Seasonal Allergies: April Showers Bring May Flowers…


By: Lorraine Burke, RN
Harbor Health Services, Inc.                     

Spring has finally sprung with colorful flowers, budding trees and green grass—a welcome change in season after the winter we have endured.

The weather change and new blossoms may be appreciated by most people, but those who suffer from spring seasonal allergies will be dealing with some annoying symptoms. In April and May the most common allergen is pollen from trees

Symptoms of seasonal spring allergies include:

  • Itchy nose
  • Sneezing and sniffing
  • Clear drainage from the nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery and pink or red eyes

Minimize your seasonal allergies symptoms by following these tips:

  • Minimize your outside exposure to pollen, especially on windy days.
  • Change your clothes after being outside when pollen levels are high of if you are experiencing bothersome symptoms.
  • Shower and shampoo hair to help wash off pollen.
  • Wash your face and eyelids with water after being outside to clean of pollen.
  • Keep windows in your house closed, especially if someone is mowing their lawn.

If the above measures do not help control your allergy symptoms, call your provider for advice. Depending on your child’s symptoms various treatments are available, such as:

  • Eye drops for itchy, red and swollen eyes.
  • Nasal spray or nasal washes.
  • Antihistamines, either over the counter or prescribed by your provider.

The Melanoma Education Foundation: A New Approach to Skin Cancer Awareness


By: Amanda Mastrangelo, MA
Harbor Health Services, Inc.



Spring has finally sprung, and we all know that means summer isn’t far behind. Along with these long-awaited temporal seasons we have wedding season, prom season, and beach season: cue the base tan! It’s no wonder May is so cleverly designated as Skin Cancer Awareness Month.  Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with more people having skin cancer than all other types of cancer combined. Over 86% of skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation (from the sun and/or tanning beds), which is why Skin Cancer Awareness Month has typically focused on prevention methods and advice like, “avoid the sun during peak times (10AM-4PM)”, “use sunscreen at all times”, and the oh-so-unrealistic adage of “don’t get a sunburn” – as if anyone does this on purpose!

While this is, of course, excellent advice, it does not address the almost 15% of skin cancers that are not caused by UV radiation. Risk factors such as family history, skin color and type, hair and eye color, and how many moles you have are not controllable or preventable. This is why the Melanoma Education Foundation, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, has taken a different approach to skin cancer awareness.

The Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) was founded in the year 2000 by Steve Fine, after he lost his son Daniel to melanoma at the age of 26. The foundation focuses on melanoma because despite accounting for less than 2% of skin cancer cases, melanoma is the second most common type of cancer in individuals aged 15-29, and is the most deadly. One of the most well-known facts about melanoma is that it is highly treatable and survivable if detected and treated early, before the cancer spreads to lymph nodes and other organs. This is why it is recommended to perform a complete self-skin exam once a month. MEF empowers young people to take control of their melanoma risk in a different way than advising them to stay out of the sun. MEF has designed free educational lesson plans and videos for health and wellness educators, with the goal of reaching young people and teaching them to check their skin for early warning signs of this deadly disease. The MEF-developed lesson, called The Melanoma Lesson, is taught in over 1300 schools in 48 states, and has saved lives by motivating both students and teachers to get something on their skin checked out. Their videos have twice won the Golden Triangle Award from the American Academy of Dermatology.

The Melanoma Education Foundation is passionate about spreading their message, and they are constantly working to identify schools and programs that would benefit from their lessons. In order to keep up their hard work, they hold an annual Calendar Raffle Fundraiser. During the month of July, there is a different prize offered for each day, and all raffle tickets sold stay in the raffle every day – even the winners! Prizes range from restaurant and grocery store gift cards, to a Tom Brady autographed football, to Red Sox Field Box tickets, to a Martha’s Vineyard weekend. Raffle tickets cost $5 each, $10 for 3, and $20 for 7. Contact Amanda at to purchase tickets by June 24th. Help The Melanoma Education Foundation continue to make a difference in so many lives. Read more about MEF and their story here; watch their video on how to perform a skin check, and learn more about their educational program offerings here.

The Race Goes to the Driven, Not the Swift

By: Sarah Simonelli, RN
Harbor Health Services, Inc.

Sarah Simonelli Mara

     This year will mark my 6th consecutive year running the Boston Marathon and my 2nd year running with the Music Drives Us Marathon Team.  It will also be my 8th Marathon overall. I am honored to be part of a wonderful foundation that helps put music programs and instruments back into some of our local communities and impoverished school systems. As a busy mother of four children, working two jobs and running a business, there is always one question I am most often asked about my running. “Where do I find the time”? It’s a great question. The answer is really very simple.

