Picture of a dad and baby girl dancing

Get Moving With Your Family

Engaging your kids in a health-promoting lifestyle can be a fun way to enjoy time with your family!

The more you move, the better off you are! It doesn’t matter how wacky your antics, if you are moving and having fun, you’re getting in shape. It’s that simple.

Go on a treasure hunt

Here’s a great way to keep the family fit and teach your kids about trust, teamwork, and problem solving at the same time. Take them to a local park and set an expedition course on a map, circling various “checkpoints.” Take turns navigating to each point on the map and leading the team to each destination. Sound too complicated? Then merely go hunting for bugs, animals, or flowers. You can’t entertain a young kid much better than finding a colorful salamander under a log or rock.

Plan 10-minute spurts of activity

Follow spurts of activity with 5-minute rest periods. Don’t force your adult exercise program on your children. That’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, take advantage of their natural tendency to participate in intermittent and sporadic play and exercise bouts. A game of tag is a perfect example. Children’s bodies are designed to sprint and rest, sprint and rest. Because they are easily distracted and incapable of long periods of focused activity, they will resist long exercise sessions that don’t include rest periods.

Train for school fitness tests as a family

Learn which fitness tests or activities your child is doing in physical education class and train for them as a family. Set goals, such as running a quarter-mile and then a half and then a full mile in a certain amount of time — and reward each family member for meeting each goal.

Play follow the leader with one or more children

Line up single file and weave your way through the house or backyard. Every few steps, hop, skip, do the grapevine or some other movement that your followers must imitate. Once the kids get the hang of the game, let them take turns as leader. Their naturally creative minds will come up with all sorts of fun movements for the followers to imitate. You’ll be out of breath before you know it.

Give your child a head start — and race around the house

You can do the same with calisthenics. You do 10 crunches, and your child does 5. See who can complete them first.

Spend an hour doing yard work together

Raking leaves, pulling weeds, shoveling snow, and spreading out mulch all help to build strength and endurance. Plus, when your kids help, it doesn’t take as long or seem as much of a chore (depending on the age of the child, of course). There are numerous ways to make yard work more fun for kids. For instance, when you finish raking a pile of leaves, you get to jump in them.

Wash the car together

The scrubbing is good exercise, but everyone getting wet and soapy is just plain fun for kids.

Give your kids a list of indoor chores — then join them

Younger children often like to feel helpful and will enjoy helping you with household chores. Ask them to help you make the beds, fold the laundry and put it away, set the table, and put dishes in the dishwasher — all physical activities that can help get your heart rate up, stretch your body, and build your muscles.

Take a hike

Grab a backpack, plenty of water, and a light lunch and head to a local trail for a hiking expedition. Wear hiking boots for rocky terrain or sneakers for smoother trails, and pack sunscreen and insect repellent. To make this more fun for kids, make it about something else, such as looking for a particular animal or bird, climbing to see a lake or pond, or seeing how many rocks you can scamper over without touching the ground. Kids like hiking much better when they don’t realize it’s about hiking! Bring a picnic; of course, this is a great opportunity to share a delicious but healthful meal and cultivate good family eating habits.

Dance during commercial breaks

Make it a family rule that whenever you watch television, you have to stand up and dance around during the commercials. This goes for everyone! Whoever gets caught sitting on the couch during a commercial break must perform his or her least-liked household chore for one week.

How do you get moving with your family? Share your ideas in the comments.

Picture of mom hugging a daughter

Expert Q&A: How to Support Your Child’s Mental Health During the Pandemic

We sat down (virtually) with Dr. Saba Abaci, medical director for Safety Net Behavioral Health Children Services at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to learn some tips for how to best support a child’s mental health during the pandemic.

What are some signs parents want to look for to indicate their child may be struggling to cope with the pandemic?

(Dr. Abaci) I think it is important to look for any changes in regular daily activities, including some regressive or new behaviors, changes in appetite, motivation, energy, sleep issues, or mood shifts. Stress can cause changes in all these areas. A child’s age also plays an important role in how they can express their feelings. Sometimes engaging in some play time and activities like drawing can be very helpful tools to facilitate communication about thoughts and feelings.

What are some healthy ways for kids to cope with stress?

Depending on your child’s age, you could encourage your child to take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Instead, encourage your child to do other activities they enjoy, like spending time outdoors or playing a game. Connecting with friends and family can also help with feelings of stress. You can help your child to brainstorm ways to stay connected safely, such as through phone calls, video chats or mailing cards. Everyone is in an unusual situation right now, so it’s important for all of us to be intentional about caring for our mental health.

How can parents help their child build resilience during the pandemic?

There’s a lot that is outside of our control right now. But some things we can control are taking care of our health, including getting enough sleep, ensuring good nutrition, and being physically active. Keeping a consistent daily routine, when possible, can also help increase that sense of control. Helping children find ways to feel in control can improve resilience, which can improve mental health.

