The Dangers of Radon in the Home

Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas that has no odor or taste. The presence of radon occurs naturally in the earth. If radon enters your home, the consequences to your health and that of your family can be severe. In the U.S., radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is also believed that one in every 15 U.S. homes has dangerous levels of radon.

How Radon gets into Your Home

Radon comes from the earth’s soil. Accordingly, radon enters buildings through lower levels and subterranean structures. Here are the ways radon can enter your home:

  • Cracks or holes in the foundation, floors and walls
  • Construction joints
  • Openings near service pipes
  • The water supply

Detecting Radon

The Detection of radon is a very easy process. Radon test kits can be found at your local home improvement stores and are easy to perform. You can also contact your state radon office if you’d prefer that the test be conducted by a professional.

There are two types of test kits, short-term and long-term. A short-term test is conducted for 3 months or less. A long-term test can be performed for up to a year. The reason for the difference in test duration is the fact that radon levels have a tendency to fluctuate. A long-term test will give a more accurate idea of overall radon levels because it tests over a longer period of time. To be effective, both types of tests need to be positioned in the lowest level of the house.

When to Test for Radon

Here are certain events throughout the lifetime of your home that warrant a radon test:

  • The purchasing of a new house
  • Finishing the basement
  • Renovating your home
  • Selling your house

Beyond these occasions, it is also recommended that you test your home for radon every 1-2 years.

Any amount of radon in the home is unsafe. If radon is detected in your home, a radon remediation professional should be contacted. You can visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html to locate a qualified contractor in your area. You can also visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html for assistance in finding a radon test kit.

Is there a local contractor you would recommend? Please share in the comments below.

Malnutrition: America’s Hidden Hunger

When we think of hunger, images of starving, emaciated children come to mind. Although famine is much of a thing of the past, hunger is still a very real issue for many children in the United States, and one aspect of hunger is particularly dangerous: malnutrition.

85% of Americans aren’t getting their daily dose of vitamins and minerals, and it’s costing not just those individuals, but society as a whole. As rates of obesity and heart disease continue to climb and hospitals continue to spend more and more time treating preventable diseases, we need to take a serious look at our diets to ensure that we are getting everything we need.

Malnutrition occurs when there is a micronutrient deficiency in our diet (not enough vitamins and minerals are being consumed). Thankfully, malnutrition is relatively easy to diagnose, and here are some of the primary symptoms caused by malnutrition:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weight Loss.
  • Long-term malnutrition can cause physical and mental disability. It weakens your immune system and increases the risk of developing disease.

The issue is particularly dire for newborns and babies as they are growing quickly and are undergoing furious development in their cognitive, physical and motor skills. A malnutrition deficiency at this stage is particularly dangerous since there is no catching back up and fixing the issue later in life. Delays in development (mental and physical) will stay with them for life.

Treatment is straightforward: ensure you are getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. To supplement your diet, take a multivitamin and give your children one as well (they will probably prefer the gummy version!). Eat more fruits and vegetables and try to stay away from foods containing empty calories such as alcohol and junk food.

The key to eating healthy is to maintain a balanced diet that encompasses the four major food groups. These four groups are fruits, vegetables, grains and protein foods. The grains that you want most in your diet are whole grains. This is because whole grains provide you with iron and B vitamins. Sources of whole grains include brown rice, whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread and oatmeal. Foods that are high in protein include poultry, eggs, seafood, meat and nuts.

Malnutrition is an easily preventable problem that is affecting millions of Americans and people around the world. By supplementing our diet and ensuring that our meals are well balanced, we give our children the best opportunity to develop into happy and healthy people like their parents.

As always, consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important not to stray too far from a balanced diet. Do you have healthy takes on some of your favorite holiday fare? Please share in the comments below!

Tips for Battling the Cold and Flu Season

Fall is here! That means cold and flu season is not far behind. Here are some simple precautions you and your family can take to help ward off illness this fall and winter.

