Boosting the Immune System

Health officials advise us each fall to get our flu shots.  The flu vaccine helps reduce the severity of flu symptoms and helps prevent against the virus. This year the flu shot’s importance has been heighten because of the coronavirus pandemic.

After getting the shot, the next step should be regular visits to your local grocery store to pick up foods that will continually boost your immunity.  It is important to note that NO diet or supplement will cure or prevent disease; rather a healthy immune system is a powerful weapon against colds, flu, and other infections.

There are several different vitamins and minerals that fall in the immune booster category. These booster foods can increase the number of white blood cells and enhance their function while helping to flush non-functioning cells from the body. Listed below are some key nutrients and the foods where they can be found.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C sits at the top of the immune boosters. It increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies which are key to fighting infections.  It also increases the antibody, interferon, which coats cell surfaces and prevents the entry of viruses. Besides helping with colds and flu, Vitamin C is a key element in fighting cardiovascular disease by raising HDL (good cholesterol) and decreasing blood pressure. Good sources of Vitamin C include: bell peppers (especially red peppers), citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges, clementines, tangerines, limes, lemons), dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, sprouts), kiwi, papaya, and herbs (parsley, thyme).

Vitamin E

Vitamin E sometimes takes a back seat to Vitamin C but this powerful antioxidant is key to stimulating the natural killer cells that seek out and destroy germs, bacteria and even cancer cells. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts) are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats. Other foods containing Vitamin E include: sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens (see Vitamin C), avocados, and sweet potatoes.

Beta-Carotene

Beta carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A and plays a very important role in immune health by increasing the infection fighting cells while decreasing the number of free radicals in the body. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant and helps fight cardiovascular disease by interfering with the way fats oxidize in the blood stream to form plaque. It is also known to aid in the battle against cancer and promote eye and skin health. Common foods containing beta-carotene include: naturally orange foods (carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, squash) dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, red leaf lettuce, turnip greens), cantaloupe, red and yellow peppers, and apricots.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3’s boost immune function by increasing phagocyte, the white blood cells that destroy bacteria. They also protect the body against damage from inflammation due to infection. Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E complement each other, working together to give a major boost to the immune system.  Omega-3’s are important to heart health by maintaining heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and improving blood vessel function. Foods high in Omega-3 include: fish and fish oil, canola oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

Zinc

Zinc doesn’t get as much attention, but our bodies need it so that our immune cells can function as intended. However, too much zinc can actually inhibit immune system function so the RDA (11 mg men, 8 mg women) is sufficient. Shellfish (oysters, crab, mussels) is the best source of zinc.  Other sources include: red meat and poultry, beans, nuts, and whole grains. 

Variety is key. Eating just one of these foods won’t be enough to help fight off cold, flu or other infections. Pay attention to serving sizes and recommended daily intake to keep things in balance. Beyond immune boosting foods, staying healthy also involves regular exercise, staying hydrated throughout the day, and practicing good hygiene to protect oneself from colds, flues, and other illnesses.

In light of the 2019 coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important to note that no specific food, supplement, diet, or other lifestyle modification has been shown to protect one from COVID-19.  As with other infections, immune boosting foods will help with the fight.  Physical or social distancing, masking, and proper hygiene practices are the agents known to protect one from COVID-19. 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Aronia Berries – Old Fruit with a New Name

Aronia berry picking at Berry Hill Farms near Fertile, IA. Photo courtesy of Jaci Thorson.

Its aronia berry picking time in Iowa!  And if you are lucky enough to live near a pick-your-own aronia berry orchard, you are in for a day of fun and stained hands!  Fresh berries, juice and other aronia products may also be available now in some local grocery stores.

Aronia berries are not new to Iowa; they are actually indigenous to the state and were used by the Potawatomi Native Americans to cure colds. Formerly known as black chokeberries, rebranding of the less appetizing name of “chokeberry” has helped the native berry catch on and develop into what is now a big industry.  The berry’s new name comes from its genus, Aronia melancorpa. While grown throughout North America, the first US commercial cultivation of the berry bushes can be traced to the Sawmill Hollow Family Farm in the Loess Hills of western Iowa, where Andrew Pittz and his family planted about 200 bushes in 1997.   Since then, aronia production has grown and bushes have been planted in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.  Presently there are 300-400 growers in Iowa with small to large operations.  80 of these operations have been organic certified by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Arona berries at Berry Hill Farms near Fertile, IA. Photo courtesy Jaci Thorson.

