Technology in Education

Technology transformed education in the twenty-first century by integrating digital tools into classrooms and by moving classrooms to virtual environments.

Technology transformed education in the twenty-first century by integrating digital tools into classrooms and by moving classrooms to virtual environments. Digital tools can be leveraged to enhance learning processes, broaden access to academic resources, and connect teachers and students in new ways.

Interactive whiteboards and tablets facilitate blended learning in schools by incorporating online technology with face-to-face instruction. Personal computers and smartphones link to internet-based curriculum and resources such as electronic books, videos, and learning games. Virtual platforms allow for approaches including at-home educational support and distance learning through online schools operated by states, school districts, and charters.

Summary of the Article

  • Advances in digital technologies have brought new opportunities for students and teachers to approach learning in different ways. School districts around the United States have made substantial investments in education technology.
  • Initiatives to incorporate more technology into education have been met with concerns that such investments may not be the best use of school resources. Education experts advise that these technologies be introduced when they provide an educational benefit.
  • Blended learning involves both traditional in-person instruction and the use of digital technologies. Distance learning allows students to receive instruction remotely.
  • The federal government provides funds to help public schools provide students with access to education technology. However, stark disparities in resources and access persist, especially among rural and low-income students.
  • Advances in telecommunications have allowed for more schools to offer online courses. When the COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures across the country, many schools adapted to online instruction.
  • Several technologies have been developed to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities. Commonly referred to as assistive technology (AT), these products and services can greatly enhance the educational experience.

Proponents contend that applying technology to education expands teacher and student access to resources, prepares students to join a technologically driven economy, and improves learning opportunities for students with disabilities. Critics caution against applying technology as a solution for every issue within the education system.

They warn that technology must be used with forethought and planning to maximize its benefits and minimize the potential for disruption and distraction. Advocates for equity voice warn that technology can widen the achievement gap by creating a digital divide that disadvantages some students.

Technology in the Classroom

Digital tools are increasingly seen as an integral part of learning. School districts in the United States spend an estimated $13.2 billion combined each year on education technology. According to a Cambridge International Global Education Census, by 2018, most US students reported they had access to desktop computers within their classrooms.

Some US schools issue personal laptop computers and portable electronic devices to students and teachers, though most schools cannot afford it. For example, Puyallup School District in Washington State spent $12.5 million over four years to provide a computer to every student from fourth grade through high school for use in the classroom and, beginning in seventh grade, for home use.

Teachers felt that students showed greater engagement and willingness to participate in lessons, and they turned in more assignments on time. A 2019 analysis of 126 studies published by a think tank based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that providing students with greater access to computers and the internet will increase their skill level and comfort with these technologies, but that this intervention alone does not improve educational outcomes leading to better grades and test scores.

Education policymakers warn that while many school districts move to integrate technology in the classroom, a lack of rigorous review of best practices and effective applications can lead to wasted investments without students’ educational benefit.

The MIT analysis concluded that blended learning was the best approach for incorporating technology into K12 education programs in terms of cost-effectiveness and learning outcomes. Blended learning combines online technology within a traditional classroom where teachers can interact face-to-face with students. The analysis found that education software designed to allow students to personalize their experience and progress at their own rate could help students improve math scores as in-person tutoring programs.

Researchers cautioned that there was not enough data or rigorous review to understand why some programs proved effective. Though the internet can be a useful learning tool, lack of regulation means that students risk being exposed to inappropriate material and misinformation. Teaching students how to verify the authenticity of information found on the internet is becoming an increasingly important role for educators.

The availability of educational resources online makes connectivity an important goal for many schools, but this can be difficult for some schools to attain. According to the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of households with school-age children do not have access to a fast and reliable internet connection at home, but this ranges from 6 to 35 percent depending on the household.

Students from low-income households, students of color, and students in rural areas disproportionately face greater barriers to access than their peers. In 2010 Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona, turned school buses into mobile wireless hotspots, allowing students internet access while riding to and from school.

In 2020, during the coronavirus crisis that shut down many schools in early 2020, they could place the buses around neighboring areas for internet access to help students with distance learning while school classrooms were closed. School districts in South Carolina provided similar vehicles to communities affected by school closures.

Another program outfitted vans with wireless internet and parked them on Native American reservations where many of their students live without internet access.

The federal government plays a significant role in funding public schools and providing access to technology in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides federal funds for telecommunications and digital information services and equipment through the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), established as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The initiative, commonly referred to as E-Rate, provides discounts that cover up to 90 percent of the cost of services and equipment. The discounts are determined based on poverty levels of the school or in the community where the library is located. Special consideration is given to rural institutions. By 2019, about 99 percent of K12 schools the United States had high-speed broadband internet access, though work was ongoing to make sure bandwidth could be increased. The budget allocated to E-Rate was capped at $4.2 billion for 2019.

Online Classes and Distance Learning

The proliferation of telecommunications services allows students to participate in educational opportunities that were previously inaccessible due to geography or cost. Distance learning lets students take courses online without having to attend classes physically. Several states operate virtual full-time public schools as of 2020. Florida offered full-time programs for K12 students.

Utah’s virtual school allowed students who are homeschooled and those unable to graduate from a traditional high school to receive high school diplomas. North Carolina’s program enhanced offerings for high school students, including online Advanced Placement and college courses, credit recovery programs, and test preparation. Forty-eight states offered supplemental classroom instruction and blended learning opportunities. In addition to states, some school districts and charter schools offer full-time or dual enrollment programs.

Schools without online learning infrastructure were compelled to adapt quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic starting in the United States in early 2020. Schools in all states shut down starting in March, and planned to remain closed at least until the end of the 2019–2020 school year and possibly into the following school year.

Closures affected more than 124,000 institutions and 55.1 million students in public and private schools. Many states, including Wisconsin, Colorado, and California, immediately transitioned to distance learning as an emergency measure. Some states and school districts could not offer this option immediately since they could not support all students through distance learning, including students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students without home internet access.

Many districts began programs to get laptops out to students and find ways to provide internet access to students without computers or internet access at home. However, some districts had to rely on paper packets of material, especially for younger students.

Higher education institutions began offering online courses starting in the late 1990s. Programs where students can earn credits or complete entire degree programs online rapidly increased in popularity. The percentage of undergraduate students enrolled in online courses increased from 15.6 percent during the 2003–2004 academic year to 42.1 percent during the 2015–2016 academic year.

The percentage of undergraduates completing their entire degree program online more than doubled during the same period, from 4.9 percent to 10.8 percent. Online learning carries on the tradition of correspondence schools, which allowed students to take classes through the mail.

Like these earlier correspondence schools, online universities can receive accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), a nonprofit organization founded as the National Home Study Council in 1926 and recognized by the US Department of Education as a legitimate accreditation body in 1959. Formal university degree programs that are offered online require students to complete the admissions process, enroll in courses, and pay to receive academic credit.

Universities and colleges may also provide select courses for free on their websites or allow faculty to post courses on platforms that offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs enroll thousands of students worldwide. Students can audit courses for free or pay to receive a certificate. There are no prerequisites for taking the courses, which makes access to subjects of all kinds available to interested learners.

Critics of remote learning argue that these programs are not as effective as traditional school settings in regard to student learning and academic outcomes. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) released research in 2019 revealing that despite the increased popularity of full-time online programs for K12 students, students performed worse than in blended or traditional programs. Graduation rates between 50 and 61 percent were far below the national average of 85 percent for traditional public schools.

Graduation rates were also lower than average for full-time online colleges and universities. Further criticisms have been leveled against online for-profit universities for engaging in questionable business practices, including misleading applicants about the quality of the education they provide. Proponents of distance learning in higher education contend that online learning provides opportunities to students who otherwise would face obstacles in continuing their education. The flexibility offered by online universities makes them attractive to people with disabilities as well as older college students, including students who work full-time, stay-at-home moms, and military personnel and veterans.

Technology Solutions for Special Students

Educational technology developers and manufacturers have created enormous software and hardware to facilitate students as well as teachers. The Text to Speech (TTS) readers and proofreading software benefit students with dyslexia and those who have difficulty with reading.

Hearing-impaired students can take advantage of assistive-listening systems, including personal FM radio signal systems and closed captioning for digital video. Software developers have created several smartphone speech-to-text (STT) applications that transcribe spoken language into text.

The artificial intelligence in some STT software can adapt to respond to a specific person’s voice, allowing the unique pronunciations of students with speech difficulties to be easily recognized. Sip-and-puff systems allow students with motor skill disabilities like paralysis to operate a controller with their mouth, which acts as a navigation tool to operate a digital device.

Advances in this technology have enabled students to draw and play video games without full use of their arms. Due to the high cost of some of these technologies, federal agencies like the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services offer grants to states to purchase AT.

As mandated by the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, state programs can receive funds to provide AT to individuals with disabilities through the Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP). Financial assistance for these resources can also come from community groups, charities, private donations, and corporate sponsorships.

Electric Cars and Hybrid Vehicles

Electric cars and vehicles use electricity to fully or partially power their engines. There are three main types. Electric vehicles (EVs) are all-electric and do not use a combustion engine. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) use a combination of a combustion engine and an electric motor. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are HEVs that can be plugged into an external electricity source.

Electric cars and vehicles use electricity to fully or partially power their engines. There are three main types. Electric vehicles (EVs) are all-electric and do not use a combustion engine. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) use a combination of a combustion engine and an electric motor. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are HEVs that can be plugged into an external electricity source.

Using electricity as an alternative fuel helps conserve fuel and reduce vehicle emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Use of hybrid and electric vehicles can help minimize dependence on foreign oil.

Some businesses, city governments, and everyday consumers choose these vehicles to reduce their climate change contributions. Hybrid and electric vehicles have significantly lower carbon emissions compared to conventional cars, trucks, and buses. Many consumers who purchase these vehicles want to save money on petroleum fuel. Sales tend to rise and fall with the price of oil in the United States.

Some Facts about EVs and PHEVs

  • Annual sales of EVs and PHEVs in the United States reached a record 361,307 units in 2018, according to industry website InsideEVs. In 2019 annual sales dropped by about 9 percent to 329,528 units.
  • Sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) peaked at 495,535 units in. In 2019 400,746 units were sold, as reported by the US Department of Energy.
  • The Alternative Fuels Data Center says that gasoline-powered vehicles produce an average of 11,435 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, while EVs produce just 4,091 pounds.
  • Of the 7.2 million EVs on the road globally in 2019, about 20 percent were in the United States.
  • The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that a minimum of 100,000 new charging stations will need to be built by 2025 to accommodate the projected 2.6 million additional EVs and PHEVs in the most populous US metro areas.

Functions and Engineering of EVs

EVs are sometimes called battery electric vehicles (BEVs). They run entirely on electrical power with no internal combustion engine. EVs have an electric motor and a battery that must be plugged into an electrical station to recharge. EVs do not burn fuel, so they do not produce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with engines that use fossil fuels. However, they generally run a shorter distance per charge than conventional cars get per a tank of gas.

HEVs are powered by both an internal combustion (gasoline) engine and an electric motor and battery. This technology is called the input power-split system because it shuts off the gas engine while the vehicle is idling then uses the electric motor to move and accelerate. The gas engine re-engages when more power is required. HEVs recharge their batteries by collecting the energy created by friction when using the brakes, or regenerative braking.

PHEVs emerged in the 2010s. They feature a larger electric battery than conventional HEVs, and their batteries can be recharged by plugging them into an outlet. The larger battery holds more electricity and enables PHEVs to travel longer distances on a single charge.

History of EVs and HEVs

The first hybrid vehicles were designed in the late 1800s. However, the internal combustion engine became standard because it was much more powerful than those powered by electricity. Efforts to create a hybrid car suitable for mass production began seeing progress in the final third of the twentieth century. Japanese carmaker Toyota produced its first hybrid prototype in 1976. In the United States, Chrysler and General Motors’ joint project resulted in the ETV-1 in 1979.

In 1997 Toyota made its Prius HEV available to the Japanese mass market. That same year Audi brought its Duo HEV to market in Europe. The Honda Insight was the first mass-market hybrid in the United States. It debuted in 1999. Toyota followed with the Prius HEV in 2000. As of 2020, there were eighty different HEV models and thirty-six different PHEV models on the United States market. Almost all major car manufacturers offer at least one hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

Tesla introduced its Roadster EV in 2008. It was the first all-electric vehicle to use lithium-ion battery cells. The Roadster was also the first EV to travel up to two hundred miles on a single charge. By 2020, there were about twenty-four EV models on the US market.

Environmental Impact of EVs and HEVs

HEVs of all varieties burn less gasoline than conventional vehicles, which reduces carbon emissions. If the electricity that powers a car comes from a coal-fired power plant, it may produce as much pollution as gasoline. If the electricity comes from solar and wind energy, however, it may approach zero emissions.

Consumers of EVs and HEVs are also drawn to the vehicles’ reduced noise pollution compared with that of gas-powered cars. EVs and PHEVs are so quiet, however, that Congress passed legislation to make them louder. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 established minimum sound requirements that allow pedestrians to “reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle.”

Some municipalities have moved from diesel or gas to electric and hybrid buses for their public transit systems. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), 20.9 percent of all buses were hybrid electric in 2019. In 2009 it had been only 4.9 percent. Both economic and environmental concerns have driven the move toward cleaner fuels. Transitioning to EV and HEV fleets has become common for businesses and other organizations that have adopted targets to reduce their carbon footprints or achieve net-zero emissions.

Economic Concerns about EVS and HEVs

Most HEVs are sold at a higher price than fully gas-powered vehicles. The savings in fuel costs may or may not make up the difference for consumers. A 2016 study determined that only seven of twenty-nine hybrids it examined saved the owner enough money in gas costs over five years to cover the greater initial costs. However, part of this finding was due to low gas prices in 2016. As fuel costs increase, hybrid models become more cost-effective. Research published in 2017, for example, found that EV cars cost less over four years than conventional cars.

People considering EVs and PHEVs commonly fear that the vehicle will run out of electrical power before reaching the destination or a charging station. This is called range anxiety. A 2020 survey suggests that range anxiety decreases after ownership. In the survey, 95 percent of EV owners indicated they had never run out of range while driving, and 96 percent answered they would buy or lease an EV again. Range anxiety may also be addressed by building more vehicle charging stations and improving battery technology.

For part of the 2010s, the US federal government used tax credits to make EVs and PHEVs more affordable for consumers. Some US states also offered rebates and other incentives for purchasing EVs, PHEVs, and other zero-emission vehicles. In 2017 many of these incentives were allowed to expire. Colorado, GeorgiaIndiana, and Utah took active steps to end them and reallocate money to other initiatives. Georgia and other states, such as Washington and Michigan, replaced incentives with steep HEV registration fees.

