Tricks and Treats for Having a Food Safe Halloween

Avoid the real horrors of Halloween by learning how to keep you and your family members safe from foodborne illness. Follow these tips to scare away food safety hazards:

  • Remind kids (and adults!) to wash their hands before and after enjoying their Halloween treats.
  • Going trick or treating?
    • Inspect candy before eating. Look for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance, discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers.
    • If your child has a food allergy, check food labels to make sure the allergen is not present.
  • Hosting a Halloween party?
    • Prevent frightful bacteria from multiplying by keeping foods at the right temperature. Don’t keep perishable foods out for more than two hours at room temperature (or 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).
    • If you bake Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs. These items may harbor Salmonella, bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Salmonella live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs.
    • Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as coli and Salmonella. Serve products labeled as pasteurized to keep these bacteria from creeping up on you.
    • Say “boo” to bacteria during a bobbing for apples game. Rinse apples and other raw fruits under cool running water, and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

View our My Meal Detective videos to learn how to prevent and report foodborne illness. For more information on general food safety, visit the VDH Food Safety page and:

CDC- Food Safety

FDA- Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents

Fight BAC!- Halloween Food Safety How-To

FoodSafety.gov- Avoid “Nightmares” on Halloween: Food Safety Tips

StateFoodSafety.com- Food Safety Talkabout: Halloween

Prescription Drug Take-Back Day October 27

Pills spilling out of pill bottle on blue background. with copy space. Medicine conceptVirginia will participate Saturday, October 27, 2018 in the fourteenth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. If you have unused, expired or unwanted medications, drop them off at a collection site in your area from 10am-2pm, no questions asked. Drop off is free and anonymous.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. When you have unused or expired medications lying around, they could fall into the wrong hands and be abused. And flushing medications down the toilet is dangerous to public health. Dropping your medications off at a collection site is a quick and safe way to make sure they are disposed of properly.

Learn more

Get Your Flu Shot!

miss the fluBy now, you probably know that it is recommended that everyone 6 months of age or older receive a flu vaccination each year. While it’s best to get your flu shot as soon as it is available (sometimes as early as August)! Flu season usually peaks in January or February and continues through May. Getting a flu shot is not only the single best way to protect yourself from getting sick, it’s also the best way to prevent the spread of flu to others.

Help us make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation by getting a flu shot and encouraging your friends and family to get one as well.

It is important to get a flu shot even if you had one last year. Your immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the best protection against the flu.

The flu is a serious disease, especially for certain age groups and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as:

  • Children younger than five, but especially younger than two years old
  • Adults 65 years of age or older
  • Women who are pregnant or just had a baby
  • People with chronic health conditions

Remember, a flu shot cannot cause illness.

To find out where to get a flu shot in your area, contact your local health department or use the vaccine finder. And visit our Miss The Flu page for more information on how to miss the flu, not your life!

Swim Healthy. Stay Healthy.

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week 2018 (small child on water slide)Public pools and beaches around Virginia begin to open in late May, making this the ideal time to talk about ways to reduce the risk of recreational water-associated illness, drowning, and injury in our communities. Water is not only fun to play and cool off in, but just a few hours of water-based physical activity per week can offer low-impact health benefits for everyone!

At pools, spas, and waterparks:

  • Don’t swim or let your kids swim if sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Every hour take kids on bathroom breaks. Change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, to keep germs away from the pool.
  • Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment (goggles, for example) when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people, particularly children and animals, from accidental exposure.
  • NEVER add pool chemicals when the pool is in use, and only add them poolside when directed by the product label.

Safely recreating in Virginia’s natural streams, rivers, and lakes:

  • Look for beach advisory signs along public access points or along the beach. Many public beaches in Virginia are monitored for bacteria levels. An advisory is posted if these levels are too high. If the beach is under advisory, stay out of the water.
  • All natural bodies of water contain bacteria, including salt water. Salty water will not disinfect wounds. If you have broken skin, stay out of the water.
  • Avoid swimming in natural waters for at least three days after heavy rain.
  • Don’t swim when you are sick. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Avoid getting water up your nose. Use a nose clip or plug your nose before going under the water.
  • If you become sick after being in the water, report your water activities to your doctor.
  • Shower with soap and water before and after swimming.
  • Keep children and pets from swimming in scummy water. If you see mats of algae or discolored green, red, or brown water, an algae bloom may be present.
  • Report harmful algal blooms or large groups of dead fish to the HAB Hotline at:

It is also important to remember that drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children ages 1-4 years. To keep swimmers safe in the water:

  • Make sure everyone knows how to swim.
  • Use life jackets and wear them appropriately.
  • Provide continuous attentive supervision near swimmers.
  • Know CPR. Find a class near you.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
  • Install and maintain barriers like 4-sided fencing and weight-bearing pool covers.
  • Use locks or alarms for pool access points.

To learn more about staying safe in pools and natural waters, visit swimhealthyva.com.

EMS Week

EMS Strong, Stronger TogetherEMS Week in Virginia, May 20-26, honors EMS responders’ commitment to providing lifesaving services. EMS for Children Day, May 23, focuses on raising awareness of specialized care for pediatric patients. Last year, EMS providers responded to more than 1.46 million calls for help in Virginia, approximately 4,000 incidents per day.

Many EMS agencies across the state will host community activities, including first aid classes, health and safety fairs, open houses, fundraising dinners and more. These family-friendly events welcome everyone to meet and greet the first responders in their neighborhoods.

To learn more about the Virginia Department of Health Office of EMS, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/emergency-medical-services/.

Want to help in an emergency? Sign up for the Va MRC

medical reserve corps at an eventWhen emergencies like hurricanes hit Virginia, there are ways you can help. One way is by joining the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).  Virginia’s MRC is a force of dedicated volunteers who stand ready to support the community in the event of a public health emergency. Each of Virginia’s 27 local MRC units is comprised of teams of medical and public health professionals who, along with interested community members, volunteer their skills, expertise and time to support ongoing public health initiatives and assist during emergencies throughout Virginia. Learn more and sign up.

Advance Healthcare Directive Registry

man lying with laptop drinking coffee or teaAll adults can benefit from thinking about what their health care choices would be if they are unable to speak for themselves.  These decisions can be written down in an advance directive so that others know what they are.  VDH provides a free, secure tool to store end of life documents that protect your legal rights and ensure your medical wishes are honored if you are unable to manage your own care.  Visit the Advance Health Care Directive Registry to get started.