These purple, pea-sized berries boast one of the highest antioxidant values ever recorded for fruits, superseding blueberries, elderberries, acai berries and goji berries, according to research published last year in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.  Also rich in vitamins and minerals, they have high levels of polyphenols, anthocyanins, and flavanols–antioxidants needed to fight free radicals–making them good at fighting inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and urinary tract infections.

While aronia berries are more astringent than blueberries, they can be eaten fresh or frozen.  Not many people eat them fresh. The fruit has a lot of tannins in the skin that creates a dry or chalky sensation in the mouth when eaten. They are a little less astringent after freezing but usually best processed into jam, juice or baked products where the aronia takes on a whole new taste of its own. To eat them raw, they are best used in smoothies, yogurt, ice cream or oatmeal. Berries, either fresh or frozen, can be used in any recipe as a substitute for cranberries, blueberries, or chokecherries.  They are also good added to pancakes or mixed with other fruits in a crisp or pie.  Other ideas include salsa, salads, beverages, cereal, pizza, chili, and soups.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides information on making jam from all berries.

So if you haven’t had an opportunity to try aronia berries fresh, frozen, or in another product, perhaps it is time to venture out and give these tart little berries a try!  They might make you pucker, but this superfruit will definitely add some health benefits to your diet.  And, chances are, this Iowa crop will grow on you!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Caring for Cloth Masks

As the world makes a slow comeback from the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC is now recommending individuals wear a new piece of ‘attire’, the face mask or any face covering, any time one goes out where social distancing is hard to practice such as to grocery stores, pharmacies, or other places where other people are likely to be present in number.  In recent days, many retail outlets are requiring this new attire of their customers. Employers, too, may be requiring employees who are unable to maintain the recommended 6 foot distance from others during the course of essential work functions to wear masks. It seems that for the foreseeable future, the face mask or covering of the nose and mouth will be a necessary part of our attire.

Hand washing and social distancing remain the critical means of disease prevention. When going out for essentials or required in the workplace, cloth masks are becoming essential attire.  While not as effective as clinical masks, properly made cloth masks can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by blocking large droplets from coughs and sneezes. 

Many have put their DIY skills to work and created cloth masks at home for themselves and others.  In a previous blog, I shared guidelines for DIY face masks.  However, acquiring a face mask is only step one.  Step two is wearing it to limit the spread of germs.  STEP THREE IS CARING FOR IT TO KEEP IT EFFECTIVE AND SAFE.  There are differing reports on whether coronavirus can live on clothing or cloth.  The general thought is that the coronavirus is more likely to live on hard surfaces than soft surfaces like fabric.  Despite that, the CDC urges laundering of cloth masks after each use, daily, or when wet or soiled.  When regular use is required, having multiple masks will be necessary. 

A piece by Kansas State University Environmental Health and Safety says a washing machine and dryer is adequate for cleaning.  The Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab suggests that face masks be washed with hot water (160֯F) in the washing machine and tumbled dried on high heat with other similar items.  Masks can also be hand washed by lathering masks with soap and scrubbing for 20 seconds or more with warm to hot water, rinsing, and tossing into the dryer.  Non-scented/allergy-free detergents should be used for laundering masks per guidelines from the University of Iowa and dryer sheets should not be used.  Further, masks can be ironed on the cotton or linen setting to further kill any remaining germs provided the masks are made of cotton.  Sanitizing face masks in the microwave, oven, or boiling water is not recommended.   A mask that is damaged or that no longer fits properly to the face should be disposed and replaced.

If filters are being used in conjunction with a cloth mask, filters too, need to be properly cleaned or replaced.  Coffee filters and paper towels are not washable so should be replaced after each use.  HVAC filters and non-woven interfacings are washable so can be laundered in the same way as the mask; however, the filter’s effectiveness decreases with each washing and will eventually disintegrate.

Masks need to be carefully removed from the face after use.  Individuals should take care not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth when removing the mask; only the elastic ear pieces or head/neck ties should be handled.  Used masks should be placed outside down on a piece of paper or in a bag until laundering with hand washing following immediately.

