Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Food Safety for Bake Sales



Bake sales are a popular way for organizations to raise money. Who can say no to delicious homemade baked goods for a good cause? When the time for a bake sale comes around, remember to keep food safety a top priority.

 No permit is needed for a nonprofit organization bake sale for charitable, educational, or religious purposes. However, there are some rules that are in an organization’s best interest to follow.

Only sell non-potentially hazardous food items.
Non-potentially hazardous foods are considered low risk for foodborne illness. Some examples are cookies, brownies, doughnuts, muffins, scones, fudge, fruit pies, cake, bread, or candy.
Potentially hazardous foods should not be included in a bake sale. These are items that are higher risk for foodborne illness and require refrigeration. Some examples are cream filled desserts, home canned foods, whipped cream, cream cheese, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, cheesecakes, and custard desserts. 

Protect food from contamination sources.
Food sold to the public must be protected from exposure to bacteria, virus, and other contamination sources. 
   - Always wear clean disposable gloves or use tongs or bakery paper to transfer food items.
   - Protect foods by packaging them in food grade plastic wraps, bags, foil, or paper plates.
   - Cloth napkins and paper towels are not acceptable packaging.
   - Pre-wrapping items is a great way to protect the food.
   - Bake sale items should not be self serve, unless they are all pre-wrapped. There should be no bare hand contact with any of the food items.

Make sure consumers know their risk.
Post a sign in a clearly visible place that states that food items were prepared in a kitchen that is not inspected regularly by a regulatory authority.

Bake sales are a great way to raise funds. They allow us to share a group or organization’s mission as well as homemade goodies. To ensure that your bake sale is successful, be sure to follow all food safety precautions. 

More information about bake sales and food safety is available at our website at:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back-to-school tips for parents of children with asthma



By Kateri Wimsett, Education and Outreach Specialist 


It’s here – the back-to-school season. As a working professional, married to a high school teacher, and a mom to two elementary school students, August signals parental prep time. I'm starting to organize my lists about childcare, school supplies, and managing all the other daily life responsibilities that go along with a new school year. If your child has asthma, this is the time to update your action plans to help manage your child’s illness.

Asthma is a severe chronic lung disease. Approximately 1 in 10 children suffer from this disease in Thurston County. Asthma is a leading cause for school absenteeism, and can lead to academic, social and emotional consequences for kids.  During the summer months parents can help manage asthma by reducing exposure to triggers like secondhand smoke and other irritants. Returning to the school environment can pose challenges for kids with asthma because of increased exposure to possible triggers and respiratory infections. Here are some tips that can help you prepare your children to go back to school.

  • Have an Asthma Action Plan (also known as a management plan). Asthma Action Plans are developed with your doctor and tell others what your child’s daily treatment is. They also describe how to control asthma in the long-term and how to handle worsening asthma symptoms or attacks. You can download a free version of an Asthma Action Plan here.
  • Schedule a check up with your child’s doctor to update your plan. Even if your child’s asthma is well managed, your Asthma Action Plan should be updated every school year. This is vital to making sure that your child’s asthma continues to be effectively controlled. It also gives a chance to review any medications and physical activity restrictions.

    • Meet with your child’s school nurse and teachers. Share up-to-date information with them about asthma. Take some time to discuss your child’s specific triggers and symptoms so that they can be prepared to help your child if an asthma attack occurs. Discuss how your child can get their medicine.
    • Know your school’s Asthma Emergency Plan. Ensure that your child’s school knows how to contact you in case of emergency. Also make sure your child’s action plan has your doctor’s phone number, your preferred hospital (emergency room), as well as contact numbers for other guardians or emergency contacts.
    • Be sure your child and everyone in the family is fully vaccinated, including against the flu. The flu is a serious illness and the CDC recommends that everyone over six months old gets vaccinated. This helps further protect your child.
    • Advocate for your child. If your child has just been diagnosed you may feel hesitant to make special requests of the school. But remember many children have asthma.  You can work with the school to help improve indoor air quality for all students. One good place to start is: www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/parents.html
    • If your child has asthma, talk regularly with them about their Asthma Action Plan. When your child is older, consider having your child carry their Asthma Action Plan in their backpack or purse. That way, your child can show or tell others where to find the plan should they have trouble breathing suddenly.

