Thursday, October 29, 2020

SIDS…How a Parent’s Worst Fear Can Be Prevented.


Becoming a parent can be overwhelming, scary and full of unknowns. Your whole world becomes consumed with caring for your newborn and you worry about every little thing. Are you doing things right? Is your baby happy and healthy? You watch them sleep and check on them constantly…but for good reason. One of the biggest concerns that new parents have is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Below I will explain SIDS and ways you can protect your baby from this heartbreaking syndrome.

What is SIDS?

  •   Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger     than 1 year old.

·         About 2,300 babies in the United States die of SIDS each year.

·         SIDS is more likely to affect a baby who is between 1 and 4 months old.

·         SIDS is more common in boys than girls.

·         Most deaths occur during the fall, winter and early spring months.


What are the Risk Factors for SIDS?

  • Sleeping on their stomach or their side, rather than their back.
  • Overheating when sleeping.
  • Sleeping on a surface that is too soft or filled with fluffy blankets or soft toys.
  • Mothers who smoked during pregnancy (three times more likely to have a baby with SIDS).
  • Exposure to passive smoke.
  • Mothers who are younger than 20 years old at the time of their first pregnancy.
  • Being born to mothers who had little, late, or no prenatal care.
  • Born prematurely or with low birth weight.
  • Having a sibling who died of SIDS.

What You Can Do as a Parent to Protect Your Baby:

·         Attend all prenatal care visits.

·         Don’t allow anyone to smoke around your baby.

·         Provide a safe sleep environment:

o   Always place baby on his or her back to sleep.

o   Use a firm and flat surface in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet and free of soft and loose bedding, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, and toys.

o   Share your room with baby. Keep baby close to your bed but on a separate surface, for example, in their own crib or bassinet.

·         Breastfeed your baby.


Jessica Mathews, Children’s Services Program Specialist

Division of Health Care Services

Clinton County Health Department

Friday, October 23, 2020

Fostering Body Positivity in your Children


Mallory Gonia, Senior Year
Growing up my parents tried their best to ensure I had self-confidence and a positive body image. There
is not one single occurrence where either of my parents negatively commented on the appearance of my body or weight growing even during a period of my adolescent years when I was overweight. My Mom and Dad always made me feel loved and told me I was beautiful every day.

My fiancé was not as lucky. Instead of building my fiancé’s confidence, his father broke down any self-confidence he had. Instead of being told he was handsome, he was told he was fat and ugly.

Somehow even with drastically different upbringings, as teenagers we lacked body confidence and WE both developed eating disorders. Now as an adult no longer being in that negative environment my fiancé has a positive body image and his self-confidence is much higher. I will admit for myself I still struggle with my body image from time to time, but overall I am more confident and much happier.

Research shows that a negative body image is the most influential factor to the development of eating disorders, specifically anorexia and bulimia. In some cases there may be obvious factors that contribute to teens having a disordered or negative body image, potentially leading to eating disorders, such as bullying in school and/or online or negative body comments made by parents, caregivers or other family members. For me growing up I was never bullied for being overweight. Based on my history, there would seem to be absolutely no reason for me to have developed an eating disorder, but I still did.

Parental behavior can have a huge impact on children’s body image. Even parents like mine who never put pressure on me regarding my own weight, may be unintentionally contributing to a disordered body image in their children.

I can’t even count how many times my Mother had a wardrobe malfunction before events because she looked “fat” in all her clothes. At all family gatherings, to this day, there are always conversations around weight loss, body image and dieting. At these events there is always one or more relatives who can’t eat the dessert because he/she is on a “diet”. In 10th grade I began playing school sports. Naturally, without trying, I lost a significant amount of weight that year. Family started noticing and I was told how great I looked and how skinny I was. There were never any comments complementing me on eating healthy and exercising to better my health, just on my physical appearance. These family dynamics had a huge impact on how I saw my own body and what food choices I made. I began to really focus on how my clothes looked on me and became overly conscious about eating healthy so I could maintain this weight loss.

