Two wishes for the New Year

There are a couple things (actually there are a lot more, but two will work for now) that I’ve observed that really bugged me this year. And, the solutions are really simple, or at least I think they are. It’s your health, you decide.

  1. Wearing helmets and other safety gear.

During the summer I walked the Dover bike path and saw families out bicycling. How wonderful for a family to do that together. Too often, however, the kiddos were wearing helmets and the grownups weren’t. Why? What message are you sending your children if you won’t wear a helmet?

It reminded me of the story a faithful reader told me some years ago. He’s an avid skier and was riding on the lift with a young teen. The teen was adjusting the straps of his new helmet and the reader told him that he’d been skiing for a very long time but never wore one.

The boy looked at him and said, “Well, you’re really old so you probably don’t care, but my brain is worth more than $39.95!” The older man said that he got off the lift, skied to the village and bought himself a helmet! So, I ask you, how much is your brain worth?

And, how much is your child’s brain worth when he or she gets a concussion playing sports? A parent told me that her son had three concussions last year but was happy he was now cleared to play. I told her to watch the film “Concussion” and then tell me if it was a good idea for him to continue playing football. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the sport, just not of kids using their heads as battering rams.

And, of course it isn’t just about our heads. It’s our knees and elbows and shins when playing soccer or roller skating. It’s wearing sunscreen whenever outdoors. It’s protecting our eyes and ears when operating power tools. It’s wearing gloves when using chemicals. You get it.

My wish for the New Year? Everyone will wear appropriate safety gear for their work and play.

  1. Immunity for the community. Be up to date with your vaccinations

 “I can’t believe it but, I’ve got the worst case of flu ever!” a woman checking out at a box store said. I wished that she’d stayed home, but it also reminded me that we should all think about immunity for the community. And, I’m talking about all vaccines, not just the one for flu.

Measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough, smallpox, chicken pox, diphtheria, tetanus, influenza, pneumonia, shingles (did I forget one or two?) are diseases no one wants but often people are, for whatever reason, reluctant to inoculate their children or themselves against.

Now I totally respect those who choose not to vaccinate for religious reasons and certainly those with health issues that would preclude them from getting shots are excused, it’s the rest of us.

MMR shots do not cause autism. It was recently established that people with egg allergies can get flu shots. The new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, has a 90 percent efficacy and every adult over 50 should be vaccinated.

Also, every ten years you should have a booster Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccination. Pertussis aka whooping cough can be passed from an adult to an infant before that baby can be vaccinated. It’s a dreadful disease and babies can die from it.

Which brings me back to community immunity also called herd immunity. The Department of Health and Human Services explains: “Germs can travel quickly through a community and make a lot of people sick. If enough people get sick, it can lead to an outbreak. But when enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, the germs can’t travel as easily from person to person — and the entire community is less likely to get the disease.”

My wish for the New Year? Everyone will be up-to-date with their vaccinations. Okay?

I have other wishes that I’ll save for another day, but today will say that I wish you a very happy New Year!

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 208-264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.