    Take the time to review and update your child’s asthma care plan. This simple step can improve your communication with others regarding your child’s needs and help you feel more confident that the illness is well managed. Keep school staff and faculty updated to so they have the tools to help your child succeed.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    What is an Asthma Action Plan?



    Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that can be serious and even life threatening. People with asthma have increased sensitivity to things we are exposed to in our daily surroundings. This increased sensitivity puts people with asthma at risk for getting slightly sick to very sick just by being around substances and situations that other people without asthma don’t even think about. Triggers like dust, pet dander, smoke, cleaning products, perfumes, cold weather, and exercise can set off an asthma attack. 

    Medical professionals agree that every person with asthma should have a personalized Asthma Action Plan. Various organizations, such as American Lung Association, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and Kids Health, have templates for an Asthma Action Plan. The Center for Disease Control has a compilation 
    of templates from health departments across the United States.

    What is an Asthma Action Plan? An Asthma Action Plan is a written document that contains information specific to the person and their asthma. The plan is provided to others who spend a lot of time with the person with asthma. For example, if your child has asthma, copies of the plan should be given to their teacher(s), the school nurse, bus driver, day care provider, and parents of friends. An adult may give copies of their action plan to their family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and their children (if they are old enough).

    What does an Asthma Action Plan include? General information such as name, emergency contacts, and healthcare provider is included in the plan. The plan also includes the severity level of the person’s asthma, their triggers, and a list of their medications with detailed instructions. Another important part of an Asthma Action Plan is a description of what symptoms and signs to look for in the person with asthma.  These symptoms and signs indicate when asthma is well managed, getting worse, or a medical emergency.  The plan describes what actions to take in response to the symptoms and signs.

    Why create an Asthma Action Plan? An Asthma Action Plan gets everyone on the same page. In case of an emergency, people who spend the most time with the patient will know exactly how to respond. Also, the plan can help prevent an emergency situation by knowing when the severity level is increasing, and responding before it becomes an emergency. When a teacher knows what a student’s asthma triggers are, they can reduce triggers in the classroom and know to keep a special eye on the student when specific triggers are present. Knowing that key people have the Asthma Action Plan can provide peace of mind to parents with children who have asthma. It can also set the person with asthma at ease to know that there are people who know how to help nearby.

    How often should an Asthma Action Plan be updated? An Asthma Action Plan should be updated when information included in the plan changes. For example, the plan should be updated if the person changes medications, new symptoms emerge, or if any of the contact information has changed. The plan should also be reviewed and updated each year. A great time to do this for kids is at the beginning of each school year. This helps parents review the plan, make changes, and assess whether new school staff and faculty should receive the plan.

    Monday, August 4, 2014

    Toxic Blue-Green Algae Advisory in effect for Black Lake

    This advisory has been lifted (08/20/2014)

    Swimmers, pet owners, and anglers are advised to avoid contact with Black Lake due to a toxic blue-green algae bloom. If fishing, the safest practice is catch and release.
     
    A water sample taken from Black Lake on July 29, 2014 found the algae toxin Microcystin at 162 micrograms per liter of water, well above the state standard of 6 micrograms per liter for recreational water use. Microcystin can cause liver poisoning in people and animals. Symptoms can take hours or days to appear. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting in humans and death in animals. 

    Warning signs will be posted at public access points, Kenneydell Park, the public boat launch and the community docks across from Black Lake Grocery. The lake will be monitored weekly until the algae bloom is over and the advisory can be lifted.