Any tips or approaches for dealing with kids who have mental barriers for doing certain types of schoolwork at home?

It can be frustrating and exhausting dealing with kids who have mental barriers for doing certain types of work. I think reassurance is very important for everyone. Children do well when there is a clear, consistent schedule. Making daily activity schedules ahead of time can be useful. Having some relaxing or fun activity before the child begins their assignments may put them at ease while still having the time set to begin the assignment. This also varies from child-to-child. I find it very helpful to work together on a list of the child’s wishes, goals and how they think they can achieve them.

How can families keep positive during a winter where we’ll likely be at home more than normal?

It will be important to plan ahead this year given our current environment and maintain good routines and social connections, which can be a mood booster during fall/winter months. Regular exercise, sleep, and good nutrition are all important for staying energized. It’s also important to be proactive about finding opportunities to connect with friends and loved ones, even if it’s in a virtual way. Get some natural light daily or keep the lights on during the evenings while engaging in hobbies can help when the nights feel so long.

How can parents find additional support to help their child?

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, a conversation with your child’s primary care provider is a good place to start. If you need help finding a primary care provider, visit ExcellusBCBS.com/FindaDoctor. Excellus BCBS members also have access to a 24/7 Nurse Call Line, which can provide support and education through specially trained registered nurses.

Any tips for getting an appointment with a mental health specialist?

Your child’s primary care provider can help with making a referral to a mental health specialist, if needed. Most mental health providers now offer telehealth, making it easier for patients to get care from the privacy of home, where they feel comfortable and can call at their convenience. Many Excellus BCBS members are also able to receive mental health services through MDLIVE® with the same provider on an ongoing basis.

For more tips on getting a specialist appointment, watch the video below.

The 24/7 Nurse Call Line is a service provided to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield members to support their relationship with their health care providers. The information provided is intended to help educate members, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you are experiencing severe symptoms such as sharp pains, fever, loss of bodily function control, vomiting or any other immediate medical concern, dial 9-1-1 or contact a physician directly.

Picture of a dad helping child with homework

Top 6 Tricks for Managing Kids, School, and Work

Since March, many of us have adopted the role of stay-at-home parent and teacher, as well as full-time employee. As we’re starting a new school year that undoubtedly looks different from years past, we asked Excellus BlueCross BlueShield employees to share how they are managing.

Here are our top six tricks for trying to manage kids, school, and work. Balancing all of this is a very hard task – but we hope these ideas help in some small way.

1. Plan

As a family, take some time to sit together at the beginning of every week or every day to coordinate work and school schedules. This will help everyone agree on who is doing what and when. The Meyers family starts most days with a family “meeting” to get on the same page. “I set up ‘Meyers Family Huddles’ with my two elementary-age daughters,” said Angie Meyers of Monroe County. “The girls didn’t know I was being that intentional with these huddles, it was just ‘talking with mom about our day.’ We would talk about their schoolwork for the day and what times I would be available to ask for help if they needed it.”

You may also need to be more stringent about your work schedule. That approach has helped the Auch family. “I started to be pretty strict about my calendar,” said Joy Auch of Ontario County. “I rarely accept meeting invitations during the lunch hour because I’m feeding my kids and I try to minimize meetings during the times my kids are neediest, like in the early afternoon. There are a lot of meetings, but I’m no longer booked solid all day long, which has helped tremendously.”

2. Use Signs

After your “family huddle”, let everyone in your house know the schedule for the day using signs, notes, or a whiteboard. Showing the times when you will be in a meeting can help kids to be more mindful about interrupting (or maybe encourage them to knock first). “My trick is the dry erase board with what’s for lunch, dinner, and when I have meetings,” said Olivia Linke of Niagara County.

Picture of a whiteboard with family schedule

Olivia Linke’s whiteboard

3. Ask for Help

It can be overwhelming to try and manage everything by yourself. Ask relatives or neighbors for help. Our neighbor has a son the same age as our youngest (age 11). We get them together to play throughout the day and coordinate alternating working outside to watch them. Or, consider reaching out to a coworker or your manager to ask about options for more flexibility. You may have options that will help your work schedule better accommodate family priorities.

4. Enjoy Sleep… (at least theirs)

If your kids take naps or sleep in, let them! Take advantage of the early mornings or nap time to make time for work or exercise. That has helped Megan Schmidt of Chemung County manage work and her family of five. “With three kids (ages 3, 5 and 8), it has been a real challenge,” said Megan. “I try to still get up early, get a workout in and log on my computer by 6:45-7:00 so that I can get two solid hours of uninterrupted time before they are awake.”