The biggest obstacle to ownership of EVs and PHEVs remains the lack of infrastructure to support them, particularly public charging stations. A 2019 report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) identified a significant “charging infrastructure gap” across US cities. The study estimated that public charging infrastructure would need to quadruple by 2025.

Policymakers around the country have continued to debate who should be responsible for building and managing charging stations. Some contend public electrical utility providers should manage them. Others argue that private corporations or public-private collaboratives should run them. The question of who should profit from the increased use of electricity is at the center of these debates.

Before being elected president in 2020, Joe Biden campaigned to invest in EV development to create new jobs and reduce national carbon emissions. Biden’s agenda is designed to make the United States a global leader in clean vehicle manufacturing. It includes plans to build a network of 500,000 EV charging stations and provide tax credits and other incentives for consumers. The agenda also includes investing in improving battery technology and transitioning the federal vehicle fleet to EVs.

Health Education

The purpose of health education is to provide individuals and communities with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to make the best choices possible to ensure that they will experience a safe, healthy, and productive life.

What is Health Education?

One of the most commonly quoted definitions of health education comes from a 1998 publication by the World Health Organization, which describes it as “consciously constructed opportunities for learning involving some form of communication designed to improve health literacy, including improving knowledge, and developing life skills which are conducive to individual and community health.”

Since health itself is large and complex, health education is often subdivided into smaller categories, such as physical health, sexual health, mental health, emotional health, environmental health, and social health.

Purpose of Health Education

The purpose of health education is to provide individuals and communities with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to make the best choices possible to ensure that they will experience a safe, healthy, and productive life.

Description of Health Education

In some respects, health education has probably always been part of the human community, parents, and special skills in medicine, teaching younger members of the group the best practices for staying alive and healthy. Health education as we know it, however, dates only to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in most developed countries.

During this period, researchers began to discover the causes of infectious diseases, which are the primary threat to the health of most individuals in a society. The first understanding of public health principles also began to appear during this period. Researchers discovered how polluted air and water contributed to the outbreak of disease and ill-health in communities.

The key breakthrough in health education in the United States occurred in 1915 with the publication of a report by William Welch and Wickliffe Rose, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, outlining a health education program in the United States. That report called for a program that focused on teaching about infectious diseases was located in university programs, relied heavily on research, and was independent of existing medical schools.

The first institution along these lines, the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health opened a year later, in 1916. Over the next two decades, nine more such institutions were established, emphasizing teaching the practical aspects of health, such as public health administration, public health nursing, vital statistics, disease control, and community health services and field programs.

Growth in health education at the university level soon slowed, however, and did not become a national priority until 1957 when the U.S. Congress passed the Hill-Rhodes bill, which provided federal funding to establish university health education courses, programs, and degrees. As of 2013, there were 50 fully accredited and seven non-accredited schools of public health in the United States.

Health education is a required part of the curriculum in 40 U.S. states. Also, many individual school systems voluntarily offer such classes in the remaining ten states. Some form of health education is often provided at every grade level from kindergarten through grade 12, with individual school systems offering programs designed to meet their own needs and expectations.

Generally speaking, such courses tend to cover subjects such as the human body; infectious diseases and disease prevention; physical fitness; alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse; sexually transmitted infections; emotional health and self-image; misconceptions and myths about health; sexuality and sexual relationships; pregnancy, contraception, and family planning; environmental health; community and public health; and careers in the health sciences, such as medicine, nursing, public health, and other related occupations.

Under the best circumstances, health education courses are taught by individuals specially trained in the field. However, teachers are also often recruited from other areas, such as biology, general science, or physical education.

National guidelines for primary and secondary level health education courses were first issued in 1995 under the U.S. Department of Education auspices. A set of eight standards make up the guidelines, with performance indicators indicated for each grade level, prekindergarten through grade 2; grades 3 through 5; 6 through 8; and 9 through 12. The eight standards deal with the following general topics:

  1. Promotion of health and disease prevention
  2. The influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors
  3. Information products and services available for the enhancement of health
  4. the use of interpersonal communication skills for the enhancement of health and avoidance of disease
  5. The use of decision-making skills in enhancing personal and community health
  6. Learning how to set goals to improve personal and community health
  7. Putting into practice the skills needed to improve health and avoid disease
  8. Learning how to advocate for personal, family, and community health

The so-called performance indicators used in the standards consist of observable behaviours by which one can determine whether and to what extent an individual has progressed toward each of the standards.

For example, a performance indicator for standard four at the youngest grade level consists of a child’s ability to “demonstrate ways to tell a trusted adult if threatened or harmed.” A performance indicator at the highest grade level for standard 3 is to “determine when professional health services may be required.”

Health educators work in a wide variety of settings and primary and secondary schools and colleges and universities. They also find employment in healthcare facilities, public health departments, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses. Among their responsibilities in these settings are the following:

  • Teaching patients about ways of handling their health problems, such as necessary treatments they may need to carry out
  • Arranging for testing and screenings for patients
  • Working with medical staff to improve the interaction between providers and patients
  • Organize and operate specialized programs on disease prevention and other public health issues
  • Provide administrative support by writing grant requests and maintaining contact with outside agencies
  • Design and execute programs focusing on specific health issues of concern to a community or a business, such as obesity or smoking
  • Conduct assessments and evaluations of health needs in a community, school, business, or another setting
  • Serve as members on and as liaisons to other health organizations at the local, regional, state, and national level.

Most schools and agencies require that health educators have at least a bachelor’s degree in health education, with a master’s degree often being preferred. Many institutions also require that a candidate become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), a title earned from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc.

The certificate is awarded to individuals who have passed a specialized test and remains valid as long as they take an additional 75 hours of approved coursework in each of the following five years.

Resources

BOOKS

Arya, Akshaya Neil, and Jessica Evert, eds. Global Health Experiential Education: From Theory to Practice. New York: Routledge, 2018.

Bonah, Christian, David Cantor, and Anja Laukotter, eds. Health Education Films in the Twentieth Century. Rochester, NY: Rochester University Press, 2018.

Information Resources Management Association, ed. Health Literacy: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2017.

PERIODICALS

Brayboy, Lynae M, et al. “Girl Talk: A Smartphone Application to Teach Sexual Health Education to Adolescent Girls.” Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology 30, no. 1 (February 2017): 23–8.

McCormack, Lauren., et al. “Improving Low Health Literacy and Patient Engagement: A Social-Ecological Approach.” Patient Education and Counseling 100, no. 1 (January 2017): 8–13.

Moran, Meghan B., et al. “Why Peer Crowds Matter: Incorporating Youth Subcultures and Values in Health Education Campaigns.” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 3 (March 1, 2017): 389–95.

Seeri, Jayashree S., and Savita S. Patil. “Training of Medical Students in Communication Skills for Health Education.” International Journal of Medical Science and Public Health 7, no. 8 (2018): 671.

WEBSITES

“Health Education.” World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/topics/health_education/en/ (accessed April 26, 2019).

“Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 7, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/hecat/index.htm (accessed April 26, 2019).

“What Is Health Education?” http://cnheo.org/files/health_ed.pdf (accessed April 26, 2019).

ORGANIZATIONS

Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), 10 G St. NW, Ste. 605, Washington, DC 20002, (202) 408-9804, (202) 408-9815 info@sophe.org, http://www.sophe.org .

Bullying In Schools and Techniques to Combat it

Bullying is not only common but extremely hazardous to everyone involved—bullies, victims, and bystanders. Parents, teachers, and children can learn techniques to combat bullying.

Parents, teachers, and children can learn techniques to combat bullying.

Day after day a second-grader forces a kindergartner to turn over his lunch. A trio of 10-year-olds pounce on a smaller classmate, toss his backpack off the school bus and throw his jacket in the mud. A sixth-grade girl spreads rumors about another girl in class. A high school junior pushes a first-year student down the stairs and charges him daily to pass in peace.

For more than 2 million students in schools throughout the United States, bullying—the use of intimidation or force to assert power over another person—is a daily reality. For years, many school teachers and counsellors dismissed such behavior as a normal rite of passage. By 1999, however, educators recognized bullying as a “silent nightmare” affecting as many as 20 percent of school-age children regularly.

Bullying is not only common but extremely hazardous to everyone involved—bullies, victims, and bystanders. According to a study of almost 900 U.S. third-graders, a bully has a five times greater risk of engaging in criminal behavior as other children. The study also reported that a child who becomes a bully by age 8 has a 25 percent chance of ending up with a criminal record by age 30.

Problems also exist for children who are the targets of sustained bullying. These children often suffer long-lasting fear and humiliation as the result of being victimized. In extreme cases, children who had been relentlessly teased and bullied have committed suicide. Even bystanders who witness bullying can become victims, as they are sometimes bothered by feelings of apprehension and guilt for not having done something to stop the attack.

Shattering Myths about Bullies

Research conducted in the 1990s shattered many myths about both bullies and their victims. For example, contrary to some traditional stereotypes, both boys and girls bully, though in different ways. Sometimes, bullying trends across generations, with the children of bullies becoming bullies themselves while the children of victims grow up to be victimized. However, psychologists believe that bullying is neither inevitable nor irreversible.

It flourishes in settings where children silently suffer and adults ignore or dismiss aggressive behavior displayed by some children. By working together, psychologists in 1999 believed that parents and educators can prevent bullying at its earliest onset, establish a zero-tolerance policy against victimization, and take the dread out of going to school for millions of youngsters.

For years, psychologists theorized that bullies suffer from underlying anxiety and insecurity. But personality and hormonal tests have shown that this is not the case. Nor do all bullies fit the stereotype of being tough kids from high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. Bullies are found in all sorts of families and communities. However, the parental, physical, and environmental influences that cause someone to become a bully can vary.

Reasons why Children Become Bullies

A theory set by psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen in Norway links bullying to a combination of too little love and care and too much freedom in childhood. Plus, a pioneer in the study of bullying, theorizes that children may fail to form a deep, lasting bond with parents who do not show them affection. Because such children feel unloved, they lack empathy for other children and try to coerce them into doing what they want. At the same time, their parents may not set limits and may tolerate aggressive behavior toward siblings or peers.

The inconsistent parental discipline of children may also lead to bullying, according to some psychologists. For example, one day parents may respond to their child’s misbehavior with a violent emotional outburst or physical punishment. The next day, the same inappropriate behavior is ignored by the parent.

Thus, the child becomes uncertain about what might happen, begins to fear the worst in any situation, and attacks other children because he or she fears being attacked themselves. In particular, boys conclude that “might makes right,” especially if their parents are themselves aggressive, encourage their sons to fight, use physical punishment, and admire aggression in others.

Physical characteristics can also make some difference, at least for boys. In general, male bullies pick on children who are shorter, smaller, and younger than they are.

Environmental factors also play a role in making a child a bully. Dorothea M. Ross, a research psychologist at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco and author of the book Childhood Bullying and Teasing, believes that negative consequences for bullying are generally rare in American homes and schools.

In other words, children bully when they know they can get away with it. Usually, victims of bullying don’t tell adults what happened and parents don’t ask.

“The contention that bullies often are given the protection that is normally accorded to an endangered species is not an exaggeration,” says Ross. She says that young victims are often fearful of snitching on a schoolmate because they are embarrassed about their humiliation and doubtful that anyone will take serious action.

There are other environmental problems, as well. Some parents may dismiss their son’s aggressive behavior as part of adolescence and follow the adage of “boys will be boys.” Teachers and school officials traditionally have not considered bullying as serious a problem as other forms of violence, though such beliefs were beginning to change in the late 1990’s. And children who watch bullies in action without protesting, often to avoid becoming targets, also contribute to an atmosphere in which bullies survive and thrive.

Finding a Role Model

Bullies often model themselves after other bullies. These role models can be modern-day heroes, including actors, historical figures, and even teachers. In one study, 2 percent of the bullying that children endured came from teachers who used sarcasm or mockery in the classroom. Another strong influence is television, which often rewards situation-comedy bullies with big laughs.

Even when bullies are depicted as cruel, continued exposure to bullying desensitizes child viewers to the pain and misery of being bullied, says Ross. “With this deterrent removed, the way is further cleared for the child to engage in bullying others,” Ross says.

Bullying is not a phenomenon of the late 1990s. As the English novelist Charles Dickens recounted in his book Oliver Twist (1837-1839), children have long been subjected to bullying by peers, families, teachers, and employers. According to some surveys, as many as 60 percent of school-aged children have been bothered by bullies. About 15 percent of those children surveyed reported being bullied regularly.

Places where Bullying Occurs

Bullying starts in elementary school, peaks in the middle-school years, and continues at a lower level in high school. It most often occurs in or around schools, but usually out of direct sight or supervision of teachers. In grade school, playgrounds are the prime sites for bullying. In later grades, bullying most often occurs in the hallways. A bully can sidle next to another student, say something demeaning or disturbing or “accidentally” push or trip the victim.

Some researchers in 1999 believed that bullying was increasing in both frequency and intensity, as teases and taunts gave way to such physical violence as beatings. By the late 1990s, bullying had taken on more violent characteristics, including the use of guns and other dangerous weapons.

The Differences Between Boy and Girl Bullies

According to Olweus, there are two common types of bullying—direct bullying and indirect bullying. Direct bullying refers to any form of physical or verbal aggression, including hitting, kicking, intimidating, threatening, or mocking.

Indirect bullying involves such tactics as telling stories behind someone’s back that in turn, affect the way others perceive and respond to an individual. Regardless of the method, psychologists say that both forms of bullying have the same purpose: to cause distress to and assert control over someone else.

Girls rely more on indirect bullying than boys. Their victims are almost always girls within their own age range. They often bully them by excluding them from cliques, conversations, or parties; suddenly refusing to be friends; or spreading gossip. One common example of what researchers call “relational aggression” among female bullies in elementary school is accusing a girl of carrying a highly contagious “germ.”

Olweus also distinguished between two types of bullies—aggressive and passive. Aggressive bullies are easily frustrated, fearless, and belligerent and are much more inclined to use violence than other children. Such children are often focused on power, physically strong, and need to dominate others.

They often see the world as being full of potential enemies, whom they must either dominate or submit to, and overreact to what they see as slights or hostilities. They also often claim that they are unappreciated by others.

How-ever, aggressive bullies are not equally aggressive toward all children; rather, they strike out only at select victims. Such bullies are often popular in grade school, but their popularity and academic performance plunge by the time they enter middle school.

Passive bullies, also called anxious bullies, rarely go out of their way to victimize others, but they admire and ally themselves with aggressive bullies. Once an episode of bullying begins, they eagerly join in, often as a way of gaining acceptance and approval. Passive bullies, says Ross, are often less popular than aggressive bullies, have few likable qualities, poor self-esteem, and difficulties at home.