    While not all algae blooms are toxic, some algae can produce toxins that can harm the nervous system, the liver, the skin, and the stomach and intestines. 

    Experts from the county’s Environmental Health Division recommend a few simple tips to help prevent illness from algae:
    • Avoid swimming, wading, wind surfing and water-skiing in waters where algae blooms are present.

    • Don’t drink untreated surface water. 

    • Keep pets and livestock out of waters with algae blooms.

    • When fishing, catch-and-release is the safest practice. If you do eat your catch, clean any fish you catch thoroughly if you see algae blooms. Before eating, remove the internal organs, which may contain harmful algae toxins.

    • Avoid areas of scum when boating and clean your boat thoroughly.

    For more information about toxic algae blooms and other water quality information, visit the Thurston County Environmental Health web page, Swimming in Thurston County.

    Thursday, July 31, 2014

    Update: Swimming Advisory Removed at Burfoot Park

    The swimming advisory at Burfoot Park has lifted. Bacteria levels have improved significantly over the last two weeks.

    So get out there and have some fun in the sun!

    Friday, July 25, 2014

    Why are children more vulnerable to chemical exposures?



    Kids move fast. They can get into things and make a mess in no time at all. So it’s not hard to imagine that children are more vulnerable to accidents than adults. But did you know that children are more vulnerable to chemical exposures?

    Little bodies. Because they are small, anything that children eat, drink, or breath is more concentrated in their bodies than it is for adults.

    Growing bodies. Children are at greater risk for harm because their bodies are still growing and developing. Some toxic chemicals have similar properties to nutrients that bodies need – so a growing body can mistake a toxin for a nutrient and happily absorb it. For example, lead has properties similar to calcium, so growing bones tend to absorb lead.

    Location, location, location. Kids are closer to the ground than adults are. They crawl and play on the ground where heavy metals, dust, dirt, and all sorts of yucky stuff settle. Find out what is in dust here.

    Busy little hands and little mouths. Children tend to put hands and objects in their mouths, they touch more stuff, and they don’t always know what something is before licking it or putting it in their mouths. This can lead to unnecessary exposure and accidental poisoning.

      
    What can you do to reduce a child’s exposure? 

    Wash hands often. Washing hands is not only effective to reduce germs; it reduces toxic chemicals that wind up on our hands. Heavy metals, pesticides, flame retardants, and other toxics are found in dust and dirt. Often times, chemicals can be all over something we touch without ever knowing it. Washing hands well (rubbing for 30 seconds with soap and warm water) each time you come inside, before nap time – especially for thumb suckers, after using the restroom, and before eating or handling food is one of the easiest ways to reduce exposure. 

    Choose least toxic products. Household cleaning products, yard products, or even personal care products (like shampoo and lotion) can contain toxic chemicals. Choose green cleaning methods or purchase cleaning products that do not say Danger or Poison on the label.  Use the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to help you make safer choices for cleaning products. The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is an easy-to-use tool to research safer personal care products. The Environmental Working Group organizes many consumer guides that can be helpful in making purchasing decisions for you and your family. To find the least toxic lawn and garden products use Grow Smart, Grow Safe, available online or download the free app.
     
    Store and use products safely.  Keep hazardous products locked up and out of reach of children.  When using hazardous products, keep track of where the kids are.  The poison control center reports more children are getting poisoned when products are in use. For some prevention tips, see our recent blog post, 8 Tips to Prevent Accidental Poisoning in Children. 

    Manage dust. Vacuum well each week (or more if you have a lot of dust) and use a water-dampened cloth to dust hard surfaces. Microfiber cloths work great. 

    Clean toys regularly. Toys get dusty and dirty. Toys go in hands and mouths. 

    Provide nutritious foods. When growing children have enough nutrition, they are less likely to absorb some toxic materials. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for food planning and tracking tools.
      
    We can’t always control all of the chemicals around us. But, we absolutely can reduce our chemical exposure by taking some of the simple steps listed above.