problems at their core and actually prevent ADHD symptoms from arising. Even those who do not have ADHD can see improvements in their mental clarity and overall health with these solutions, which have absolutely no side effects.

“After bringing my son for regular chiropractic care and following the advice my chiropractor gave, my son’s ADHD symptoms have improved immensely,” said Jane Halloway, a regular chiropractic patient.“ His grades have improved, and he’s in a much better mood day-to-day.”

The workshop will be hosted by Dr. David Foss. Dr. Foss has been helping local children with ADHD for over 12 years.

The workshop can benefit both those who have ADHD, as well as those who are the parent of a child who does. For more information about the free event, and to register, visit

HorsePower seeks hands-on volunteers

MAPLE PARK—Looking for something fun and meaningful to do this summer? HorsePower Therapeutic Riding, located at Fox Chase Farm in Maple Park, is seeking responsible and dedicated volunteers 14 years of age or older for its growing program.

The organization teaches creative and challenging horseback riding lessons to children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. Approximately one-third of its riders receive scholarship support; therefore, to keep costs down, hands-on program volunteers are needed for grooming, tacking, training, leading and side-walking assignments, which support HorsePower’s lesson program.

Applicants must have at least two years of horse experience and pass a horse-handling skills assessment. Shifts are available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Daytime hours are especially needed. Support volunteers are also needed for marketing, cleaning, fundraising, childcare and office tasks—no horse experience necessary.

All volunteers must have their own health insurance and consent to a background check.

An orientation will take place Tuesday, June 17, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Attendance at orientation is mandatory for all who wish to volunteer. Come dressed to participate in hands-on skills activities with horses. If it is hot, shorts are fine, but boots are a must.

All orientation attendees must submit a written application and participate in a brief phone interview prior to attending the orientation. To receive a volunteer application, contact Carrie Capes at or call (815) 508-0804.

For more information on HorsePower’s therapeutic riding program, visit


Rivals come together in Cougar-land

Photo: KHS softball coach Brian Willis, who is battling colon cancer, will be honored at Monday’s Pack the Park event at Fifth Third Bank Park in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk

Kaneland-Batavia clash to benefit great causes
KANELAND—Area baseball teams aren’t only mindful of the postseason task ahead. They’re also willing and able to help out their fellow man.

“This annual tradition has given us an avenue to do something bigger than baseball and has allowed each of the programs involved to give back to the community,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

On Monday, May 19, at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, home of the Midwest League’s Kane County Cougars, Kaneland and Batavia will do battle for a Senior Night game that will benefit three honorees.

The honorees are Harter Middle School student Drew Hahn, son of Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn, and dealing with Anaplastic Large-Cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; Phil Kassinger, father of Knight baseball player Kevin Kassinger, who is battling Stage 4 lung cancer; and KHS softball coach Brian Willis, battling colon cancer.

“This year, we’ve found multiple needs in our community, and it is unfortunate that we can’t reach all the families that have been touched by this dreaded disease,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

Willis, who is scheduled for his last chemotherapy treatment the day of the game, is thankful of the proceedings.

“Thankfully I am almost done and hope I am cleared of any cancer cells left in my body,” Willis said. “Every day a new struggle starts or continues and that is who we fight for.”

Admission is $5 for adults and students, with kids under 6 able to be admitted for free. All proceeds collected will be donated to the honorees and their families.

The game is also slated to be broadcast on BATV, and the radio. Shirts will be available for purchase and multiple silent auctions will be going toward the benefit of the families, as well.

“This will be a very special night for the seniors, their parents, both baseball programs, and the people that we will be honoring,” Aversa said.

First pitch for the sophomore game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., while the varsity is slated to begin at 7 p.m. under the lights.

Visit for more details.

Hultgren commends Illinois’ heroin state of emergency declaration

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) recently commended the Illinois State House for unanimously passing a resolution declaring a “heroin state of emergency” across the state, and pushed for the community to come together to finalize a plan to combat heroin and opioid abuse. In recent years, heroin has seen a striking reappearance in the Chicago area, including in the collar counties.

“Heroin and opioid abuse is a growing threat to our communities in Illinois, as we found out at my community leadership forum last month. I applaud the Illinois House for recognizing the seriousness of the situation, but we must act now to stem the tide of heroin deaths and overdose,” Rep. Hultgren said. “What we need is an action plan that our entire community can pursue, and I encourage everyone to review the community forum’s draft action plan and send their recommendations to my office so we can finalize a solution to move forward and coordinate our efforts across northern Illinois. I will be sharing this draft action plan with the state legislators for their review. Together, we can combat heroin and opioid abuse and provide hope for the victims and their families caught in its trap.”