Choosing their Targets

Bullies choose their targets for various reasons, often picking on someone of a different race, ethnicity, economic status, or appearance. In one survey of students in grades 4 through 12, both girls and boys ranked “didn’t fit in” as the number one reason for bullying.

Among 8th- through 12th-graders, boys said physical weakness, having certain friends, and style of clothing were the primary reasons for bullying. Girls cited facial appearance, crying or being emotional, being overweight, and getting good grades as frequent causes of bullying.

Psychologists note that boys who are bullied most often tend to be more passive and physically weaker than their tormentors. In middle schools, girls who enter puberty early are the most frequent victims of bullying, which usually takes the form of sexual harassment.

Research has shown that bullying by both sexes frequently takes the form of sexual harassment in middle and high school. In a 1993 survey sponsored by the American Association of University Women, an organization that lobbies for education and equity headquartered in Washington, D.C., 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys reported frequent sexual harassment, most of it occurring in hallways and classrooms.

To boys, taunts about homosexuality were the most disturbing form of sexual harassment. Girls reported feeling upset and embarrassed by comments about their bodies or by being referred to in derogatory terms.

The majority of bully-victims are considered to be passive victims. Researchers describe passive victims as being more anxious and insecure than other youngsters, as well as cautious, sensitive, quiet, and serious. They often suffer from low self-esteem and see themselves as unattractive, unintelligent, and unpopular.

Boys are physically weaker than their tormentors, and both sexes tend to lack humor and basic social skills that would help them deflect a bully’s taunts. Many also suffer from unrecognized and untreated depression. According to many psychologists, everything about passive victims, including posture and facial expression, signals that they would be unlikely to retaliate either physically or psychologically to an attack.

Their typical responses to bullying include crying and feelings of helplessness. A passive victim may avoid a potential confrontation by walking several miles to school rather than taking the bus with a bully.

Provocative victims are more active and assertive, and fewer in numbers than passive victims. They often behave in ways that irritate others. When attacked, they fight back, though usually ineffectively, and end up prolonging the confrontation. Because provocative victims tend to be hot-tempered and easily aroused, bullies justify their attacks on them by claiming that they “asked for it” or that they “had it coming.”

A small subgroup of victims are referred to by psychologists as bully-victims. These are youngsters who are bullied—usually by someone bigger than themselves—and then bully someone else, usually smaller than themselves. Like provocative victims, they are easily agitated and often goad a bully into attacking. They often go to great lengths to be accepted and may play the class clown and try to laugh off a bully’s show of force. However, they often end up unpopular and rejected.

Just as the children of bullies often become bullies, research has shown that victimization also crosses generations. A study that spanned 24 years reported that men who had been bullied between the ages of 8 and 14 were more likely to have children who were bullied.

The Effects of Bullying

Bullying may have other very different effects—both immediate and long-term—on bullies, victims, and bystanders. Experts had once believed that the victims of bullies were the ones to suffer significant psychological effects. Later studies, however, have shown that both bullies and their victims will often suffer in silence, sometimes becoming suicidal or homicidal.

For many children who bully, their primary gain is a sense of being in control. “This feeling overrides any possibility of empathy for the victims or anyone else and reduces any anxiety they may be experiencing,” says Ross, noting that bullies often feel pleased with what they do to their victims. Forcing a child into obedience is even more gratifying, for example, then having a youngster give them money or a new sweatshirt. Bullies also enjoy the deference with which they are treated by other kids, especially in grade school.

As children enter higher grades, some bullies outgrow such behavior, while others become leaders of a group of kids who want a chance to succeed at something. Researchers note that such children typically do not do well at school. Some shift to shoplifting and other crimes.

In one study of bullies conducted in Norway, about 60 percent of boys identified as bullies in grades six through nine had at least one criminal conviction by age 24, and 40 percent had three or more arrests.

Research has also shown that bullies are also more likely to drop out of high school, be arrested for drunken driving, and abuse their spouses and children. Their children are also more likely to become bullies themselves.

For victims, the immediate impact of repeated bullying is fear. Children may become so terrified that they live like fugitives and try avoiding the bully at all costs. This tactic, which researchers agree is the most common response among victims, can lead to social and academic problems.

In one study, 90 percent of the victims of bullying had a significant drop in grades. Other youngsters, including those who were friends or at least friendly in the past, may reject them to avoid becoming targets as well.

Over time, the victims of bullies may come to see themselves as unworthy, inferior, even deserving of abuse. Some begin skipping school or run away, while others develop physical symptoms. Some have been so overwhelmed by the effects of being victimized that they have committed suicide.

Even those who survive seemingly intact may carry permanent scars. Psychologists theorize that some childhood victims may have greater difficulty with social interactions as adults. One study of two groups of Swedish boys reported that by age 23, those boys who had been victimized in middle school were well-adjusted adults in many respects, but had poorer self-esteem and were more likely to be depressed than those who had never been bullied.

Psychologists believe that even bystanders can be affected by bullying. Because fear can be viewed as being contagious, children may worry that they may also become the bully’s targets if they try to help or tell anyone about an incident.

Feeling helpless and guilty for not intervening, children may then have nightmares or feel stress. If repeated bullying goes unpunished over time, an atmosphere of fear and apprehension can fill an entire school and interfere with the students’ ability to concentrate and learn. Such an atmosphere may also fill a time like recess with tension and anxiety.

Techniques to Combat Bullying

Although victims of bullies may feel alone in their fight, experts agree that there are effective techniques that teachers, parents, and children can use to combat bullying. In school, close supervision is critical. Psychologists stress that school officials should also actively watch for aggressive behavior and hand out consistent, nonphysical punishment.

The judicial system in the United States has also taken a stand on the issue. For example, in 1996, a federal judge ruled that school districts have a responsibility to protect a student from physical and emotional harm while on school property. The case stemmed from a homosexual student in Wisconsin who had been harassed. And in May 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that educators who fail to stop students from sexually harassing other students may be forced to pay the victims.

Some schools in Great Britain have attempted to reduce bullying by encouraging all students to report any aggressive or inappropriate behavior. In what they call a “telling school,” officials remind students that they have a right to come to school without being afraid, that silence protects bullies, and that they will get in trouble only if they don’t report a bully. Other schools have established bully courts in which students and faculty advisers convene to consider charges of bullying behavior and determine punishments, such as after-school detention.

Still other approaches include the use of video cameras to monitor student behavior in playgrounds and hallways, student-watch programs in which student volunteers patrol the school grounds and report any incidents of bullying, and big brother programs in which students in upper grades pair with those in lower grades to make them feel safer and to deter older bullies. Some communities have set up toll-free hotlines that children who are being bullied can call for advice and support.

While different schools emphasize specific types of interventions, the most successful programs share several common elements. For example, the school condemns bullying and acknowledges it as a serious problem. Parents, teachers, and students commit themselves to banning bullying. And students refuse to remain silent.

What Parents can Do

Experts agree that parents should take steps to prevent bullying, starting in the home. For example, parents should establish rules of behavior at home and commend the child for following those rules. Such actions help build self-esteem, according to many experts. Spending time with a child who also may tend to bully can also create positive experiences for that child, as well as provide them with a positive role model.

According to experts, a number of actions a parent can also take to help stop bullying. For example, if your child is being bullied, sympathize and let your child know that you are angry about the bullying and will take appropriate action.

Don’t blame your child for being victimized or suggest nothing can be done. Also, don’t promise your child that you will keep silent about the incident. Parents should explain that secrecy protects bullies so they can hurt more people.

Find out as much as you can about exactly what happened during a bullying incident, including when and where it took place, who was involved, and if others witnessed the scene. Parents should ask if this was the first incident and how the child responded.

Parents should also consider making an appointment to see the school official who handles parental complaints and bring a written report of the incident. They should also consider contacting the parents of the bully.

Although some parents will be concerned and address the problem, others will not. If they dismiss the incident, explain that what happened was an assault, reported to the school, and could become a police matter.

If you discover that your child has been a bully, listen to what others are saying about your child’s behavior. Get as much information as you can from your child’s peers and teachers, including a description of the incidents that led to the complaint.

In either situation, psychologists urge parents to think of bullying as a symptom and try to determine its underlying cause. If handling the situation on your own proves to be unsuccessful, experts recommend parents seek professional help from a school counselor, psychologist, or local social services personnel.

Before the first appointment, write descriptions of your child’s behavior at home and at school. Both parents and children should be ready to participate in family and perhaps also marital counseling. These sessions may be crucial in building healthier relationships within your family and with others.

How Kids can Help Themselves

Similar guidelines exist for children who are bullying victims. Experts encourage children to understand that they have the right to feel safe. To prevent attack, stick close to your friends, since studies have shown that bullies rarely pick on an entire group of youngsters.

If someone bullies you, always tell an adult, even if you think you’ve solved the problem on your own. If you find it difficult to talk about what happened, write down what has been happening and give it to a parent, teacher, a friend’s parent, or a school counselor.

Psychologists recommend that children who witness bullying take some action. If you see someone else being bullied, don’t just stand by. Alert an adult to what is going on. If you do nothing, you send the message that bullying is okay with you.

If you’ve ever bullied someone else, think about why you did it and how you were feeling at the time. Try to think of other ways that you can act to feel good about yourself. Make it a rule to treat others the way you would like to be treated.

The good news for both parents and their children is that bullying does not have to be a constant problem. Experts view open communication lines between bullies, victims, and their parents as one of the first steps in ending the situation.

Should Ethics be Taught in Schools

What's wrong with litter and road rage? What is the purpose of courtesy and respect when dealing with total strangers? Why are whistle-blowing and Samaritanism preferable to minding our own business? Why should we obey the law when we can get away with breaking it?

What’s wrong with litter and road rage? What is the purpose of courtesy and respect when dealing with total strangers? Why are whistle-blowing and Samaritanism preferable to minding our own business? Why should we obey the law when we can get away with breaking it?

A PHILOSOPHY THAT SUPPORTS ETHICS EDUCATION

Hopefully, most of us have ready answers to these questions. However, spend a few weeks in virtually any American city, and you’ll learn that most Americans do not seem to have answers, or at least their answers differ significantly from mine. Public schools are the establishment best able to standardize our “learned” knowledge, beliefs, and behavior and, therefore, incorporate ethics into primary and secondary school curricula. 

Teaching ethics, either in distinct classes or by incorporating them into other areas of study, would provide schools and teachers with a forum for exposing, discussing, and applying “community ethics”—basic notions that we are all here and inherently equal, we are all members of a larger society, and we are all indeed in it together.

The historical reasoning behind free, universal, and compulsory education certainly supports an ethics curriculum. Even before the 19th century brought Horace Mann’s “common school” movement, which was largely responsible for launching America’s modern public education system, philosophers and progressive thinkers accepted the notion that in any true free society and participatory democracy the government has an obligation to educate its citizenry to teach society’s newest members to read, write, and compute, and to give them a basic understanding of their history, society, and the natural world in which they live, in order that they can access the democratic process and realize their own intellectual and productive potential.

As a diverse society founded on religious and economic freedom and equality ideas, Americans exclude from this educational package any spiritual or moral instruction, an approach I generally support.

But there is a difference between ethical guidance that presupposes the reason for acting a certain way (e.g., a higher power, a book of rules, an earthly mandate, etc.) and that which offers good citizenship as the goal. In this sense, teaching basic community ethics in schools upholds, rather than challenges, the fundamental reasons for having a universal, free, and compulsory education system.

There is a difference between ethical guidance that presupposes the reason for acting a certain way and offers good citizenship as the goal.

TEACHERS INCLUDING ETHICS

Anthony Tiatorio, an author and [a] 33-year veteran of the Mansfield, Massachusetts, public school system, is a long-time practitioner and advocate of teaching ethics in public schools.

He has launched the Web site Ethics in Education [www.ethicsineducation.com], which provides a forum for teachers interested in including ethics in their curricula. The site “questions the wisdom of pursuing a virtues or character education model for teaching ethics and calls for a history-based, critical-thinking approach.” Tiatorio writes of his experience trying to teach ethics in his secondary school social studies classes:

“Beginning with a provocative question intended to engage as many minds as possible, I asked: “Do you have any absolute obligation to others? Is there any scenario in which you must do good for at least one other person under at least some circumstances?” My students, nearly universally, said no! They did not recognize any responsibility to others of an absolute nature. So, I challenged them with increasingly more severe hypotheticals, probing for the bottom: “You came upon a drowning man, a friend, a drowning child, your brother.” Nothing penetrated the conviction that they were free spirits unfettered by any duty… They would do it because they wanted to, not because they had to.”

Following these experiences, Tiatorio has written and amassed a body of material that he believes will assist teachers in providing their students with a useful ethics foundation. His collection of free workbooks and guides aim to help teachers discuss everything from Manifest Destiny to Hammurabi’s Code from an ethics standpoint. He writes:

“To a large extent, ethical behavior, which is simply finding the balance between self-interest and group responsibility, is largely, but not entirely, learned behavior standing in opposition to an instinct… Not surprisingly then, many middle and high school students today will tell you that they themselves determine, as does every other individual, the standards of right and wrong… Students must commit to broadening their own understanding of ethical issues by seeking to understand the ideas of others better…. It is necessary to build this into a sense of community within the class, and to encourage each student to participate energetically and cooperatively.”

Tiatorio isn’t the only one who considers the lack of ethical discussion in public schools a missed opportunity. Attorney Michael Sabbeth has been collaborating with Denver public schools since 1990 to incorporate ethics training into elementary school classes. The Institute for Global Ethics has also developed materials to help teachers include ethics in their curricula for grades K-5. These developments indicate a growing receptiveness, among both educators and normal citizens, toward having ethics training in the public education system.

ETHICS TEACHINGS

The applications of ethics teachings are abundant. For example, imagine the benefits of a widespread discussion of environmental ethics in public schools. How different would our children’s collective sense of environmental stewardship be if they were all exposed to basic environmental concepts in conjunction with ethical notions of communal obligation and responsibility? (Resources ARE scarce and finite. Humans DO have the ability to exhaust these resources and destroy their own environment beyond habitability. Who, then, is responsible for stopping this from happening?)

How different would their sense of professional, political, and social integrity be if history and literature classes explored ethical questions of just cause, proportionality, intention, and authority? (What was so “wrong” with invading Poland? Could [Fyodor] Dostoevsky’s [Rodion Romanovich] Raskolnikov [a character in Crime and Punishment] have been me?)

The applications of ethics teachings are abundant.

How better prepared would our children be for the medical or technological debates of the future if ideas behind freedom of choice, individual sovereignty, and sanctity of life were discussed in an open, frank manner in science class? (Are we responsible for the consequences of our inventions? How can you justifiably control life-threatening overpopulation?)