Remember to get a flu shot. One significant means of protection from the flu is to be vaccinated on a yearly basis. A flu shot is recommended for anyone over the age of six months. High-risk individuals are especially urged to get a flu shot. Those who are considered to have a higher risk of contracting the flu and developing flu-related complications are young children, pregnant women, individuals with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or people 65 years and older. Although children younger than six months are also at high-risk, they are too young to receive the vaccine.

Wash your hands. One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to develop a habit of regularly washing your hands. Scrubbing hard with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds works wonders towards getting rid of cold and flu germs. If soap and water are out of reach, alcohol-based hand sanitizer will also do the trick.

Sanitize your surroundings. Sanitizing objects that are in constant use is also a healthy habit to get into. Items that are handled everyday by multiple people should be regularly cleaned. These include phones, keyboards, the keys on fax machines and copiers, light switches, chair armrests, microwaves and doorknobs.

Cover your nose and mouth. Covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing is an excellent way to prevent the spreading of germs to others. Also, avoid touching your face. Touching the eyes, nose and mouth is often a means by which germs are spread.

Get plenty of sleep and exercise. Staying well rested helps to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Another way to boost your immune system is by exercising regularly.

Maintain a healthy diet. Eating healthy food is another valuable tool to keep your immune system going strong. Fruits and vegetables are always a great choice! In particular, be sure to choose foods that are high in protein. Like sleep and exercise, protein is very good for your immune system. Some protein-rich foods are fish, eggs and yogurt.

If you have any more tips for avoiding illness this cold and flu season, feel free to share in the comments below.

How to improve your air quality indoors

Clean air is an essential aspect of our health. Yet many of us live in areas and homes where air quality is relatively poor. The effects can be felt throughout our lives, from nausea and nosebleeds to increased rates of cancer from second hand smoke, poor air quality is bad for our family’s health. Here are a few simple tips to improve the quality of your air indoors:

Secondhand smoke. Not smoking indoors is vital to ensuring your air quality stays pristine. Cigarettes are hazardous to our health, and when we smoke indoors, around others, we are also exposing them to the same pollutants and chemicals inhaled, and to the risk of cancer. Whereas when we are outside, the wind and climate circulates air, and plants and nature help to clean it up, indoors this smoke has nowhere to go and we will continually be inhaling the same pollutants over and over. In addition, this is the one pollutant this is not helped by any of the tips below.

Keep some houseplants. Houseplants can have a significant impact on improving indoor air quality. Houseplants act as a filter, wherein they attract and trap indoor pollutants and particles from all over your house. The great thing about plants is that they are very attractive décor that can fit seamlessly into anywhere in your house. Engish Ivy and Peace Lily’s are two more popular plants, removing toxins like Carbon Monoxide and formaldehyde from the air.

There are dozens of types indoor houseplants, for beginners and experts alike, with each fulfilling different roles in improving our air quality. Check out our article on keeping houseplants.

Turn on the AC. We all want to save a few bucks on the energy bill, but our health is more important in the long run. Opening our windows can invite poor quality air outside to our living spaces. You may think you are bringing in “fresh air”, but in reality this air can carries pollutants, allergens, and harmful particles that dirty our more clean and filtered air. This is most important when it is an Ozone alert day, or when the things your family may be allergic to are “high” on the allergy alert index.

Clean your air filters. Over time air filters can be come bogged down and dirty through years of hard work. Checking them regularly (once a month during the hottest and coldest months) and replacing them when they become too dirty will not only improve the air quality inside of your home but will also save you money. The US Department of Energy estimates that changing your dirty air filter can improve the efficiency of your HVAC equipment by 5-15%, saving you money on top of keeping you healthy.

Keep your house clean. Surprise surprise, keeping your house clean and relatively dust free will go far in helping minimize indoor pollutants. Make sure you target areas that aren’t often used, such as the tops of fans, because they could be harboring significant amounts of dust particles.