Hultgren on March 7 convened a Community Leadership Forum on Heroin Prevention in Geneva to bring together a diverse array of experts and local and state leaders—including law enforcement, drug courts, elected officials, educators, treatment providers and recovery centers—to share resources and ideas to tackle the growing threat of heroin addiction and opioid abuse in northern Illinois. Participants represented all seven of the collar counties, including Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb and Will counties.

Following the event, Hultgren launched an event summary and working draft action plan, available at, based on the breakout discussion groups and ensure community coordination and follow-up to what was discussed.


Student urges community to ‘Seize the Purple’

Photo: “I personally feel that epilepsy doesn’t get the awareness that it deserves. It affects over six million people worldwide, and it’s just as common as breast cancer is. And I just think it really does
deserve more awareness than it is given.”
Samantha Havlin, Kaneland High School junior photo by Lynn Logan

KANELAND—People can learn more about epilepsy this month thanks to Samantha Havlin, a junior at Kaneland High School.

Havlin, an Elburn resident, recently organized “Seize the Purple,” a DECA project that is a 5k walk-and-run event intended to create epilepsy awareness in the local community. The event will take place on Saturday, April 19, at Kaneland Harter Middle School, 1601 Esker Drive, Sugar Grove.

Why purple? It’s the color of epilepsy awareness.

“I personally feel that epilepsy doesn’t get the awareness that it deserves,” Havlin said. “It affects over 6 million people worldwide, and it’s just as common as breast cancer is. And I just think it really does deserve more awareness than it is given.”

Havlin said she has noticed KHS students who have epilepsy.

“I would say a hundred percent, they are exactly like you and I,” Havlin said. “They’re normal people. They just have frequent seizures.”

Josh Marczuk, an eighth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, was diagnosed with epilepsy during his basketball season this year.

Marczuk acknowledged that having epilepsy can sometimes be hard.

“Always having to be aware of stuff,” he said.

Marczuk pointed out that he has to sleep eight to 10 hours so that a seizure won’t be triggered. And what should a person do if they happen to be around Marczuk while he has a seizure?

“Call my mom,” Marczuk said. “Or 911. And put me on my side.”

Marczuk said he experiences a “black out” during a seizure. Sharon Marczuk, Josh’s mom, described what it is like to see her son suffer a grand mal seizure in front of her, shaking and biting his tongue for “a minute or so.”

“It seems forever,” Sharon said. “Probably one of the most traumatizing things to see.”

Sharon expressed her gratitude for the upcoming 5k event.

“I do know from my younger child (Jimmy), being diagnosed with cancer as a baby that until it touches you, you really don’t understand the whole concept of having a child who is sick,” she said. “So the fact that she doesn’t (know the concept first-hand) and wants to raise all this awareness for a good cause is just awesome.”

Havlin’s mom, Melissa Hubbard, said that she is proud of her daughter.

“(Samantha) really, really wants to make a difference,” Hubbard said. “And I think learning the awareness and bringing it in our area definitely stands for a lot.”

The walk will begin at 9 a.m., with the run scheduled to kick off at 9:15 a.m.

A free Easter Egg Dash will take place on the school’s track prior to the walk. Children aged 10 and under are invited to participate in the dash. They will have an opportunity to seek colorful eggs—particularly purple—filled with candy treats. Free pizza and water will also be available.

Both Josh and Sharon plan on being at the race.

“Well, I definitely don’t think I’ll be running,” Sharon said with a laugh. “But yeah. I’m hoping to walk in it.”

The registration fee is $30, which includes a T-shirt and goodie bag. Those interested in participating can register the day of the event or by visiting and typing the event name “Seize the Purple.”

Not too late to get a flu shot

KANE COUNTY—The Health Department continues to offer a walk-in flu clinic at its Aurora office, 1240 N. Highland Ave. Clinic hours are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. No appointment is necessary.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that flu activity is still elevated across the country and recommends that if you haven’t received your flu vaccine yet, you should do so now.

The Health Department accepts many insurance cards. Call the Health Department’s “Bee Wize, Immunize” phone line at (866) 233-9493 or at (630) 264-7665 to learn if your insurance is accepted, or you can log on to the Health Department website at Bring your insurance card with you. Without insurance the cost of the vaccine is $15, payable by check or cash.

Public health officials recommend that everyone six months of age and older should be vaccinated against influenza, especially pregnant women, young children, people 65 years of age and older, and anyone with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.

The Kane County Health Department provides a wealth of information about influenza at You will find the weekly report that details flu-like illness activity in Kane County, a locator map for additional locations where you can receive the vaccine, educational materials and more.

Don’t delay—test for radon today

KANE COUNTY—January is National Radon Action Month, and the Kane County Health Department, in conjunction with the Kane County Healthy Places Coalition, recommends that it is a good time to test your home for the presence of radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium and is one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the world, along with smoking and secondhand smoke.