How would their outlook on crime and citizenship change if, when they were taught about government and democracy, they were challenged to consider what elements of right and wrong are legally codified, and why? (Whom do laws serve, and why should I obey them? What right [do I] have to violate them or to try to change them? If something isn’t illegal, why might it still be wrong?) And so on.

Historically, Americans have opposed teaching ethics in schools, preferring to leave its discussion to families and religious establishments. We assume bringing ethics into public schools violates parents’ rights to structure their children’s moral upbringing themselves, or threatens the ideal that church and state should not only be separated in public schools but that neither one religion nor secularism should be promoted at the expense of any other belief system.

However, it is precisely because schools represent a distinct, nonfamilial, nonreligious setting that they are the ideal place for introducing community ethics. Public schools are where students from different economic, racial, religious, and family backgrounds come together for conditioning that is common to all of us (excluding people educated in private schools) and thus represents a vital medium for instilling a standardized, collective, universal sense of society-wide ethics.

It is precisely because [public] schools represent a distinct, nonfamilial, nonreligious setting where they are ideal for introducing community ethics.

A society’s collective sense of ethics affects its attitude toward everything from returning incorrect change to global warming. Yet, in a society as diverse and dynamic as ours, instilling any collective ethic will require that we harness the universal form of public outreach: our public education system. Schools offer us the best means not only of offering our children knowledge, skills, and social conditioning, but [also] of encouraging their transformation into better, wiser, and more righteous players in a vast and ever-changing society.

“Night owls” Circadian Rhythm and Chronotype

"Night owls" and "morning people" are familiar ways to refer to tonight people and day people. These "chronotypes" represent the ways people express their personal preferences for sleeping, waking, and productive hours each day. The physical changes that occur and the psychological patterns experienced by an individual within each 24-hour cycle are known as the circadian rhythm

“Night owls” and “morning people” are familiar ways to refer to night people and day people. These “chronotypes” represent the ways people express their personal preferences for sleeping, waking, and productive hours each day. The physical changes that occur and the psychological patterns experienced by an individual within each 24-hour cycle are known as the circadian rhythm.

The most common chronotypes that come to mind are night owls; more energized people at night and morning people, or larks as some researchers call them more energized in the morning and early part of the day.

Researchers in Italy and Russia have found that there is likely at least one more type they label as intermediates, who are both larks and owls, often staying up late for bursts of productivity at night and rising early to get a jump on their day. These sleep scientists believe this third type may be the most common and consider it a symptom of our highly digitized, interconnected world, fueling today’s epidemic of lack of sleep.

Some researchers suggest many more chronotypes, but the most commonly noted types were created by American psychologist Michael J. Breus and are named after the animals that seem to most resemble each chronotype’s schedule: bear, wolf, lion, and dolphin.

  • Bear—By far the most frequent chronotype, bears prefer to sleep and wake with the sun. They tend to fall asleep easily and are most productive in the hours before mid-day. They may also experience a mid-afternoon slump between 2:00 and 4:00.
  • Wolf—Finding it difficult to wake early in the morning, wolves prefer to rise at mid-day and are most productive between noon and 4:00 pm. They may get a second wind and become productive again near 6:00 pm. Often wolves feel most happy working when others are done for the day.
  • Lion—The early riser chronotype, lions often awaken before dawn and are most productive early in the day. Lions prefer going to bed early and maybe asleep most nights by 9:00 or 10:00 pm.
  • Dolphin: This chronotype doesn’t fit anyone types well. Dolphins are often light sleepers who are easily awakened by sounds and light. They may not get enough sleep, but their most productive hours are between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm making them a good fit for a typical work schedule.

Though researchers believe most people fit into one of these types, they aren’t cast in stone. It’s possible to change a chronotype type if necessary, for example, for night shift work.

What is the guiding force behind these chronotypes? Circadian rhythm. “Circadian” comes from the Latin phrase Circa Diem, meaning “a day”; the full term comes from the concept of a full rotation of the earth. The science of these cycles is called chronobiology.

To study chronobiology in humans, scientists study people and their habits, but they also study organisms that have genes that regulate sleeping and waking that are similar to humans, like mice and fruit flies. Using these animals and insects, researchers can study exposure to daylight and darkness and how that affects these genes.

The circadian rhythm’s biological function is much more than just a preference for sleeping and waking during day or night or an affinity for peak productive or alert hours. Circadian rhythm involves multiple body systems and processes. All living organisms have these cycles.

While circadian rhythms are not the same as a “biological clock,” they are affected by the body’s internal clock. This “clock” is actually a group of cells located deep within the brain, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, (SCN). The SCN is located in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is a very important structure in the brain that helps regulate your body’s vital functions. For example, the hypothalamus helps keep your body temperature constant by letting the body know when to sweat to cool down if it’s too hot and when to shiver if it’s too cold so that the body warms up. Another of these functions is regulating your sleep cycles.

The SNC receives direct input from the optic nerves in your eyes and registers light and darkness. When there is less light, this signals the SNC to produce the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin. This mechanism is how an individual’s circadian cycles are controlled by daylight and darkness, and why most animals are awake when the sun is out and sleep when it’s dark outside. Researchers are studying how changing things like exposure to light from screens and shift work may affect circadian rhythms.

There are many circadian rhythm functions of the body that are timed with night and day. Sleep is simply the most recognized one. Other processes affected by circadian rhythms include things like appetite and activity levels.

Circadian rhythms also affect an individual’s overall health, not just sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of adults in the U.S. don’t get the recommended amount of sleep.

Lack of sleep is a major health risk and is linked to automobile and workplace accidents. Sleep disorders and reduced sleep are also associated with chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, and cancer.

By studying circadian rhythms in humans and other organisms, researchers in California discovered a protein called cryptochrome that is important in producing insulin. This protein helps the liver produce insulin in synch with the body’s circadian rhythm, producing more insulin when people are awake and eating more and making less insulin when an individual is asleep and eating less. These researchers believe this protein may help them create a new diabetes treatment.

Another research team in New York has identified two genes in fruit flies, Rca1 and CycA, that may be related to sleep cycles. The fruit flies they studied who had nonfunctioning versions of these genes slept fewer hours and didn’t function normally when awake. Humans and other animals have genes that function similarly. These researchers are hoping to discover the connection between genes and sleep in humans.

More than just explaining why some people are more active in the morning and others at night, circadian rhythm and chronotypes play an important part in life. Even though an individual’s chronotype may change, the need to maintain steady circadian rhythms doesn’t. Sleep, wellbeing, and good health are all dependent on these cycles.

Resources

Websites

Carlson, Emil, et al. “Tick Tock: New Clues About Biological Clocks and Health.” National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). November 1, 2012. https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/Inside-Life-Science/Pages/tick-tock-new-clues-about-biological-clocks-and-health.aspx (November 13, 2020).

“Circadian Rhythm.” Sleep Foundation. September 25, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm (accessed November 13, 2020).

“Circadian Rhythms.” National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). November 6, 2020. https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx (accessed November 13, 2020).

Ince, Louise. “Of Larks and Owls: What’s a Chronotype?” SRBR: Society for Research on Biological Rhythms. June 18, 2019. https://srbr.org/of-larks-and-owls-whats-in-a-chronotype/ (accessed November 13, 2020).

Jones, Samuel E., et al. “Genome-wide association analyses of chronotype in 697,828 individuals provides insights into circadian rhythms.” Nature Communications. January 29, 2019. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-08259-7 (accessed November 13, 2020).

“Sleep and Sleep Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 15, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html (accessed November 13, 2020).

Organizations

American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 2510 N Frontage Road, Darien, IL, 60561, (630) 737-9700, https://aasm.org/clinical-resources/patient-info/ .

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mail Stop F-46, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, Atlanta, GA, 30341, (800) 232-4636, https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm .

Covid-19 – Isolation and Quarantine

Two of those terms, isolation, and quarantine, refer to what a person should do after testing positive for COVID-19 (isolation) or being exposed to someone with COVID-19 (quarantine).

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has everyone learning new public health terminology. Two of those terms, isolation, and quarantine, refer to what a person should do after testing positive for COVID-19 (isolation) or being exposed to someone with COVID-19 (quarantine). Isolating or quarantining protects other people by preventing the sick or possibly sick person from interacting with others and exposing them to a contagious disease.

WHAT IS QUARANTINE?

A quarantine involves sequestering or limiting the movements of people exposed to an infectious disease to prevent its spread. Quarantine is a different concept from isolation. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a more detailed definition of quarantine is “the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.””

If you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for infectious disease or is presumed to have an infectious disease, you should self-quarantine. This is because you may have been infected but are not yet showing symptoms. Generally, people sick with an infectious disease are most contagious a few days before symptoms appear through the first few days of being symptomatic. Quarantine gives the person time to see if they are infected or not and distances the potentially sick person from others to stop disease spread.

You may have heard of the term self-quarantine when a person voluntarily quarantines out of caution. This contrasts with the original term quarantine, which traditionally implies that the person is ordered to go into quarantine by someone else, like a public health agency.

For COVID-19, “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19 means:

  • Being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes
  • Direct physical contact, such as kissing or hugging
  • Sharing utensils or drinking glasses
  • Being exposed to respiratory droplets via coughing or sneezing
  • Caring for someone with COVID-19 at home

Anyone who has had close contact with a person with COVID-19 should quarantine and talk to their doctor.

WHEN SHOULD SOMEONE QUARANTINE?

This depends on what infectious disease the person was exposed to. For example, COVID-19’s symptoms appear 2–14 days after a person was exposed to the virus, so the quarantine period of someone exposed to a person with COVID-19 is 14 days. It is assumed that the quarantine person will begin to have symptoms within those 14 days if they were infected. If they don’t show any symptoms after 14 days, then they likely were not infected.

The term quarantine originated in Venice in the 1300s when ships suspected of carrying infectious diseases (like the plague) were ordered to isolate for 40 days (the “quarant” part of the word refers to 40).

WHAT IS ISOLATION?

Isolation involves separating a person with a known infectious disease in order to prevent its spread. If a person tests positive for an infectious disease (or is clinically diagnosed with the disease if testing is unavailable), they are separated from others or placed with other persons infected with the same disease (known as cohorting) to prevent spreading the disease to other people.

WHEN SHOULD SOMEONE ISOLATE?

Just like quarantine, the length of isolation varies with each infectious disease and even each person, depending on the length of their symptoms. For example, the isolation requirements for COVID-19 are to isolate ten days after a person tested positive.

If they are symptomatic, they may end isolation after 10 days if they have not had a fever in the past 24 hours (and have not taken fever-reducing medication) and if their symptoms are improving. If they didn’t have any symptoms, then they can end isolation ten days after their last positive COVID-19 test.

Within hospitals and other health-care facilities, persons with contagious infections are isolated or cohorted according to established criteria, and specific precautions for health-care workers and visitors are determined based upon the nature of the pathogen (disease-causing organism) responsible for the infection.

WHAT TO DO AFTER BEING TESTED?

If a person without symptoms has been tested for infectious disease and is awaiting the results, they should act as if they are positive and begin to self-quarantine until they get their test results back. If the test results are positive, then they should continue in isolation based on public health guidelines. If the test results are negative, then they can stop the self-quarantine.

HOW TO QUARANTINE OR ISOLATE

During quarantine and isolation, a person should avoid contact with people outside of their household and avoid contact with others inside the household. This means they should sleep in a separate bedroom alone and use their bathroom, if possible.

For COVID-19, the sick or quarantined person and other household members should consider wearing masks, especially when the sick or quarantined person interacts with other household members or if they cannot be separated from other household members. Contact with pets should also be avoided or minimized as cats and dogs have contracted COVID-19. The sick or quarantined person should also avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, dishes, or glasses with other household members.

U.S. QUARANTINE STATIONS

Quarantine stations are located at 20 ports of entry and land border crossings across the U.S. to limit the entry of infectious diseases into the country and prevent their spread.

These stations are a part of the comprehensive Quarantine System employed as a public health measure from the CDC and CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ). Medical professionals and CDC public health officers decide whether sick travellers can enter the U.S. and what should be done to prevent the spread of infectious diseases (such as if the traveller needs to go into quarantine or isolation).

According to the CDC, federal isolation and quarantine are authorized for the following communicable diseases: cholera, COVID-19, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers, severe acute respiratory syndromes, and flu that can cause a pandemic.

How to Control the Costs of Pet Health Care

Pet owners can prevent many forms of illness—and their associated costs—through simple preventive measures.

After performing a series of tests, a veterinarian determines that your family cat has severe kidney disease. The cat will die within six months without immediate treatment, the veterinarian explains. One of the treatments he suggests is a kidney transplant, a procedure once available only to human patients.

By 1999, almost every medical treatment available to humans was also available to pets. Veterinarians had the tools and the training to perform complicated procedures and surgeries, such as cardiovascular surgery, organ transplant, and joint replacement.

They also had a wide array of drugs, including chemotherapy, to treat disease, and improved methods to diagnose illness. For example, veterinarians had access to the same sophisticated imaging devices as those found in hospitals.

These advances in veterinary care come at a price, however. Pet owners spent more than $10 billion annually on health care for their pets in 1998, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A large portion of that money was spent on treating serious illness and emergency care.

In 1998, dog owners spent an average of $130 per dog on veterinary care, according to the AVMA. Cat owners spent about $80 per pet. But costs can skyrocket if a pet is treated for a serious medical condition.

For example, a kidney transplant for a cat in 1999 cost between $3,500 and $4,500, according to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital of the University of California, Davis. The cat would also need to be given drugs for the rest of its life to ensure that the new kidney functioned properly. These drugs cost between $30 and $60 per month.

Pet owners can prevent many forms of illness—and their associated costs—through simple preventive measures, such as taking their pets to veterinarians for routine checkups and vaccinations and providing a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The Cost of Treatment of Pets

Pets are susceptible to many of the same illnesses as humans. For example, cancer accounts for almost half the deaths of cats and dogs over ten years of age. Dogs, in fact, get cancer at approximately the same rate as humans. Two of the most deadly cancers in dogs and cats are breast and bone cancer. Pets rarely develop lung and colon cancer, which are associated with such risk factors as smoking and a low-fibre diet.

Skin tumours are a common condition in older dogs and a somewhat less common condition in cats. These tumours, which appear as unusual lumps or sores under the animal’s coat, are often benign (not dangerous) in dogs. Cats, however, are at greater risk of malignant (threatening to health) tumours.

Cancers produce varied symptoms depending upon the type of tumour. In general, appetite loss, weight loss, fatigue, behaviour changes, breathing difficulty, or any persistent change in normal body habits might be symptoms of cancer, according to the AVMA. Lameness in older, large-breed dogs may be a symptom of bone cancer.