Use safe cleaning products. One of the biggest threats to indoor air quality are the cleaning products we use. Certain chemicals can cause allergic reactions like rashes and irritation, and in some cases are poisonous. Look for products that advertise green, non-toxic, biodegradable, VOC-free, solvent-free, and petroleum-free ingredients (WebMD).

If it’s in the air we will breathe it. Because we spend most of our time indoor, we want to ensure that the air quality reflects our own personal health. It’s a serious issue, and one that shouldn’t be pushed to the side because it affects everyone living in our home.

5 Basics for Back-to-School

Now that summer is winding down, this is the perfect time to start preparing your kids for the return of school. Because there are a lot of details to keep track of, this can be a very stressful and chaotic time. However, remembering a few of the basics will help you get this school year off to a great start!

Take your kids to the doctor. Be sure to schedule your children’s medical appointments prior to the beginning of the new school year. These include medical checkups, eye exams, dental appointments and hearing tests. Remember that your child’s medical records and vaccinations should all be up to date at the start of every school year.

Appropriate bedtimes. Your children likely have a much more liberal sleep schedule during the summer months. If that is the case, try to establish an earlier bedtime one or two weeks before school starts. If you have trouble accomplishing this, consider dimming the lights an hour or so prior to the designated bedtime or giving them a hot bath to calm their bodies down.

Meal schedules. Along with sleep schedules, this is also the time to adjust your kids’ eating schedules to support the levels of energy they will need throughout the school day. The regularity of breakfast, lunch and dinner should be reintroduced and upheld. Depending on your schedule, it might be easier to prepare school lunches the night before. Another option to help ease this transition is to prepare and freeze some easy dinners ahead of time.

School supplies. Stock up on school supplies early! Save your receipts to prepare for the possibility that some teachers may prefer students to use particular items for their class. Look for backpacks that are sturdy enough to handle the workload and regular wear and tear. When buying clothes, be sure to review your school’s dress code. After the supplies are purchased, appoint specific spots in the house for lunch boxes, backpacks and other supplies. This will cut down on the unwanted clutter that can occur during the school year.

Proper study area. Provide your child with a specific space in the home to do homework. This spot should be quiet, uncluttered and separate from household distractions. Setting time schedules for doing homework might also be helpful. The intent in doing all of this is to instill a sense of routine as well as the importance of doing schoolwork.

Hopefully, after reading these tips, getting your kids ready doesn’t seem so daunting. Remembering these basics will aid you in getting this school year going strong! Do you have more back-to-school tips? Please share in the comments below.

Avoid Colorado Tick Fever

Enjoyment of the outdoors is one of the many pleasures that come with living in Colorado. As any Coloradan will proudly boast, the summer months bring countless ways to appreciate the various wonders of nature. Such activities include hiking, biking, camping, fishing and boating. Unfortunately, all of this summer fun also comes with some hazards. One in particular is the presence of ticks. Due to Colorado’s high elevation, ticks are quite common.

Although Lyme disease – transmitted from ticks – is not a problem in the state, Colorado tick fever is a tick-borne illness that is very prevalent. The disease comes from the Rocky Mountain Wood tick and is most common between April and July. It is important to know what measures to take to safeguard your family from this viral infection. Knowing where to find Rocky Mountain Wood ticks, how to avoid being bitten by them and having the ability to spot the symptoms early can make a world of difference. Here are a few tips to remember when spending time outdoors this summer.

Know where to look. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of animals. They can be found in areas where they are most likely to come across possible hosts. These are usually grassy, well-traveled spots near fields and wooded areas.

Get covered. When spending time camping, hiking and biking in wooded places, be sure to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts. It is also recommended to wear shoes that completely cover your feet while minimizing any exposed skin around the ankles. In addition, wearing clothing that predominately features lighter colors will make ticks easier to locate and remove.

