erica melman

Erica Melman

Winter is here with us again! 

I’m sure you cannot wait for Spring, Summer, and Fall to come back?  But you know sometimes Spring, Summer and Fall can bring havoc to us – flood, excessive heat, tornado, hurricane, typhoon. Teens, we cannot prevent natural disasters such as snow storms, floods, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes from happening in accord with natural laws.  Humans do not have the power to do that. 

We can hinder those things but eventually nature will find a way and win.
We can avoid being hurt by a natural occurrence by developing prior planning and appropriate preparedness strategies by youth and adolescents to mitigate traumatic situations. Being prepared during times of crisis is a great attribute for one to have.

On a normal day, youth and adolescents go through a lot of emotional and physical changes. Typical development can be unnerving and stressful on a young person, adding a disaster or traumatic event to the mix can be life altering. As a young person, there are many things that seem out of one’s control, and parents and guardians tend to make the big decisions.  Opening dialog between one’s friends and family about disasters and preparedness strategies can help build skills, confidence, and trust that are necessary in overcoming potential obstacles that present themselves during and following a disaster or traumatic event.

Disasters are often unpredictable and can happen at any time and to anyone. They may be natural, man-made, or both. Therefore, with a little knowledge and planning, one can come out on top after any situation.

Have the following Emergency Tool Kit:

Flashlight, Batteries; Candles; Bottled Water; Non-perishable Food; First Aid Kit; Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen; Paper or Plastic Plates, Cups, and Utensils; Hand Operated Can Opener; Pet Food (if applicable); Diapers (if applicable); Coolers & Icepacks


During an emergency, your primary mode of transportation (such as your car, the train, or walking) may be unavailable or dangerous.

Identify alternative modes of transportation you can take in case of a snowstorm, hurricane, and other types of emergencies.

Communication Modes

During an emergency, your normal way of communicating, whether that be orally in person, by cell phone, or by email, may be impacted by changes in environment, noise, or even confusion.

If you have special communication needs (you are hearing impaired, unable to speak, have trouble speaking clearly, or don’t speak English very well), pre-written cards or texts can help you share information during a stressful or uncomfortable situation.

Tips for Dealing with Stress Following a Disaster or Trauma:

Spend time with friends or family to talk about your feelings.

Simply taking time to talk about how one is feeling following a disaster or traumatic event, can help an individual begin to process one’s emotions.

Take care of yourself

Don’t forget to do the essentials: eat, sleep, shower…repeat.  No matter how bad things seem or how bad they actually are, one cannot begin to heal or help others if one’s essential needs are not being met.  Houses can be rebuilt and things can be replaced, but people are not replaceable.

Get back into your routines

Following a disaster or trauma certain routines will be altered, but planning and implementing a regular schedule can help individuals begin to feel better.  It may be small, but even setting an alarm to wake up in the morning, and having breakfast with a friend or family can help create a calm and healing environment.

Get up and move

Stress is inevitable following a disaster or traumatic event; however, regular exercise can be a great tool in dealing with hectic circumstances.  Whether it be running, yoga, or simply taking a 5 – 10 minute walk, taking the time to get up and move can help bring resolve to a stressful situation. 

Resources for further reading

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

FEMA National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education


Be Ready – Make a Plan


Children & Young Adults (American Red Cross Emergency)





Did you know adding lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet, plus regular exercise can keep you strong and healthy?



The flu is annoying enough on its own. So it doesn't help that flu season falls at one of the most exciting times of the year. Flu season is October to May.

If you get the flu, you'll have lots of company. Each year from October to May, millions of people all across the United States come down with the flu. Kids get the flu most often. But people in every age group — including teens — can catch it.

What Is the Flu?

Flu is the common name for influenza. It's a virus that infects the respiratory system.

Often when you're sick with a virus, your body builds up a defense system by making antibodies  against it. That means you usually don't get that particular virus strain again. Unfortunately, flu viruses mutate (change) each year. So you aren't protected from getting the flu forever.

Some years the change in the flu virus is slight. So if you do get the flu, it's mild. The antibodies from having the flu before give you partial protection. But every 10 years or so the flu virus goes through a major change and many people get severe cases. These large-scale outbreaks are called epidemics.

If they spread worldwide, they're called pandemics. The H1N1 ("swine flu") outbreak of 2009-2010 was considered a pandemic.

How Does the Flu Spread?

The flu virus spreads through the air when a person who has the virus sneezes, coughs, or speaks.

The flu can sometimes be passed on through objects that someone with the virus touched, sneezed, or coughed on. When a healthy person touches these contaminated items and then touches his or her mouth or nose, the virus can enter their system.

People carrying the virus can be contagious1 day before their symptoms appear and about 5 to 7 days after they first get symptoms. So it's possible to pass the flu on before you even know you're sick.

Flu epidemics often start in schools and then move quickly through a community as students spread the virus to family members and people around them.

How Do I Know if I Have the Flu?