Rocks and soil can contain uranium. Radon gas can enter through cracks in homes/buildings/schools and expose people to the radiation. Because of the geology in the Midwestern United States, homes in Kane County have the potential for higher levels of radon.

The Health Department’s Community Health Improvement Plan targets chronic diseases such as cancer as threats to the community’s health and wellbeing, and the department recommends that all homes in Kane County be tested for radon. Testing kits are available for $15 from the Kane County Health Department and Kane County Development Office. This cost includes the kit, cost of mailing to a certified lab for analysis, and results. Kits are available at these locations:
• Aurora Health Department Office, 1240 N. Highland Ave., Suite 5, Aurora, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• Kane County Development Office, 719 S. Batavia Ave., 4th Floor, Geneva, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• Elgin Health Department Office, 1750 Grandstand Place, Suite 2, Elgin, Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to noon

Test kits also are available at most local hardware stores.

A speakers bureau has been created to offer free radon presentations to the community. Questions, contact Terry Roman at (630) 264-7653 or More information and resources about radon is available on the Health Department’s website at

The Kane County Healthy Places Coalition is a group of community residents and stakeholders interested in environmental health. You can participate in the next Kane County Healthy Places Coalition Meeting from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Kane County Government Center, Building A, Ground Floor Auditorium, 719 S. Batavia Ave. Geneva.


Take extra precautions as temperatures drop below freezing

Elburn Herald photo by Patti Wilk

Warming Centers in Kane County >
Note: Many local municipalities offer more warming centers, too. Call your local municipality to find out the nearest center in your area.

CHICAGO – Dangerously low temperatures are in the forecast and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants individuals and families to be safe when faced with the hazards of cold temperatures.

“Subfreezing temperatures can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people who don’t take the proper precautions,” said Andrew Velasquez III, FEMA Regional Administrator. “It is important for everyone to monitor their local weather reports and take steps now to stay safe during times of extreme cold temperatures.”

During cold weather, you should take the following precautions:

• Stay indoors as much as possible and limit your exposure to the cold;
• Dress in layers and keep dry;
• Check on family, friends, and neighbors who are at risk and may need additional assistance;
• Know the symptoms of cold-related health issues such as frostbite and hypothermia and seek medical attention if health conditions are severe.
• Bring your pets indoors or ensure they have a warm shelter area with unfrozen water.
• Make sure your vehicle has an emergency kit that includes an ice scraper, blanket and flashlight – and keep the fuel tank above half full.

You can find more information and tips on being ready for winter weather and extreme cold temperatures at

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Health Department to offer walk-in flu vaccine clinics

AURORA—The best way to celebrate Vaccine Illinois Week (Dec. 8-14), and protect yourself and your family from the flu this season is to get a flu shot. From now through Tuesday, Dec. 31, the Kane County Health Department will offer walk-in flu clinics at its Aurora office, 1240 N. Highland Ave. Clinic hours are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, while supplies of flu vaccine last.

The Health Department accepts many insurance cards. Please call the Health Department’s Bee Wize, Immunize phone line at 1-866-233-9493 or at (630) 264-7665 to learn if your insurance is accepted. Please bring your insurance card with you. Without insurance, the cost of the vaccine is $15, payable by check or cash. Public health officials recommend that everyone six months of age and older should be vaccinated against influenza, especially pregnant women, young children, people 65 years of age and older, and anyone with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or a weakened immune system. The Kane County Health Department provides a wealth of information about influenza on its website at You will find the weekly report that details flu-like illness activity in Kane County, a locator map for additional locations where you can receive the vaccine, educational materials and more.

If you have questions, please call the Health Department’s Bee Wize, Immunize phone line at 1-866-233-9493 or at (630) 264-7665.

Kane County Health Department awarded national accreditation status

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department announced today that it has received national public health department five-year accreditation status through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). With this achievement, Kane County becomes the first county health department in Illinois to reach this status.

To receive accreditation, a health department must undergo a rigorous, multi-faceted, peer-reviewed process to ensure it meets or exceeds a set of quality standards and measures.Hundreds of health departments are preparing to seek national accreditation through the program, which launched in September 2011 after more than a decade in development. So far only 22 health departmentshave been granted accreditation status, out of a total of more than 3,000 in the U.S.

“Accreditation is the gold standard for health departments and demonstrates our commitment to providing quality services and better serving our community. National accreditation signifies the incredible efforts the Kane County Health Department puts forth every day to improve and protect the health of the public,” said Health Department Executive Director Barbara Jeffers. “Achieving accreditation opens the door to a number of benefits, including increased credibility, accountability, and possible funding advantages. Having reached this milestone will provide us with valuable, measurable feedback to further our commitment to continuous improvement.”