As discussed above, cloth masks can provide limited protection.  Proper care of the mask is important to provide protection and to maintain the health of the wearer. 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Food Safety and COVID-19

AnswerLine has been getting lots of calls about food safety and food safety practices during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.  With many of us being at home, our TVs provide some entertainment as well as non-stop COVID-19 news and advice from one ‘expert’ to the next.  The messages are very mixed and sometimes downright FALSE.  We at AnswerLine, a part of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, are committed to providing consumers with researched-based information and supporting the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s measures and advice on staying safe during this time.

Here’s answers to some of the questions clients have asked regarding food safety, food packaging, and how to shop for food safely.  Answers to these questions come from the following resources:

1USDA, Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions/Food Safety 
2Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, No Evidence COVID-19 Is Transmitted Through Food and Food Packaging 
3North Carolina State Extension, Covid-19 Food Safety ResourcesSee this site for copies of flyers to share on these topics.

Q:  Can I become sick with COVID-19 from food?
A:   “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the European Food Safety Authority are in full agreement that there is currently NO evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging.  Previous coronavirus epidemics likewise showed no evidence of having been spread through food or packaging.”2  

“Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like Norovirus and Hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness and not food poisoning, and foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.” 2

As before the pandemic, one needs to vigilantly practice good hygiene such as washing hands and surfaces often and correctly, separating meat from other foods, cooking foods to the correct temperature, and refrigerating foods properly and promptly to keep food supplies safe and prevent food-borne illnesses.

Q:  Do I need to disinfect my produce before I use it?
A:  “Washing produce before eating or using fresh is always a good idea.  It is NOT recommended to wash produce with dish soap or any detergent or to treat produce with a chemical disinfectant.”Washing produce with these products can cause vomiting and diarrhea making consumers otherwise sick.

Some have promoted the use of natural disinfectants like vinegar and water as a safer way to wash fruits and vegetables.  Unlike soaps, detergents and chemicals, vinegar and water will not harm anyone; however, vinegar and water simply offer false security when it comes to COVID-19.  While a few studies have shown that vinegar helps with some viruses and microbes, there is no evidence that it can kill COVID-19.  

Q:  I have heard that the virus lives on surfaces.  Do I need to sanitize or disinfect packaged and canned food items?  Do I need to remove food items from cardboard packaging and store otherwise?
A:  As previously stated, food and food packaging are NOT major sources of virus transmission.  However, laboratory studies have shown that COVID-19 can survive for days on plastic, cardboard, glass, and steel.  Therefore, it is “possible that a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads.”2 Person to person is the most likely means of transmission.

“Handling of food packaging should be followed with handwashing and/or using hand sanitizer.”3 If it offers one more peace of mind to handle items with gloves and to wipe plastic, glass, and cans at home with a disinfectant before storing, there is no harm in doing so as long as it is done safely, items are allowed to dry completely, gloves are disposed of, and hand washing follows.  Cardboard should not be wiped with a disinfectant prior to storage; foods items can be removed and stored appropriately otherwise with the cardboard box disposed of, if that brings more peace of mind.

Q:  Should I store my groceries someplace other than my pantry, refrigerator, or freezer?
A:  “It is NOT recommended to store groceries outside of the home, in cars or garages.”3

Q:  How can I minimize my risk at the store?
A:  “Use hand sanitizer when entering stores and wash hands and/or use sanitizer when leaving. Bring your own disinfecting wipes and use on cart and basket handles and card readers. Maintain social distancing as much as possible while shopping and give others at least 6 ft of space. Avoid touching surfaces or items unnecessarily (touch only items that you will buy) and avoid touching your mouth, nose or face.”3 To avoid touching produce with your bare hands use a produce bag to pick up items and place into a clean bag or use the same bag if you are getting a single item; avoid touching multiple items when making produce selections.  Discard all plastic bags at home and wash your hands after discarding. 

If your store permits the use of recyclable bags, make sure to follow these guidelines each and every time they are used during this time of caution.  Many stores are not permitting their use presently.

Lastly, the best food safety protection for ALL is for everyone to be responsible and avoid shopping if experiencing a cough, runny nose, or fever—symptoms of any virus.  And always seek responsible, researched-based information for as a friend’s father advised, “Misinformation is worse than no information at all!”

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Learning to Stay Social While Social Distancing

After several days of staying home to social distance, I began to really miss my pre-COVID-19 life—occasional lunch with friends, haircuts, grocery shopping, library time, exercise classes, grandkids’ sport games, friends and family, social and business meetings, church services, work, and every other social outlet I had.  