     I was fortunate enough to figure out early on in my quest for a healthy lifestyle, that time management and commitment would play an equal role in my success of balancing work, family, business and my love of running. One of the most common excuses that prevent most people from working out is simply they “don’t have the time”. Let’s put time into perspective. If you had a dollar and someone asked you for two cents, would you give it to them? Of course you would. Do you realize 30 minutes is only 2% of your day? Would you devote just 2% of your day breaking a sweat if you could improve your overall health? Exercise is known to increase your energy level, work productivity, as well as improving your balance, strength and coordination. Exercise also helps you sleep better, look younger, decreases risk of disease, reduces depression, and improves bone density. The list goes on! I can assure you, we all have 30 minutes to spare. Give yourself the two cents. Your body will thank you for it.

     Secondly, commitment is crucial to any exercise routine. Setting small goals will help you stay focused on achieving them. I would never advise someone to start out with lofty expectations on their fitness journey. Running a marathon isn’t for everyone, especially for those who are just beginning. Why not make a commitment to start out walking briskly for 30 minutes each day and build from there. You can always incorporate more time as your endurance improves. Consequently as you feel stronger, you can incorporate brisk walking combined with a few interchangeable minutes of jogging.  The plan is simply to make a goal, stick to it and achieve it. As you reach your goal, make the next one bigger and keep building.

     As spring race season closes in, consider signing up for a for a 5k race.  They are slightly over three miles long which makes them perfect to start your fitness goals. Also consider getting your friends or family involved. Additionally, most 5k races benefit a cause you may feel good about supporting too. In my racing experience, people who join races get just as much inspiration by watching and encouraging fellow participants to cross the finish line. We all start somewhere and most of us join races for the same fundamental reason, to reach a goal!

     As this year’s Boston Marathon approaches in April, I am in full training mode with the rest of my Music Drives Us teammates. The cold weather and endless barrage of snowy days has been a challenge to log the miles in preparation for the big day. Despite my hectic schedule, it is my goal to stay on track and make my children proud as I cross the finish line on Marathon Monday. Stay focused my friends, and remember your body achieves what the mind believes. Anything is possible!

 “We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse“- Rudyard Kipling


Physical Activity For Teens


By: Evan Woodford, Community HealthCorps
Harbor Health Services, Inc.

Did you know that the recommended amount of physical activity for teens is 60 minutes a day, for 7 days a week? While that may seem like a lot, but it can actually be very manageable. That is because physical activity is simply defined as “movement of the body that uses energy.” Therefore, it is not limited to traditional sports or the activities that come to mind when you hear the word “exercise”. Since those 60 minutes a day can be broken up into increments as short as 10 minutes at a time, suddenly it may not seem all that overwhelming. Anything that gets you up and using your body can be counted, as long as it is of a moderate intensity. But how can we tell if something is a “moderate-intensity” activity? Activity at this level will cause you to feel an elevated heart rate and increased breathing, but it would not make it any harder to talk. In contrast, a low-intensity activity will not require much effort or raise your heart rate or breathing, while a vigorous activity would cause you to breathe so hard it becomes difficult to talk.

If you were to explore the weekly recommendations for teens, you would soon discover that there are two categories of physical activity- either muscle strengthening or bone strengthening. Muscle strengthening includes activities such as pushups or resistance training, while activities like running and basketball can also count as bone strengthening because they promote bone growth. Specifically, the recommendation for teens is that they get three days of each type of activity in per week.

Just as a sort of reference, know that over the course of an hour sitting on the couch watching TV or playing video games, you will burn 60 calories. On the other hand, jogging for an hour will burn about 400 calories. These numbers will not be the same for each person because everyone has different bodies, but these numbers are good averages. These are the calories burned per hour of some physical activities you may not have thought about:

Cleaning the house- 207 calories

Playing drums- 236 calories

Mowing the lawn- 325 calories

Cooking or preparing food- 150 calories

Dancing- 350 calories

Fishing- 236 calories

Gardening- 295 calories

Hiking- 350 calories

Skateboarding- 295 calories

Walking- 210 calories

The important thing to remember is that getting 60 minutes a day of physical activity does not have to be an insurmountable task. Making small changes to daily life, such as walking instead of driving or taking the bus or using stairs instead of elevators, can begin to make positive differences in the way you feel.

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet


By: Royletta Romain, MEd, RD, LDN

Registered Dietitian, Dietary Supervisor

Elder Service Plan of Harbor Health Services, Inc.

  • Increase your fiber intake, up to 40 grams/day! (Use very high fiber cereal like All Bran Buds or Fiber One, whole grain bread, beans.)
  • Use low fat/no fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Add a Dark Green Leafy Vegetable and a Slice of Tomato to Your Sandwich
  • Use Hummus instead of Mayonnaise
  • Eat Breakfast (try Fiber One, fat free milk and blueberries)
  • Buy plain, fat-free yogurt and Add Fresh Fruit
  • Drink More Water
  • Drink Less Soda and Juice
  • Try Natural Peanut Butter with no added sugar or other fats
  • Read Food Labels
  • Eliminate Processed Food for an Entire Day