“The Kane County Health Department is one of the first of many health departments that we look forward to being able to recognize as a high-performing public health department,” said PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN. “The peer review process provides valuable feedback to inform health departments of their strengths and areas for improvement, so that they can better protect and promote the health of the people they serve in their communities.”

While public health departments provide expert leadership in protecting and promoting the health of people in communities across the country, there has not been a set of nationally recognized standards until now. The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHA) established in 2007, was created to serve as the national public health accrediting body, and is jointly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The development of national public health accreditation has involved, and is supported by, public health leaders and practitioners from the national, Tribal, state and local levels.

More information about accreditation is available on the Health Department website at and the PHAB website at

The controversy of pet vaccinations

ILLINOIS—Vaccinations are a critical component to the preventive care of your companion animal. Your health, as well as your pet’s, depends on it. While this may seem like common knowledge to some, the topic of pet vaccination can be quite controversial, making it a hot topic in veterinary medicine today.

Most veterinary professionals agree that vaccinating your pets is the best way to protect them from various life threatening illnesses.

“Controversy about vaccinating your pet is usually centered around misinformation or the false concept in humans that suggest vaccinations cause autism,” said Dr. Bethany Schilling, Clinical Instructor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Choosing vaccinations specific to your animal’s health and lifestyle should be an informed decision made between you and your veterinarian.

Many pet owners believe that the possible dangers of pet vaccinations outweigh the positive aspects. One risk that worries pet owners is the chance that their pet will have a negative reaction from the vaccination. While this is a viable concern, Schilling and many other veterinarians agree that this occurrence is rare.

“Vaccine reactions are usually non-life threatening, are easily treated, and can typically be prevented in the future,” Schilling said. “Reactions in dogs are typically swelling of the face or hives, and reactions in cats are typically vomiting or diarrhea.”

Vaccines do not guarantee that your pet will not become sick, just like a human getting the flu vaccine can still catch the flu, but it will likely minimize the seriousness of illness in your pet.

Vaccines help build up your pets’ immune system so that their chances of becoming ill when exposed to disease are much lower. They can prevent many upper respiratory diseases in cats such as herpes, calicivirus, and panleukemia, as well as feline leukemia and rabies. There are vaccines to prevent various diseases, such as parvovirus, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, Bordetella and rabies, in dogs as well. Bordetella is found to be one of the causes of “kennel cough,” a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs.

The two classifications of pet vaccines are core and non-core vaccines.

“Core vaccines are things the entire pet population should be vaccinated against, due to universal risk,” Schilling said. “Non-core vaccines are recommended based on region of the country in which the patient lives and individual patient risk factors, like lifestyle and travel.”

Core vaccines would include vaccines against common diseases, like rabies, whereas vaccines against Lyme disease or kennel cough are among the non-core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are not usually considered necessary, but are available to pets that are at risk for illness due to geographic locations or specific lifestyle needs.

Another debate among many pet owners is whether performing at-home vaccinations on your pet is easier and more efficient than taking them to a veterinary clinic. When making this decision, it is important to keep in mind that vaccines are extremely sensitive to handling. Various factors such as extreme temperatures can inactivate them, and vaccines purchased at a feed store are not guaranteed to be effective.

“Vaccines administered at a vet clinic are handled appropriately and care can be made to make sure the pet is vaccinated at appropriate intervals to ensure protection,” Schilling said. “The pet is examined prior to receiving vaccines each visit to make sure they are healthy.”

Salad products recalled because of possible health risk

ILLINOIS—The Kane County Health Department is alerting residents that Reser’s Fine Foods of Beaverton, Ore., is recalling approximately 109,000 cases of refrigerated ready-to-eat products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The company announced that these products are being recalled in conjunction with other foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A full list of products being recalled can be found on the FDA’s website.

There have been no reported cases of illness related to this recall. Listeria is an organism which can cause serious and sometime fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Healthy people may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant woman.

The products were distributed to retailers and distributors in Illinois, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The problem was discovered through microbiological testing by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A traceback investigation and follow-up testing by FDA at the facility determined there was potential cross contamination of products with Listeria monocytogenes from product contact surfaces. FSIS and the company have not received reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider.

Consumers and media with questions about the recall should contact the Reser’s Fine Foods Consumer Hotline at 1-888-257-7913 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST).

Ride-in Kane cost increase

KANE COUNTY—A rate increase is necessary in order to continue to deliver Ride-in Kane services, which have been provided to persons with disabilities and the elderly in Kane County since 2008. An increase of $1 for a total of $4 per ride will become effective on Jan. 1, 2014.

For more information, call (888) 480-8549.

Bat found in Batavia yard tests positive for rabies

BATAVIA—A bat recently found in a Batavia yard tested positive for rabies. There was no human exposure.