With social media, the pressure on children to look a certain way is high. This makes it very important to foster body positivity starting from a young age. Pre-teens and teens who already have a positive body image may be more prepared to handle the stress and pressure of growing up in today’s social media centered world.

I believe the first step to fostering a positive body image begins in the home. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 40-60% of girls age 6-12 are concerned with their weight and becoming fat. Parents are typically the most influential adults in children’s lives at this age. One important thing parents can do to encourage body positivity in their children is by having body confidence themselves. Parents lead by example and should be mindful of the way they talk about weight, self-appearance and food. As parents and caretakers, I encourage you to:

  • Promote a balanced diet in response to body hunger,
  • Not use food as a reward or punishment, and
  • Tell your child(ren) that weight does not define happiness.

Every one of us has something we can thank our bodies for and at some point in our lives we may take our bodies for granted. Teach children to love their bodies for what they do and not for what they look like. This is something I wish I could have done at 15.

Mallory Gonia

Public Health Nutrition Educator 

Division of Health Planning and Promotion 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Back-to-School Tips for the COVID World

The start of every school year is an exciting, but scary time. Add in new reopening guidelines and health concerns about COVID-19, and many parents have found themselves at a loss. Is it safe to send my child back to school? Can I commit to remote learning? While I can’t tell you which option to choose, I can give you some easy tips to help your family with that transition. Routine is important for kids, start practicing now so they can have an easier first day later.

Tips for Traditional Learning

  •        Practice wearing a mask. Have your kids spend time each day wearing a mask while doing 
    everyday activities. Having trouble? Make a rule that they can’t use technology (watch tv, play on devices, play video games, etc.) unless they wear a mask. Chances are they want those privileges enough to comply. Pay attention to how often they touch or play with the mask. It defeats the purpose of a mask if they keep sticking their fingers inside! Be sure they know how to
    put it on and take it off properly, without spreading their germs all over. Make sure you have a few masks in the rotation. They need to be washed each day and you should always pack a backup.
  •     Teach them to wash hands properly. Teach kids the five easy steps for handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry—and the key times to wash hands, such as after using the bathroom or before eating. Find ways to make it fun, like making up your own handwashing song or turning it into a game. Try the A, B, C’s or Row Row Row your boat. Proper handwashing includes 20 seconds of scrubbing, be sure the song you choose last at least that long.
  •     Practice social distancing. Help your children learn what being 6 feet apart really means. Practice staying 6 feet apart while doing everyday activities.
  •     Teach them how to open snacks and drinks. The more help your child needs to open things, the more hands will be touching their food. Practice lunch time at home so they can learn how to open items that might be packed in their lunch box.
  •     Pack a water bottle. Water fountains won’t be an option this year, so consider packing a full water bottle every day.
  •     Stay flexible. Schools are doing their very best to be prepared for every scenario, but change is inevitable. New things are learned every day and practice makes perfect. New protocols will be added or tweaked as needed once we start to learn what works best.

Tips for Remote Learning

  •     Stick to a routine. Wake up, eat breakfast, and get dressed for school – the only difference in their morning routine should be the commute to their desk instead of their school. If you don’t set a schedule for learning it will be difficult to tear kids away from toys and fun and it may lead to arguments and frustration. Kids are used to a set schedule at school, they do it for their teachers and they will do it for you too! You just have to commit to having a structured day, focused on getting the learning done.
  •     Dedicate a learning space. Set up an area in your home that you use only for learning. Make sure the temptations of play time, tv, and tablets are far away so the focus can be on learning. Set up your supplies just like their desk would be set up at school. Setting their space up can help them be excited to start learning again, a flashy new pencil never hurts either!

  •     Sit in the best position for learning. Be sure the space you use is right for your child. Make sure screens are at eye-level and kids are sitting up straight. Lounging in the chair or on the couch isn’t conducive to learning. Have a fidgety kid? Try using the “prone” position (laying on the floor on their bellies.) This flexible seating option can sometimes help students focus when they are having a rough day.

No matter which option you choose, remember that your kids are looking to you for guidance. Be positive about the experience no matter how you are feeling. If you show them your apprehension, they are likely to be scared too. You’re doing great and we will get through this together!