Use repellent. DEET and Permethrin are two popular tick repellents. Spraying either one of these on clothing has been known to be effective. Keep in mind that repellents should not be sprayed near the eyes and mouth. In particular, Permethrin should not be applied to the skin.

Remove ticks effectively. If a tick is found in the skin, be sure to use dull tweezers to gently remove it. It is important not to crush the tick while pulling it out. Crushing the tick could result in infection if parts of it are left in the skin.

Know the symptoms. Be able to spot the signs of Colorado tick fever. Symptoms that accompany a tick bite include sudden chills and high fever, aching muscles, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and a faint rash. If these symptoms do not subside within a week, contact your physician.

With some preparation and diligence, the risk of contracting Colorado tick fever can be greatly lowered. By continuing to be aware of your surroundings, you can ensure your family’s enjoyment of the great Colorado outdoors without enduring such setbacks as Colorado tick fever.

Eye Health

6 Tips for Healthy Eyes

Sight is one of our most important senses. Colorado is exposed to high amounts of UV rays due to our high altitude. Whether outside in the sun or at home/work glued to a screen, they are subject to far more stress than ever before. Thankfully, there are ways we can keep them seeing clear well into the future. Here are some tips to protect your eyes, for the entire family:

Get your eyes tested once a year. Seeing an optometrist is a way to ensure your vision is healthy. Optometrists examine your eyes to make sure everything is running smoothly, looking for diseases and any changes in your vision. They can recommend solutions, such as glasses, contacts, or corrective surgery (LASIK) to improve your eyesight as well.

Wear sunglasses when outside. The sun provides one of the heaviest pressures on our eyes; in Colorado at such high elevations it is even more significant. Not only do sunglasses keep the sun out of your eyes, but they also remove UV rays that cause irreparable damage. Make sure you buy 100% UV protection sunglasses, to keep those damaging rays out. When buying, glasses that say they’re prescription ready are definitely 100% UV protected.

Wear a hat. Hats keep your eyes shaded from the sun. When combined with sunglasses, this duo will greatly lift the burden off your eyes when you are outdoors. If you are going to be outdoors for long periods of time, then wearing a hat should be a must for every member of your family.

Use reading glasses. Whether you are reading a book or on the computer surfing the web, reading glasses make it easier on your eyes. Reading glasses allow you to focus on smaller details, like words on a page or screen, meaning your eyes don’t have to work as hard.

Wear eye protection when necessary. If you are doing yard work, such as mowing the yard or woodworking, make sure you wear eye protection. Dirt and dust, as well as foreign objects, can get into your eyes and cause serious damage.

If you get something in your eyes wash, don’t rub, them. During allergy season, pollen can get into our eyes and cause itchiness. It’s important to refrain from rubbing them as our eyes are fragile and rubbing can cause abrasions that damage the surface of the eye. If something gets into your eye, instead of rubbing, try washing it in the sink by allowing cool water to slowly flow over your eye.

Our eyes are one of the most important assets of our bodies. By taking the necessary steps to keep them protected, we can ensure that we give ourselves the best chance to see into the future. What strategies do you use to make sure every member of your family’s eyes stay protected? Share with us below.

Stay Active All Summer Long…Despite the Heat!

Colorado is a great place for outdoor exercise in the summer. From marathons to more casual activities, the local terrain and climate provide ideal excursions. However, whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting outdoor hobbies like running or hiking, the summer heat can make getting your miles in challenging. Here are some tips to help deal with the summer conditions so you can continue going at your full potential all summer long:

Wear the right clothes. Equip yourself with accessories and clothes that do the most to protect you from the sun and heat. Clothing that is light in color and loose is always your best bet. The light colors reflect the rays of the sun at the same time that the looseness helps you catch any breeze that comes your way. To guard your eyes and skin from the sun, wear a hat and sunglasses. Of course, sunscreen is always a must!