This is the first rabies-positive bat seen this year. One rabid bat was discovered last year, and one in 2011.

Bats are the most common carrier of rabies in Illinois. Rabies affects the brain and will cause unnatural behavior in mammals. Children especially should be reminded to avoid contact with wild animals that are acting unusual, such as a bat that is outside in the daytime or one that cannot fly. It is important to keep all pets—dogs, cats, ferrets, etc.—up to date with their rabies vaccinations. Not only does the vaccine protect the pet, it also serves as barrier of protection for people. Even indoor pets should be vaccinated, as illustrated by the fact that some of the bat cases are found indoors. The last human case of rabies in Illinois was reported in 1954

Information about exclusion—keeping bats from entering your home—can be found by logging on to the Illinois Department of Public Health website, health/pcbats.htm.

For information about a referral for capturing bats or for submitting specimens for testing, call Kane County Animal Control at (630) 232-3555.

Mosquitoes found in Elgin trap test positive for WNV

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department recently reported that a batch of mosquitoes collected in a trap in Elgin, Ill., tested positive for West Nile Virus. This is the second time this summer a trap in northern Kane County yielded evidence of the disease. The first, a trap set in July near Algonquin, Ill., administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health, was found to contain mosquitoes that tested positive for the disease.

The Health Department monitors for WNV activity in the area. Also, as part of its West Nile program, the Health Department is collecting dead birds to be sent to the state lab for testing. Call (630) 444-3040 to report the presence of freshly-dead birds (such as crows or blue jays) to determine if WNV testing is recommended. The birds must not show any signs of decay or trauma.

You can view more detailed monitoring results from this and previous years by visiting

West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. Most people with the virus have no clinical symptoms of illness, but some may become ill three-to-14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Only about two persons out of 10 who are bitten by an infected mosquito will experience any illness. Illness from West Nile is usually mild and includes fever, headache and body aches, but serious illness, such as encephalitis and meningitis, and death are possible. Persons older than 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.

The best way to prevent West Nile disease or any other mosquito-borne illness is to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Precautions include:
• Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. Use prevention methods whenever mosquitoes are present.
• When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.
• Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and windows shut, especially at night.
• Change water in birdbaths weekly. Properly maintain wading pools and stock ornamental ponds with fish. Cover rain barrels with 16-mesh wire screen. In communities where there are organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government to report areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquitoes.

Additional information about West Nile virus can be found on the Kane County Health Department’s website,, and the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website, Also available is the IDPH West Nile Virus Hotline at (866) 369-9710, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

West Physical Therapy’s guidelines for backpack safety

KANE COUNTY—With the start of the new school year, West Physical Therapy would like to remind parents of safety needs for their child when carrying a backpack to school.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 24,000 people were treated in U. S. hospitals and doctors’ offices for backpack-related injuries in 2012, and more than 9,500 of those patients were aged 5 to 18.

Backpacks are a popular and practical way carry school supplies and books. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among the body’s strongest muscles. When they are too heavy or worn incorrectly, backpacks can cause problems. Improperly used, backpacks may injure muscles and joints, which can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as postural problems.

When choosing a backpack, look for one that is lightweight and an appropriate size for your student. Make sure it has 2-inch-wide, padded shoulder straps, and a waist strap. Another option would be to choose a rolling backpack.

To properly carry the backpack, tighten the straps to comfortably fit the student. Always pack lightly. Carry only the books and supplies that you will need. Ideally, the backpack should not weigh more than 15 percent of the child’s body weight. Heavier items should be packed first, close to the body. If the child needs to lean forward to carry the pack, it is too heavy. Remember to lift the backpack properly. Never lift and swing the backpack while twisting at the same time.

Scammers try to make Obamacare confusion an opportunity for identity theft

CHICAGO—With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly labeled “Obamacare,” on the horizon, scammers are finding it to be the latest opportunity to steal people’s identities.

“Scammers are calling consumers claiming they are eligible for health insurance cards in exchange for personal information,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Consumers should ignore these calls because providing information puts you at risk for identity theft.”

Bernas explained the scams work like this: You receive a call from someone claiming to be from the federal government. The scammer says that you have been selected to be part of a group of Americans to receive insurance cards. But before the card can be mailed, your bank account and social security numbers are required. Once they get this information, they can sell it or use it to access your accounts.

“Affordable Care Act scammers are able to easily make consumers think that their calls are legit, especially with such a hot topic like Obamacare,” Bernas said. “Consumers need to realize that the government rarely calls individuals. If you receive this type of call, hang up.”