Medical treatments for dogs and cats with cancer vary depending on the type and severity of cancer. By the late 1990s, chemotherapy had become a widely available cancer treatment for pets. Chemotherapy is the treatment of disease through the use of medications that destroy malignant cells.

Chemotherapy often causes severe side effects in humans. Animals suffer fewer side effects than humans, according to the AVMA. Chemotherapy can be an expensive treatment. Costs range from $50 to $4,000 or more depending on the type of drug, the animal’s size, and the number of treatments.

Other cancer treatments available to dogs and cats include surgery, radiotherapy (the use of radiation to destroy cancer cells), and cryosurgery (the freezing of a tumour). These treatments can cost several hundred dollars, according to the AVMA.

Heart Disease: a Growing Problem in Pets

Cardiovascular disease is a growing problem among pets, and among dogs in particular. The increase in heart problems can be attributed to longer life span and diets that include more fatty table scraps, according to the AVMA.

Cardiovascular disease is a growing problem among pets, and among dogs in particular. The increase in heart problems can be attributed to longer life span and diets that include more fatty table scraps, according to the AVMA.

Heart valve problems are the most common cause of heart disease in dogs. This condition occurs when heart valves thicken and leak blood. Another common heart condition in pets is myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. This may result from one of several infections that affect the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease, the major cause of heart disease in humans, is not common in pets.

Cats and dogs with heart disease may experience labored breathing, frequent coughing, fainting, and abdominal swelling. Veterinarians may treat heart disease with drugs or surgery.

In some cases, a veterinarian may recommend a pacemaker, an electronic device that produces an electrical current to stimulate the heart muscle’s regular contractions. The pacemaker’s generator and batteries are placed under the skin, and wires are passed to the heart. In 1998, approximately 200 animals in the United States received pacemakers. This procedure can cost as much as $2,500, but the use of recycled pacemakers can reduce that cost.

Most Common Illnesses in Pets

Diabetes is another condition common in dogs and cats. Diabetes is a disorder in which the body cannot use sugars and starches in a normal way. A key element in the proper use of sugar and starches is the hormone insulin, which is secreted by cells within the pancreas.

Diabetes results from either a lack of insulin or an inability of the body to use the insulin properly. In pets, as in humans, one cause of diabetes is poor diet. Symptoms of diabetes include increased frequency of urination and persistent thirst, accompanied by increased appetite.

In some cases, diabetes can be controlled through diet alone. In more severe cases, however, a veterinarian might recommend daily insulin injections. The cost of this medication ranges from $500 to $1,000 per year, according to the AVMA.

Dogs are more prone to bone and joint disorders than cats. For example, hip dysplasia (abnormal development of the hip) is a genetic disorder that commonly affects dogs. Dogs with this condition often develop arthritis and related joint pain as they age. The condition mainly affects large-breed dogs. In severe cases, dogs with hip dysplasia may be lame by age 2. In most cases, however, a dog will not experience symptoms until age six or older.

This condition can be treated only by surgery. Veterinarians can improve the hip joints in young dogs by changing the shape of the thighbone or pelvis. Another option for dogs is hip-replacement surgery. In this procedure, the joint is replaced with a stainless steel ball-and-socket joint. In 1999, hip- replacement surgery cost approximately $3,000, according to the AVMA.

Cats are particularly susceptible to infections of the urinary tract. Feline urological syndrome (FUS), a common ailment among cats, is a group of disorders that can result in uremia, a life-threatening accumulation of toxic wastes in the kidney and bloodstream. Infections of the bladder and blockage of the urethra (the tube that conducts urine out of the body from the bladder) are the most common FUS disorders. Veterinarians treat these infections with medications, which costs approximately $50, according to the AVMA.

Trauma and Emergency Care For Pets

Every year, thousands of pets are struck by automobiles, poisoned by pesticides, or attacked by sick or unfriendly animals. These conditions are often treated in an emergency room. Visits to an emergency room start at $50 or more, with costs mounting depending on the treatment, according to the AVMA.

Poisoning is one of the most common reasons owners seek emergency care for their pets. Many substances in the home are toxic to animals. Animals may be attracted to certain poisons because they smell or taste good. For example, dogs are particularly attracted to antifreeze, which tastes sweet. Certain houseplants, such as ivy and philodendron, are poisonous to cats.

Choking is another common emergency among pets. Bones in food—particularly chicken and fish—that lodge in a pet’s throat are most often the cause of choking—treatments for a choking emergency range from manual retrieval of the bone to surgery.

Bloat is a life-threatening condition that lands hundreds of dogs in an emergency room every year. Bloat is a twist or kink in an intestine that can become fatal within hours—or even minutes—of the first symptoms’ appearance. It typically occurs in large dogs that have swallowed an excessive amount of water or exercised strenuously after a meal. Symptoms include a distended (swollen) abdomen, belching, dry heaves, increased salivation, restlessness, and whimpering. The only treatment for bloat is emergency abdominal surgery.

Alternative Therapies for Pets

In addition to conventional treatments, pet health-care specialists in 1999 frequently turned to alternative methods to treat disease and injury. For example, many veterinarians regard acupuncture as an integral part of veterinary medicine. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that uses tiny needles inserted into the skin at specific places on the body in order to relieve pain and disease.

In addition to conventional treatments, pet health-care specialists in 1999 frequently turned to alternative methods to treat disease and injury. For example, many veterinarians regard acupuncture as an integral part of veterinary medicine. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that uses tiny needles inserted into the skin at specific places on the body in order to relieve pain and disease.

Researchers have determined that acupuncture somehow boosts the production of chemicals that lower the brain’s ability to perceive pain. Veterinarians use acupuncture to relieve pain in pets with chronic arthritis, for example. Another use of acupuncture is in post-operative recovery. Cost ranges from about $45 to $65 per session.

Health Insurance of Pets

In response to the growing cost of pet health care, many insurance companies offer plans to cover pets. By 1999, only 1 percent of the U.S. population carried health insurance on pets, but insurance experts expected that number to grow rapidly.

Pet health insurance typically covers the cost of accidents and injuries. Most policies also cover diagnostic procedures. Policies typically do not cover the costs of routine procedures such as vaccinations, checkups, and elective surgeries. The plans rarely cover preexisting or genetic conditions. Yearly premiums range from approximately $100 to more than $300.

How pet Owners can Control Costs

The best way to control costs, however, is to practice preventive care. Pet owners who maintain their pet’s health protect the animal against catastrophic illness and protect themselves against enormous veterinary bills.

A routine physical examination is an essential step in preventing illness and controlling pet health care costs. A physical examination allows a veterinarian to monitor a pet’s health and treat health problems before they become serious—and costly. Adult dogs and cats under age ten should get a checkup once a year, according to the AVMA.

Pets age ten and older should visit a veterinarian twice a year. Veterinarians recommend that puppies and kittens receive their first physical examination a few weeks after birth.

A physical exam typically includes measures of body temperature, pulse, respiration rate, and body weight. Blood and stool samples are also typically part of the exam. A veterinarian will also check the animal for lumps or other abnormalities.

Physical exams can cost between $40 and $45, according to the AVMA. Physical checkups also include an examination of the animal’s teeth and gums. According to pet health care experts, many veterinarians offer complete dental exams and teeth cleaning, which cost between $50 and $100.

A dog’s annual checkup should include examinations for parasitic worms. Heartworm may cause serious illness or even death. Adult heartworms live in the dog’s heart, but young forms of the worm are found in the blood. Mosquitoes transmit the infection after feeding on the blood of an infected dog. All dogs should receive medicine to prevent heartworm.

Many puppies are born with roundworms. A dog may acquire tapeworms by swallowing an infected flea or by eating raw fish or meat. To prevent spreading the parasites to other dogs and people, veterinarians recommend deworming pups with medication every two to three weeks until they are 3 to 4 months old.

Vaccinations of Pets: an Important Tool in Prevention

A veterinarian will also make sure a pet’s vaccinations are up to date during a regular checkup. Pets, like humans, are susceptible to a variety of highly contagious diseases. Many of these diseases can be prevented through immunization. Vaccinations cost between $15 and $20.

All dogs, cats, and other mammals should be vaccinated against rabies, a viral infection of the nervous system. Rabies primarily affects animals, but it can be transmitted from a rabid animal to a human by a bite or by a lick over a break in the skin.

The United States requires that all dogs be vaccinated against rabies. Puppies and kittens should receive their first rabies shot at about three months of age, followed by another shot in one year. Dogs and cats should receive a booster shot every three years thereafter, according to the AVMA.

Another important vaccination for dogs is the DHLP-P vaccine. This vaccine immunizes dogs against several diseases, including distemper (a viral disease characterized by fever, reddened eyes, loss of appetite, and discharges containing pus from the nose and eyes); two forms of hepatitis (a viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver); parainfluenza (a respiratory illness similar to influenza); parvovirus (a gastrointestinal disease caused by a virus); and leptospirosis (a bacterial infection that damages the kidneys and liver).

A puppy should receive its first DHLP-P vaccine at about six weeks old. It will then need several more doses three to four weeks apart. Adult dogs require a booster shot annually.

Some veterinarians recommend the vaccine against Lyme disease for dogs living in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. By 1999, however, research had not yet established whether the vaccine protected dogs against the disease. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria and spread to animals by ticks. The disease is characterized by joint inflammation.

A panel of feline veterinarians recommended in 1998 that all cats receive three vaccinations in addition to a rabies shot. These include vaccines against feline panleukopenia (a viral gastrointestinal disease, also called feline distemper); feline viral rhinotracheitis (a viral upper-respiratory disease); and feline calicivirus (a viral upper-respiratory disease). According to the panel, cats should be vaccinated against these diseases as kittens and then receive boosters at three-year intervals.

The panel also recommended that cats allowed to roam outside be vaccinated against three additional diseases: chlamydiosis, a bacterial upper-respiratory disease; feline leukaemia, a viral infection that affects the feline immune system and causes tumors; and feline infectious peritonitis, a viral disease that causes either fluid build-up or dry deposits in body organs. Cats should be vaccinated as kittens and then receive booster shots annually, according to the panel.

Spaying or neutering (the surgical removal of sex organs) cats and dogs is another essential step in preventive health care, according to the AVMA. In addition to reducing the overpopulation of cats and dogs, spaying or neutering reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer.

For example, studies have shown that spaying a female dog before its first heat cycle (reproductive cycle) reduces its risk of breast cancer. Spaying or neutering costs between $100 and $150 for dogs and $50 to $75 for cats, according to the AVMA.

Good Grooming of Pets for Health

Pet owners can also adopt healthful practices at home to prevent illness in animals. For example, the AVMA recommends that owners groom their pets regularly. Grooming prevents skin problems by keeping a pet’s coat clean and free from fleas and ticks.

The kind and amount of grooming a dog’s needs is determined by the animal’s fur type and length and the animal’s lifestyle. In general, dogs with longer fur need more frequent combing and brushing than those with short coats.

Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors usually need more frequent grooming than those who live mostly indoors. Dogs also need regular ear inspection and cleaning, toenail trimming, and tooth inspection and cleaning.

Owners should brush or comb a cat’s fur daily to clean it and to remove loose hairs. In the case of long-haired cats, such care is essential to prevent the coat from tangling and matting. Daily brushing or combing also reduces the amount of loose hairs that cats swallow when they clean themselves.

Swallowed hair may wad up and form a hairball in the cat’s stomach. Hairballs can cause gagging, vomiting, and loss of appetite. If a cat cannot spit up a hairball, surgery may be required to remove it. Owners may feed their cat a small amount of petroleum jelly or a commercial preparation once a week to prevent hairball formation.

A veterinarian can suggest safe methods of using such products. If necessary, owners may clean their cat’s ears with a soft cloth and brush their teeth with a cotton-tipped swab or a small toothbrush. Owners may also trim the tips of a cat’s claws.

Cats instinctively clean themselves. They do so by licking their fur with their tongue. They also rub and scratch their fur with their paws. At least once a day, a cat licks a paw and washes its face and head with the wet paw.

But not all cats groom themselves well. Some cats—especially those allowed outdoors—become so filthy that they need a bath. Most cats dislike bathing. But if cats are bathed about once a month when they are kittens, they will become accustomed to the water. Kittens should also be brushed or combed to be easier to care for when they grow older.

Many pet owners mistakenly believe that a dog should be bathed as seldom as possible. In fact, pet owners may wash their dogs often—in many cases, once a week, according to the AVMA. Owners must, however, use a special shampoo that does not strip the oils from the dog’s coat.

When bathing a dog, carefully pour warm—not hot—water over the pet. The temperature of the water should feel comfortable to your own skin. Apply a gentle shampoo and lather well. Be careful not to get any shampoo in the dog’s eyes. Rinse thoroughly because any soap that remains on the skin may cause itching. After the bath, apply a flea dip, spray, or powder as recommended by your veterinarian.

Like human beings, pets need exercise to remain physically fit and mentally healthy. Excess weight and a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle in dogs and cats may lead to many health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and joint deterioration, among other conditions.

The easiest way to exercise a dog is to release it in an enclosed space with another friendly dog. Dogs left alone may not remain active long enough to stay in shape. A dog will also benefit from daily brisk walks or jogs with its owner. Owners should confine their dog to a leash if they walk or jog where there is traffic or if the city they live in has a leash requirement.

Choose a Healthy Diet for Your Pet

A balanced diet is necessary for a pet’s health. Owners can buy prepared food for most kinds of pets. Scientists plan these foods to contain the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, and proteins for each type of animal. By using these foods, owners can be sure that their pets receive the proper nourishment.

Dogs require different kinds of foods during the various stages of their lives. At about 3 to 4 weeks of age, puppies need to supplement their mother’s milk with solid food. Provide a good-quality commercial product, either dry or canned that is labeled as food for puppies.

Soften dry food by moistening it with water or a puppy milk-replacement formula or mixing it with canned food, to make it easier for young pups to chew. Owners may also give a puppy cooked eggs and cottage cheese, but these foods should make up no more than 10 to 20 percent of the dry weight of the puppy’s diet, according to the AVMA.

A puppy should be fed four times a day until it is about three months old. The pup should then eat three times a day until it is six months old, and then twice a day until it is fully grown. Adult dogs need only one meal a day, but many dogs prefer two smaller meals, one in the morning and one at night, according to the AVMA.

Avoid feeding large amounts of meat and table scraps to dogs. Dogs who are given these foods quickly develop a preference for them and may develop dietary imbalances and deficiencies. Vitamin and mineral supplements are unnecessary for healthy dogs who eat a complete, balanced diet.

