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A. Wash your hands frequently, and get those around you to do the same.
Washing before meals, after using the restroom, before and after food preparation, and immediately after returning home from public events, meeting places, or shopping, are all recommended practices. Keeping some anti-bacterial and/or cleansing wipes or gels handy in your auto and office can also be good. Washing your hands after handling mail or cash (paper money) can be wise as well.
Note that plain soap may be the best cleansing agent to use for most instances, for these reasons:
#1: Anti-bacteriological and disinfectant products usually protect you no better than plain soap.
#2: Anti-bacteriological and disinfectant products may harm beneficial micro-organisms on your skin as readily as malevolent ones (thereby actually making you more susceptible to some infections, not less).
|-- Good Germs, Bad Germs Scientists probe how some microbes keep us healthy By Tinker Ready, Utne Reader; Utne.com; Nov 05, 2001|
#3: Anti-bacteriological and disinfectant products typically cost more than plain soap-- so you could save money by NOT using them for most hand washing jobs.
#4: Overuse of anti-bacteriological and disinfectant products by people will only cause them to become less and less effective over time, as micro-organisms adapt to them. This leads to situations where it becomes tougher and tougher for hospitals and restaurants to sterilize their environments, as well as more and more anti-biotics administered in hospitals to truly ill folks NOT WORKING, as infectious agents everywhere become resistant to our tools over time. By avoiding the over-use of anti-biotics, anti-bacteriologicals, and disinfectants, we extend the timespan during which what we have now will continue to work.
#5: Anti-bacteriological and disinfectant products can perhaps even irritate your skin, causing rashes and the like. Especially if used excessively. Such skin irritations, if they become sufficiently severe, could cause breaks in the skin allowing various infections a better chance to begin.
At minimum 33% of USAmericans don't always wash their hands before leaving a public restroom. Hand-washing is overall the very best, easiest, most effective and cheapest way to protect oneself and others from a variety of infectious and/or toxic agents.
Hand-washing is especially recommended for times where you or those around you are sick, before and after food is handled, after handling animals, and before meals.
-- America's dirty little secret: second handwashing survey reveals Americans still don't get it ["http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/asfm-adl091400.html"]; 18 SEPTEMBER 2000; EurekAlert!; US Contact: Barbara Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org 202-942-9206 American Society for Microbiology; http://www.asmusa.org
B. Regularly clean/sanitize high disease transfer points in your home, and in general try to keep your home clean, uncluttered, and organized.
Keeping things clean and uncluttered will make it harder for infectious agents to settle into your home. It'll also make it easier to detect, eliminate, and keep out pests of many sorts, whether crawling or flying. A lack of clutter will also make for fewer accidents in the home, and less risk of fire.
Viruses can stay alive and ready to infect for DAYS on a hard surface. It can take a very small amount (dose) to infect a person. Large amounts of such viruses are often contained in bodily fluids like nasal runoff (snot) and the stool of an infected person.
Some major avenues though which infections pass from person to person include telephones and faucet handles.
Note that rubbing your eyes with contaminated hands is little different from sticking your fingers into your nose or mouth; germs will enter via the eyes as readily as any other opening.
-- Common household items could be sources of infections; EurekAlert!; 22 MAY 2000; US Contact: Jim Sliwa; email@example.com; 202-942-9297; American Society for Microbiology
Folks, it seems to me that other often touched household items like door knobs, toilet flush handles, and TV remotes could all be added to faucet handles and phones as potential disease transfer points. Occasionally applying a disinfectant to all these (or cleaning them with soap and water) would likely be prudent.
Rubbing alcohol in a cheap spray bottle would offer one low cost and easy method of disinfection. But for electronic/electrical items like TV remotes and telephones you better use a paper towel damp with alcohol to wipe them down, rather than spraying directly. Excessive moisture can damage your electrical devices. And turn a TV remote button-side down on a papertowel or handy cloth surface to minimize the chances of excess liquid running down inside it via the button holes.
Fortunately alcohol dries very quickly.
Alcohol does have some downsides: it's a skin irritant and dangerous if it gets in the eyes or is swallowed. So you wouldn't want to leave such a spray bottle sitting around kids, or expose your skin excessively to it. Alcohol will also damage the finishes on wood furniture or floors.
For the above reasons and others many might prefer to simply apply soapy water via spray bottle instead of alcohol. The danger to wood finishes would disappear, the skin irritation factor would be gone or minimized, and an accidental spray in the eye would be more an annoyance than harmful. And still many infectious agents would be killed or washed away by the mixture.
C. Avoid sharing drinking or eating utensils with others, or kissing others, especially strangers, or someone whom you know is ill.
Avoid or minimize sex with strangers, especially those you know to be ill. Keep in mind not all the ill will display symptoms at the time. At least ask someone if they're sick, or have been sick recently. Protected sex is a must for practically everyone who's not married, or not wanting to bring a baby into the world at this time. Where controlling sexual urges is a problem, there's various ways available to redirect them, minimize them, and relieve them WITHOUT exposing yourself to unsafe sex with others. For instance, many frustrated folks will discover their bodies will automatically offer some relief via erotic dreams, if nothing else (although I do not get into other alternatives here, they do exist: a little research on your part should allow you to discover them pretty easily).
Something else to keep in mind here; it's turning out that probably lots more diseases are contagious than we thought. Some types of cancer, heart disease, mental illness, arthritis, and more. YIKES!
-- Scientific American web site (found 9-26-97)
Evidence is mounting that at least some forms of schizophrenia can be caused in whole or in part by viruses.
-- Hopkins researcher finds retroviral 'footprint' in brains of people with schizophrenia; EurekAlert!; 9 APRIL 2001; US Contact: David Bricker firstname.lastname@example.org 410-223-1728; http://www.stanleylab.org
-- Virus in DNA 'is cause of mental illness' BY MARK HENDERSON; Times Newspapers Ltd.; APRIL 10 2001
It appears the bacteria Salmonella, most known as a cause of food poisoning, may also cause a bout of arthritis in 10% of victims, which lasts for weeks. A smaller percentage of people suffer long term arthritis from such encounters. The method by which this occurs appears to be applicable to other auto-immune afflictions as well.
-- Study Finds Evidence Food Bug Can Cause Arthritis, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, February 1, 2000
Evidence is mounting that infectious diseases may contribute to cardio-vascular problems, including diseases of the system. Chlamydia pneumonia bacteria and the herpes variant cytomegalovirus (CMV) are but two such agents.
-- More Evidence That Infections Cause Heart Disease By Maggie Fox, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines, September 18, 2000
All sorts of common bacterial infections, from urinary to gum disease, may contribute to later heart-related illnesses/conditions.
-- Infections Linked to Clogged Arteries By Merritt McKinney, February 26, 2001, Yahoo!/Reuters Health; Circulation 2001;103:1064-1070 is cited in the article
There's 200 different known forms of cancer. Viral infections appear to trigger almost 20% of these.
-- Scientists Seek Cancer Clues in Cold Virus By Patricia Reaney, Yahoo!/Reuters, February 20, 2001
A new infectious threat to human beings, in addition to the bacterial and viral agents known before, is now being officially recognized: prions. These things are responsible for afflictions such as Mad Cow Disease, and likely various cancers and other brain-related problems.
-- Predictions for the new millennium By LANCE GAY, October 25, 1999, Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.nandotimes.com
Some viruses (such as certain herpes variants) apparently can cause certain types of cancer.
-- Cancer-Causing Virus Spares Healthy Individuals By Will Boggs; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; April 9, 2001
It appears leukaemia may be spread among humans by an infectious agent of some sort, probably a virus. It also seems many people harbor the virus, but it only causes leukaemia in a portion of same.
It had been known for some time that a virus could spread leukaemia amongst cattle and felines. Viruses are also often responsible for human cases of stomach, liver, and cervical cancer.
-- Deadly import by Emma Young; New Scientist Online News; 16 March 2001; The Lancet (vol 357, p 858)
Some believe infectious agents could be related to many ailments today which are commonly attributed to old age, lifestyle, or genes instead, such as Alzheimer's and atherosclerosis.
-- Scientific American: Feature Article: A Host with Infectious Ideas By Steve Mirsky: May 2001
So anyway, abstinence from romantic behavior with strangers is best. But what if you somehow found yourself sucking face with a stranger anyway, and afterwards wish to try to take some retroactive precautions against possible infection? Well, brushing and flossing and then rinsing and gargling with a good antiseptic mouthwash (like Listerine) ASAP (as soon as possible) might be prudent. Bathing or showering ASAP would be wise as well.
Recently I've seen reports that taking zinc lozenges can sometimes help prevent a cold from taking hold. Please research this one yourself too, until I can confirm this with a citation. Be sure to read and follow any directions provided on the package.
D. Make sure you and yours get the vaccinations recommended for your ages, vocations, trip plans, and region in which you live.
For instance, the elderly are often recommended to get a new flu shot annually, and can elect to get a pneumonia preventative shot as well. Take note that having an annual flu shot could allow your doctor to make a speedier diagnosis of any later flu-like symptoms you might exhibit (which is always a good thing).
This guideline may seem pretty wimpy to some. Flu vaccinations, after all, don't sound as protective as anthrax vaccinations. But flu has killed TONS more people than anthrax may ever do. Maybe 20,000 a year in the US alone die of the flu, if I'm recalling my stats correctly. Some 20 million people died solely of the flu in 1918, worldwide. And many scientists are amazed an even worse flu epidemic hasn't already struck us in modern times. So don't sneer at the flu; it just may kill you.
E. Care for your family and friends.
It appears that the status and robustness of your personal relationships helps determine the quality of your personal health and the strength of your immune system. For instance, married couples tend to live longer and stay healthier than single people.
It may be a large part of the benefit from this is in reciprocity; that is, caring for others when they're sick or injured increases the chances you'll have someone to care for you too, when you're the one ailing.
|-- Friends And Hormones Interact to Decrease Stress By Carrie Wingate; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 26, 2001|
If for some reason you must do without much human companionship, look into getting a pet. Relationships with pets too seem to help maintain human health in some instances.
|-- Rx For A Better Life? Get A Pet, And Do It Now; 11/5/2001; ScienceDaily Magazine; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/11/011105073401.htm; Source: Texas A&M University (http://www.tamu.edu/)|
But try to avoid getting a bird for a pet.
Pet birds could become a source of deadly flu bugs.
-- As sick as a parrot by Alka Agrawal; New Scientist magazine, 24 March 2001; Journal of Virology (vol 75, p 3490)
F. Let trusted friends or family know your travel plans and/or schedules (especially when they differ from your typical routine).
This can help serve as an early warning system in case you get in trouble. Example 1: You don't show up as expected at a gathering, because you've passed out due to unexpected illness or injury. If people were definitely expecting you, then someone is likely to check to see why you're missing, and thereby save you from a possibly life-threatening circumstance. Example 2: You and friends go spelunking and get lost in a cave. If someone somewhere knows where you went and when you expected to be back, they can alert authorities when you're missing, and tell them where to start looking. On the other hand, if you told no one of your plans, it could take days or weeks for the authorities to begin looking for you, and they'll have no idea where to start. YIKES! An infinite variety of scenarios for all age groups and circumstances could be constructed on this premise. Basically, it's a good idea that someone other than yourself that you can trust has some general idea of your expected location and schedule at virtually all times.
An alternative to the above is having something like a dry erase marker message board on your refrigerator, or something similar, where you can jot down the time and your travel plans before leaving. That way anyone investigating you as a missing person later would have a time and place to start their search-- and maybe come to your aid in the nick of time.
G. Watch for alerts about food and product safety recalls.
H. Regularly read, watch, or listen to the local news media to keep abreast of community circumstances.
I. Eat right, exercise, and get sufficient sleep (vitamin supplements don't replace eating right!). And try to arrange your life to minimize unnecessary stress where possible.
All this should help you maintain a stronger immune system, which will protect you entirely from some things, and make you recover easier and faster from those things that you do catch.
Always discuss possibly significant changes in your diet and exercise regimens with your doctor beforehand, to be on the safe side.
Please note that it is NOT advisible to pick and choose herbal supplements, or take excessive doses of a particular vitamin, based on advertising claims or word of mouth alone. Some vitamins can actually harm or kill you if taken in excessive doses. And even tiny amounts of certain substances could sicken, injure, or kill you. BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT YOU TAKE. JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS AVAILABLE FOR SALE DOES NOT MEAN IT IS SAFE. JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS "NATURAL" DOES NOT MEAN IT IS SAFE. MANY POISONS EXIST NATURALLY. MANY POISONS ARE SOLD IN THE MARKETPLACE. NOT ALL POISONS SOLD ARE PROPERLY LABELED.
Though there may be additional safety risks involved for some regarding stumbling around in the dark, and many kids afraid of the dark may be too terrified to do it, sleeping in total darkness appears to improve your health considerably over the longer term, compared to sleeping with a nightlight or TV on. Specifically, your immune system may function better. Perhaps keeping a fully charged flashlight handy on the nightstand would be helpful to mitigate the downsides of this practice.
The more contrast in lighting your environment offers you between daytime activities and sleeping, (well-lit waking environments, dark sleeping environments) generally the better and more restful your sleep will be. Daily exercise should also aid getting a good night's sleep.
Avoiding the drinking or eating of stimulating food and drink, especially soon before bedtime, should also help you rest. Coffee and soft drinks are generally not good items to drink just before bed, as they contain caffeine, a stimulant. Tea too possesses a caffeine-like substance.
Exercise may help prevent Alzheimer's and other mental maladies. Especially for women.
-- Exercise May Cut Risk of Mental Decline By Amy Norton; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 22, 2001; SOURCE: Archives of Neurology 2001;58:498-504
-- Diet, Exercise Can Dramatically Cut Diabetes Risk; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; May 2, 2001; SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine 2001;344:1343-1350, 1390
-- Fit Men Less Likely to Die From All Causes; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 26, 2001; SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;161:825-831
Regular exercise (at least three times a week) improves your mood in general.
-- Exercise Elevates Mood -- Until And Unless You Stop Home; 16-Mar-2001; UniSci Daily; unisci.com
Those who sleep less than six hours a night suffer reduced lifespans compared to those who get at least seven hours. Regular and sustained sleep deprivation affects the body in ways similar to accelerated aging. Thus, overall health care costs are probably pushed upwards by inadequate sleep too.
-- Losing Sleep Over Fatigue ["http://www.latimes.com/news/science/science/20000316/t000025199.html"] By ROBERT LEE HOTZ, March 16, 2000
Physically demanding jobs lead to a death rate from all causes twice as high as other employment, among men. The most frequent cause of death here appears to be traffic accidents, or other violent means. It's believed physical fatigue is the cause of the higher accidental death rate.
By contrast, recreational physical exertions reduce the risk of death.
|-- Physical activity at work linked to higher risk of death Reuters/Yahoo! Health Headlines, February 10 2000|
The average adolescent requires up to 9.25 hours of sleep per night. And the changes of puberty make them more prone to fall asleep and awaken later than they did before, or likely will after, this period. Thus, many teenagers are typically between a rock and a hard place in regards to getting sufficient sleep, plus learning in school, and maybe even working a job after school hours too. Even worse, they may suffer permanent mental and physical damage, or limitations on their ultimate potential for achievement from this extended period of inadequate sleep.
-- Students and sleep - perfect together By RACHEL SMOLKIN , Nando Media/Scripps Howard News Service, September 23, 1999, http://www.nandotimes.com
Airline pilots suffer as much as 25 times more skin cancers than others, perhaps due somewhat to disrupted sleep patterns.
-- Pilots Have Higher Rates of Skin Cancer - Study By Patricia Reaney, Reuters/Yahoo! Science Headlines February 16, 2000
Getting six to eight hours of sleep per night improves learning and memory capacities, compared to getting less. In areas involving particularly challenging material, as much as a 20%-50% difference in learning and memory can occur on a daily basis between one person getting at minimum six hours sleep a night, and the other getting less.
-- Sleep longer, learn better ["http://exn.ca/html/templates/mastertop.cfm?ID=20000307-53"] by: Cynthia Reynolds, March 7, 2000, Discovery Channel Canada 2000
-- ABCNEWS.com : Dreams May Help Us Remember ["http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/dreaming_000718.html"] By Joseph B. Verrengia, The Associated Press, July 18, 2000
Inadequate sleep appears to be afflicting many middle-class children by the time they reach sixth grade, possibly reducing their attention spans and ability to learn. This sleep loss gradually ramps up between second and sixth grades as children typically awaken at the same times but go to sleep later and later.
-- Grade-Schoolers Grow into Sleep Loss by B. Bower, From Science News, Vol. 157, No. 21, May 20, 2000, p. 324
One study shows that 17-19 continuous waking hours can slow a person's reaction time as much as 50% more than alcohol intake. Task accuracy is also worse than under the influence of the tested amount of alcohol (100 mg/dl or less). The longer subjects went without sleep, the worse they became. Note that today many people may often put this many waking hours into a day.
Fatigue-related factors are estimated to contribute to approximately 66% of auto accidents in USAmerica today.
-- Too Few Hours' Sleep Slow Responses As Much As Alcohol ["http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/09/000919080457.htm"], Source: Center For The Advancement Of Health (http://www.cfah.org), 9/19/2000, http://www.cfah.org/website2/Newsrelease/long9-19-00.htm
At least 51% of adults at times drive when sleepy. At least 12% drive faster than usual when sleepy.
-- Scientific American: Science and The Citizen: IN BRIEF: August 2000; DATA POINTS The Need for Zzz's ["http://www.sciam.com/2000/0800issue/0800inbrief.html"]
J. Don't pollute your mind with bad TV or films. Besides possibly warping your personality, ruining your life, and adversely affecting your sleep, such low quality media could actually lead to your death as well.
What I mean by that is to avoid watching shows of little or no redeeming social or educational value which involve lots of blood and gore in scenarios where the victims don't deserve it and yet are powerless (or nearly so) to prevent or stop it. Especially close to bedtime. This stuff is bad for you in many ways. It can affect your sleep with nightmares, and make you more anxious during the day, as well as weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick, and require longer to get well.
Some types of stress can be beneficial to your health. Stress from working to meet a deadline can be good for you. On the other hand, stresses like those experienced during the viewing of a horror movie may be bad for you-- especially if you watch several in a row. They can suppress the immune system.
-- Study: Some Stressors Boost Immune System Function; Yahoo! /Reuters Health; November 6, 2001; SOURCE: Psychophysiology 2001;38:836-846
So how could violent and scary entertainment fare ruin your life or even kill you? Well, the aggression and paranoia such viewings can impart may lead to you being a more violent person, and less sensitive to those around you than you'd otherwise be, over time-- which could seriously imperil your social life. As for outright dying from the medium, well, it's proven that people really can be scared to death-- literally! So if watching scary media pushes up your overall anxiety level and helps amplify any real scares you experience elsewhere in your life, then they will make it easier for you to die of fright sometime, than it would have been had you avoided such entertainments.
K. Always wash your fruits and vegetables WITH SOAP AND WATER before eating them or preparing them for eating
This stuff can be coated in everything from pesticides to animal (or human!) waste residues (even if you can't see it). Washing them with soap and water will take the bad stuff right off. Merely rinsing with plain water is NOT good enough.
Washing lettuce or other leafy vegetables? These can be more difficult to wash than other items. Fully immerse the leaves in a small bowl of soapy water and gently prod them so the soapy water circulates well all around and through them. Then pour off the soapy water, replace with plain water, and repeat, to rinse. Some folks seem to think this process will leave a soapy taste on their veggies. This simply isn't true if you rinse them well. And in at least a few cases such washing will save someone's life.
Exposure to fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides may play a strong role in the development of Parkinson's disease. Coffee seems to help protect against Parkinson's.
-- Environmental Link to Parkinson's Risk Examined By Melissa Schorr; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 30, 2001
L. Actively maintain your health via regular medical exams in order to get early treatment of any malady which might show up (an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure, as the old saying goes).
Get new eye glasses or contacts when you need them. Hearing aids. Such things can help you avoid accidents, mistakes, and embaressments, and reduce daily stress. Make sure to keep your dental health in order. Bad teeth are increasingly proven to affect the health of the rest of the body.
|-- Chronic periodontal disease could lead to diabetes;19 APRIL 2001; EurekAlert!; US Contact: Amanda Widtfeldt; email@example.com; 312-573-3243; American Academy of Periodontology|
Another element here is that by NOT postponing medical maintenance, you prevent yourself from suddenly facing lots of different medical problems simultaneously. Avoiding such a blitzkreig of problems all at once can in itself save your life. For example, that gum disease you never got treated may prove the infection 'straw that broke the camel's back' when you suddenly must undergo emergency surgery due to a car accident. Suddenly, you're dead, for lack of a routine dental office visit a few months earlier.
Regular health maintenance also should reduce the number of visits you must make to a hospital emergency room, thereby substantially reducing your costs (scheduled appointments typically cost much less than emergency room visits).
M. Follow your doctor's recommendations and prescriptions religiously, read everything relating to your medicine that comes with the drugs or from your doctor or pharmacist, and consult with your doctor and/or pharmacist as soon as possible if you have a question about your drugs or your schedule for taking them.
Also make out a full list of symptoms, questions, concerns, and other drugs you take regularly or sporadically, before every meeting with your doctor, and make sure to discuss with and inform them of all these matters. If your doctor doesn't know about other drugs you're taking, they can't warn you about dangerous interactions. If they don't know about that herb you're taking, they can't warn you if it's dangerous. If they don't know about a particular symptom you're experiencing, they might treat you the wrong way, making you worse instead of better. And it wouldn't be your doctor's fault, but your own. Tell your doctor EVERYTHING that might be affecting your health.
Take note of the expiration dates on medicines, and throw them away once expired. Expired medicines can have unpredictable results if taken.
Do not share prescription drugs with others. That can be like playing Russian roulette. Something prescribed for one person could possibly kill someone else.
Be VERY careful in dispensing medicine doses to yourself or others. Some very common medicines can severely injure or even kill people with as little as twice the recommended dose. TV news magazines have pointed this out in the past about the active ingredient in Tylenol, for instance, especially pertaining to children. Another point here is the danger of mixing even over-the-counter medicines with one another, without the express advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Many over-the-counter medicines may contain the same active ingredients as others; for instance, the active ingredient in Tylenol can be found in a variety of other medicines as well. If a person took a dose of Tylenol AND one of those medicines containing the same active ingredient, they could easily get into the overdose range, resulting in damaged internal organs or worse.
So always check the active ingredients in medicines you're considering taking together or near one another in time. Better yet, consult your doctor, pharmacist, or even the Ask-A-Nurse calling service before taking multiple medicines this way.
One way to help cut down the chances of overdosing yourself or others is to WRITE DOWN THE TIMES AND DOSAGES of any medicine you dispense, at the time of the dispensation. AND always RE-READ the medicine's dose instructions every time you take it, for added certainty. Yes, it can be a hassle to do this if you have several screaming kids to care for, or you yourself are very ill. But such measures could literally save the lives of you and yours. And it's the times when you are at your sickest that you most need such a schedule-- because that's when your mind may be working at its worst, and you're most prone to overdose yourself or others without some sort of guide to prevent it.
Minimize putting drugs into anything other than their original containers, if you can help it. If you must do so, create a label for the new container listing the drugs, the prescribed dosage and schedule, etc., and attach it to the container. Making sure any other relevant documentation is also attached to the container (or bundled with it) is a good idea too. For those who must take several medicines on a daily basis, a multi-compartmented dispenser could help reduce confusion and possible injury from the medicines. These containers are available in monthly forms with separate boxes for every day of the month, and may be particularly handy for the elderly.
N. Minimize your exposure to pesticides and other poisons by not using them except where absolutely necessary, and even then using the minimum amount possible, and protecting yourself with breathing filters, impermeable gloves, and plenty of ventilation during application.
Be sure to read and follow all the safety and use instructions on your pesticides and other poisons!
Exposure to fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides may play a strong role in the development of Parkinson's disease. Coffee seems to help protect against Parkinson's.
-- Environmental Link to Parkinson's Risk Examined By Melissa Schorr; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 30, 2001
O. Leverage low cost protective clothing and accessories to your advantage.
This is a precaution everyone who can should take even under the most mundane circumstances; terrorist threats only increase their importance slightly over their every day relevance.
For instance, wearing eye protection around machinery, or when performing other tasks where your vision might be placed at risk. Wearing an air filter when your breathing should be protected, such as when applying or removing various chemicals like paint, or spraying pesticides, etc. Using gloves when there's a risk of burn or other injury, or infection. Gloves can protect from poison ivy in gardening, and from burns or cuts in metal working.
Note that every time you avoid a cut or burn or foreign objects/particles entering your eyes or breathing passages, you not only avoid an injury, but a possible infection or new entry way for later infection, too.
Some aspects of personal health and safety, like hearing, are consumables. That is, it appears your natural hearing mechanisms can only take so much sound (especially loud sounds) during your lifetime, before they finally stop working. So the more often you listen to loud music or other noises, the sooner you will begin losing your hearing. So protect it with plugs or other accessories as needed.
Exposure to fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides may play a strong role in the development of Parkinson's disease. Coffee seems to help protect against Parkinson's.
-- Environmental Link to Parkinson's Risk Examined By Melissa Schorr; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 30, 2001
P. Maintain a personal mobile phone.
These things seem to be getting economical enough so that soon most everyone in the developed countries can afford to have their own, even if only for emergency calls.
By the way, did you know that by law even old cell phones which no longer have a paid account supporting them must allow users to make 911 (emergency) calls? There's an ever growing pile of such 'orphan' phones in America, circa 2001. Why not buy a DC adapter for one and make it a permanent fixture in your auto, just for emergencies? With an AC adapter you could make one for home use too. Keep in mind these phones can work even when your regular landline phone doesn't.
Having a phone on your person or in your vehicle can accomplish a lot. Even if it can only be used for emergency calls. Those phones capable of more can be life-saving sources of information for their users.
Q. Avoid the use of dangerous non-prescribed drugs like tobacco, marijuana and others.
Even where some of these items might be known to help against obscure ailments or unusual conditions, or aid in relaxation or pain or nausea relief, it's exceedingly rare that their benefits outweigh the risks to your organs and physical and mental capabilities that may accompany their use. Plus, many are illegal, and could adversely affect your life and destiny with prison sentences, stiff fines, or worse.
Too, even if you could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a particular drug didn't damage you mentally or physically, if it has mind-alterring effects those alone could get you hurt, ill, or killed as they might encourage you to take greater risks than normal, or not notice new dangers to your well being when they approach. Ever see one those cheesy movies where the victims do incredibly stupid things, and so get killed or even eaten for it? Believe it or not, very similar scenarios play out in real life everyday, when the victims are on mind-alterring drugs. They simply can't understand what's happening around them at a crucial moment, and pay the ultimate price.
Life's hard enough when your brain is working correctly. It can become downright impossible when your brain's on drugs.
R. If there is concern about the air pollution in your area, consider moving to one with cleaner air, becoming an activist to clean up the local air, or taking other measures to protect yourself.
Air pollution can raise blood pressure levels, and possibly trigger various heart problems. 5% of heart disease cases in hospitals appear traceable to air pollution.
-- Dirty Air, High Blood Pressure Linked; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 30, 2001; SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 2001;91:571-577
S. If there is concern about the water quality in your area, install an appropriate water filtering device in your home.
As high quality water filtration can be expensive (and is wholly unnecessary for most people living in places like the USA), this is not something you should do without careful consideration, study, and shopping around.
Also note that applying high end water filtration to your entire home's water supply is usually severe overkill. In by far the majority of cases it's silly to filter your water anywhere except where you might actually drink it or use it in food preparation.
Note that lots of people basically waste lots of money on expensive water filtration systems or bottled water, while gaining little or no measurable advantage over the plain tap water they already possess. In some cases it turns out their tap water is actually better and safer than the more expensive water they're buying to replace it.
Money saved from one area can be used to help protect you from threats in another.
Tests show tap water in most developed nations is as good in quality as expensive bottled mineral water in stores. Wherever any difference at all exists, it's likely just in taste.
-- Bottled Water Drinkers May Pour Money Down Drain; Yahoo!/Reuters; May 2, 2001
T. Make your home safer and more secure.
Repair or replace damaged window and door screens. Besides the annoyance, flying insects also can carry or transfer various diseases. Using various fly and mosquito repellents and killers around and outside your home is a prudent measure-- especially during times of your own outdoor activities. Reducing mosquito and fly breeding habitats in and around your home is also advised. For example, not allowing any standing water around your home will minimize the number of mosquitos which may reproduce there.
Make sure any plumbing problems affecting the availability of fresh water or the sanitary removal of sewage is promptly and comprehensively attended to. Insure soap is always available at all sinks in your home. Throwaway paper napkins and towels are generally considered more convenient and safe than the cloth type, so far as contagious diseases are concerned.
It's wise to store cleaning supplies and other possibly toxic items out of sight, in lockable and/or high cabinets/shelves to reduce the poison risk to children.
Make sure your home is well lighted inside and out, to reduce accidents. Keep clutter to a minimum too. Small rugs and other floor adornments should be avoided as they increase the risk of stumbles and falls. Carpeting is a mixed blessing in homes. While it cushions falls it's also more difficult to clean and sanitize. And may even give off toxic fumes of its own when new (thus posing some risk to floor crawling infants and small pets). Electrical cords and computer cabling should be moved away from walk areas and secured in place where possible.
Buy step stools or small ladders for climbing purposes, rather than using items like chairs.
Install and maintain smoke alarms. Keep fire extinguishers handy in the kitchen and elsewhere in your home.
Should children be frequent guests in your home, secure possible poisons and firearms so that they cannot get to them.
Minimizing injuries and sickness due to fire, accidents, or intrusions will make you less susceptible to disease.
U. Avoid or minimize the eating of uncooked cold cuts (meats), hot dogs, etc. Cut in half hamburgers prior to eating to make certain the centers of the meat patty are not pink. Avoid or minimize eating at social events like work picnics or family reunions
Pink indicates under-cooking, and could mean the meat could sicken or kill you. Avoid or minimize the eating of burgers with thick meat patties-- the thicker they are, the less likely they are fully cooked through and through, and thereby the more likely they are to harbor sickness-causing agents.
The inconsistent food preparation methods at many social gatherings are often a source of food poisoning or food and drink related illnesses for many. By contrast, most commercial eateries in the developed nations are regularly inspected for their food preparation procedures and sanitary conditions, and shut down if minimal requirements are not met.
Dinner parties, barbecues, and other socially related meetings where food (especially with ingredients of eggs and chicken) is involved, is an important source of food poisoning. The risk goes up still further if the people preparing the food don't usually cook for such a large group.
-- Foodborne infections in the home linked to social functions; 8-Nov-2001; Contact: Emma Wilkinson; firstname.lastname@example.org; 44-20-7383-6529; BMJ-British Medical Journal; BMJ Volume 323, pp 1097-8
V. Don't drive drunk, or while talking on a mobile phone-- or let friends and family do it either.
The risk of being involved in an auto accident while doing either is pretty high. And using a hands-free phone doesn't make it any safer.
-- Cellphones worse than drink-driving ["http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992077"] by Gaia Vince; New Scientist; 3-22-02
-- Road safety study finds pros, cons to cell phones ["http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/336/nation/Road_safety_study_finds_pros_cons_to_cell_phones+.shtml"]
Driving while using a phone is already illegal in some states due to the danger; eventually it may be illegal everywhere.
W. Observe prudent safety and health precautions during outdoor activities
Some dangers related to outdoors activity (plus some possible remedies or preventative measures) include:
Individuals (especially children) getting lost or separated from the main group. Even adults can get lost at times. You can find more indepth prevention details elsewhere (please do), but here's a few: Don't allow anyone to leave camp on their own-- the minimum sized group for any expeditions or hikes should be composed of two people. That way if one gets hurt or trapped and immobilized, the other can help them and/or go for help. Anyone that leaves camp must be required to inform someone else of their intentions-- where they're headed, and when they expect to be back. Everyone should be instructed about what to do if they get lost. Among other things, this should include staying put in the same spot (or near one) if possible, and waiting for others to find them. You should do regular checks that everyone is present who's supposed to be. It might not hurt for everyone to have a functional whistle. Besides maybe helping drive away wild animals, it can also help a lost person be found by the noise. Over time it's getting more and more economical and practical for hikers to have their own walkie-talkie or mobile phone. But even if you have these, they need to be checked for working links and battery status before a hike.
Biting and stinging insects and other bugs, like ticks and spiders. Plenty of diseases and poisons can be injected into people from these sources, sometimes imperceptibly at the time. Some people are allergic to certain stings, and can even die from them. Everyone in your party should have someone else help them examine their person for ticks regularly during an outing, especially in the hair and clothing. Use of various bug repellents is usually a good idea in such environments (be sure to follow all use and safety instructions). Keep in mind some repellents can be toxic or at least irritating to human beings with excessive exposure.
Encounters with wild animals like bears, snakes, feral dogs, and others. In most areas of the country there's plenty of places to camp and hike where large animals like bears, wolves, and mountain lions are absent. If you must camp in territory where large animals might be present, it's probably best to stay close to established sites crowded with other campers. Wild animals usually are intimidated by crowds. This can protect you on hikes as well. Animals are more likely to attack a single person or a couple than they are larger numbers.
Making plenty of noise usually helps animals steer clear of you. Two or more people can carry on a conversation to make noise, one can bang a stick on trees or stumps or roots as they are passed, or a set of car keys can be jingled.
Some items to have on outings:
A good first aid kit and snake bite kit. A charged mobile telephone (that works in the region). Flashlights and lanterns, and the batteries or fuel to keep them going longer than you expect to be in the field. Plenty of protection against the elements like tents, sleeping bags, blankets, extra clothes, etc. More food and water than you expect to need (in places like bear country special precautions must be taken with food storage, or else the bears may enter your camp or tent looking for it).
There's LOTS more info you might want to have about precautions to take on outings in the great outdoors, like what to do if you actually encounter a bear, or get lost, etc., etc. Such info can be found at your public library, neighborhood bookstore, or elsewhere on the web.
X. Try to get along with others; treat them as you would have them treat you (the principle known as the "Golden Rule" I believe)
There's LOTS of good reasons to do this, including some selfish ones. Namely, if you avoid harming others they'll usually avoid harming you too. Be fair to others, and they'll usually be fair back.
This makes for good neighbors, and a safer and nicer environment for everyone.
This is also one of the ultimate defenses against the most personally dangerous biological weapons which will ever be developed: agents tuned to you or your families' specific DNA. That is, designed to harm no one but you and yours. Or maybe even just you, in particular.
Yes, such fiendish stuff WILL become possible, and much sooner than most of us would like. Since the targets may be as small as single individuals, it's unlikely any government will do much to actively combat it. It may be it'd be impractical for them to. So we'll probably all be on our own in regards to those weapons. But we're not totally powerless against them; the fewer enemies we make, the safer we'll be.
Y. Always spend less money than you make
This deceptively simple rule can benefit you in so many ways it's almost unbelieveable. Sure, there may be a few wise exceptions to it, such as getting a loan on a home or automobile, or college education. But note that's not many exceptions! If, on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis you always end up paying out fewer dollars than you bring in, eventually you can't help but have a tidy sum in savings and maybe even more money than you can figure out how to spend.
So how can this help your health? Lots of ways! One, people with fewer money problems tend to take care of their health better, by getting regular exams, taking the medicine recommended by their doctor, eating better, etc. Two, the less time you spend shopping the more you have available for exercise, and time with friends and family-- both items proven to benefit health. Three, if you usually have more money than you need, that takes away one of the main stressors on health stemming from relationship problems-- which again translates into better health. Four, if you have extra money you can be more help to family or friends when they need you, and if they suffer less stress, so will you-- to bring still more health benefits. I actually could go on, but you get the idea.
There's a flip side to this rule of course: Be very picky what you spend money on. If you observe this second principle it'll make it easier to accomplish the first.
How do you get picky? You cut down on impulse buying. Research your purchases more. The more expensive something is going to be, the more research you should do about it before buying or investing. For most people this will mean doing more research about buying a home or car, or investing their retirement funds or getting an education, than just about anything else they'll ever do.
Another element to keep in mind here: the number of reference sources for your research. The bigger a purchase or investment you're considering, the more different research sources you should consult on the matter.
Much further down the research ladder than stuff like homes, but still valuable to do pre-purchase research on, are home renovations and furnishing, computer/office equipment buys, workshop or studio buys, major home appliances, etc.
For many purchases resources like a Consumer Reports buying guide would probably save a lot of people much time, money, and hassles.
Another tip: Lots of folks make impulse buys like boats or extra cars they really don't need and may end up using only a handful of times in their whole lives. Such stuff can turn out to be painful to look at later, when the buyer wishes they still had that money available for other things. So why not just rent such stuff instead for the few times you'll use it? Do the calculations, and see if you don't usually come out ahead on temporary rentals of things like boats, compared to buying them. That way you can have the fun you seek, but at vastly reduced prices.
Another factor here would be a mix of healthy redundancy, security, and practicality. Let's say you've got a wife and three kids. You already have a mini-van, but need another vehicle for your own work commutes, so the wife can run the kids to school and back, and other errands. You've got your eyes set on either a motorcycle or two seater sports car. Which should you get?
Neither. At least not as the family's second vehicle. You see, sooner or later that mini-van is going to be down for repairs. In that case your whole family will be dependent on the second car. So neither the motorcycle or the two-seater will hack it. Get something that'll hold the whole family in a pinch. This act will save you mucho hassles down the road, and provide some welcome flexibility in a pinch.
Z. Take extra health precautions around the time seasons are changing, because such flux can adversely affect us.
By extra precautions I mean go ahead and take that jacket when the first cool breezes of fall are coming through, even though you may feel silly doing it. Likewise that coat when fall is first turning into winter.
Weather changes brought on by a change in seasons affects our health.
-- Sickness in a cold climate BY SIMON CROMPTON; OCTOBER 30 2001; Times Newspapers Ltd.; www.thetimes.co.uk
AA. Check to see if your home's humidity is optimized for comfort, energy efficiency, and reduction of contagion or allergen migration.
This can be a condition that changes with the season. Central heating and cooling systems also often include an air filter. This filter requires regular maintenance to do its job. Filters may also be available in different degrees of filtration- which means you could put in a filter that blocks particles of most whatever sizes you wish. Keep in mind there's a trade off here between how strenuously you filter airborne particles and how much harder you make it for your system to move air around. A really fine filter could add significantly to your heating and cooling bills, even as it also makes it harder for allergens or infectious agents to spread through your home.
Lower humidity indoors makes it easier for some airborne infections to invade your respiratory system. Higher humidity indoors apparently increases the chances the agents will instead get stuck on a wall or ceiling and die there, with no effect on you and your family.
All this is a very gray area though. For higher humidity also makes it easier for molds to grow and spread in a home-- and molds too can pose a risk of serious illness.
Higher humidity indoors in winter can make you feel warmer with less actual heat, thereby saving you heating money. Lower humidity in summer can make you feel cooler with less air conditioning, and save money there too.
Lower humidity in winter increases the chance of static electricity discharges, and thus poses risks for delicate electronics like computers and stereo systems.
Higher humidity may keep indoors dust levels down, while lower humidity pushes them up. Dust levels may determine the breathing comfort level of the inhabitants-- especially those with allergies or other respiratory problems.
Humidity control is not yet standard with many heating and cooling systems. It usually costs extra to install and operate, circa 2005.
BB. Take baths instead of showers
Baths are safer than showers for many folks. Especially the naturally warmer and more humid the region is in which you live.
"Now, because of energy conservation and fears of scalding children, water heaters are capped at 125 degrees or less, temperatures that permit — and maybe even encourage — the growth of mycobacteria."
"...nearly everyone showers, often in enclosed stalls, which is a great way to expose one's lungs to mist containing mycobacteria. The potable water in both homes and institutions are contaminated with these organisms."
-- Dr. Michael Iseman, possibly of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver Colorado
-- A Hidden Peril Lies in That Warm, Moist Air - New York Times ["http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/13/health/13brod.html?ex=1150862400&en=49101caa63f0befe&ei=5058&partner=IWON"] By JANE E. BRODY; June 13, 2006
CC. Leverage the internet to your advantage to reduce your physical interaction with strangers, and environments other than home, school, or work.
Use the net to research many purchases and investments before you make them. To shop. Maybe even to do business or get an education. Note that several of these items will reduce the need for you to leave home, and thus cut back on your risk of exposure to infectious disease, as well as accidents.
If you and your friends and family all or most have email addresses, you also possess an alternate medium of communications when various phones might not be working. Too, it'll be easier for all of you to share important bits of news and information regarding health, business, safety, and other matters. Instant messaging and related technologies might even help cut down on long distance phone bills in some cases.
DD. Get more education and training.
Or at least read more non-fiction and take up an intellectual hobby or two. There's mounting evidence that the more education and/or intellectual stimulation you have, the less vulnerable you are to at least some afflictions.
The smarter you are, the better protected you seem to be, too-- since smarter people live longer.
-- Stimulating environment protects brain against damage from lead exposure; 30 MARCH 2001; EurekAlert!; US Contact: Steve Benowitz; email@example.com; 215-955-5291; Thomas Jefferson University]
-- Intelligence, longevity linked; The Associated Press/Nando Media/ the Nando Times; April 6, 2001
EE. Stay active and engaged in daily life.
Being a couch potato is practically a prescription for ill health and early immobility and death. Staying involved with and caring for others like family and friends can go a long ways towards helping you stay active. Having a challenging job you enjoy is excellent-- especially if it has some physicality attached to it, such as walking a good distance, or many stairs, each day. Having intellectually and physically stimulating hobbies or recreational habits is good. Joining a fitness club or gym can help provide you a place and people to interact with in physical activities. Volunteering to provide services to schools, churches, or local communities can also help you as well as others.
FF. Wear a bracelet or neck chain at all times (like a Medic-Alert bracelet) describing any particular pre-existing medical condition you may have which might be important in a medical emergency where you are unconscious.
Alternatively there may also be special ID cards for some things you may carry with you to identify certain important items about your health to emergency care givers.
GG. Keep a personal journal or log.
Many folks may not have the time for this. But for those that do, the journal can serve many functions. One, it can relieve stress, as you write letters you'll never send to folks who angered or upset you, and thus get such stuff out of your system. Such stress relief can help you maintain your health, as well as maybe your job too. Two, you can include poems, ideas for inventions, your hopes and ambitions for the future, or vivid dreams you've had-- just about anything. In the far future you can use these journals to reminisce, write an autobiography, or do other things.
HH. Do NOT stockpile anti-biotics in your home unless recommended to do so by the authorities.
Medicines expire, after which they are unlikely to help you, and may even harm you. They are frequently costly, so stockpiling them may be a waste of money better spent elsewhere. Stockpiling by the general population can easily result in shortages of the drugs where they are really needed, thereby perversely leading to a disease spreading further than it otherwise would-- and possibly endangering people faraway, like YOU yourself(!) So stockpiling anti-biotics could easily put you in MORE danger, not less.
II. DO stockpile money. Maintain some savings, I mean.
Having some extra money around for emergencies is and always has been a good idea. Plain old money is much more versatile than most things you might buy with it. That versatility or adaptability may be critical to you in a crisis.
JJ. Try to make the best of things, and be as happy as you can under the circumstances.
Depressed people have weaker immune systems. But trying to stay as happy as possible all the time may be one of the hardest things you can ever accomplish. First of all, even if your whole life was picture perfect, you'd have to be down at least occasionally in order to truly appreciate what you had. So striving to be happy 100% of the time is not necessarily the best thing to do. Allow yourself to be unhappy when it's appropriate or necessary. Loss of a loved one, or your own miserable sickness, can be pretty good reasons to be unhappy. Having a job you don't enjoy can be another one. But just do your best to make sure such unhappiness is only temporary, and you get on with your life.
-- Depression Ups Risk of Dying From Heart Disease; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 15, 2001; SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry 2001;58:221-227
-- Optimistic Outlook May Reduce Risk of Stroke By Alan Mozes; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 22, 2001; SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine March 23, 2001
-- Happiness Powerful Medicine in Warding Off Stroke; March 22, 2001; Yahoo!/Reuters
Either depression or anxiety can slow healing of wounds.
-- Depression May Slow Wound Healing; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; April 19, 2001; SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine 2001;63:216-220
KK. Seek moderation in all things
In other words, don't obsess over matters that are beyond your control, or actually insignificant to you and yours, all things considered. Also don't obsess over things that ARE in your control. One way to avoid such obsessions is to just go ahead and do things on your to-do list rather than fretting about them. Or talk out the matter with the relevant people involved, or seek counseling about your troubles. Obsession can lead to health problems, as well as exacerbate already existing ones.
A related item to all this is panic. Note that panic in the modern world is often detrimental to both yourself and others. Back in the Stone Age our panic reflex (known to scientists as our 'fight or flight' instinct) served us well, helping us frenziedly fight off attackers or else run for our life at top speed. Today though, in many stressful circumstances neither fighting or running is appropriate. Since our bodies remain in the Stone Age evolutionary stage, we suffer mightily from having to fight our natural 'fight or flight' instincts in modern situations. Ergo, we experience stress. Sometimes boatloads of it. Luckily we do have a few tools to reduce its harmful impact. Tools like meditation and relaxation exercises utilizing special breathing techniques, yoga, etc., etc. Mental discipline and knowing yourself well can help too (there's a slew of 'self-help' books available to guide you in such quests).
Knowing how to relax and stay that way can be enormously helpful in many stressful situations. Here's an example: Two different people in two different places experience a very mild heart attack-- one that will pass with little permanent damage if things go well, allowing the victims to get an exam and treatment from their doctors later, to get to a happy ending. But in cases like this the response of the victims may mean the difference between happy endings and tragic ones. The victim who panicks and stresses out over the pain may make the attack far worse than it would have been on its own. And suddenly he may be dead or incapacitated. The other victim though notices the pain, and sits down to rest and relax for a moment. He calms himself with relaxation techniques he regularly practices in his quieter moments. He cares less what the outcome might be than the first victim because he knows he's been living the best life he could up to that moment, and so wasted little of his time on Earth. If he lives, he knows he'll continue doing the same. If he dies, he knows the pain will cease, and that he's helped give his loved ones and the world the best he had to enable them to go on without him. He's at peace. Relaxed. His minor attack subsides, and he lives to see his doctor about it later.
|-- Obsessional Men Prone to Heart Disease Death; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 15, 2001|
LL. Become and stay at least minimally prepared for disasters or emergencies.
Most of us living in the USA will (hopefully) rarely see local 'worst-case-scenarios' be realized which last longer than a few weeks, between 2001 and 2030. But lots of less serious and shorter-lived crises could take place. Being prepared for such things will make them easier to bear. In some cases, such preparation could even save lives.
For emergency preparedness, you basically want to attend to essentials: Food, water, shelter, heat, light, etc.
Keeping some extra canned food around is prudent. A two week supply should be plenty, unless you live in a remote mountain cabin and might get stuck in 16 foot snow drifts for three months. Filling and capping a dozen jugs of tap water and putting them away somewhere could be smart. You might want to empty them and refill them every 30 days or so, for freshness. There's several ways to purify water for drinking, such as thoroughly boiling, adding purification tablets, using filters, or other measures-- please check out some survivalist references for more info here. Water filters and purifying tablets are available from various camping/hiking, survivalist, and army surplus vendors.
A variety of camping stoves are available for roughing it. Some will require propane or other fuel supplies. Some matches or butane lighters could also be important in a crisis.
Everyone should have a fire-proof box or safe of some sort to protect important papers. Keeping it out of sight somewhere will add to its security. A bank security box might be even better than a home box. But the in-home box could also hold some extra cash for times of emergency, and be more accessible than the bank version. How much cash money should you keep handy? Enough for a couple weeks of normal expenses would likely be plenty for most. Note that the cash hoard I'm speaking of here should be something entirely separate from your normal savings and investment accounts.
Another home essential is flashlights. More than one, preferably. Under many conditions a rechargeable that plugs into the wall may be the most convenient and practical. But if power outages persist for long, only the non-rechargeable battery sort will continue operating. So keep a few spare batteries around, too. Battery-operated fluorescent camp lanterns will offer wide area lighting for much more extended periods than other types of battery lights.
Candles, kerosene lamps, and matches can provide backup to battery-powered lights. However, lots of modern folks no longer realize the danger open flames like candles can represent, if they fall against flammable materials in a home. Kerosene lamps and heaters too present dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. So you must insure adequate ventilation when these are used.
A small battery-powered radio can help you maintain a link to the outside world in a crisis.
In colder locales keeping a supply of wood cut for an indoor fireplace or wood burning stove will be prudent. A kerosene heater and small supply of kerosene is another alternative.
A camping toilet and related supplies can be very welcome should water become too scarce to allow for normal toilet use (and can help out when the indoor plumbing is on the fritz too).
Considerable amounts of both clear and opaque plastic sheeting, duct tape, nails and tacks, and a hammer would be good for sealing up broken windows and lots of other things.
A small library of reference books can be worth their weight in gold during a crisis. First aid and other medical references, survival manuals, farming and self-sufficiency books, car and home repair and how-to books, etc., etc. A good map or two of your city or county could pay for itself. AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please do NOT let this web page be your ONLY guide to emergency planning. This page is only meant as a general outline, not a comprehensive reference. END NOTE.
Keeping a decent first aid kit in your home and office is a reasonable thing to do, and could help prevent many infections of injuries like cuts. A small, cheap, minimalist first aid kit in your car couldn't hurt either.
Always fill up your car's gas tank when it gets down to half a tank. Never letting it fall below half a tank will give you a reserve in case of emergency. Maintaining a few basic tools and emergency items in your car is a good idea. A basic tool set would include a roll of duct tape, flashlight, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, a Swiss Army knife, needle-nose vise-grip pliers, regular pliers, and large and small adjustable wrenches. Check occasionally to make sure your spare tire is inflated and in decent shape. A good jack and set of booster cables should be stored in the trunk. A well sealed gallon of water or anti-freeze for topping off the cooling system, a quart of motor oil, and a quart of transmission fluid are supplies which could come in handy.
Keep your car and your home in good repair. This will minimize your potential problems in an emergency.
Should you have a gun at home for emergency purposes? I'd say yes, in general. But NOT a handgun. There's lots of problems and disadvantages to hand guns compared to others. If you can have only one gun (good ones are somewhat expensive), it should be a shotgun. A single shot, relatively short barreled .410 would be just fine. It would be easy and straightforward to use, and produce a less formidable recoil or 'kick' to the user than larger weapons. Though small and not a particularly glamorous weapon, it can still be lethal depending on the range and the type of ammunition used. However, this size gun is usually meant for killing small game at fairly close range. You wouldn't want to use it in a firefight with soldiers, or against something like a grizzly bear, if you could avoid it. But very few of us need worry about things like that.
By carefully choosing your ammo, such a gun would NOT shoot through the walls of your home in most cases, thereby preventing you from accidentally harming your family with its fire, indoors. Again, depending on the ammo used, it could be very easy to aim in the limited range it was meant for-- just point it in the general direction of the target. It could definitely injure or incapacitate an intruder it hit, especially at close range. And badly hurt or possibly kill a large dog menacing your family or property. And it would make a pretty good and frightening noise when it went off, too. The .410 could also be used for hunting of small game. And wouldn't be as risky in many ways as a handgun. Isn't all this much of what you'd want in a contingency firearm?
Having a stock or stock accessory that could store four rounds or so would be handy. If the gun was made of stainless steel it might require less maintenance (but also cost more) than a regular 'blued' firearm. You need an appropriate cleaning kit for your gun(s) too. One or more army surplus ammo storage boxes in good shape (the seals not damaged) can hold your extra ammunition for the weapon. Ammo can probably keep for many years in a well-sealed ammo box-- especially if it's stored in a dry, cool place, out of the sun. Having a few hundred rounds wouldn't hurt. Besides firing it, ammo can also be a good trade item in worst-case scenarios.
All the above being said, some folks will find a handgun more suitable for defense because of cramped living quarters (even a short barreled shotgun might be unwieldy in tight quarters), the comfort of having multiple rounds available, no kids ever being around to be endangered, and/or you need a firearm for trips too, besides at-home defense.
Folks, if you're going to use a handgun you MUST become VERY familiar with its operation, as well as periodically take it to a firing range and practice your aim. This will of course necessitate regular cleaning of the gun too. As well as perhaps surprisingly high expenses related to ammo usage.
It may also be necessary to obtain a legal permit for carrying the gun around with you. Otherwise you could get into a heap of trouble whether you ever actually use it or not(!)
All that regular practice will be essential for the handgun to actually do what you expect of it. For it can be surprisingly difficult to hit a target with a short-barreled handgun firing a single little bullet, as compared to the scatter-shot of a shotgun. Indeed, there may be statistics somewhere indicating that handgun owners or friends or family members much more often are killed or injured by their own gun than any attacker might be(!) Why? Usually insufficient knowledge and training and practice with the firearm on someone's part.
All firearms are potentially deadly to their owners and the owners' loved ones. But handguns are the worst in this respect. All gun ownership represents a substantial commitment on your part: with handguns being the biggest. You underestimate this aspect of gun ownership at your peril.
MM. Minimize your contact with small children
Yes, this one isn't really practical or desirable if you have your own little urchins to care for. But for everyone else, this guideline can save them a lot of bouts of sickness, since small children collect and dispense contagions with alarming frequency.
MM. Set up 'safe' rooms (optional).
I say this one is optional because it would be excessive for many folks. But still, for at least a few, it might be a wise action. What sort of threats would you want a safe room to protect you against? Tornadoes and other fierce storms. Intruders in your home. Nuclear, biological, and chemical attacks.
Note that those folks with basements and storm shelters are ahead of the game here, at least in some ways. Exceptions include things like biochemical attacks, where the dangerous gas may stay low, and so to avoid it folks would want to go higher in a house, rather than lower into a basement or cellar. So what about gas masks? Pretty difficult to justify them for civilian use, for lots of reasons. Civilians easily suffocate to death from mis-use of such masks. The active filters of such masks expire, and so must be replaced regularly. A mask must fit the wearer perfectly, or it's useless-- stuff like that.
Be wary about advice from folks telling you to seal up your safe room to protect against biochemical gases seeping in. One or more people staying for too long in an airtight room will die of suffocation, and defeat the whole purpose.
A safe room against tornadoes and intruders needs to be strong, with a strong door and locking mechanism. It should have minimal windows, and those windows should be heavily secured (with bars perhaps). It should have its own phone so you can dial 911. The smaller the room, the stronger its framing is likely to be. A room in the center of the house will tend to be better protected against a tornado than a room somewhere else.
NN. Never buy a new car, but always one that's at least a year old. Also avoid riding in a car newer than one year old, if possible.
Why avoid new cars this way? Because toxic fumes from the new materials in them can make you sick, of course. The fumes usually weaken to acceptable levels by some 6-12 months after the car's purchase.
Note that you'll save quite a bit of money buying used, as well-- especially if you consult the repair track record for particular models (via Consumer Report buying guides and other means) as part of your shopping considerations.
NN. If you're not already of a moderate or liberal political bent, become at least slightly more so: the present and future health and happiness of yourself, family, and friends appear to depend on it.
Here's some health references:
-- Forgiveness Boosts Health; Effect Varies with Age; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; December 28, 2001; citing Journal of Adult Development 2001;8:249-257
-- Forgive and your health won't forget csmonitor.com ["http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1219/p11s01-stgn.html"]
-- People who give, live longer U-M study shows ["http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-11/uom-pwg111202.php"]; EurekAlert
-- Protesting May Be Good for Your Health ["http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=healthNews&storyID=1952690"]; Reuters
-- Bad dreams haunt right-wingers ["http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns9999996"]; New Scientist
-- High hostility may predict heart disease more than other risk factors such as cholesterol ["http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-11/apa-hhm111202.php"]; EurekAlert
-- Mellow Out, or Risk High Blood Pressure ["http://abcnews.go.com/wire/SciTech/reuters20021120_211.html"]; ABC News
-- Obsessional Men Prone to Heart Disease Death; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 15, 2001
-- Expecting a laugh boosts stress-busting hormones ["http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-11/uoc--eal110502.php"]; EurekAlert
A better cultivated sense of humor might be all that's necessary to help prevent many people from becoming extremists of whatever stripe, joining cults, becoming terrorists, or committing suicide or violent (or otherwise malevolent) acts against others.
-- The cult of the ultimate sacrifice by Ian Buruma; June 4, 2002; The Guardian
The enormous costs to society of 'right-wing' political governance
OO. Get rich. You might do it by starting your own business.
Having more money appears to reduce one's reluctance to get regular checkups and perform health maintenance. More money also means a better quality and diversity of food is available, and that you can pay others to do risky house chores which might result in injury. You can afford safer cars and more secure housing, too.
For some folks starting their own business or becoming self-employed may be the only practical route to make it through the rest of their lives. Some of us just can't be satisfied calling someone else boss (though in becoming self-employed you basically trade having one big boss for tens, hundreds, of thousands of smaller bosses-- your customers. Fortunately though, when self-employed you can often choose which of your 'smaller bosses'/customers you work for, either by pricing or other factors).
Being your own boss will usually give you a sense of being at least somewhat in control of your life. And studies have shown that folks who feel they have such control usually stay healthier than those who don't.
The more control people feel they have over their own lives, or the more confidence they have in their ability to perform their jobs, the stronger their immune systems seem to be.
-- How people perceive personal control when coping with demanding jobs can make them more vulnerable to colds and the flu; 29 APRIL 2001; EurekAlert!; US Contact: Pam Willenz firstname.lastname@example.org 202-336-5707 American Psychological Association
PP. In case of direct exposure to biological or chemical agents, calmly exit the scene, and seek out an uncontaminated refuge or area. As soon as you've escaped the immediate danger, bathe, don a change of clothes, then seek medical attention
The average American is probably more likely to be hit by lightning than ever find themselves in immediately lethal danger from a biological or chemical attack. And even then, the threat will likely be from an industrial accident rather than any terrorist attack. Still, some tiny number of us WILL at some point learn something bad is coming, or sense it already around them. What should they do then?
If you're getting any information from the authorities at the time, like over the radio or TV, that might be the best instructions to follow. If such info isn't available, then in general the thing to do is to get away from the stuff if possible, and breath it as little as you can. Use part of your clothing to breathe through, as a crude filter. A towel of some sort might be even better.
If you're inside a tall building, going up to the highest floor may be advisible, as the gas may stay low. Getting onto the roof, and into fresh air, may be even better, if the gas is getting artificially circulated by the building's ventilation system.
If you're outdoors when the strike happens, get as far away from it as possible. Go up hills if available, as the gas may stay low. Climbing a tree may be helpful under some circumstances. Get as high as you safely can.
One great defense against such hazards is to remain calm, rather than panicking. If you're calm you'll breathe in less of the substance. If you're not running but simply walking, you'll breathe in less of the substance. If you're calm rather than panicked, you'll probably figure out how to get upwind of the substance, or otherwise remove yourself from it in a timely fashion.
When it seems you've reached reasonably fresh air, relax and take a few slow, deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling, to clear out your lungs as possible.
It's possible while removing yourself from the contaminated area you discover something like syrup on your person. This could be some of the poison in liquid form. Do NOT scrub or rub the liquid, but try to soak it up, or scrape it off you, with something you can throw away.
If you get blisters, don't split or open them up. If they do get opened, soak up the liquid from them with something you can throw away, rather than letting it spread over more of your body.
As soon as you can find the resources to do so, discard all your clothing, wash yourself from head to toe, and put on fresh, uncontaminated clothes. This will help get rid of more toxics. Do NOT keep your old clothing.
Contact emergency services as soon as possible for examination and treatment.
With all the hype raging in America during late 2001 about the terrorist threat of biochemical weapons, it doesn't hurt to remember such weapons never became a major tool used by national militaries for several good reasons-- one of which being they just don't usually work very well or reliably to hurt people, at least up to now, in the early 21st century. When such an attack takes place, it's typically 'stuck' in a certain location, so all you have to do is move away from that spot to increase your safety. Soldiers get their extra biochemical weapons training and gear mostly because there might be times when they must stay put in the area of an attack-- but civilians usually aren't restricted this way.
The effects of these weapons are weakened considerably when used in freezing weather, or hot. Due to air circulation patterns they work best near dawn or dusk too, and less well at any other time.
In other words, pretty much everything has to go just right for a biological or chemical weapon to work as the user desires. The slightest bit of bad luck, and the terrorist has merely wasted tons of cash and a big chunk of their life on nothing at all. That's why using bombs, guns, and airliners as weapons are much more popular among such people, than biochemicals.
The most potent effect of biochemical weapons is the fear they generate. They may not be capable of killing or injuring many people under most circumstances, but in the right environment they sure can scare millions. Ignorance is a big part of the environment they require. The more you know about such weapons, the less easily you'll be scared by them.
We actually store and use some of these weapons ourselves, in our homes, on a routine basis-- pesticides. Pesticides are pretty much the same as things like "nerve gas". Read the labels to see their effects, and the precautions advised for their use. Yep, they sure are dangerous, if you expose yourself to them too much, or in the wrong ways.
-- THE REAL STORY ["http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200110/msg00311.html"] (about protecting yourself from biological or chemical weapons) by FC Red Thomas (Ret) Armor Master Gunner Mesa, AZ; Apparently posted 22 Oct 2001 by David Farber; and other sources
Other possibly useful links include:
FEMA Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness
RR. Become an activist, entrepreneur, teacher, writer, journalist, inventor, or other shaper of the world and public opinion, and work to make the future safer and better for all
Basically, the happier everyone worldwide becomes, the smaller the risk of terrorism or war should be.