The BBB offers the following tips to people who experience the affordable healthcare scams:
• Hang up the phone. If you get one of these calls, just hang up. You may be tempted to call back, but this will only give the scammer another opportunity to steal your information. Also, be sure not to press any buttons that the scammer instructs.
• Never give out personal information. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or social security number.
• Don’t rely on caller ID. Some scammers are able to display a company’s name or phone number on the caller ID screen. Don’t trust that the information you see is true.
• The government rarely communicates via phone calls. Most of the time, the government uses traditional snail mail to communicate to consumers. The government rarely calls, emails or texts, so don’t give your information to these types of government messages.

For more tips and information about affordable healthcare scams, visit


Seafood products recalled due to possible health risk

KANE COUNTY—The Kane County Health Department recently noted that Prime Food USA of New York is recalling Latis Brand Seafood Products due to confirmed and suspected contamination with listeria monocytogenes.

Listeria can cause serious complications for pregnant women, such as stillbirth. Other problems can manifest in people with compromised immune systems. Listeria can also cause serious flu-like symptoms in healthy individuals. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The recalled Latis Brand Seafood products are packaged in various sizes plastic oval type containers. All container sizes are affected. The UPC numbers for the products begin with “75100407.” The product was sold nationwide. They are products of Latvia.

The recall was initiated after routine sampling by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Food Inspectors and subsequent analysis of the products by Food Laboratory personnel found various products to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Consumers who have purchased Latis Brand Seafood Products should not consume them, but should return them to the place of purchase. Consumers with questions may contact the company at (718) 439-0376.


Better Business Bureau: Don’t get scammed when donating to tornado victims

CHICAGO—In the wake of a tragedy, scammers like to rise and take advantage of kind, giving people. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) is alerting consumers of the possibility of phony charity scams related to the Oklahoma tornado.

“Tragedies bring people together and inspire many to help out by giving,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Unfortunately, the aftermath of natural disasters is also a time when scammers find ways to take money from good people.”

The BBB recommends asking the following questions before choosing to donate to a specific charity:

• Is this a charity I can trust? Look at the appeal carefully—some charities have similar sounding names. Don’t be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. Check with your appropriate state government authorities (this is usually a division of the state’s office of the attorney general) to verify the charity is registered to solicit in your state. Also, visit the website of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance ( to find out whether a national charity meets the 20 BBB charity standards that address charity governance, finances, fund raising, donor privacy, and other accountability issues.
• How will the charity use my donation? Ask questions about how your donation will be used. Beware of appeals that bring tears to your eyes but give few details of what the charity is doing about the problem it describes so well. For example, if the charity says it’s helping the homeless, do they explain how (shelter, food, medical care) and where this is taking place?
• Watch out for statements such as “all proceeds will go to the charity.” This can mean that only the money left after expenses, such as the cost of written materials and fundraising efforts, will go to the charity. These expenses can sometimes be high, so check carefully.
• Is my donation tax deductible? If you want to take a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes, make sure the organization is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A charity appeal will usually include a reference to this. To verify a charity’s tax status, access an IRS database of organizations by viewing Publication 78 on the IRS website at Consult your tax advisor for details.
• Can the charity actually use what I’m donating? All charities welcome the receipt of monetary donations, but some also solicit in-kind donations such as clothing, food and toys. If you’re planning to donate items to a worthy cause, make sure you know the in-kind contributions your charity prefers. For example, a food bank may prefer food items that are not perishable such as canned goods.
• Am I feeling pressured to give? Don’t succumb to pressure to give money on the spot, either immediately over the phone via credit card or by allowing a “runner” to pick up a contribution. Take the time to research the charity fully—the charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.

The BBB is asking anyone who receives a suspicious charitable solicitation to report it to BBB Report a Scam. For more advice on giving and to view reports on charities visit

FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams to visit Kane County

GENEVA—Beginning this week, FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams (DSATs) will be in Kane County to provide information and provide residents affected by last month’s flooding with an opportunity to register for federal disaster assistance.

These teams will be visiting homes, businesses and high-traffic locations in the affected areas providing support to disaster survivors directly in the communities where they live and work.

DSAT members may offer residents the opportunity to use a tablet computer to register for assistance. Residents will not be required to share personal information unless they wish a DSAT team member to enter the data for them. Residents are reminded to ask for federal identification before providing personal information.

Don Bryant, director of the Kane County Office of Emergency Management, said that the DSAT teams will give residents the opportunity to ask a FEMA representative directly about the disaster assistance process and register for the program.

If residents prefer to use their own personal computer or telephone to register for FEMA assistance, they can do so by calling 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) or by visiting

Governor Quinn proclaims May as Older Americans Month in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD—Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has proclaimed May as Older Americans Month in Illinois, and joins the Illinois Department on Aging to honor more than two million adults, aged 60 years or older, who live in the state.

The governor’s proclamation coincides with the national observance of Older Americans Month. Since 1963, the observance each year in May has proven a proud tradition in honoring the value that older adults contribute to various communities.

