Folic Acid Awareness Month

pregnant woman holding pillsJanuary is Folic Acid Awareness Month. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is good for women’s health. Every woman needs folic acid to help form the healthy new cells the body makes daily. Think about your skin, hair, and nails. These―and other parts of the body–make new cells each day. Taking folic acid daily also helps prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine if you decide to become pregnant or get pregnant before you are ready.

Here are some helpful tips for making sure you are getting the proper amount of folic acid daily:

  • Take a vitamin with folic acid every day unless you eat a serving of breakfast cereal that says it has 400 mcg of folic acid on the nutrition label.
  • Place vitamins by your toothbrush or on the kitchen counter to help you remember to take them daily.

Learn more about the importance of folic acid

Radon Action Month

January is National Radon Action Month. Test Your Home. Protect Your Health.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages everyone to test their homes for radon, especially during the winter when levels are at their highest and people spend more time indoors with windows and doors closed tightly.  Radon, an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas, is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in general. Unsafe levels of radon can lead to serious illness and it is estimated that radon in indoor air causes nearly 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. In Virginia, an estimated 670 people (3.19% of the national average) are believed to die each year from radon-related lung cancer.

People can lower their health risks from radon by making simple fixes in a home or building:

  • Seal cracks in floors and walls to reduce radon. More severe cases may require the installation of fans and piping to vent unsafe levels of radon to the outside environment.
  • Use a radon kit to test your home’s radon levels. Test kits are simple to use and cost approximately $20; most are available in most home improvement centers and hardware stores.

For more information about radon and radon testing visit the EPA or the VDH Division of Radiological Health website.

Birth Defects Prevention Month

pregnant womanJanuary is Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Not all birth defects can be prevented, but a woman can increase her own chance of having a healthy baby by taking certain steps. Many birth defects happen very early in pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant: remember that about half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

Here are some steps a woman can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid every day.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.
  • Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water to prevent infections.
  • See a health car e professional regularly.
  • Talk with the health car e professional about any medical problems and medicine use (both prescription and over-the-counter).
  • Ask about avoiding any substances at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.
  • Avoid eating raw or under cooked meat.


While Pregnant:

  • Keep up these healthy habits.
  • Get early prenatal care and go to every appointment.

Learn more about preventing birth defects

Food Safety Tips for a Happy Holiday Season

hot cocoa and cookiesWhether you are celebrating at home or dining out, there are simple steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy this holiday season.

Preparing a holiday meal at home? Prevent foodborne illness by washing hands and surfaces frequently, avoiding cross-contamination, cooking foods to proper temperatures, and refrigerating foods promptly. If you are cooking a holiday turkey, follow these four tips to take the guesswork out of preparation:

  1. Thawing: Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (changed every 30 minutes), or in a microwave. Frozen turkeys are safe indefinitely, but thawing turkeys must defrost at a safe temperature. Turkeys left out for more than two hours at room temperature can creep into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.
  1. Handling: It’s flu season! Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, using soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds. This will help prevent the spread of bacteria from raw poultry, too. Don’t forget to also thoroughly wash utensils and work surfaces to protect your food and family!
  1. Stuffing: If you stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and possibly cause food poisoning, so use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches this temperature. For optimum safety, cook your stuffing in a casserole dish for even cooking.
  1. Cooking: Set your oven to at least 325°F, and place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a 2 to 2-1/2 inch deep roasting pan. Cooking times will vary depending on weight, so use a food thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint to make sure the bird has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

Dining out? Follow these four tips from CDC to prevent food poisoning:

  1. Check inspection s online for the restaurant you plan to go to. Restaurant inspection data for Virginia is available by health district here.
  2. Make sure that the restaurant is clean. If not, you may want to visit a different establishment.
  3. Check that your food is cooked thoroughly, and send back any undercooked food as it may contain harmful bacteria if not cooked adequately.
  4. Properly handle leftovers by refrigerating within 4 hours of eating. Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days from purchase.

For more information, check out CDC’s blog for more Holiday Food Safety Tips and Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey.

How to Dispose of Unused Medicine


Medications can be harmful if taken by someone other than the person it was prescribed for. If you have unused, expired or unwanted medications and need a way to safely dispose of them, you can now get a drug disposal bag from your Local Health Department. Once you get your bag you can deactivate medications in three easy steps:

  1. Place unused medication in the pouch
  2. Fill halfway with Warm Tap Water
  3. Gently Shake

Learn more about how to safely dispose of medications.

Find your local health department today.

Get Smart About Antibiotics Week

Get Smart About Antiviotics Week year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection. Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is a great opportunity to learn the facts about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

For example:

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregiver’s Month

Women portrait with happy mom and daughter smiling, face to face, showing love and affection. Close upAlzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. In Virginia, it is the 6th leading cause of death. It affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Although the risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging. Recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s:

  • Gets lost.
  • Has trouble handling money and paying bills.
  • Repeats questions.
  • Takes longer to complete normal daily tasks.
  • Displays poor judgment.
  • Loses things or misplacing them in odd places.
  • Displays mood and personality changes.

If you or someone you know have several or most of these signs talk to a health care provider.

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, know that you are not alone and there are resources and support available to you.