Bone chewing is natural for dogs, but it can cause broken teeth, and bone splinters may cause digestive upsets or internal injuries. For these reasons, many veterinarians recommend offering rawhide strips or special chew toys instead of bones. Old dogs and dogs with certain medical conditions such as heart or kidney disease may require special diets. A veterinarian can advise you when a special food is needed.

Cats are not naturally picky eaters. But owners should give them a variety of commercial foods to prevent them from developing fussy appetites. Cats may occasionally be fed small amounts of such cooked foods like beef liver, eggs, fish, and vegetables, according to the AVMA. Many cats also enjoy milk, cheese, and other dairy products. However, such foods cause diarrhoea in some cats.

Kittens that have been weaned (taken off mother’s milk) should be fed small amounts of food four times a day until they are three months old. They should eat three times daily until they are six months old, and then twice a day until they are full grown.

Adult cats require only one meal a day, but many seem happier with two smaller meals. Food may be kept available at all times for a healthy cat that does not overeat. Sick cats, pregnant and nursing cats, and old cats often need special diets, according to the AVMA.

Hygiene and its Role in Health Care of Pets

Proper hygiene is an essential part of preventive health care. Keep animal’s food dishes clean and provide pets with a warm, clean sleeping area. Indoor cats should learn to use a litter box. Cats instinctively bury their body wastes, so training them to use a litter box is easy. Kittens raised with a mother who uses a litter box will usually begin to use it themselves before 5 or 6 weeks old.

Any smooth-surfaced plastic or enamel pan can be used as a litter box. Put the pan in a quiet spot. Place a layer of commercial clay litter, sand, sawdust, or sterilized soil in the bottom. Sift the litter clean with a strainer each day. Clean the pan and change the litter whenever a third of the litter is damp or, at least, every fourth day.

Most pets will enjoy good health with proper food, housing, and grooming. If a pet gets hurt, swallows something harmful, or otherwise becomes ill, it should be taken to a veterinarian. Don’t try to treat your pet’s illness yourself, unless you know exactly what is wrong and what to do. Home treatment may seriously delay finding out what is wrong with your pet, and may even harm the animal.

Common signs of illness in dogs include a change in behaviour, a change in appetite, and fever. Most animals become less active when they are sick or injured. Any change of appetite that lasts for more than a few days calls for a veterinary examination. If there are other signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhoea, sneezing, or coughing, take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Many pet illnesses—and their associated costs—can be prevented through good pet care. By providing pets with healthful diets, plenty of exercise, and regular visits to the veterinarian, owners will protect their pets as well as their pocketbooks.

How to Stay Healthy in All Weathers?

Serious medical problems can arise when the weather affects the body’s ability to maintain a constant temperature.

In the summer of 1999, a heatwave rippled across the Midwestern United States, with temperatures exceeding 100 &176; F (37.8 &176; C). More than 250 people died, including more than 100 people in Chicago. Although the city’s death toll was high, a heat emergency plan helped the city prevent an even greater disaster.

In 1995, before the city developed the plan, a heatwave killed more than 600 people. By 1999, however, the city was better prepared to deal with weather-related emergencies. Fire stations and public libraries served as cooling stations for people without air conditioning. Police officers, public health officials, and volunteers went door-to-door to check on older people and individuals who lived alone. News broadcasters issued heat warnings and advised people on how to get relief from the heat.

Most weather-related illness and injury incidents occur because people are not aware of the risks of exposure or because they do not take precautions. In both indoor and outdoor environments, it is important to prevent, identify, and treat cold- and heat-related illnesses before they become a deadly threat.

The key to understanding the impact of hot and cold temperatures is understanding the human body’s own temperature control system. Even when it is at rest, the human body produces heat when cells break down molecules of sugars, fats, or other nutrients to obtain energy—a part of the process called metabolism.

When a person exercises, the body metabolizes more nutrients and produces even more heat. But the human body maintains a fairly constant core (internal body) temperature of 98.6 &176; F (37 &176; C) by either conserving or releasing heat. The hypothalamus, a nerve centre at the base of the brain, monitors the temperature of the blood and signals the skin and the circulatory system, the primary temperature regulators if the core temperature is too warm or too cold.

The body releases heat in four different ways. Conduction transfers heat directly from a warmer object to a colder object. When you sit on the cold ground or jump in a cold lake, your body loses heat by conduction. Convection is the transfer of heat from one place to another by the movement of heated particles.

For example, if you are outside on a windy day, the wind pushes away the air molecules around your body that have been warmed by your skin. Radiation carries heat in the form of infrared waves. If you are wearing a warm coat but not a hat in cold weather, you may still feel cold because your body is radiating heat from your head. 

Evaporation, the transformation of liquid to a gas, also removes heat. In hot weather or during exercise, your body uses its supply of water to transfer heat to the surface of your skin in the form of sweat. The sweat evaporates, removing heat from your body.

Our bodies are usually able to adapt to the impact of a wide range of hot and cold temperatures. Our natural inclination to wear clothes that feel comfortable for the weather conditions helps our bodies conserve or release heat.

In extremely hot or cold conditions, however, the human body can lose its ability to control core temperatures, and our best intentions of dressing for the weather may not be sufficient. A core body temperature fluctuation of a few degrees in either direction can be deadly.

Hypothermia: Low Body Temperature

When a body loses heat to the environment faster than it can produce heat, the core body temperature drops—a condition called hypothermia. Although hypothermia affects the entire body, the cardiovascular and central nervous systems are most significantly affected.

When a body loses heat to the environment faster than it can produce heat, the core body temperature drops—a condition called hypothermia. Although hypothermia affects the entire body, the cardiovascular and central nervous systems are most significantly affected. The heart rate slows, blood circulation decreases, and the brain no longer functions normally. If the core temperature drops too low, hypothermia becomes a life-threatening emergency.

Health officials often divide hypothermia cases into two categories, exposure hypothermia and urban hypothermia, even though there is no real difference in what is happening to the body.

Exposure hypothermia refers to cases among people who work or play in an outdoor setting. Many cases of exposure hypothermia happen during winter in below-freezing temperatures. But exposure hypothermia is also frequent during the summer when people are unprepared for sudden weather changes that cause temperatures to drop.

While most cases of exposure hypothermia happen to healthy, active people, urban hypothermia, cases that occur indoors in cities and towns, commonly affects the ill, very old, very young, or very poor.

These incidents account for the majority of hypothermia cases in the United States. Many of these cases occur in temperatures near 60 &176; F (15.6 &176; C), conditions that people do not often associate with hypothermia, but that are cold enough to affect an individual’s core body temperature in certain circumstances.

Some common risk factors associated with hypothermia are more prevalent in exposure cases and some in urban cases. However, it is more important to understand the risk factors in general and know why they may lead to hypothermia.

A low intake of calories and fluids significantly increases the risk of hypothermia. If the body does not have an adequate supply of nutrients, it cannot create enough heat. And if the person is exposed to cold temperatures, the need for calories increases.

If the body does not have enough fluids, the metabolism of nutrients is less efficient. According to Murray Hamlet, the director of Research Plans and Operations at the United States Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine, a 10 percent drop in hydration (fluid levels) results in a 30 to 40 percent decrease in heat production. Also, if a person is dehydrated, the blood becomes more concentrated, leaving less blood to distribute heat throughout the body.

Consuming alcoholic beverages will not hydrate the body, and it even increases the risk of hypothermia. A shot of brandy is a traditional remedy for warming up because it creates a sensation of warmth. It actually robs the body of essential fluids, because alcohol is a diuretic, a substance that increases the flow of urine.

The alcohol also dilates (expands) blood vessels close to the skin, increasing the amount of blood that flows to the skin and subsequently, the amount of heat lost.

Illnesses and preexisting medical conditions can also increase the risk of hypothermia. People with disorders of the glandular system, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease generally do not have effective heat regulatory systems.

Also, some medications act as diuretics and therefore increase the risk of dehydration and hypothermia. Other factors such as alcoholism, illicit drug use, or untreated mental illnesses may lead people to make inappropriate judgments about risks they take in cold weather conditions.

Getting wet, either by being caught in the rain or falling in water, greatly increases hypothermia risk because water quickly removes heat from the body. A person who is submerged in water loses heat 26 to 32 times faster than he or she would in the same air temperature.

In water that is near 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), an individual will lose consciousness in less than 15 minutes. Even in water that is 60 to 70 degrees F (15.6 to 21 degrees C), a common summertime temperature of lakes and rivers, a person may lose consciousness in two hours.

The very young and very old are most susceptible to hypothermia. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), people more than 75 years of age are five times more likely to die from hypothermia than are those less than 75 years old. Older people are more susceptible to hypothermia because of generally poorer blood circulation, illness, and medications.

They are usually less active and therefore, do not produce as much heat. Lack of adequate nutrition and hydration and poorly heated homes are also common factors leading to hypothermia in older adults.

Children have a higher ratio of body surface area to weight. Consequently, they lose body heat more quickly in cold weather. Small children who are carried in backpacks or pushed in strollers are inactive and do not produce any extra heat. Very young children are also at a disadvantage because they may not be able to tell an adult when they are cold.

Symptoms of hypothermia and their severity depend largely upon the amount the body’s core temperature drops. Symptoms generally begin to appear when a person’s core temperature drops to about 96 degrees F (35.6 degrees C). Medical experts consider typically a core temperature below 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) severe hypothermia, and a core temperature below 86 degrees F (30 degrees C) leaves little hope for survival.

Hypothermia in a healthy adolescent or adult is usually easy to recognize. Buck Tilton, director of the Wilderness Medicine Institute in Pitkin, Colorado, has noted that mild hypothermia looks like “mild stupidity” because even a slight drop in core temperature profoundly affects the brain.

As the core body temperature drops, brain function deteriorates, starting with the loss of abstract thinking and progressing to the loss of motor control. A mildly hypothermic person is usually confused, lacks energy or interest, may deny the need for help, and may appear slightly drunk or disoriented.

The body reacts to the cold by constricting blood vessels near the skin and in the hands and feet, shifting blood to the body’s core organs in an attempt to keep them warm. As a result, the skin becomes pale and cool. Blood flow to the core also concentrates fluids in the body and increases urination. The brain also stimulates muscles to contract and relax rapidly—the reaction we know as shivering. This automatic behavior is the body’s way of rewarming itself.

All of the body’s attempts to stay warm can lead to a spiraling drop in temperature. An increase in urination, for example, causes dehydration. Because shivering expends large amounts of energy, the muscles will eventually run out of fuel to burn.

When a person’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees F (35 degrees C), shivering may actually begin to decrease. Other symptoms become more severe. An individual may seem unaware of the danger, become increasingly disoriented, and even hallucinate. The loss of muscle coordination results in slurred speech and stumbling.

When the core temperature drops below 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C), the person can no longer walk or speak clearly, and shivering has usually stopped. If core temperature drops below 86 degrees F (30 degrees C), unconsciousness is likely, the skin may turn blue, the body becomes rigid, and pulse and breathing appear to stop. Few people who become unconscious due to hypothermia survive.

How to Recognize Hypothermia in Older People

Because the warning signs of hypothermia are usually easy to recognize, an unaffected person can often take steps to help a hypothermic individual warm-up and avoid the spiraling effect of heat loss. Unfortunately, symptoms of hypothermia can be difficult to identify in an older person who is indoors.

An older person may, in fact, be mildly hypothermic for weeks before collapsing from severe hypothermia. This is one reason that cases of urban hypothermia are a critical problem.

How cold older people feel is not always a good indication of their actual core temperature. Older people may have cold hands or feet because they generally have poorer circulation. They may feel cold, but have a normal core temperature.

On the other hand, many older people who are diagnosed as hypothermic have not complained of the cold, and they usually do not shiver. Symptoms of mild or moderate hypothermia common among older people may include a rigid body, hard muscle tone, an occasional fine tremor, and a cold abdomen or back. The best way to determine whether an older person is becoming hypothermic is to take his or her temperature.

How to Treat Hypothermia

Although medical attention is essential for all hypothermia cases, physicians recommend that rewarming should begin immediately for any individual who has symptoms of mild or moderate hypothermia. Begin by moving the person to a warm environment. Remove any wet clothes and replace them with layers of dry, warm clothing, blankets, or sleeping bags. Encourage the person to increase his or her activity level, because exercise can greatly increase the body’s heat production.

A person who is able to hold a cup without dropping it should drink warm, sugary liquids, which provide warmth and energy. Simply holding a warm cup can also help raise the core body temperature. Valves that control blood flow in the hands are open when the blood is warm and shut when the blood is cold.

A warm cup warms the blood, opening up the valves, increasing the blood flow, and allowing blood to transfer heat back to the body’s core. Heat packs on the hands and feet have the same effect, and placing heat packs under the arms or in the groin can also help warm the body quickly.

Skin to skin contact, such as putting cold feet in the underarms of a warm person, works effectively as well. However, vigorously rubbing hands or feet does not help warm them and can damage skin tissues that are injured by the cold.

Severe hypothermia is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate emergency medical care. If a person has lost consciousness or appears to be dead, rewarming the victim can be hazardous. When circulation is very poor, blood in the extremities, such as the hands and feet, becomes highly acidic.

If that acidic blood is propelled too quickly to the heart, the heart may stop. However, preventing any further heat loss is essential. Remove wet clothes, place blankets beneath the person, and cover the person entirely except for the face to help maintain heat. Warm water bottles or heat packs wrapped in layers of clothing can be placed by the hands and feet, but not directly in contact with them.

Physicians advise that an individual should always assume that a severely hypothermic person is alive, even if a pulse is undetectable. “They’re not dead until they’re warm and dead” is a common explanation of specialists in outdoor medical emergencies.

Therefore, a person qualified to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should initiate chest compressions if there is no pulse or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if there is no respiration or fewer than six to seven breaths per minute.

It is also important to handle a severely hypothermic person with extreme care. Rough handling can cause a condition called ventricular fibrillation, in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood to the body.

Emergency medical personnel will gradually rewarm a severely hypothermic victim with various methods, such as injecting warm fluids into blood veins or by circulating the victim’s blood through an external warming device.

Another cold-related injury often associated with cases of hypothermia is frostbite, but this injury can occur even if a person is not hypothermic. Frostbite is the freezing of skin tissues. The tissues begin to freeze when they reach a temperature of 24.8 degrees F (-4 degrees C). One of the greatest risks for frostbite is exposure to the cold air.

A below-freezing wind-chill factor (the combined cooling effect on the body of air temperature and the wind) greatly increases frostbite risk. Consequently, parts of the body that are often exposed—hands, ears, and noses—are particularly susceptible to injury. Anything that causes poor blood circulation can also contribute to frostbite. For example, if a person is wearing boots that are too tight, warm blood is not able to get to the toes.