“This year’s Older American Month theme is ‘Unleash the Power of Age’ to highlight the significant contributions made by older adults. On behalf of the Governor, I am pleased to honor older adults who have contributed to make Illinois great and to better our country. I encourage they stay positive and remain productive,” said John K. Holton, director of the Illinois Department of Aging.

In recognition of the annual observance and to raise awareness, Director Holton and department staff have granted interviews, served on information panels and spoken at events to highlight state programs that support independent living and other protections to seniors.

Older Americans Month is celebrated with ceremonies, events, fairs and other such activities.

Allergic to eggs? Try these ‘eggcellent’ ways to celebrate Easter and Passover

NORTH AURORA—Easter and Passover traditions often include eggs, either as part of a fun holiday activity or a recipe. For people with life-threatening egg allergies, the key to staying safe is to be aware and prepared for an unexpected exposure.

“Approximately 1.5 percent of young children have life-threatening egg allergies,” said Sakina Bajowala, M.D., board-certified allergist & immunologist at Kaneland Allergy & Asthma Center in North Aurora. “Creating Easter and Passover traditions without the threat of egg exposure is easy to do. A little planning and creative thinking is what’s required to have a fun and tasty celebration.”

Kids with egg allergies can participate in Easter games and Passover activities. Consider the following ideas:

• Coloring eggs is a safe activity as long as the person with egg allergies does not eat the eggs. Touching the hard shell poses no threat.

• Instead of placing a hard-boiled egg on a Seder plate, consider using a flower or a plastic egg as a substitute.

• Use plastic eggs for your Easter egg hunt and fill them with toys, money, stickers or candy. Just be sure to read candy labels first.

• Use plastic eggs instead of real ones when playing the “egg in a spoon” race.

Getting together with family for the holiday? Be sure to include egg-free recipes when cooking meals, and ask about ingredients in recipes made by others. For each egg required in a recipe, substitute one of these mixtures:

• One and one-half tablespoons water, one and one-half tablespoons cooking oil and one teaspoon of baking powder
• one teaspoon baking powder, one tablespoon water and one tablespoon vinegar
• one teaspoon apricot puree
• one packet of plain gelatin mixed with two tablespoons of warm water.

“Easter and Passover celebrations should be fun and inclusive, but everyone with life-threatening food allergies should be prepared for the unexpected accidental exposure,” Bajowala said. “Preparation includes always carrying two doses of your prescribed epinephrine auto-injector and knowing what the signs and symptoms are of an anaphylactic reaction.”

Editorial: Think like an optimist

by Mark Underwood, neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder, Quincy Bioscience
Have you ever wondered how some people manage to be in a good mood all the time? What is it that they know that you don’t about seeing the glass as “half full” instead of “half empty?”

Many people work at getting physically fit, but not everyone practices “mental fitness.” Many don’t consciously know how to keep a positive attitude going in spite of problems we all come up against.

So what are these happy thinkers doing that many people are not? Let’s start with lifestyle. No matter where you live or what chapter of your life you’re in, it’s easy to get the doldrums from time to time. In some parts of the country winter blahs are blamed while others lead an overly scheduled lifestyle which brings on daily challenges.

Research has found that the difference between people who remain cheery when faced with challenges that life doles out and those who can’t switch off negative thoughts, is the difference in mindsets.

David Snowdon, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky, has said that when optimists face problems they are able to “switch off” negative thoughts and “switch on” a happy state of mind.

Health benefits for optimists
Optimism is good for you health; pessimism is not. Stress can be harmful, yet it is nearly impossible to avoid. As we age, the effects of stress take a greater toll on our health, from increasing cholesterol to disrupting sleep.

Individuals that turn a difficult situation into a workable solution may actually be protecting themselves from the harmful effects of stress and other health problems.

A 2011 Harvard School of Public Health study found a significant increase of risk for various health problems including heart disease in people with negative outlooks.

Studies have also shown that people who can see humor in difficult situations where others see only anxiety and failure benefit from keeping a light-hearted outlook.

Living life like the way you want
There are various degrees and forms of negative thinking, but results are often the same. It can destroy motivation and energy, concentration skills, and feelings of self-worth. For some people, they’ve lived for years with a constant lack of positive thoughts. Instead, they have replaced them with continual negativity.

Living like this is difficult especially if you do so every day of the week. Negative thoughts may make you want to avoid deadlines and responsibilities. You put off daily tasks like cooking and cleaning and feel like not going to school and work.

Tips for ramping up positive thinking
It’s one thing to say to say you want a positive attitude, but it’s another thing to practice optimistic thinking when times are tough. How do you go from complaining to having a sunny disposition?

