Monday, July 25, 2016


Treating the inevitable summer mishaps

It’s summertime and there is an abundance of seasonal activities to get involved in like barbeques, picnics, kayaking, hiking, fireworks, and just poolside relaxing. It’s my favorite time of year, but the nurse in me is compelled to look at the health and safety aspect of summer: inherent in those activities can come the inevitable health problems: muscle sprains, sunburns, heat exhaustion, and grill burns. The questions here is — what do you do if band-aids, antibiotic ointments, and a bag of ice don’t relieve or alleviate the injury?

Hospital emergency departments are available 24/7, but many of the people seeking medical care do not have true emergencies. Waiting times and co-pays are usually much less at walk- in- clinics and in your primary care provider’s office.

I caution, however, if you feel that you do have a life-threatening emergency, please go directly to an emergency department where the triage nurse will evaluate you to determine the severity of your problem. Those with life-threatening conditions are of course treated first.

True emergencies, requiring emergency department care include:

• Sudden slurred speech, visual changes or weakness
• Numbness or paralysis of an arm or leg
• Chest pain
• Abdominal pain
• Allergic reactions
• Loss of consciousness
• Drug overdose or poisoning
• Serious burns
• Head injuries
• Spinal injuries
• Heavy bleeding
• Severe trouble breathing

Calling 911 for an ambulance is one of the most important steps you can take in a true emergency situation. Paramedics can begin treatment on the way to the hospital and alert special response teams to get equipment and rooms ready for when you arrive. This is especially important for someone suffering from a heart attack or stroke.

So how do we know what health problems are appropriately treated by making a same-day appointment with your primary care provider, or going to a walk-in urgent care center? Here are some examples of non-emergent health problems:

• Mild asthma attacks
• Skin or ear infections
• Cuts
• Minor burns and rashes
• Sore throats and flu-like symptoms
• Minor broken bones
• Muscle strains and sprains
• Urinary tract infections
• Coughs and colds

A good rule of thumb: if you can wait for several hours at an emergency room to be seen, the problem may not be an emergency. It is possible that you may experience an extended wait because someone else arrived with a life threatening injury. Take care and enjoy this summer safely, out of harm’s way. I would much prefer to meet and greet you at a local poolside gathering than in the emergency room.

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, July 18, 2016


Fire safety tips from the experts

If a fire starts in your home, you may have only two minutes to escape to safety, according to the American Red Cross. That’s a startling message, and firefighters everywhere want people to be attentive and mindful of it.

At the annual Safety Camp held recently at Backus Hospital, I had the opportunity to talk to Assistant Chief William Hadam and longtime volunteer firefighter David Plante, of the Taftville Fire Department. I asked them to give me a few home fire safety tips that readily come to mind — things they want to stress to people.

Asst. Chief Hadam immediately said that most house fires are preventable:

In order of frequency, the most common causes of house fires are:

• cooking fires
• improperly discarded smoking materials
• portable heaters / kerosene heaters
• candles (he explained unattended candles can burn down, but often the family cat or dog knocks over the candle and causes a fire)
• overloading electrical outlets
• improper maintenance of furnaces (filters not changed, etc.)

He also explained there are accidental fires caused by electrical shorts and furnace malfunction, but are less common.

They both stressed the importance of maintaining smoke detectors in the home. They agree the number one way to save lives is to have active, working smoke detectors. “A smoke detector without a battery doesn’t do you any good.” Smoke alarms should be installed just outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement. “Change the batteries when you change the clocks twice a year,” is their motto.

Also, it’s crucial for house numbers to be clearly visible and identifiable in an emergency, especially in rural areas. I can attest to this. When I was a home care nurse, I often had trouble identifying the address to visit because house numbers were nowhere to be found. I would think that if my home visit was an emergency, precious time would be lost. Assistance Chief Hadam explained often there are four or five numbered mailboxes in a row, or a common driveway, but no corresponding numbers on the actual homes.

I asked about people having home fire extinguishers. For small kitchen cooking fires, they advise calling 911 promptly and then trying to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. Even if you are successful, they still want to be notified because they will want to come and check to make sure there are no unseen smoldering fire safety issues remaining. If a fire is too big to handle easily, “Get out and wait for the fire department,” they caution. “Get out and stay out. Never go back inside for people, pets or things.”

If you encounter a fire and evacuate, it’s important to close the door behind you to deprive the fire of oxygen and slow the spread of smoke and fire until the fire department arrives.