5. Let the kids help you

Whether it is “working” beside you or helping to cook dinner, involve the kids. You might be surprised by what they can do! “My kids have been interested in my work lately, so when I can, I have them help,” said Kelsey Gratien of Erie County. “They love selecting colors or clip art pictures for PowerPoint slides. Then I’m able to explain what I’m working on and they listen. They now have a better understanding of what I do, and they are more receptive when I say, ‘Mom needs you to be quiet for an hour while she presents the report you helped with.’”

 6. Enjoy Each Other

While juggling work, family, and school is challenging, find moments of the day to enjoy being together. “My kids are not used to me being home so much,” said Olivia Linke. “We have been able to have many more family dinners and family time since I am not traveling for work.”

Mother helping child do homework

Time To Catch Up On Your Kids’ Annual Physicals

Whether your kids are back in the classroom this fall or online learning from home, now is the time to reconnect with your child’s pediatrician to catch up on annual physicals and immunizations you may have postponed because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Children ages two to 21 years old should have an annual physical to ensure they are growing and developing normally.

Most health plans must cover a set of preventive health services for children at no cost. This includes Marketplace and Medicaid coverage. (Note: These services are free only when delivered by a doctor or other provider in the plan’s network.  https://www.healthcare.gov/preventive-care-children/).

“During a preventive visit or annual physical exam, your child’s growth will be tracked and monitored,” said Nicholas Massa, MD, pediatrician and medical director at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “The pediatrician will also ensure that immunizations are up to date, including for whooping cough, rotavirus, measles, and the flu.”

Childhood immunizations protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. Children who aren’t current with their immunizations are at increased risk of catching diseases and spreading them to others.

Help Your Child Breathe Easy

Asthma is one of the most common long-term diseases among children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An annual physical provides an opportunity to review and update a child’s asthma action plan (or asthma management plan), which is a written plan developed in conjunction with the child’s doctor. The plan details the child’s daily treatment, such as what kind of medicines to take, when to take them, and when to call the doctor or go to the emergency room.

“A review of claims data shows an annual spike in the number of children’s asthma-related medical visits, asthma attacks and hospitalizations from late August through late September,” said Massa. He advises all adults who care for a child who has asthma to have a copy of the child’s asthma action plan, including teachers, caregivers, and even parents of their friends. To learn more about how to keep children with asthma healthy, click to view “6 Steps For Controlling Your Child’s Asthma,” a free, downloadable poster from Excellus BCBS.

Annual physicals also provide an opportunity for your child’s pediatrician to look for signs of depression, lead exposure, or issues with hearing and vision.

The Doctor Will See You Now

Medical practices have made modifications to keep you and your child safe during your visit due to COVID-19. When you call your child’s pediatrician, you will be given updated protocols and instructions about how to proceed with scheduled appointments.

“With medical practices again welcoming patients for in-office visits, it is time to reconnect with your child’s pediatrician,” said Massa. “While many parents schedule their well child visits during the summer months when the kids are on summer break, remember that obtaining clearance for an upcoming sport is only one of many important parts of a yearly preventive visit or annual physical exam. And it can be done anytime during the year.”

For more information and resources to help you reconnect with your provider, visit ExcellusBCBS.com/reconnect.

Picture of someone spraying chemicals

The Dangers of Mixing Chemical Cleaners

Mixing chemicals of any kind is very dangerous. Sometimes chemicals are stored in an unmarked bottle or placed in a bottle with different labeling. Never use any chemical that you are not absolutely sure of its origin.

Mixing bleach with ammonia or any acid (drain cleaners, vinegar, glass cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, etc.) can create toxic fumes that can be harmful or fatal.

Particularly Dangerous Chemical Combinations:

  • Bleach + vinegar = chlorine gas. This can lead to coughing, breathing problems, burning and watery eyes. Chlorine gas and water also combine to make hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids. Furthermore, chlorine gas has been used as a chemical warfare agent, so it’s not something you want to be producing and inhaling in your home. Chlorine attacks the skin, mucous membranes, and respiratory system. At best, it will make you cough and irritate your eyes, nose, and mouth. It can also give you a chemical burn. At worst, it could be deadly if you are exposed to a high concentration or are unable to get to fresh air.
  • Bleach + ammonia = chloramine. This can cause shortness of breath and chest pain. Chloramine burns your eyes and respiratory system and can lead to internal organ damage. If there is enough ammonia in the mixture, hydrazine may be produced. Hydrazine is not only toxic but also potentially explosive. The best-case scenario is discomfort; the worst-case scenario is death.
  • Bleach + rubbing alcohol = chloroform. This is highly toxic. Breathing enough chloroform will knock you out, which will make you unable to move to fresh air. Breathing too much can kill you. Hydrochloric acid can give you a chemical burn. The chemicals can cause organ damage and lead to cancer and other diseases later in life.
  • Hydrogen peroxide + vinegar = peracetic/peroxyacetic acid. This can be highly corrosive. Peracetic acid can irritate your eyes and nose and may give you a chemical burn. ​

Safe Storage

Safely store chemicals in their original containers. Furthermore, if you have children, keep chemicals in cabinets with child-resistant locks or up, away, and out-of-sight of children. In addition to household cleaners, practice safe storage habits with the following items:

  • Medications
  • Alcohol
  • Laundry supplies
  • Insect repellents
  • Batteries
  • Oils or lubricants including tiki torch oil and engine oil
  • Personal care products like hand sanitizers

Immediately contact 9-1-1 if you experience any adverse or potential life-threatening reaction to cleaning supplies.