Like most things, the more you practice the better at it you get. Open the door to being more enthusiastic about life. The more you consciously put positive thoughts in your head, the more intuitive it will get.

Positivity may be easier than you think because you can practice it anywhere, anytime without any special equipment or training.

Use these tips to start being a new you.
• Listen for negativity. Find one place in your daily routine where you often run into negativity. Listen for your internal voice emerging that is looking at troubling news as failure. Ignore it. Change the channel and find a new internal voice that says, “I will get through this and in the meantime, I’m grateful for what I have.” Do this daily.

• Learn to laugh. Laugher is one of the most enjoyable ways to let the day’s stressors melt away. Humor has been studied extensively for its major effect on our well-being. As social beings we thrive with positive contact with others. Make sure you have people in your life that make you laugh and can help you lighten the day. Positive people are contagious.

• Do something nice (and unexpected) for someone. Research studies have found that five good deeds a day can make you happier. Look for ways to go out of your way to be kind to someone. It could be something simple like opening a door for a shopper whose hands are full or signing up to be a volunteer at a local organization that gives back to the community.

• Exercise for mind and body. If you feel fit and healthy, you’re much more likely to want to feel up beat less and less likely to wallow in everyday problems. Exercise has a profound effect on our ability to cope with stress. Exercise elevates our moods and helps fuel positive thinking.

Positive thinking is about placing your mind in readiness to find the good and upbeat in negative situations. It is not just window dressing for a problem—it is a technique as well as a lifestyle that can potentially change your life for the better.

Vaccinating your pet

ILLINOIS—Even though they may be taken for granted, pet vaccinations are vital for your pet’s health. Properly vaccinating your pet is an important part of pet care because vaccines can potentially help protect your pet against some serious health conditions and diseases.

“Vaccines are a suspension of altered microorganisms which will prevent, lessen, or treat disease without causing the disease,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Vaccines are considered the cornerstone of preventive medicine. Knowing the different types of vaccinations and how they work can help pet owners provide the best care for their animals.

“There are live, killed, modified live and recombinant vaccinations,” Stickney said. “By exposing the immune system to bacteria or viruses that are genetically similar to the ones that will cause disease, the immune system will develop antibodies that protect the body when it encounters the actual disease-causing organism.”

Stickney said some pet vaccines can be purchased over-the-counter and given by non-veterinarians. However, there may be quality control issues with vaccines if you are not familiar with the correct way to store and use them.

“By law, certain vaccines, like the rabies vaccine, can only be given by your veterinarian,” Stickney said. “Your veterinarian is also the best person to determine the vaccines your pet needs and how frequently they should be administered.”

According to Stickney, all puppies and kittens should receive the rabies vaccine at three months of age, and again at one year of age. Vaccination schedules vary depending on the area of the country you are in and the prevalence of different diseases in that area.

Puppies should be vaccinated for distemper virus, adenovirus, parvovirus and parainfluenza, while kittens should be vaccinated for viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. Other vaccinations may also be recommended depending on the lifestyle of your pet.

“Booster shots are necessary in puppies and kittens to overcome ‘maternal immunity,’ where the antibodies that the puppies and kittens acquired from their mother provide some protection but eventually break down,” Stickney said. “Vaccines are ineffective in the face of maternal immunity; therefore the puppy and kitten vaccine series is necessary to protect the pet during the time when the maternal immunity disappears. Booster shots remind the immune system of diseases it is supposed to protect against.”

The frequency at which adult animals should receive booster vaccines has been a topic of debate among veterinarians for years. Increasingly, there is evidence that most vaccines do not need to be boosted every year, and that the risk of an animal catching certain diseases decreases with age. Your veterinarian will be able to tailor a vaccine protocol to the specific lifestyle of your pet.

“No vaccine is 100 percent effective,” Stickney said. “It is possible to overwhelm any vaccine and immune system with exposure to enough disease-causing organisms.”

Additionally, adverse reactions can occur from vaccinations. These reactions are most likely to occur the second time an animal receives a vaccine. They usually occur within a few minutes to six hours of vaccination.

“There are two types of reactions commonly seen: anaphylactic and delayed hypersensitivity,” Stickney said. “Delayed hypersensitivity reactions are more common and less serious. The pet becomes itchy and the face and ears swell. These reactions can usually be treated with antihistamines. Anaphylactic reactions are less common, and are serious and life-threatening. The animal collapses and goes into shock. Epinephrine and intravenous fluids are necessary to treat the animal.”

If your pet has had an allergic reaction to a vaccine, it is important to let your veterinarian know. Even pets that are allergic to a specific vaccine typically have no problems if they are treated with antihistamines before vaccinations.

Remember, vaccines are health products that signal protective immune responses in your pet. Your veterinarian can best guide you in the use and scheduling of vaccinations for your pet.