Flu symptoms appear anywhere from 1 to 4 days after a person has been exposed to the virus. The main symptoms of flu are:  

          Headache                       Sore throat                               Fever Chills

          Muscle aches                 Stuffy nose                               Dry cough

Someone with the flu may have a high fever — for example, that person's temperature may be around 104°F (40°C). People with the flu often feel achy and extra tired. They may lose their appetites.

The fever and aches usually disappear within a few days, but the sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, and tiredness may continue for a week or more. In addition, the flu can sometimes cause vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

If you have only vomiting and diarrhea without the other flu symptoms, you probably have gastroenteritis. Though some kinds of gastroenteritis are known as "stomach flu," they're not the same as seasonal flu. Some gastrointestinal infections are caused by non-flu viruses or bacteria.

Although you may feel miserable if you get the flu, it's unlikely to be serious. It's rare that healthy teens have complications from the flu. Older adults (over age 65), young kids (under age 5), and people with chronic medical conditions are more likely to become seriously ill with the flu.

What to Do If the Flu Bugs You

If you get the flu, the best way to take care of yourself is to rest in bed and drink lots of liquids like water and other non-caffeinated drinks. Stay home from school until you feel better and your temperature has returned to normal.

Most people who get the flu get better on their own after the virus runs its course. But call your doctor if you have the flu and any of these things happen: you're getting worse instead of better, you have trouble breathing or develop other complications, such as a sinus infection, you have a medical condition (for example, diabetes, heart problems, asthma, or other lung problems)

Most teens can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with fever and aches. Don't take aspirin or any products that contain aspirin, though. If kids and teens take aspirin while they have the flu, it puts them at risk of developing Reye syndrome. Although Reye syndrome is rare, it can be serious.

Antibiotics don't work on viruses, so they won't help someone with the flu get better. Sometimes doctors can prescribe an antiviral medicine to reduce the length of time a person is ill from the flu.

These medicines are effective only against some types of flu virus and must be taken within 48 hours after flu symptoms appear. Doctors usually use this medicine for people who are very young, elderly, or ill or at risk for serious complications, like patients with asthma.

Vaccine to the Rescue?

So how do you avoid getting sick during flu outbreaks? Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Avoid sharing cups, utensils, or towels with others. If you do catch the flu, use tissues whenever you sneeze or cough to avoid spreading the virus.

Everyone older than 6 months should get a flu vaccine. Your doctor will probably recommend that you get one.

Flu vaccines are available as a shot or nasal mist. The shot contains killed flu viruses and the nasal mist contains weakened live flu viruses. Both of them will make your body create antibodies that fight off infection if you come into contact with the live flu virus. Because the nasal mist contains live viruses, it is only for healthy people between 2 and 49 years old. Pregnant women should not get the mist. And if you have an egg allergy, get your flu shot in a doctor's office, not at a supermarket, drugstore, or other venue.

Most people don't have reactions to a flu shot, although a few may notice a fever, sore muscles, and tiredness. With the nasal mist vaccine, some people develop a runny nose, headache, and low fever. The flu vaccine is usually given a few weeks before flu season begins to allow the body time to develop antibodies beforehand. But you can still get a flu vaccine even after flu season starts.

If you do get the flu this season, take care of yourself and call your doctor with any questions or concerns. When you're feeling bad, it can help to remember that the flu usually lasts a week or less and you'll be back to your normal activities before too long.

5 Ways to Fight the Flu

To avoid missing out on sports events, Halloween parties, Thanksgiving feasts, and holiday fun, follow these tips:

Get the flu vaccine. It's the best way to protect yourself against the flu. Hate shots? Most teens can get the flu vaccine as a nasal spray. Getting vaccinated doesn't just protect your own health. It also helps the people around you because there's less chance you'll catch the flu and pass it on.

Wash your hands often. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, hand washing is an important line of defense against germs like flu viruses. Why? The body takes about 2 weeks to build immunity after a flu vaccine — and even a vaccine isn't foolproof if a new strain of virus starts making the rounds.

Hand washing also helps protect against other germs and illnesses that there aren't vaccines for, like the common cold.

Wash your hands after using the bathroom; after coughing or sneezing; before putting in or removing contact lenses; before using makeup; and before eating, serving, or preparing food. The great thing about hand washing is it's easy protection. So get in the habit of washing your hands when you come home from school, the mall, a movie, or anywhere else where you're around a lot of people.

Keep your distance if someone is sick (coughing, sneezing, etc.). Flu viruses travel through the air, so try to stay away from people who look sick. Of course, people who have the flu virus don't always look sick. That's where vaccines and hand washing come in.

It's also a good idea to avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth — three places flu viruses can easily enter the body.

Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow — not into your hands. That way, you're not spreading the virus when you touch surfaces that other people may touch too.

Stay home if you have the flu. You don't want to pass your germs to someone else. Staying home is a great excuse to curl up and watch your favorite movie, play video games, or read. Rest can help the body recover faster.

You also can fight the flu on a daily basis by keeping your immune system strong. Some great immune boosters are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods (including five or more servings of fruits and veggies a day!), drinking plenty of fluids, and getting regular exercise.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD