How to Have an Allergy-Friendly Barbecue

How to Have an Allergy-Friendly Barbecue

Family eating at BBQ

Swim days, camping trips, family vacations, and of course, barbecues. The summer months bring with them lots of outdoor activities and opportunities to get together with family and friends.

When you have food allergies, these outings can present some challenges. Here are some things to keep in mind when enjoying that backyard barbecue if you or your child has food allergies.

Share with Care

Grills and smokers are great for family-style cooking, but they can lead to allergen-laden foods mixing with allergy-friendly foods. For partygoers with food allergies, this can be a big problem. Ask the cook to use separate platters and utensils to avoid cross-contamination.

Hidden Ingredients

While grilled meats like ribs and chicken are pretty straightforward, many other barbeque foods may have hidden food allergens. Marinades and sauces can contain nuts, soy, or other common food allergies. Even hamburgers are not as simple as they used to be. Cooks often use egg and breadcrumbs to hold patties together, or incorporate cheese into the burgers themselves. Side dishes like potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and pasta dishes can contain egg or milk products. If you’re worried about the allergens, ask the cook before eating.

BYOF (Bring your own food)

You can’t go wrong with supplying your own snacks. If the event is a potluck, bring a dish that is free of food allergens for everyone to enjoy. That way you or your child can eat safely and feel like part of the crowd, too.

Info on Hand

Even if you’re just down the street at a neighbor’s house, it’s important to keep your medication, medical ID, and an emergency action plan handy. Inform the party host of your allergies and how he or she can act in the event of an allergy attack. However you enjoy your summertime, remember to stay safe!

Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month – What is it?

June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month

MGA monthThis June marks the fourteenth annual “Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month,” a nationwide movement created by the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc. (MGFA) to raise awareness of the often misunderstood and under-diagnosed disease, Myasthenia Gravis (MG).  MG strikes people of all ages, races, and genders and, while treatments are available to improve muscle strength, there is no known cure.

During the month of June, MGFA’s official “MG Awareness Month,” the national office, as well as chapters and individuals throughout the country, is involved in a variety of activities to promote awareness.  These activities include obtaining proclamations from local and state officials, providing information about MG to the media, holding MG awareness events, disseminating information via social networks, and distributing MGFA’s “United For A Cure. A World Without MG” June Awareness Month poster. Several states and cities, including New York, Massachusetts, Nevada and most recently Connecticut, have issued proclamations, recognizing the month of June as Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month!

There is a tremendous amount of ongoing MG awareness nationally and internationally, and several exciting things happening to further promote the mission of the MGFA to finding a cure for myasthenia gravis, improving treatment options, and providing information and support to people with myasthenia gravis through research, education, community programs, and advocacy.

What is Myasthenia Gravis?

Myasthenia gravis (MG) literally means “grave muscle weakness.” It is a serious, potentially life threatening, neuromuscular, autoimmune disease which causes severe weakness in the voluntary muscles of the body. MG strikes both children and adults, and can affect a person’s ability to see, speak, walk, smile, eat–and at its worst, even draw a breath. MG saps strength, can erode abilities and hopes, halt a career, and unravel the fabric of families.

Symptoms of MG can include: 

  • A drooping eyelid
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Chronic muscle fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing

What are the treatments for MG?

There is no known cure for MG, but there are effective treatments available. Common treatments include medications, thymectomy (surgical removal of the thymus gland) and plasmapheresis (plasma exchange).  Spontaneous improvement and even remission may occur without specific therapy.  Medications are most frequently used in treatment.

What is the prognosis for those with MG?

The current treatments for MG are sufficiently effective that the outlook for most patients is bright. Although the treatments will not cure MG, most patients will have improvement in their muscle strength. In some cases, MG may go into remission, during which no treatment is necessary. There is much that can be done, but still much to understand. New drugs to improve treatments are needed. Research plays an important role in finding new answers and treatments for MG.

For more information about Myasthenia Gravis, visit the MGFA website.

Why Should You Wear a Medical ID if You Have MG?

As myasthenia gravis progresses, sudden flare-ups can occur unexpectedly and often at awkward times. Wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace can be a great benefit in explaining your situation to those around you and perhaps even save your life should you have a myasthenic crisis.   There are certain drugs that patients with MG should avoid or only use with caution, such as neuromuscular relaxants which worsen the condition.  In an emergency situation, first responders need to know that you have have MG in order to properly treat you and avoid the possibility of harming you further. Knowing that you are myasthenic at the onset will allow the emergency team to order the right tests and medication. Even if you are unable to talk at the time, wearing a medical ID can contain identify you as having myasthenis gravis and the medication you’re taking.  The emergency team will be able to act swiftly and give you the proper treatment.

Source: Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc.

Scleroderma Awareness Month – What is it?


June is Scleroderma Awareness Month

For more than 20 years, the Scleroderma Foundation, its chapters and support groups have recognized June as Scleroderma Awareness Month, marking it with annual awareness and fundraising events, as well as obtaining presidential, state and local proclamations.  The Scleroderma Foundation has joined the Federation of European Scleroderma Associations (FESCA), and other international scleroderma organizations in recognizing June 29 as World Scleroderma Awareness Day.

What is Scleroderma?

Scleroderma is a chronic, often progressive, autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own body.  Once thought of as a rare condition, scleroderma is diagnosed in more people today than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, or cystic fibrosis.

Scleroderma means “hard skin.” It can cause a thickening and tightening of the skin.  In some cases, it causes serious damage to internal organs including the lungs, heart, kidneys, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract.  As scarring, or sclerosis, of these organs and organ systems progress, they work less effectively, and can lead to organ failure and death. Scleroderma is not contagious, infectious, cancerous or malignant.

How is scleroderma diagnosed?
The diagnostic process may require consultation with rheumatologists (arthritis specialists), and/or dermatologists (skin specialists) and require blood studies and numerous other specialized tests depending upon which organs are affected.

Who develops scleroderma, and when?
It’s estimated that about 300,000 Americans have scleroderma. About one third of those people have the systemic form of scleroderma. Since scleroderma presents with symptoms similar to other autoimmune diseases, diagnosis is difficult. There may be many misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cases.

Localized scleroderma is more common in children, whereas systemic scleroderma is more common in adults. Overall, female patients outnumber male patients about 4-to-1. Although scleroderma is not directly inherited, some scientists feel there is a slight predisposition to it in families with a history of rheumatic diseases.  However, scleroderma can develop in every age group from infants to the elderly, but its onset is most frequent between the ages of 25 to 55.

What is the treatment for scleroderma?
Currently, there is no cure for scleroderma, but there are many treatments available to help particular symptoms.  For instance, heartburn can be controlled by medications called proton pump inhibitors PPIs) or medicine to improve the motion of the bowel.  Some treatments are directed at decreasing the activity of the immune system.  Some people with mild disease may not need medication at all and occasionally people can go off treatment when their scleroderma is no longer active.  Because there is so much variation from one person to another, there is great variation in the treatments prescribed.

How You Can Help

The Scleroderma Foundation has been fighting to spread awareness and help educate the public about this devastating disease for 15 years.  Please join the fight and stand alongside them for June’s Scleroderma Awareness Month.  Help them put an end to “sclero-what?” Here are just some ways you can help:

For more information on how you help, visit the Scleroderma Foundation Awareness Month website.

The Scleroderma Foundation is the national organization for people with scleroderma and their families and friends. It was formed January 1, 1998, by a merger between the West Coast-based United Scleroderma Foundation and the East Coast-based Scleroderma Federation. The national office is headquartered in Danvers, Mass.  For more information about the Scleroderma Foundation please visit their website

Source: Scleroderma Foundation

This Father’s Day Give the Gift of Peace of Mind with a New Medical ID Bracelet or Dog Tag

Dads for fathers day blogFather’s Day is just around the corner and you don’t know what to get him.  Sure you don’t want to buy Dad another tie or money clip, but chances are you’re totally over-thinking this Father’s Day thing.

You want him to know you care.  You want him to know that you appreciate all of the things he does.  Most of all, you want him to be safe in an emergency because you’d like to keep him around for a long time to come.  So don’t over-think it, get the father in your life a new medical ID bracelet or pendant and provide him with just a bit of the security and peace of mind he has given you over the years.

Check out our Lynx collection of medical ID bracelets for Dad:

 lynx bracelets

Or go with the tried and true dog tag medical ID necklace that all men are happy to wear:


“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

– Jim Valvano

ALS Awareness and Lou Gehrig

Photo from years ago, baseball hall-of-famer, Lou Gehrig, gave an emotional farewell speech to the sport due to his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). While he lost his battle shortly after, the fight to end ALS continues. Great advancements are being made worldwide every day, not only through research, but by the people living with ALS, their families, and friends who are directly impacting the pace at which we move toward developing a treatment for people with ALS today.


About ALS and Lou Gehrig

There are roughly 30,000 people in the US living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This means every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with this progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and respiratory failure. It affects people of all ages, races, and ethnicities. About 10% have a genetic form of the disease, while the majority of people live with a form of the disease that has no known cause. There is no cure or effective treatment for ALS.

Although ALS was first discovered by neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, MD, in 1865, it wasn’t until baseball great, Lou Gehrig, was diagnosed with the disease in 1939 that ALS became well-known.  A baseball hall-of-famer who played for the New York Yankees from 1923-1939, Gehrig left the game due to the progression of his disease.  On July 4, 1939, he gave his farewell speech to the game, calling himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” It has been credited as one of the most emotional moments in American sports history. This year, 2014, marks the 75th anniversary of his farewell speech.

Major League Baseball

The ALS Therapy Development Institute and Major League Baseball is once again partnering to raise awareness and funding for ALS in honor of famed baseball player Lou Gehrig. Collaborating organizations include the ALS Association, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Project ALS and ALS TDI. Beginning in May, ALS Awareness month, and culminating in festivities during July 4th games in ballparks around the country, this initiative will show we can win the battle against ALS. Be sure to check your local club for a schedule of events and more information at

Lou Gehrig’s Famous Speech

On July 4, 1939, the New York Yankees held “Lou Gehrig Day” at Yankee Stadium. Gehrig had been diagnosed with ALS just two weeks earlier. With more than 62,000 fans in attendance, the Iron Horse took the microphone for what would become one of the most memorable moments in baseball history.

At the close of Gehrig’s emotional speech, Babe Ruth walked up, put his arm around his former teammate and spoke in his ear the first words they had shared since 1934. Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame that December. He died in 1941, at age 37.

The speech:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?

Sure I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?

Sure I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”


Sources: ALS Therapy Development InstituteALS Association,

ALS Awareness Month

ALS AwarenessALS Awareness Month is a campaign to spread awareness of and to raise funds for research for a cure for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).  In the United States, the campaign is observed every year in the month of May.   In Canada, June has been declared as ALS Awareness Month by the Canadian Minister of Health. 

Seventy-five years ago, baseball hall-of-famer, Lou Gehrig, gave an emotional farewell speech to the sport due to his battle with ALS. While he lost his battle shortly after, the fight to end ALS continues.  Great advancements are being made worldwide every day, not only through research, but by the people living with ALS, their families, and friends who are directly impacting the pace at which we move toward developing a treatment for people with ALS today.

What is ALS?

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Charcot’s disease, and motor neuron disease (MND),  attacks certain cells in the brain and spinal cord needed to keep our muscles moving.  It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.  Early signs and symptoms of ALS include:

  • muscle cramps and muscle twitching
  • weakness in hands, legs, feet or ankles
  • difficulty speaking or swallowing 

ALS Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no single diagnostic test for ALS.  Instead, the disease is diagnosed by ruling out other muscle and nerve disorders using a variety of tests.  here is no single diagnostic tool for ALS. A series of clinical procedures are conducted to rule out neurological conditions whose symptoms closely resemble the disease. In the US, the diagnosis can take about 12 to 14 months. Researchers hope to expedite this process by developing tools that indicate whether people have the disease.

Most people with ALS live 2-5 years after their first signs of disease. About 10% of people with ALS survive at least 10 years. This variable rate of disease progression makes prognosis difficult to predict and therapies challenging to develop.

There is no cure or effective treatment for ALS, however scientists are working hard to develop therapies for this disease.  Currently, there is only a single medicine for specifically treating ALS – riluzole.  The drug, marketed by Sanofi-Aventis under the name Rilutek, extends survival only about 2 to 3 months.

This urgent unmet medical need for effective treatments for this devastating and fatal disease is the basis for the research and drug development effort at the nonprofit biotech organization, ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI).

How You Can Help

Become an advocate.   An ALS Association Advocate is someone who is passionate about getting involved with government at all levels to draw awareness and resources to the people affected by this disease. and willing step outside of their comfort zone to effect real change in the way our government responds to the needs of the ALS community.  Click here to find out more about how to become an advocate.

Raise funds.  There are fundraising events held throughout the year in the US and Canada to raise money for ALS research in both the US and Canada, including walks, runs, swims, golf tournaments and more.  There’s a great U.S. list to get you started on ALS – Be Aware website, as well as on the ALS Association U.S. and ALS Canada websites, and the ALS TDI website.  Many more can be found by searching the web.

Donate.  Donations to worthy nonprofits like ALS TDI and the ALS Associations help in a number of ways.  Your gifts help provide local services to people with ALS, global research to find a cure and advocacy efforts to raise awareness of this devastating disease.  Simply visit their websites for information on how to donate.

Sources: ALS Therapy Development Institute, ALS Association, ALS Canada

Mental Health Month – Why a medical ID is important for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia

ALZHEIMERS expansion_band

May is Mental Health Month

Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May by reaching millions of people in the United States through the media, local events, and screenings.  The purpose of Mental Health Month  is to raise awareness about mental illnesses, and to educate communities about psychological disorders, while reducing the stigma that surrounds them.  While Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia are not typically the first things that come to mind while discussing Mental Health Month, they are very much a part of it.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people.  A dementia is a medical condition that disrupts the way the brain works.  AD affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.  Although the risk of getting the disease increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging.  At present the cause of the disease is unknown and there is no cure.

AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist.  In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer described changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness.  He found abnormal deposits (now called senile or neuritic plaques) and tangled bundles of nerve fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles).  These plaques and tangles in the brain have come to be characteristic brain changes due to AD.

Symptoms Include:

  • Initial mild forgetfulness
  • Confusion with names and simple mathematical problems
  • Forgetfulness to do simple everyday tasks, i.e., brushing their teeth
  • Problems speaking, understanding, reading and writing
  • Behavioral and personality changes
  • Aggressive, anxious, or aimless behavior


It is estimated that currently 4 million people in the United States may have Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease usually begins after age 65 and risk of AD goes up with age.  While younger people may have AD, it is much less common.  About 3% of men and women ages 65-74 have AD and nearly half of those over age 85 could have the disease.

Why is a Medical ID important for those with Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Dementia?

Six in 10 people with dementia will wander.  Anyone who has memory problems and is able to walk is at risk for wandering.  Even in the early stages of dementia, a person can become disoriented or confused for a period of time.   Coupled with memory loss and confusion, wandering puts people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia at higher risk of getting lost or injured.  Individuals with dementia who wander are also at higher risk of accidental death, likely due to the lack of recognition of harmful situations and delays in seeking medical attention.  A person with Alzheimer’s may not even remember his or her name or address.  It’s important to plan ahead for this type of situation.  A medical ID bracelet can provide succinct information about individuals with dementia if they become lost or injured.

Prepare yourself or your loved one by having a medical ID bracelet that will let the first responders and medical staff know who to call and how to make the  appropriate medical decisions that can save a life.  A medical ID can make a huge difference during an emergency situation or wandering event.

Sources: Mental Health America, Alzheimer’s Association

Mental Health Month – What is its purpose?

MHM2014 Mind Your Health FB Cover Photo 2

May is Mental Health Month

Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May by reaching millions of people in the United States through the media, local events, and screenings.   Mental Health America launched Mental Health Week, which eventually became May is Mental Health Month.  The association hopes to inform United States citizens of the connection between the mind and body; and intends to provide advice, tips and strategies that will encourage people to take positive actions and protective measures for one’s own mental health, and whole body health. The theme for the 2014 Mental Health Awareness month is “Mind Your Health.” The focus of this year’s theme is to create a motivational effort that will put toward the goal of building public recognition in regards to the importance of mental health and to the overall health and wellness of those around us.      

The purpose of Mental Health Month  is to raise awareness about mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. It also aims to draw attention to suicide, which can be precipitated by some mental illnesses. Mental Health Awareness Month also aims to educate communities about psychological disorders, while reducing the stigma that surrounds them. The month came about by presidential proclamation, which can be read by clicking here.

What is mental illness?

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.  The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

What can you do?

Take a quick screening.  Mental Health America has online screenings for 4 common conditions.  Taking a screening test is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

Did you know that…

  • About 1 in 5 American adults will have a mental health condition in any given year?
  • But only 41 percent of them will receive services?
  • About 10 percent of the American adult population will have a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar?
  • And 18 percent have an anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder?

Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common and treatable. And recovery is possible. But not all of us think about our mental health enough.

If you’ve had trouble sleeping lately, if you’ve been experiencing racing thoughts, or if you’re just curious – the screens below can help you understand more about your mental health. Take all four and discuss the results with a provider.

If you’d like to take a screening, simply click on the condition below or visit the Mental Health America website by clicking here.

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Bipolar
  4. PTSD

Help spread the word that May is Mental Health Month.  

  • If you’re a blogger, blog about it!
  • Use #mhmonth2014 on your Twitter or Facebook posts
  • Follow Mental Health America on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook– Twitter handle: @mentalhealtham or on Facebook:
  • Share or retweet posts from Mental Health America
  • Use the links below to download an image for your Facebook cover photo:

Option 1: Family in the Park,

Option 2: Lunch with Friends,

Option 3: Working Out on the Beach


For more information on Mental Health Month and about mental health in general, visit Mental Health America.  Mental Health America, founded in 1909, is the nation’s leading community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives.

Sources: Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Wikipedia


Memorial Day – Remembering the men and women of the armed forces who gave their lives for our country

Memorial Day is Monday, May 26th

Arlington National Cemetery with flags placed for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a US federal holiday set aside to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  The holiday, which is celebrated every year on the final Monday of May,  was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.  By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.  It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.   Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

Memorial Day Traditions

On Memorial Day, the US flag is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.

For many Americans, the central event is attending one of the thousands of parades held on Memorial Day in large and small cities all over the country. Most of these feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the National Guard and other servicemen participating along with veterans and military vehicles from various wars.

Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

Ways You Can Observe Memorial Day

Often we do not observe Memorial Day as it should be, a day where we actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice.  Here are a few ways you can honor and remember those who gave their lives for our country:

  • Fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
  • Visit War Memorials.
  • Visit local cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
  • Participate in the “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 p.m.

Did you know veterans can obtain free medical IDs?

Anyone with food or drug allergies, diabetes, seizure disorders, metal fragments in the body, or most chronic conditions should wear a medical ID.  American Medical ID has obtained a contract with the Federal Supply Schedule to make customized medical IDs available to veterans.  Any veteran who needs a medical ID can get one free of charge through their local VA clinic. All they need to do is provide their VA doctor with this link:   We provide a variety of products in different styles and colors as shown below.


Click here for more information on the American Medical ID VA program.

Sources: WikipediaUS Department of Veterans

Summer Travel Preparation – Ten Tips for Safer Summer Vacations

10 tipsSummer is just around the corner and many of you are in the planning stages of your summer vacations.  Staying safe and healthy during your vacation makes all the difference as to whether or not it’s a vacation you’ll enjoy.  Taking a few precautions in advance to adequately pack for minor emergencies and carefully planning activities will go a long way toward making this vacation memorable for all of the right reasons.  With this in mind, whether you’re traveling by land or by air, near or far, here are 10 tips for a safer summer vacation.

Traveling by Car

1.  Prepare your vehicle

  • Check the tires, including the spare – proper inflation and good tread can save money, time and lives.
  • Inspect the engine, battery, hoses, belts and fluids for wear and proper levels.  Check the A/C.
  • Do a “once around” – test all the lights, wipers and clean the windows (inside and out)
  • If you’re not sure of what to do, consider a quick inspection by a qualified technician.  A few dollars up front can mean peace of mind and safe arrivals, as well as no costly on-the-road repairs and trip interruptions.
  • Prepare an Emergency Roadside Kit, including jumper cables, a flashlight and plenty of bottled water.

2. Buckle up drivers and passengers

  • Parents, grandparents and caregivers, need to use the correct seat for young passengers and be sure the seat is installed properly. Keep infants, toddlers and older children in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
  • Remember that long trips can be particularly tough on your kids, especially in the heat – pack plenty of snacks and cold drinks for the road (consider freezing juice boxes or water bottles overnight).
  • Use books, toys, DVDs and video games to keep children occupied and the driver focused.
  • Keep children 12 and under in the back seat – it’s the safest place.
  • Stopping along the drive gives everyone a chance to stretch and makes the trip easier.  If you have a fussy baby, do not take them out of their car seat while driving to soothe or provide a bottle.  If your child needs that level of attention, pull over in a safe place, such as a rest stop.
  • Older children need to ride in a booster seat from about age four until a seat belt fits them correctly. 

Traveling by Air

3.  Buckle up in the plane, too.

  • Always travel with your child’s car seat — you will need it to and from the airport.
  • Whenever possible, purchase a ticket for your child and keep him or her restrained properly in a certified, aircraft-approved, installed car seat.
  • Children who have outgrown car seats should sit directly in the aircraft seat with the lap belt across their thighs or hips.

4. Avoid ear pain and motion sickness.

  • Pack gum in your carry on luggage or purse.  Children are more common in experience ear pain than adults in changes of pressure. To minimize this, infants should bottle or breast feed where older children can chew gum, swallow, or yawn.
  • Consider packing an over-the-counter medication for motion sickness such as meclizine (Bonine, Antivert, Dramamine). It can be a very effective preventive measure for short trips or for mild cases of motion sickness. If you or someone travelling with you has symptoms of motion sickness, eating a few crackers and sipping on a clear carbonated drink like ginger ale or 7 up may help.  Closing their eyes may help, too.

 All Travel

 5.  Stay protected from sunburn.  

  • Pack sunscreen/sunblock with at least SPF 30.  Be sure to use it as directed and re-apply often.
  • If possible, avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., if possible.
  • Wear a hat that protects as much of your face and head as possible.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • If you are taking medication, check with your doctor to see if you need to take extra precautions

6.  Avoid heat exhaustion.

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Carry bottled water with you everywhere to make sure you are drinking enough.
  •  If you’re unsure of the water safety, don’t drink the local water.  Only drink bottled water.
  • Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these can dehydrate you further.
  • If you’re vacationing in temperatures above 90 degrees, stay indoors in the air conditioning, if possible.
  • Wear light weight clothing and dress in layers.

7.   Protect yourself from insect bites

  • The most active times for mosquitoes is during dawn and dusk. Use insect repellents or stay inside during those hours.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to help protect skin from bites, and check areas for insect nests and hives to avoid them.
  • If  you’ve been bitten and the bite looks unusual, seek medical attention at once. If you can take a photo with your smartphone or keep the insect specimen, it will be helpful for the healthcare provider to identify what type of bites and what treatments to give to the patient.

8.  Stay safe in the water.

  • Never leave your child alone in or near the pool, river, lake or ocean.
  • Don’t allow toddlers to swim without a life vest or swimming aids.
  • Look up emergency medical and/or rescue contact numbers in advance of your trip and store them in your cell phone contacts.  A few minutes saved in an emergency can make a huge difference.
  • Whenever possible, swim where lifeguards are on duty. 

9.  Pack an emergency first-aid kit.  One that is well stocked is always great to have around whether at home, in the car, or carry along on a plane.  Here are some important items to include:

  • Disinfecting wipes, bandages, antibiotic get
  • Sunblock spray and/or cream
  • Children’s pain relievers, antihistamines
  • Tweezers
  • Index cards with important information: insurance, pediatrician’s phone number, urgent care, etc.

 10.   Pack prescription medications and wear your medical ID.

  • When packing for a travel,  always consider the storage and safety of all medications, if prescribed, and the storage and safety of breast milk, baby formula, etc.
  • Never leave home without your medical ID.   If necessary, pack an extra bracelet during special trips, particularly if you will be travelling alone or leaving town for an extended period. Always wear the bracelet where it can be spotted easily and avoid taking it off.  Just remember, every minute counts in an emergency, and knowing your condition and medication makes diagnosis and assessment more accurate and timely.

Sources: California Office of Traffic Safety, CommonHealth Virginia, Yahoo! Voices