And last but not least, Mr. Hadam told me about the American Red Cross Home Fire Preparedness Campaign. I called to find out more information. The Red Cross will install free smoke alarms within your home and give guidance in the development of a Family Disaster Plan. To schedule your home visit, register at or call 1-877-287-3327 and choose option 1.

We are indeed fortunate to have such wonderful resources, ready to help us protect our families against fire.

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, July 11, 2016


Collaborating to create safer homes and communities

Most people shudder at the words “domestic violence.” Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

It’s hard for most of us to understand how and why it occurs, unless we have experienced this heartache firsthand, or have witnessed someone living through domestic violence. I recently discovered that a co-worker of mine was the victim of domestic violence. I was shocked as she is an intelligent, beautiful, generous lady and I just couldn’t fathom how this could happen. In an effort to gain some understanding about this complicated issue, I contacted Melva O’Neill, the Community Engagement Coordinator of Safe Futures, formerly The Women’s Center of Southeastern CT.

Melva explained, “We often think of domestic violence as being physical. Indeed, serious injuries are inflicted on victims every single day, by coercion, by force, by fist or by gun. What is not so often recognized is the emotional impact it has on an individual and on others within their circle. Those victims are both male and female, and they vary greatly in age.

“Living in a controlled, demeaning environment can break down our self-confidence, create negative coping mechanisms, and cause life-long psychological damage. Many survivors of intimate partner violence have post-traumatic stress disorder, trouble concentrating, high levels of anxiety, and panic attacks. They may be hypervigilant, and may have trust issues, which makes it difficult to form relationships of any kind or to feel safe in any environment.

“These health issues are not limited to the primary victim alone. Other family members often develop similar symptoms, including the children. If a child is worried about what happened at home last night, or what could happen tonight, that child will not be able to concentrate in school. Grades will suffer, friendships will suffer. Emotional challenges perpetuated by the situation at home may bring about physical illnesses as well. Additionally, children who grow up in homes or environments where there is violence within the relationship are more likely to develop those negative behaviors. They may also have more difficulty standing up for themselves, which could lead to involvement in risky situations.

“It is important that we remember not to blame the victim. A person does not go into a relationship looking to be harmed, physically or emotionally, and it is often difficult to leave a relationship for many, many reasons.”

Melva told me about a wonderful collaboration between Safe Futures and Writer’s Block Ink (WBI). Writer’s Block Ink was started in 2003 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to encourage youth to use writing and performance as tools to address personal and social challenges on the community stage. Students create original productions which explore critical themes and issues. WBI and Safe Futures have now partnered in a project called “Raising voices against domestic violence!” This project aims to engage the Southeastern Connecticut community in the collecting and expressing of first-person stories through interactive community forums, and creative storytelling studio sessions chronicling stories of survival and hope.

The next community engagement forum will be held at the ISAAC School in New London on Saturday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, immediately followed by an Open Arts Studio. This event is for women and men, teens and adults, survivors and witnesses, first responders and community members — all are welcome. Forums will include testimonial from inspiring survivors, educational information and discussion, and theater-based group activities exploring what you can do to prevent violence. For more information, visit

We should all applaud this effort by the youth of our community to collaborate with Safe Futures, working together to understand and prevent the philosophies and behaviors that support this type of degradation in our society. Efforts and events like this will hopefully help us realize what we can do to help stop domestic violence, find help for all affected by it, and ultimately change our culture for the better.

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, July 04, 2016


Time to celebrate with chocolate

Charles M. Schultz is credited with saying, "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." I couldn't agree more.

And experts agree that, in moderation, chocolate may have heart health benefits. The reason is the cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as vegetables and fruits. We also benefit from their antioxidant power when we eat foods rich in flavonoids.

Flavanols are the main type of flavonoids found in chocolate and cocoa. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.

Not all types of chocolate are healthy as some forms contain lower levels of flavanols. The more chocolate is processed (through fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.) the more flavanols are lost. Our best bet is dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that has loads of added fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity). I always thought Dutch chocolate was a better grade of cocoa.

The caveat here is still "in moderation." An ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week is best. Remember to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like cranberries, tea, apples, onions and if appropriate, red wine.

World Chocolate Day is celebrated on Thursday, July 7. That's my favorite day of the year. That reminds me: I will have to ask my boss for that day off to celebrate. All of my friends are invited to celebrate with me. But like Linda Grayson says, "There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate."

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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