To learn more, check out the additional resources the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has for back to school planning.

Krissy Flynn

Elementary School Teacher

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Top Five Family Summer Safety Tips

While summer may look a little different this year with changes to vacation plans, camps and other family activities, one thing is for sure: it is hot! If your kids are like mine, they are begging you to go the beach, the playground and hiking. Maybe they are participating in outside youth camps, classes or sports. So how do we keep our kiddos safe this summer when all they want to do is be on the go outside and have fun?

Practice Safe Skin

It doesn’t matter if it is sunny or overcast, make sure to apply sunscreen to your children before they head out for the day. For the best protection, apply 20 minutes before they go outside to play or swim and re-apply every two hours (more so as needed if they are swimming or sweating).

Keep Your Cool

This summer has been especially hot. Keep your kids cool by offering lots of water, keep them in lightweight clothes and limit the amount of time they spend outside in extreme heat (90ºF or over). Heat stroke and or dehydration is serious business, so find other ways to stay cool and beat the heat on the hottest of days.

Check for Ticks

You don’t have to be in the deep woods to get a tick. I make sure to check my girls for ticks daily, even if they have only been in our yard. Ticks can be in obvious spots or hidden behind knees or in the creases of ears. If you do find a tick, don’t panic, click here to learn how to safely remove it.

Watch the Water

I can’t stress this enough – keep a close eye on your children at all times when they are in a body of water. Even if they are the strongest of swimmers or they are in a shallow body of water. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1-4 and second highest cause of accidental death among children 5-9 in the United States.

Follow the Rules of the Road

If your kiddo isn’t at the pool or beach, they may be hitting the road on their bikes, rollerblades or scooters. Always make sure that they are wearing a helmet and ensure that they know the ‘rules of the road’ (walkers facing traffic, bikers riding with traffic).  Accidents happen but helmets will protect against brain and head injuries.

Role modeling these safety behaviors as adults and parents will help our children grow up healthy and safe.

Happy Summer! J

Jessica Mathews,

Children’s Services Program Specialist

Division of Health Care Services 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Inside Scoop - the Clinton County Health Department’s Rabies program

First a little background, why do we even care about rabies?

Rabies is a deadly, but preventable disease.  Once symptoms appear, the disease is nearly always fatal.

OK, you’ve got my attention now...

Let’s throw out a few scenarios to give you an idea of what we do in the rabies program.

Scenario 1- You lose your frisbee in your neighbor’s yard so you jump the fence to get it and their dog gets startled and bites you. You go to an urgent care to get the wound looked at and they ask you about the dog and the dog owners so they can fill out a bite report to submit to us.

Now you may be saying to yourself “No, I don’t want to get my neighbor’s dog taken away from them, I’m not going to report it.”

We do not harm or take animals away from people.

Here is what we do when we receive a bite report:

·        Use the information you give us to contact the animal owner and make sure the animal is alive and able to be monitored for 10 days.

·        Verify the rabies vaccination status of the animal.

·        Track the animal’s health.  If it is alive and well 10 days after the day it bit you, it did not have rabies at the time of the bite and there is no risk of rabies to you.

Scenario 2- You wake up to a bat flying around your bedroom. Bats have very tiny mouths and you were sleeping so you are not completely sure you didn’t get bit. You caught the bat and have it in a container. You call us to report it and see what you should do next.

Here is what we do when we receive your call:

  •   Fill out a bite report.
  • Retrieve the bat from you and send it away to be tested to see if it had rabies.

The results come in and the bat does not have rabies. This is good news, even if you got bit and didn’t realize it there is no risk of rabies to you.

Wait, but what if I couldn’t catch the bat and it got away?

In this case, if you truly don’t know if you were bitten we are going to recommend you receive postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).

There is a risk for rabies to you and we don’t want to take any chances. Did you know rabies symptoms can show up in people in a few days or not for months?

Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) - that sounds scary.

It’s not as bad as it sounds!

PEP is a series of shots spread out in 4 visits over 2 weeks. I had to get these shots and I assure you they are no different than your typical flu shot.