Frostbitten skin at first appears white or grayish-yellow, or the skin may feel unusually firm or waxy. The skin is usually numb, so the victim often does not know he or she has frostbite.

To treat frostbite, the area should be warmed by skin-to-skin contact or with warm water. However, a physician should examine all frostbite injuries even if they do not appear to be severe. Frostbite can cause permanent damage to the skin. If the freezing is deep in the tissue, a part of the skin has to be removed and may need to be replaced with grafts of healthy skin. Frostbitten fingers or toes sometimes have to be amputated.

How to Prevent Cold-Related Illness and Injury

In most circumstances, cold-related illness and injury can be prevented by staying warm and dry, wearing appropriate clothing, and planning ahead for weather changes. A hat, scarf, mittens, and warm waterproof boots are important for spending any time outdoors in cold temperatures because a great amount of heat is lost from the head, hands, and feet.

If an individual is participating in outdoor activities, he or she should not assume that the exercise itself is enough to stay warm. Instead, the individual should wear multiple layers. The layer against the skin should be a wicking fabric, a fabric that draws sweat away from the skin and keeps it dry.

These fabrics include wool and specially designed synthetic materials used in outdoor gear. Middle layers of fabric should be insulating materials such as wool, down, or synthetic materials also designed for outdoor wear. The outer layer of clothing should be waterproof. Wearing layers allows the active outdoor person to remove or add layers to feel warm but not become wet with sweat.

Staying warm indoors is also important. Healthy adults need to be aware that what feels comfortable for them may not be adequate for children or old or sick people. For example, many adults prefer sleeping in cool bedrooms and turn down the heat at night during cold winter months, but cold bedrooms are very risky for infants and older adults, who do not produce as much body heat.

Eating a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids (about eight glasses of water daily) are also important steps in preventing cold-related illnesses. The best beverages for the outdoors are warm, decaffeinated teas and coffees, sweetened with honey or sugar.

Caffeinated beverages, such as hot chocolate, regular coffee, and black tea, are diuretics. Even though they are warm and often sweet, they can cause dehydration. High-calorie foods, such as energy bars and trail mix, are also good for outdoor activities because the body will have more nutrients to burn and will therefore produce more heat.

Hyperthermia: The Overheated Body

While hypothermia and frostbite result from the body losing heat faster than it can produce it, hyperthermia occurs when the body generates or gains heat faster than the body can get rid of it.

While hypothermia and frostbite result from the body losing heat faster than it can produce it, hyperthermia occurs when the body generates or gains heat faster than the body can get rid of it. Although the human body is better equipped to deal with hot temperatures than with the cold, extreme heat can overwhelm the body’s ability to maintain a normal core temperature.

The U.S. National Weather Service defines extreme heat as a temperature that is at least 10 Fahrenheit degrees above the average high temperature for a location, accompanied by high relative humidity (a measurement of the amount of water vapour in the air). The combination of extreme heat and humidity makes it impossible for sweat to evaporate. When this important cooling system no longer works well, an individual is susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses occur along a spectrum, with mild heat exhaustion at one end of the spectrum and life-threatening heatstroke at the other end. As the body’s cooling system starts to falter, the core temperature rises. The body tries to cool itself by shifting more blood to the skin and extremities and away from core organs.

The skin becomes red and hot, and the heart begins to beat faster. A rising core temperature symptoms include nausea, fatigue, giddiness, weakness, dizziness, loss of coordination, and profuse sweating. The person may also exhibit irrational anger, poor judgment, and denial about his or her physical condition.

How to Treat Heat-Related Illnesses

If a person is promptly treated for mild heat exhaustion, he or she can recover without any permanent problems. Someone with symptoms of heat exhaustion needs to be cooled quickly. Have them stop any vigorous activity immediately and move to a cooler environment. Have the person take a cool shower or bath. Or use a spray bottle to mist the person and their clothes and fan the person to increase convective heat loss.

Heat exhaustion is not like having a fever from the flu, because different processes are happening inside the body to cause a rise in the core temperature. Therefore, heat exhaustion should not be treated with common fever-relief medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).

(These medications interrupt a series of immune system reactions that were triggered by a virus and that caused the body temperature to rise.) If a person with heat exhaustion takes a fever-relief medication, it will not reduce the body temperature and may even cause other health problems.

A person with heat exhaustion should replace fluids with diluted sports drinks or a homemade solution of 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 1 quart (1 liter) of water. A sports drink is important if heat exhaustion is accompanied by heat cramps, muscle cramps that are believed to be caused by an excessive loss of salt in sweat. Gently stretching the muscles also relieves heat cramps.

Heatstroke: A severe medical emergency

However, if heat exhaustion is not treated, it can quickly progress to heatstroke, the point at which the body’s cooling mechanisms are completely overwhelmed. Physicians generally define heatstroke as a core temperature of 105 degrees F (40.6 degrees C).

The victim usually has hot, dry skin. (If the person developed heatstroke while exercising, the skin may still be moist from prior sweating.) If a victim of heatstroke is conscious, he or she may be confused or be violently angry. Other symptoms include a rapid pulse; fast, shallow breathing; and either increased or lowered blood pressure.

Without immediate and proper treatment, the heatstroke victim may die in less than 30 minutes. Spraying with water and fanning is the most effective first-aid treatment before emergency services are available. Repeated dips in cool water are also effective. However, ice water can cause arteries and veins in the hands and feet to constrict and prevent cool blood from returning to the core.

Physicians may cool and rehydrate a heatstroke victim with an intravenous saline solution. They may also flush the digestive system with cold water or use a procedure that circulates blood outside the body, through a cooling system, and back into the body.

People who survive heat stroke almost always suffer from permanent impairment of the thermoregulatory system and damage to internal organs. In a study published in 1998 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, most of the heat-stroke patients who were hospitalized in Chicago during the heatwave of 1995 suffered damage to the brain, kidney, and cardiovascular system. Heatstroke may also cause the breakdown of muscle tissues.

Who is at risk of Heat-Related Illnesses

Several factors can increase the risk for heat-related illnesses. Residents of urban areas are at risk because the large amounts of concrete and asphalt in a city store heat during the day and prevent cooling at night. This creates a “heat island” effect or a sort of a heat trap in which a person can never cool down adequately.

About 80 percent of heatstroke deaths occur in people who are more than 50 years old. An older person often does not sweat as much as a younger adult or does not start to sweat until temperatures are higher than temperatures that cause younger adults to sweat. An individual with heart disease is at risk for heat-related illness because of an already compromised circulatory system, and other medical conditions and medications can impair the thermoregulatory system. People who are overweight and those with an impaired ability to sweat also have difficulty getting rid of body heat.

In healthy, active adults, dehydration often triggers heat exhaustion. A dehydrated body cannot produce sweat necessary to cool the body. The amount of fluid that a person needs depends on temperature, altitude, individual physiology, and other factors. A sedentary 150-pound (68-kilogram) man in a moderate environment uses about 4 quarts (4 litres) of fluid daily, which he can easily replace by drinking and eating.

If the heat is extreme or the person is engaged in vigorous exercise, sweat production increases and fluid needs increase drastically. The consumption of diuretics, such as a cold beer or caffeinated soft drink, can greatly increase dehydration risks and cause serious heart-related problems. Children playing outside are at great risk for dehydration and heat exhaustion because they often want to stop playing even in extreme heat and do not recognize the first signs of heat exhaustion.

How to Prevent Heat-Related Problems

Staying adequately hydrated is the first line of defense against heat-related illnesses. Murray Hamlet estimates that U.S. Army soldiers drink 3 to 5 gallons (11 to 19 liters) of water a day when they are working hard in the desert. Unfortunately, thirst does not accurately indicate whether a person has enough fluids.

According to Hamlet, most people have lost about 2 percent of their body weight in fluids before they feel thirsty. After they have lost 4.2 percent of their body weight in fluids, they no longer feel thirsty. If a person continues to lose fluids, he or she will not want to eat or drink at all.

Hamlet suggests drinking by the clock rather than depending on thirst. “Develop a system to remind yourself to drink on a regular basis,” he says. Also, a better way of determining proper hydration is monitoring urine. The color should be clear or very pale yellow, and it should be plentiful.

A few dietary rules can help prevent heat-related illness. Consume salt in the form of sports drinks and salty foods such as pretzels. Salt is essential in maintaining the proper balance of fluids in the body’s cells, and profuse sweating can shed this essential mineral’s body. Salt tablets, however, should not be used.

They can be dangerous because they are too concentrated, drawing water into the stomach to dilute the salt and leaving less water in the blood. Small, frequent meals with lots of fruits, vegetables, and other foods with high water contents are better than big, high-protein meals that increase the body’s metabolism.

Appropriate clothing is also essential. Lightweight, light-coloured clothing maximizes the amount of heat that the body loses. Cotton is an ideal fabric for hot conditions because it lets air pass through, allowing sweat to evaporate. Wearing a broad-brimmed hat or carrying an umbrella offers protection from the radiant heat of the sun.

When people need to do outdoor activities in extreme heat, they should plan their activities accordingly. The midday hours are almost always the hottest and a good time to take a break from outdoor activities.

Seeking relief in an air-conditioned building, particularly during the hottest times of day, gives the body a break and allows it to cool down. Listening to weather reports is also important because broadcasters often announce the heat index and the temperature. The heat index essentially indicates what the temperature feels like when humidity is factored in.

The human body itself can develop a defence against extreme heat. Over time, it learns to disperse heat more quickly and efficiently, a process called acclimatization. However, acclimatization occurs gradually. According to Hamlet, this process takes nine days of working at a comfortable pace in extreme heat. When the body becomes acclimatized, more fluids stay in the circulatory system, sweat contains less salt, and the heart rate for any given activity slows.

Extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can pose an extreme danger. Cold- and heat-related illnesses do not discriminate. Although some people are at greater risk, everyone is susceptible, and everyone can take steps to prevent these illnesses. The nature of cold- and heat-related illnesses also demands that people know how extreme temperatures affect not only their well-being but also the health of others around them.

What to do After You Signed a Lease

You’ve signed your lease, paid your rent and security deposit, and just picked up the key to your new place. The next step is getting the utilities turned on and in your name. Your new landlord, manager, or agent probably has the names and numbers of the utility companies that service your area. You may even be able to transfer services from the previous tenants and avoid full set-up charges. Be sure to ask. The utility companies are listed in your local phone book, or of course you can ask your new neighbors for the names of the companies.

Utilities

You’ve signed your lease, paid your rent and security deposit, and just picked up the key to your new place. The next step is getting the utilities turned on and in your name.

Your new landlord, manager, or agent probably has the names and numbers of the utility companies that service your area. You may even be able to transfer services from the previous tenants and avoid full setup charges. Be sure to ask. The utility companies are listed in your local phone book, or of course, you can ask your new neighbours for the companies’ names.

When you call to set up your new accounts, make sure you have your personal information handy, including:

  • Your driver’s license number or other identification information
  • Your Social Security number
  • The exact address of your new place
  • The day you want the services to start
  • Your employment information, including the company’s name, address, phone number, and the date you started working there
  • Your bank information, including a credit card number if you have one

Depending on your credit history or the utility company’s policy, you may be required to submit a deposit for the services. This will usually be returned to you after a certain amount of time, usually one year.

Since some utilities require more time than others to get setup, make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible after your rental agreement is finalized.

Water and Sewer. If your rental unit does not include the water and sewer, you will need to contact the Water Department.

Gas and Electric. These utilities are often combined or may require separate accounts. Generally, your account can be set up in a day.

Phone, Cable, and Internet. Depending on your area, these services may take several days or over a week to get in place. Be careful not to sign up for more services than you really need.

Garbage. Depending on where you live, you may need to set up an account with the Sanitation Department.

Reminder: If you are sharing expenses with a roommate, consider the arrangement regarding the responsibility of the utilities very carefully. Will the bill be in both your names? If so, your roommate will also need to provide the necessary application information to the service providers.

Moving

No matter how simple or involved your move may be, keep the following in mind:

Be prepared. Do whatever you can do ahead of time. If your new place requires any attention, such as cleaning or installing some shelf paper, now is the time to get it done. It will be much easier facing it now than waiting until after you’ve moved in.

  • Fill out a mail forwarding card from the post office. Be sure to include the date you want the forwarding to begin.
  • Notify everyone of your new address and phone number.
  • If you are moving out of town, wrap up any unfinished business. For example, did you get your dirty clothes out of your locker at the gym? Return your library books? Return everything you’ve borrowed from friends? Pick up your dry cleaning? Visit or call your family and friends?
  • If your pet is going with you and will need a new license or tag, make sure you have its immunization certificate.
  • If you are not using a moving company, make sure you have plenty of help. You may want to line up more support than you need just in case someone doesn’t show.
  • If you are renting or borrowing a truck, make sure it is one you can drive. Don’t get stuck with a stick shift if you can only drive an automatic.
  • Do you need to rent or borrow a dolly? This can make a huge difference if you are moving large, heavy items.
  • Think about where you are going to place your furniture. Even good friends run out of patience, picking up and putting down a couch a dozen times.
  • If you are planning to use a professional moving service, do some research to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Stay away from a company that gives you a quote over the phone or Internet without actually looking at your stuff, or from a company that wants cash or a very large deposit before the move. Obtain at least three legitimate estimates before you decide which company to use. The estimates will either be binding (you will not be charged more than the estimated amount) or nonbinding (there is no guarantee that the final cost will be as low or as high as the estimate.) Here again, you will be entering into a written agreement, so make sure you are aware of, and understand all the details. It is important not only to finalize the pick-up date and time but to make sure you will have your things delivered exactly when you need them. Get it in writing.

Gather these things to have available on moving day:

Moving Supplies

  • Can opener
  • Carton-sealing tape
  • Cleaning products and cleaning cloths
  • Dish soap
  • First aid kit that contains a pain reliever
  • Hand soap
  • Light bulbs
  • Paper cups for water or drinks
  • Paper towels
  • Snacks
  • Toilet paper
  • Tools: utility knife, hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers
  • Towels for the bathroom and kitchen
  • Trash bags

Moving Out

If you use any boxes that are not new, such as from the grocery store or a friend’s garage, check each one for insects and insect eggs. You don’t want to bring cockroaches or other insects into your new place inadvertently.

Even if you are only moving down the street, you’ll need to pack carefully.