Besides connecting with family and friends via phone, Skype, email, or other social media platforms, I needed something more to bring my social groups together.  I began to look for and learn about various online video conferencing options or a way to socialize virtually from the safety of my home.  There are several options available offering both free and subscription services.  Some that I researched included GoToMeetings, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and ZOOM.  As with any service there are pluses and minuses to consider.  After much consideration, I chose to try ZOOM.  Besides being a very popular platform, ZOOM has great video support to aid one in using the medium. Almost overnight, I became a Zoomer!

After downloading the application and learning the basics of how to use it, I asked a friend to try it with me.  Once we were successful, we asked our husbands to try it with us to enlarge our audience.  Again with success, I was ready to try hosting a group meeting with friends with minimal computer skills who agreed to be my test group.  A meeting was scheduled and the chosen friends were invited.  Everyone successfully made it into the meeting via their computer or tablet!  And what a good time we had seeing each other’s face, hearing each other’s voice, and visiting as if we were in a room together. 

Businesses and educational institutions have used virtual meetings for sometime which allows workers to telecommute, save on travel, connect to people around the world, educate, and keep teams together. For those of us not in that world, virtual meetings serve a way to humanize our conversations. A video is a moving picture in contrast to phone or email communication. Seeing someone while talking to them completely changes the nomenclature of a conversation and is highly important to human interaction.

It is not my intention to promote ZOOM or any other product, but simply to raise awareness to the options we have today to stay connected in a time of social distancing.  We are social beings and we need to find our own ways to continue our pre-COVID-19 life while maintaining our own safety until such time that we are free once again to enjoy in-person contacts.  So whether it be any of the virtual meeting options I looked into or Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Apple FaceTime, Marco Polo, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or any others, the bottom line is to find the best way to stay connected.  Doing so will keep us happy and in turn, healthy!

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Clean Your Phone to Help Protect Against Coronavirus and Other Illnesses

It’s no secret that our smartphones are filthy and my phone is no exception.   There are any number of scientific studies documenting such.  Our phones go everywhere with us and often times to places where contamination is high making it a breeding ground for germs of all kinds.  They touch our faces, ears, lips, and hands.  And who knows what our hands have touched prior to or after handling our phone. Keeping our phones reasonably sanitary is a smart way to keep germs off our fingers and away from our face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider phones to be a “high-touch surface,” which makes them a possible carrier of the Covid-19 virus.   Therefore, it seems prudent that we clean our smartphones regularly and more so, in this time of a global health crisis.  The CDC does not know at this time how long the coronavirus lives on surfaces, but evidence suggests it could be hours to 9 days.

As a result of my concern to sanitize, not just cleaning, my phone, I began to research the proper way to do it to insure success in disinfecting and at the same time, not using something that would damage my phone.  Here’s what I learned:

Apple support has guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting Apple specific products.  Amidst novel coronavirus concerns, Apple recently updated its cleaning guide to say “70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox disinfecting wipes” could be used to clean iPhones as long as one is careful to avoid getting moisture in the openings in the phone.  Android users should check with their individual phone manufacturer for specific guidelines. In general, most manufacturers (Samsung has not yet provided a statement) suggest using ordinary household disinfecting wipes or 70% isopropyl alcohol-based wipes to disinfect phones, including the screen.  Wipes containing bleach should not be used on the screen as it will eat away at the oleophobic coating used to help prevent fingerprint smudges.  In all cases, one must avoid getting moisture into openings like the ports, switches, and camera lens.  

The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves during the cleaning and disinfecting process.  To begin cleaning, power off and unplug the phone.  Remove the outer protective case and clean as appropriate for the material the case is made from.  Wipe the phone with an appropriate disinfecting/cleaning product as suggested by the phone manufacturer.  Allow the phone and case to thoroughly dry before putting the two back together.  Finally, remove and dispose of the gloves and wash your hands.

While there are some ultraviolet light sanitizing devices available to buy, they have not been proven to be effect for the Covid-19 virus.

Here’s to an “ounce of prevention being a pound of cure” or “I’d rather be safe than sorry” in these uncertain times when there are simple things we can do to protect ourselves.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

‘Home-Canned’ Cakes and Breads for Gift Giving – A Big NO

The holidays are just around the corner and homemade food gifts are often part of the giving and receiving. One can look in magazines or online to find countless ideas for foods to give and ways to dress them up for giving. While many of these suggestions are safe and cute at the same time, some are not and one needs to be wary of them. One that I find particularly disturbing is the advocating of ‘home canned’ cakes and breads in jars.