Please note these are just some examples, the possible scenarios are endless.  

Ok this is a lot of information at once, let’s wrap it up!

What should you do if you are bitten by a pet or wildlife?

1.     Get the animal owner’s (if there is one) name, address and phone number – this is important!

2.     Note where and when the bite happened and the animal’s color, condition, size and temperament.

3.     Thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately – animal bites can be infected with many diseases besides rabies.

4.     Report the incident to the Clinton County Health Department (CCHD) by calling 518-565-4870. (Keep in mind we do not take peoples animals from them!)

How can you prevent rabies?

·        Do not attempt to catch or pet strays or wildlife, call animal control if you find a stray animal.

·        Keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.

·        Always ask before approaching someone else’s animal and teach your kids when it is and is not okay to pet an animal.

All animal bites, no matter how minor must be reported to CCHD.

One last thing to mention before you go, another part of the rabies program is that CCHD offers FREE rabies clinics to Clinton County residents. Due to the restrictions in place for COVID-19 we don’t have the date of our first 2020 clinic yet but keep an eye on our Facebook page for an update.

For more information about rabies in Clinton County click here.

Karissa LaBonte

Public Health Sanitarian

Division of Environmental Health and Safety

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Food Waste Reduction, Who Has Time for That?

There are so many expectations in 2020 to be a functioning member of society. Eat local organic foods, use natural products, save the turtles, homeschool your kids, don’t get COVID-19, oh and raise kind humans who are also functioning members of society. I’m already exhausted and now I need to lower my carbon footprint by reducing our household food waste too? What does that even mean? I’m here to tell you, if I (wife, mom of 3, college student with a full-time job and homeschooling my children) can do it, so can you. Little things like changing shopping habits, reducing wasted food, and recycling food scraps don’t take that much extra time or effort but they can make a big impact at home, on the environment and your wallets.

Food waste doesn’t just happen at home, it happens all along the food chain, from the farm, to the store, to us, the consumer. By changing habits as a consumer, over time, we can make a much bigger impact on how our food system works. Keeping food scraps out of the landfill also helps reduce the impacts of climate change on another struggling mother, Earth.  

At my house we started simple by grocery shopping smarter. Making sure the refrigerator stays organized and having a good idea of what is on hand before a trip to the store is really helpful in not overbuying. Planning meals for the week is also beneficial to us and sticking to a list makes a huge difference in lowering our grocery bills each month. Getting creative with leftovers has always been a challenge for me, so to avoid throwing the leftovers in the trash, we stick to our planned meals, which are perfectly portioned for my family. We also created an “Eat Me First” section of the refrigerator so things don’t get pushed to the back and forgotten about (moldy).

Once we tackled shopping smarter, we could get to work staying organized. As soon as we get the groceries home any produce is immediately washed, cut and put away in clear storage containers so it is easily accessible and ready for meals or if the kids want a snack (seriously, when do they not want a snack?). We’re all more apt to grab something healthy like cut carrots or washed grapes if they are ready to eat. Preparing vegetables and fruits before they go into the fridge makes them last longer as well.  

Now for the fun part, composting! We took a few basic steps to eliminate wasted food, but let's be real, there is bound to be something that still goes uneaten. In researching what would work best for our family we decided we could benefit from turning the food scraps into compost and using it in our garden. You don’t always have to use the compost from your food scraps; solar digesters that break down the waste and allow it to seep into the soil are a good option or a neighbor with animals looking for food scraps could work too. We wanted this project to be as cost effective as possible so we opted for a homemade tumbler. Vegetable scraps, fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags go right into our recycled canister on our kitchen counter. A lucky kid at my house wins the coveted award of taking it out to the tumbler when it’s full so not only are we helping the environment we are teaching responsibility too. Everyone wins.

If you’re still reading, I may have convinced you your family can do this too. Wanting to reduce food waste doesn’t have to be difficult and it definitely doesn’t have to cost anything. Whatever you’re doing at home now, keep up the good work, but know that we could all be doing a little more to reduce our food waste. Make small changes in your lifestyle over time. You will see a difference in the amount of trash you produce, and the amount of money you save. To answer the question, who has time for that?