Know when and where to workout. Generally, the hottest part of the day is 12pm to 3pm. To avoid the most oppressive heat, try to be out in the morning or evening. Where possible, seek out shady areas. If the heat reaches dangerous levels, call off the day’s run, hike, game or workout.

Stay Hydrated. Maintain a regular intake of liquids throughout your activity. A combination of water and sports drink will give you optimal fuel and electrolyte levels. The recommended amount of fluid is no less than 8oz. every hour. For longer periods of time or to keep your hands free, use a CamelBak or hydration belt to carry the fluids you need. 

Don’t push too hard. As the summer gets into its hottest stretch, remember that your body needs about two weeks to adjust. Take it easy during this time. Let your body acclimate gradually. Pushing too hard will do more harm than good. When running, think about switching to power walking every 4 to 8 minutes. This will help to keep you from overheating as your body adapts.

As always make sure that you talk with your doctor before you begin in any intense physical regime. We all want get in shape, but there are plenty of alternatives if our body isn’t ready for the physical stress of running.

Even though it’s the end of July, we still have many weeks of heat left. Don’t let it do you in! Follow these tips and prove that you are up to the challenge!

Camping Tips To Improve Your Experience

For Colorado families, camping is a beloved way to enjoy the state’s many outdoor benefits. Like all outdoor activities, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind in order to stay safe while you’re having fun. Here are some important safety tips:

Safety supplies. While preparing for your camping trip, include the following items to help stay safe and comfortable:

  • Map of area
  • Compass or GPS
  • Cell phone
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Sunscreen

Besides the above items, a first-aid kit is also good to have with you while camping. Your first-aid kit should include the following:

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • A cold pack
  • Supplies for splinting
  • Dressings for large wounds
  • Band-Aids
  • Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Neosporin
  • Benadryl
  • Ibuprofen
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Antiseptic soap

Finding and Setting Up Your campsite. Before deciding on a site, scan the area for any hints of use by wildlife. Some key signs to look for are animal tracks and droppings, wasp nests in the ground, and scratches on the trees. Also be wary of spots with abundant berry growth. These areas might attract bears.

Campfire Safety. When looking for places to build a campfire, fire safety must always be considered. Be sure to abide by the rules of your specific camping area. For instance, do not start a fire if your campground does not allow campfires. Also, be aware of hazardous conditions. If conditions in your area are extremely dry, do not attempt to start a fire.

When building a new fire pit or fire ring, place it at least fifteen feet away from flammable objects like bushes, trees and tents. Avoid branches that hang too low in the direct vicinity of the fire. The pit itself needs to be about a foot deep. Take out all grass, sticks and leaves within a 10-foot diameter area and construct a circle of rocks around the pit or ring.

Use small, dry pieces of wood for your fire and only use wood from dead trees. Place a shovel and a bucket of water close to the fire for emergencies. Ensure your fire remains at a controllable size and never leave it alone.

When you are ready to put your fire out, pour enough water on it to make sure every ember is drenched. Use dirt if water is not available. After stirring it all in, check to see that everything is cold before leaving or going to sleep.

Poisonous plants. When camping, it is a good idea to make sure your family members are familiar with which plants to stay away from. The most common are poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. Unknown plants should be avoided. Remember to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts. If contact with a poisonous plant is suspected, wash the area as soon as possible and apply hydrocortisone cream to suppress any itching.

Once safety is assured, the fun camping memories can be made. Remember these safety tips and have a great camping trip!

What You Need To Know About Hiking Your First 14er

The State of Colorado has 54 individual 14,000’ mountains, more than any other state. We take pride that there is almost nowhere along the Front Range where we can’t see one of these towering peaks. If you’ve never hiked a 14er, or been to the top, now is a great time to cross this adventure off your bucket list.