Instructions for these “special” gifts involve preparing a favorite cake or quick bread recipe and baking it in a pint canning jar. Once the cake or bread is done, the steaming jars are taken out of the oven and a canning lid is immediately popped on. As the cake or bread cools, the lid seals creating a vacuum. Many recipes claim that these products can be stored safely on the shelf from a year to indefinitely. While the pictures look attractive and the gift might be unique, these products are NOT SHELF SAFE as the recipes and instructions indicate. There is NO canning involved and this technique IS NOT RECOMMENDED. If someone gives you a home canned cake or bread in a jar, assume it is unsafe to eat and discard it in a manner that not even animals will consume it. Here’s why . . .

Many cake and quick bread recipes often have little or no acid resulting in a pH range above 4.6, a pH level that will support the growth of pathogenic organisms that cause foodborne illnesses. Of greatest concern is the microorganism Clostridium botulinum (botulism) growing in the jars. Conditions inside the jar are ripe for hazardous bacterium given that cake and bread recipes may include fruits, liquids, or vegetables which increase moisture content AND the practice does not remove all the oxygen from the jar. The two factors create a rich environment for microorganisms to thrive.

One other consideration outside of food safety, is the jar itself. Regardless of the brand of the jar, jars can break or explode due to temperature fluctuations when the oven doors is opened or the jars removed from the oven. The glass used for Ball and Kerr canning jars is not tempered for oven use and is not meant to be used as bakeware.

Commercially prepared breads and cakes made in jars are safe. Companies use additives, preservatives, and processing methods to ensure the safety of the finished product that are not available for home recipes. Avoid purchasing canned breads or cakes in glass jars at bake sales or farmer’s markets unless they meet all labeling requirements for commercial foods. Currently there are no reliable or safe recipes for home baking and sealing breads or cakes in canning jars and storing them at room temperature for any length of time.

To date, there are no documented cases of botulism resulting from cake or bread in a jar. However, experts warn that it is an accident waiting to happen. Imagine how you would feel if you were the one who gave a gift that made someone incapacitated for life or worse.

If special breads or cakes are to be part of holiday giving, consider alternatives of baking and freezing, giving the recipient the opportunity to choose when they wish to use it. Most cakes and breads freeze well. Or create a “mix” by assembling the dry ingredients into a jar and attaching directions for preparing and baking. Attach a “use by date” on the label as some ingredients will loose their effectiveness, harden, or cake. Generally one month is appropriate. Also include a list of ingredients for those who have food allergies or dietary issues.

For additional information on gift foods to be weary of, check out Is Your Homemade Food Gift Safe to Eat? by the University of Minnesota. Be sure your homemade holiday food gift is memorable, not haunting.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Open Enrollment Help

Since early this fall, the promotional materials for health insurance options have been flooding my mail box and likely everyone else’s, too, in preparation for open enrollment or the period when people can change or enroll in a health insurance plan.  Open enrollment for 2020 runs from November 1 to December 15, 2019 but some job plans may have different open enrollment times.  Outside of the open enrollment time, one can only enroll in a health insurance plan if certain qualifications are met for a special enrollment period.

Each year it is a good idea to review options provided by one’s current plan to see if it will continue to best meet one’s health needs for the next year.  Prior to open enrollment, most plans publish changes to annual costs and policy changes.  It is also a good time to take a look at different plans should the current one become excessively expensive or discontinue coverage that is needed.

The process of sorting through plans and comparing options can be intimidating and confusing.  There are resources available to help one navigate the various options.  HealthCare.gov has a wealth of information online designed to help one make the best decision.  Another resource might be to enlist the help of a trusted insurance agent.  A third option is to enroll in Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Basics and/or Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Actions.  The Smart Choice classes are online classes offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.  Both of these classes are free and designed to make comparing policies and understanding coverage easier. 

Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Basics will meet online, November 6, 7-8 pm.  One must register for the class by November 4 at http://bit.ly/schi14326.  This class will provide an overview of health insurance and cover strategies for selecting a health insurance plan that will meet your health care needs and fit your spending plan.

Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Actions will meet online, November 13, 7-8 pm.  Registration must be completed by November 11 at http://bit.ly/schi14328.   This class will provide information on maximizing benefits, understanding billing statements, resolving errors, securing medical information, and keeping necessary health documents.