The answer is, we all do!  

Thank you very “mulch”.

Carrie Healy

Program Assistant

Health Planning and Promotion Division

Friday, May 29, 2020

In the Major League – CCHD’s COVID-19 Emergency Response

About two years ago, I transferred to the Clinton County Health Department (CCHD) after 8 years as Clinton County’s Recreation Director. Functioning in an emergency response for the first time, and being a former collegiate softball player, I see lots of similarities between softball teams and public health response teams.

Any time you start with a new team there’s training. CCHD offers lots of training, including ICS, or Incident Command System. Every new employee starts with ICS 100 and ICS 200 level training along with NIMS (National Incident Management System). ICS/NIMS training ensures that CCHD staff can function effectively as a team in the event of an emergency – kind of like preseason training. It also ensures that we are able to speak the same emergency management language as other teams, like Law Enforcement and Emergency Services personnel. We complete drills (think scrimmages) frequently to practice these principles in simulated events.

As part of a Public Health team, I always understood the possibility of being called up to the big leagues (like a pandemic). Fast forward to the 2020 Spring Season where I’m playing in the championship game against COVID-19!

Behind every successful team is good coach. In a public health crisis such as this pandemic, our coach, aka Incident Commander, is Clinton County’s Director of Public Health. Several Section Chiefs act as assistant coaches responsible for certain aspects of the game/incident. Branch Leaders and Division Supervisors oversee the work assignments of players in their section. The Incident Commander and Section Chiefs, along with several liaisons and the incident’s public information staff work together to develop a strategy but it is the Incident Commander who approves the plan for each operational period (game). The team carries out the plan and the ICS team has a lot of different players, like a softball team.

Planning Section Chief
during pre-shift briefing.
There is a Safety Officer. For this incident, the safety officer is a member of CCHD’s Environmental Health and Safety Division. She assesses safety in all aspects of our response – from large population-based safety concerns to smaller internal safety issues, like the time our office was using several types of
disinfecting products that should not have been mixed. Thank-you safety officer!

Organization is key to a good emergency response. The incident’s Planning Section Chief facilitates weekly and daily briefings, as well as command and general staff, tactics, and planning meetings. Meetings stay on track under her guidance. A written plan with specific objectives is generated for each operational period.

Clinton County’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) has been handling logistics. They are connected to the NYS Office of Emergency Services and work to ensure that Clinton County has the supplies it needs. They’ve been thrown a few curveballs but have kept the flow of PPE (personal protective equipment), testing materials, etc. coming.

Public Information Officers (PIO) manage communications creating press releases, coordinating video events, and monitoring social media. I’ve been rotated into a PIO position several times during this COVID-19 pandemic as a member of the Public Information & Education Team. We have fielded more than 1700 phone calls from the public to date.

Several liaisons help us reach out to other teams. CCHD’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator acts as a liaison to UVHN-CVPH and the Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor is filling the role of Local Government Liaison in this incident.

I&Q Team getting ready
to deliver quarantine
Last but certainly not least is the I&Q Team (isolation and quarantine). They’re like outfielders. They cover a lot of ground, are extremely reliable, and are counted on to pull out the occasional diving catch. The I&Q Team are the folks who do the contact tracing required for a communicable illness like COVID-19. They determine who each positive case has been in contact with and issue
isolation and quarantine orders as needed. They communicate daily with those in isolation and quarantine. Not only do they check in on symptoms, they make sure these individuals have essentials (like food and safe housing), and check on their mental health, often with an assist from the Human Services Branch.

In addition to our starters, we also have a strong bench waiting to jump in when needed. Many CCHD staff members are functioning under a COOP (Continuation of Operations Plan), doing typical day-to-day work with some modifications, but constantly keeping up with new guidance and training so that they are ready to pitch in and help out at a moment’s notice.

As far as teams go, and I’ve been on a lot of them, this one is a World Series kind of team.

Molly Flynn
Senior Public Health Educator
Clinton County Health Department