Hiking a 14er is no easy task. Most require six to eight on the trail, good levels of fitness, caution and preparation when venturing into this extreme terrain. Arrive to the trailhead early and leave plenty of time to reach the summit before noon! You want to be well away from the peak when/if thunderstorms roll in around midday. June through August is the best time to climb these mountains as trails are largely devoid of snow. The greatest threat when hiking is exposure to the elements and in the summer months the threat comes from afternoon thunderstorms. A lightning strike on Mount Bierstadt recently hospitalized 3 hikers.

Preparation is of vital importance when taking on one of these peaks. Here are a few basic items to pack:

Sunscreen. There’s nothing like a sunburn to erase the memories of a great accomplishment – like climbing to the top of a mountain. As we discussed in our last blog, skin care is vital to your personal health.

Water! If you remember anything, remember this: bring plenty of water. The majority of unnecessary injuries that occur on these slopes is due to dehydration. Aim for at least half a gallon (two Nalgene bottles) and ensure you are already hydrated when you reach the trail.

Light Jacket. For every 1000’ gain in elevation, the average temperature drops 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. It might be warm and toasty in Denver, but at the top of that 14,000’ peak the temperature will be much lower. You’re going to want a light jacket at the top.

Hiking Boots. Leave the running shoes at home; they lack the proper support you need when hoofing up a high alpine trail on variable terrain. Wearing a pair of proper hiking boots will lower your chance of rolling an ankle and provide better traction when trudging up a mountain slope.

Munchies. Trail mix, Cliff bars, nature valley granola bars all make for great trail snacks. When you reach the summit, or need some extra energy for the climb, you’ll want a tasty treat.

When you have all the required gear, you need to find is a route. Here are some of the best 14ers for beginners, including a couple mountains you can get to the top of even if you can’t walk to the top.

Mount Evans (elevation: 14,265’)

This is the crown jewel above Denver, Colorado. It’s the closest 14er to Denver and also is one of the most accessible. Mount Evans wilderness area is a short 30 min drive outside of Denver to Idaho Springs. A $6 entrance fee is all you need to access the numerous trails in the area including summit trails. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take the drive up Mount Evans on the highest paved road in the United States!

Pikes Peak (elevation: 14, 114’)

This is the mountain that inspired America the Beautiful. It’s the most famous mountain in Colorado. It’s also one of the most trafficked mountains in our states with a road and cog rail (train) reaching to the top, where there’s also a gift shop. Perhaps not the best for those looking for a more wild adventure, but there’s something comforting in the fact that at the top you can enjoy fresh fudge.

Mount Bierstadt (elevation: 14,064’)

Trail Roundtrip Length: 7 miles

Another 14er near Denver. Located just out of Georgetown at the top of Guanella Pass. Seven miles round trip makes this peak a relatively short trek, however the trail travels over 3000 vertical feet from trailhead to peak, meaning it is steep!

Grays Peak (elevation: 14,278’) and Torrey’s Peak (elevation: 14,275’)

Trail Roundtrip Length: 8.5 miles

If you want to cross two peaks off your list, then Grays and Torrey’s are perhaps the two easiest 14ers to hike in one day. If you are hiking with young children, it’s probably best to stick to just one of the two (Grays Peak) but if you get an early enough start you can easily cross off both of these peaks.

Quandary Peak (elevation: 14,265’)

Trail Roundtrip Length: 6.75 miles

Thanks to its location and easy access, located at Hoosier Pass between Breckenridge and Fairplay, this peak gets plenty of traffic. It’s a relatively easy climb and like many of these hikes can be done in half a day, making it the perfect early morning hike.

Hiking a 14er is one of the most rewarding outdoor activities in all of Colorado. Use this guide to help you set up your next trek, and before you know it you will become a regular peak bagger, perhaps joining the ranks of the few who’ve climbed every single 14er in the state.

For those who are unable to make it to the mountains, there is a program called flat 14ers that converts activity like walking, swimming, and hiking into steps that can then be converted into reaching the summit of a 14er.