Most importantly, know when your open enrollment period is and take the time to review your options before the deadline so that the best policy will be in place to meet your health care needs for the coming 12 months.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Sunscreen questions?

Spring seems to be starting slowly this year. We have had some beautiful warm and sunny days and I realized that I need to get back into the habit of applying sunscreen. One of our favorite pastimes, when my grandsons visit, is walking down the hill to the bridge over the creek and tossing stones into the stream. The boys could do this for hours. It is so easy to just head outside without a thought to how long we will be standing in the sun.

Both my husband and I have had MOHS surgery for skin cancer. I would like to avoid that for my grandsons. I do not always understand all the factors important to choosing an effective sunscreen so I thought a little research was in order.

Sunscreens come in two different varieties; they use either an organic filter or an inorganic filter.

Organic filters are chemical compounds designed to absorb UV radiation and convert it into a small amount of heat. These filters include oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene. Some people incorrectly think that these chemicals can cause skin cancer but research has demonstrated that this is not the case.

Inorganic filters are minerals that physically block the UV light from contact with skin. The minerals may be zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They actually reflect and scatter the UV rays. Inorganic filters are often in sunscreens designed for children. These products are often thicker and look whiter than sunscreen made with an organic filter. These formulas also tend to be easier on skin so adults with sensitive skin may prefer inorganic filters too.

SPF can also be confusing. The recommendation for most people is an SPF of 30. This will protect against 97% of the UVB rays in sunshine. Sunscreens with SPF of over 50 add only a slight additional protection.

No sunscreen will perform well if not applied correctly. Think about the shot glass and teaspoon rule when applying. Use a teaspoon on your face and a shot glass amount on the rest of your body. Remember to reapply sunscreen containing an organic filter every two hours or after getting wet or sweating.

Stay safe this summer and prevent sunburns.

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Weighted Blankets

I have been intrigued with weighted blankets for quite a while. I am certainly  interested in anything that would help me get a better night’s sleep without using medication in any form, over-the-counter or prescription. As I began to research weighted blankets I found scientific research was very limited. I did find one study done in 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders that concluded the participants had a calmer night’s sleep with a decrease in movements. The participants also believed the weighted blanket used in the study provided them with a more comfortable, better quality, and more secure sleep. That was enough positive feedback for me to delve into it a little more!

So what are weighted blankets? They are heavy blankets, 15 plus pounds (although some weigh less), filled with poly-pellets that have the texture of plastic pebbles, glass beads that have the texture of sand, or chains. The theory behind them is they provide deep pressure that gives you a feeling of calm or that you are being hugged or swaddled. The weight in the blanket makes it harder for you to move which in turn makes it harder to disturb yourself while sleeping.

Weighted blankets have been popular to treat children with disorders like autism or ADHD and have now become popular to help with sleep issues for many ages. They are not recommended for the very young or the elderly however. They are also not recommended for people who snore or have sleep apnea, fragile skin, circulatory problems, or temperature regulation issues.

If you do decide to invest in a weighted blanket, what weight should you purchase? Most recommendations are to choose one that is 10% of your body weight or 10% of your body weight plus 1 to 3 pounds depending on your age. For young children, 1 pound, for older children and teens, 2 pounds, and for adults up to the 3 pounds above your body weight.

Many weighted blankets come with an outer cover that is machine washable. Those fabrics can range from extra warm to extra soft to cool to the touch. Most weighted blankets themselves are not machine washable so choosing one with a washable cover is an important consideration. Weighted blankets can be pricey so it pays to do your homework and compare those that come with an outer cover included and those that charge an additional fee for the cover.

There are non-profit groups that not only make weighted blankets to give to children with special needs they also include directions to make your own. Two I am familiar with are Sharing the Weight, which one of my co-workers is a part of, and Weighted Comfort for Kids. If you are interested in making a weighted blanket for yourself or a friend, the directions on these sites are easy to follow.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

More Posts

AnswerLine

Subscribe to AnswerLine Blog

Enter your email address:

Connect with us!

AnswerLine's Facebook page AnswerLine's Twitter account AnswerLine's Pinterest page
Email: answer@iastate.edu
Phone: (Monday-Friday, 9 am-noon; 1-4 pm)
 1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa)
 1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota)

Archives

Categories