  • Keep in mind that the heavier the item is, the smaller its box should be.
  • Heavy items go in the bottom of the box with smaller, lighter items on top.
  • Try to use unprinted newsprint instead of old newspapers to wrap items. Newspaper ink will rub off.
  • Prevent items from shifting in their box by crumpling up wrapping paper to fill all empty spaces. You can also use towels or clothes for this, but it makes unpacking more complicated.
  • Think about unpacking when you pack. Items that go together should be in the same box. Packing by room will make unpacking easier.
  • Clearly label your boxes’ bedroom, kitchen, and so on.
  • When loading the trailer or truck, be sure to put the heaviest things in first.
  • Carefully keep track of your valuables, important papers, and medications. Keep them with you.

Moving In

  • Turn on the refrigerator.
  • If you have not already done so, take time out on moving day to familiarize yourself with the electric circuit breaker or fuse box. Find the location of your gas and water main valves. Learn how to shut them off in an emergency situation.
  • Put the boxes in the rooms they are labelled to go in. This will help streamline the unpacking process. Keeping all the boxes together in the dining room, for example, and unpacking them one at a time may be neater, but may also involve more time and effort.
  • Prioritize your unpacking and setting up. For instance, set up and make your bed before you get too tired. If you have to go to work the next day, make sure you can find your clothes.
  • Once everything is moved in, take your time unpacking. If any item is dirty, now is the time to clean it. Consider very carefully the best way to set up your new home.

Reminder: If you have permanently changed states, you will need to get a new drivers license and change your vehicle registration. Also, contact the Board of Elections if you wish to register to vote.

Organization

Chances are you will organize your own place similarly to the home in which you grew up and were comfortable. The point here, though, is actually to do some thoughtful organization. Being well organized will not only save you valuable time, but will save you unnecessary stress as well.

 Who wants to run around hunting for car keys when late for a movie? Yet, the forces of natural law are working against you here. Are you familiar with entropy? If you don’t work to keep your place clean, it will turn into a mess. The order goes to chaos. It’s a fact of life. The quip we are all familiar with – “a place for everything and everything in its place” – has been around forever with good reason. It’s the key to maintaining order. Here are a few tips you may want to consider:

  • Remember your cubby from day care or kindergarten? It was your personal little area to put your stuff, and you knew right where everything went. Having such an area in your own place can be a great time-saver. Faithfully put your outgoing mail there, and you will automatically grab it on your way out. The same goes for library books that need to be returned, outgoing dry cleaning, the gift you need to deliver, and anything else you need to have with you when you run errands.
  • Choose a convenient, safe, private place to keep your keys, purse, or wallet.
  • Organize to fit your lifestyle. Are you more inclined to come in the door and toss your jacket somewhere than to walk to the closet and hang it up? If you are, you may want to install a wall coat-rack. Do you need to set up a special area to do paperwork or will anywhere do just fine? Think about what will work the best for your individual needs.
  • Whether it’s clothes, bedding, or kitchenware, items that are used together should be kept together.
  • Items should be kept closest to where they are going to be used the most.
  • The most frequently used items belong in the most accessible spots.
  • Think ahead and organize to make getting out of the house in the morning as easy as possible.
  • Put cleaning supplies in the area where you use the – not in a closet somewhere, unless they are in a caddy or basket with a handle that you can carry with you from room to room.
  • If you have a landline, arrange the area by the phone to include:
    • List of emergency numbers, including those of a neighbour, your doctor, poison control center, and your landlord.
    • List of frequently called numbers, like your favorite take-out restaurant.
    • Pens and paper
    • Calendar (Fill in all the birthdays you need to remember for the year when you put the calendar up.)
  • Invest in a high-quality flashlight, and keep it close to your bed.
  • Establish and maintain a simple, logical filing system:

Basic File Headings

  • Automobile
  • Bills That Need To Be Paid*
  • Checking Account Statements
  • Credit Card Information (account numbers and customer service numbers)
  • Insurance
  • Medical
  • Paid Bills (statement stubs and receipts)
  • Tax Documents
  • Warranties and Manuals*

*If you create a “Bills That Need To Be Paid” file, make sure you check it regularly. Otherwise, use a container to keep the bills organized and in sight so you will not forget about them.

  • What’s in your wallet? Take a few minutes to make a detailed list of the important things you have in your wallet or purse, in case you lose it or it’s stolen. File the list. Carry:
    • ATM card
    • Cash, not more than a week’s worth
    • Credit card, only one
    • Drivers license or photo identification card
    • Make an In Case of Emergency card that lists the names and numbers of those to be notified, your next of kin, and important medical information a first responder would need to know.
    • Emergency money—try to keep at least $20 tucked away
    • Medical/prescription insurance card
    • Supermarket discount card
  • Make sure you do not carry around your Social Security card or anything else you don’t really need to have with you.
  • Process your mail every day. You may want to do this standing by the trashcan.
  • If you are going to recycle, set up a system that makes it easy for you to keep at it faithfully. Even if you think it is too much for you to think about now, perhaps you can at least commit to recycling glass and cans.
  • Most importantly, deal with things as you go along. If you bring home dry cleaning, take the time to walk it to the closet. Clean the kitchen after you eat, not three days later.

Experiment until you find the organizational solutions that work for you. But remember: even the best organization ends up being useless if you don’t maintain the order.

Supplies

Shopping List-Nonfood Items

  • Aluminum foil
  • Cellophane tape
  • Coffee filters (if you make coffee
  • Dishwasher detergent (if you have a dishwasher)
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Facial tissue
  • Garbage bags
  • Light bulbs
  • Matches
  • Muffin pan liners
  • Paper napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic food-storage bags
  • Plastic wrap
  • Soap
  • Steel-wool soap pads or sponges
  • Toilet paper
  • Waxed paper

Additional Items You May Need

  • All-purpose stain remover
  • Batteries
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Cleanser
  • Fabric softener
  • Glass cleaner
  • Laundry detergent
  • Leather cleaner and conditioner (for shoes)
  • Liquid detergent for fine fabrics
  • Multipurpose cleaner
  • Oxygen bleach

Medicine, First Aid, and Emergency Supplies

Medications and Emergency Supplies

Having basic over-the-counter medications or natural remedies, as well as emergency supplies around the house, is part of setting up your new place. Use the following lists to help you prepare the essentials that you should always have on hand. Decide whether you want to combine your medications with your first aid supplies. Either way, store all the supplies in an easily accessible, easily transportable container. In the event of an emergency, you will want to have them with you.

Medications

  • Antacid (such as Mylanta)
  • Antidiarrhea medication (such as Imodium A-D)
  • Antihistamine (such as Benadryl, for allergic reactions)
  • Cough syrup
  • Decongestant
  • Pain reliever (aspirin or nonaspirin)
  • Throat lozenges
  • Good thermometer

Note these important tips:

  • Read all labels and accompanying information carefully and take only as directed.
  • Keep all medications in their original containers, and toss them after the expiration date. (Be sure to take the full dosage of prescribed antibiotics.)
  • Store your medications in a cool, dark, and dry place.
  • Keep up-to-date with your prescription medications. Plan ahead to get your refill before you run out.

Call The Poison Control Center at 800.222.1222 if you have a poisoning emergency.

First Aid Supplies

Keep your first aid supplies in an easily accessible place (preferably the kitchen, where accidents are likely to occur). Store the supplies in a container with a handle to make it easy to grab on the go. Be sure to return or replace items after use.

Household First Aid Supplies

  • Adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic (such as rubbing alcohol)
  • Calamine lotion
  • Cleansing agent or soap
  • Elastic bandage
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Latex gloves
  • Roller bandages
  • Safety pins (large and small)
  • Scissors
  • Two small bath towels
  • Sterile cotton
  • Sterile dressings (assorted sizes)
  • Sterile roll of gauze
  • Tweezers (to remove splinters and glass)
  • Wooden tongue blades (for finger splints)

Emergency Supplies

While natural disasters may be more likely in some geographic areas than others, you should be prepared for an emergency situation no matter where you live. Many emergencies, such as an evacuation due to the release of hazardous material, can happen anywhere. 

We may never know when a disaster will strike, but we can take comfort in knowing we are prepared. The following information is a short excerpt from Disaster Supplies Kit, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross. Call your local Red Cross chapter for natural disaster preparedness information specific to your geographic area. 

For instance, if you live in southern California, you should keep an earthquake survival kit in your car as well as in your home. Keep your supplies in a lightweight container that is easy to carry if you have to evacuate.

  • Store at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food. Include ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, and juices. Also include high-energy foods, such as granola and snack bars, trail mix, and peanut butter.
  • You need at least one gallon of water per person per day. Have at least three gallons.
  • One complete change of clothes, including a pair of sturdy shoes.
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  • Battery-operated radio (with extra batteries)
  • Can opener (nonelectric – or pack only pop-top canned food in your kit)
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Cash and change
  • Personal documents: copies of important papers such as deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, and proof of address.
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Paper cups and plates, plastic utensils
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Toilet paper, moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Soap and personal-hygiene items
  • Medications (7-day supply), medication list, and pertinent medical information

Contact the American Red Cross at www.redcross.orgor 800.733.276 for assistance or additional information. You can support the Red Cross by buying emergency preparedness kits and supplies from them directly.

Consider using a password-protected USB device to store your important electronic files, including your financial account numbers and the customer service numbers of the institutions you use. Having everything organized and easily accessible after a disaster may help you get up and running faster. Eventually, you might want to consider researching and using a cloud storage service provider.

Additional Resources

  • Visit Operation HOPE to download and print the document Emergency Financial First Aid Kit. This simple tool is designed to help you have your most important financial information in order and on hand in the event of an emergency.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign encourages individuals to prepare themselves for the unexpected. Their website, www.ready.gov, is a great source of information, tools, and checklists.
  • If there is a presidentially declared disaster in your area, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), may be able to provide you with assistance. The Disaster Assistance number is 800.621.3362 and the web address is www.fema.gov. Are You Ready? is an in-depth FEMA guide to citizen disaster preparedness that you can download from the website or order by calling 800.480.2520.

Safety and Security

Fire Safety

Few people realize how fast a fire can take hold and how quickly it can become uncontrollable. Please take the danger of fire seriously.

  • Make sure you have at least one smoke alarm and that it has good batteries. Check the batteries at regular intervals. Some people have a New Year’s Day tradition of changing the batteries in their smoke detectors.
  • Buy one or several multipurpose fire extinguishers. At a minimum, keep one handy in the kitchen and know how to use it.
  • Be careful not to set your potholders on fire.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Use extra caution when burning candles. Don’t place lighted candles in windows or near exits.

The National Fire Protection Association offers tips regarding candles. The following advice is taken from their recommendations:

  • Make sure the candle is in a sturdy holder that will not tip over.
  • Place the candle on a sturdy piece of furniture in the center of a one-foot “circle of safety.” This means you have checked that there is absolutely nothing that could possibly ignite within at least a one-foot radius, such as wallpaper, curtains or draperies, towels, shelves, plants, and silk flowers.
  • Absolutely never leave the room or fall asleep with a candle burning.
  • Stop burning your candle when it burns down to half an inch from the base. Throw it away.
  • Blow out candles or use a snuffer, but never use water to extinguish a flame. Water can cause wax to splatter and can spread the flames.

Personal Precautions

Take a class in self-defence. Please don’t put it off. You will feel more confident and secure knowing you know the basics of protecting yourself. Check for classes at your local YMCA, community, or adult education centre.

  • Do not label your keys with your name or address. Give an extra set of keys to a relative if you wish, but do not label them with easily identifiable information. Doing so may allow someone to enter your home if the keys are lost or stolen. Carry a spare car key or key card in your wallet.
  • Always have your door key ready before you approach your home.
  • Always pay close attention to what is happening around you.
  • Buy a small flashlight that hooks onto your key ring. This is a big help in locating a keyhole in the dark.
  • Set an interior light or radio on a timer when you are away at night.
  • Make sure you look in the rear-view mirror and close your automatic garage door (if you have one) as soon as your car clears the door.
  • Make sure your garage door opener is always in the same place. You should not be sitting in your car searching around for the opener. You may choose not to leave the opener in your car when you park outside your garage.
  • Take your parking ticket with you when you park in a pay lot.
  • If you leave your car somewhere overnight, remove all identifying information. You don’t want to return to find your car stolen and your home broken into.
  • When driving, be alert, and avoid high-crime areas. Allow a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. Carjackers often work in pairs, and you don’t want to allow yourself to get boxed in.
  • Don’t ever pull off the road when driving by yourself at night, except in a true emergency.
  • If you believe you have been intentionally rammed from the rear, proceed to a populated, well-lit area or a police station for help.
  • When driving, be alert to the signs of a drunk driver:
    • Swerving and weaving
    • Wide turns
    • Driving to the left of centre
    • Driving in the dark with the headlights off
    • Driving on the shoulder
    • Unusual stopping

Watching Your Pennies-Around Your Home

  • Lowering the thermostat even one degree saves money. Turn down the heat when you go to bed. *
  • Contact your electric company and ask if enrolling in load management, off-hour rates, or other cost-savings programs will save you money on electricity costs.
  • If you live in a house or apartment where your responsibility is to keep the heating and air conditioning filters clean, check them at least once every season. If they look dirty, replace them, as clean filters save money and energy. *
  • Turn off the air conditioner if you’ll be away for several hours. *
  • Using compact fluorescent light bulbs will cost you more money up front, but because they use two-thirds less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs, the savings can amount to about $40 over the life of each bulb. *
  • Many small appliances use phantom energy. Unplug them when they’re not in use. *
  • Turn off lights you’re not really using. *
  • Make sure to close the door to the refrigerator. *
  • If you do not have an economy cycle on your dishwasher, skip the dry cycle. Let the dishes air dry. *
  • Be mindful of how much water you are using, and how you can cut down. For example, you might be able to shorten the time you spend in the shower and make a point not to leave the water running while you brush your teeth. *
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees. *
  • Cover water when you boil it. Not only is this more energy-efficient, but the water will boil faster. *
  • Consider carefully what cable and satellite television services you sign up for. Will you really use those premium channels?

*The suggestions marked with an asterisk count toward “going green.” They can save you money, and they are environmentally conscientious choices, as well.

Related Reading

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis by Peggy Dianne Layton. Clarkson Prima, 2002.

Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth and Get Rich Trying by David Bach and Hillary Rosner. Broadway Books, 2008.

Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life by Sophie Uliano. Collins, 2008.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.

How to Organize Just About Everything: More Than 500 Step-by-Step Instructions for Everything from Organizing Your Closets to Planning a Wedding to Creating a Flawless Filing System by Peter Walsh. Free Press, 2004.

Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less by Peter Walsh. Free Press, 2011.

Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home by Martha Stewart. Clarkson Potter, 2006.

Organize Now! A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life! by Jennifer Ford Berry. Rev. ed. Betterway Home, 2010.

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider. Betterway Home, 2010.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why by Amanda Ripley. Crown Publishers, 2008.