Poison Control can also provide assistance if you swallow or get splashed by something that may be harmful at 1-800-222-1222.


Picture of a boy in a box

My Happy Place: Organization

Each time I have felt anxious, stressed or just overwhelmed, the answer is a messy drawer or closet away. Organization is my happy place. I have always found solace in making my home less cluttered and more controlled.

During the past few months of social distancing and working from home while educating my seven kids – I say that very loosely – organization has been a go-to for me. Everyone’s coping strategy is different. But for me, whenever the world outside feels out of control, I turn inward. My small, at-home projects don’t cost a dime and they also keep my mind busy. As a type-A planner, this all helps me feel better by knowing things are in order.

Cleaning Clutter for a Clear Mind

I am glad to find I am not alone. Many of my co-workers and friends have shared that they have also found this time has helped them get that much overdue yard work done, refrigerators cleaned out from years (yes, years) of unused condiments, or finally sort through that tall stack of unread mail.

Just this past weekend, I tackled a closet that had clothes bursting out of it, with things that my husband hadn’t worn since he was in his 20’s… he is now 42. Putting on some fun tunes – my go to is “Alexa, play Justin Timberlake” – and getting to work was the best mind-clearing activity I could ask for as the snow was falling outside in May. *Heavy sigh*

Picture of a before and after of a messy closet organization project

Before and After pictures of Aida’s closet project (photo courtesy of Aida Byrne)

The reward was that my mind was clear after a few hours of organization; his closet looked fabulous, if I don’t say so myself, and it turned out to be a family activity as my kids helped me fold jeans, stack shoes, and fill bags with those Hawaiian shirts to donate.

What can organization do for you?

Studies have shown that our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior. Working in or living in an unorganized space can negatively impact our stress and anxiety levels, both at work and at home.

A 2009 study of mothers in the U.S. found that mothers who said their home environment was cluttered experienced higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Another study found that individuals who felt overwhelmed by their “stuff” were more likely to procrastinate. Other researchers found that disorganization can trigger coping and avoidance strategies like watching too much TV or binge-eating a pint of ice cream.

On the other hand, according to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing, getting organized may help:

  1. Boost your energy
  2. Lead to better eating habits
  3. Improve your sleep habits
  4. Reduce stress and make us happier

Start Small

“If getting started feels overwhelming, choose one small project, such as a drawer that annoys you every time you open it,” said Amanda Shanahan, RD, Employee Wellbeing Manager, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Or make a list of potential projects and prioritize them by time, cost, necessity or benefit. This can help to organize your organization.”

There is also practicality in home organization. When spaces are organized, less time is spent searching for things like that favorite black sweater or keys to the car. Your kids may be more likely to grab a healthy snack if there is a well-stocked snack bin or an organized refrigerator that displays some healthy options.

“Creating an environment which supports making healthy choices easy is key to maintaining good mental and physical health,” Amanda said.

What works for you?

Home organization may not be a coping strategy for everyone. There are many activities that can help you the way this helps me, such as exercise, gardening or reading. Find an activity that brings you to a happy place.

For me, there is plenty still to do in a home where nine people live. I’m already looking forward to the weekend, taking a deep breath, and thinking of what I can tackle next.

What is your happy place? Tell us in the comments how you keep busy at home.

Picture of a boy flying a kite in a park

Foster Care: A Rewarding Journey

Growing up as one of six kids, Sandra Smith of Chenango County always knew she wanted to be a mother.

“I’d always pictured that coming to me in the same way it did for everyone else. I believed I would fall in love, get married, get pregnant, and be able to care for my child right from birth,” she stated.

That’s not how it happened for Sandra.

A Rewarding Journey

Her first child was conceived through in vitro fertilization. After that, Sandra and her husband unsuccessfully tried again to get pregnant. Knowing that they still had a whole lot of love and stability to give, they decided to try adopting a child through foster care.

Embarking on the process of becoming foster parents meant extensive background checks, months of classes and plenty of home visits. Sandra said the whole thing was long and arduous, but so worth it in the end.

Sandra and her husband fostered a little girl who was placed in their home when she was 10 months old. Eight months later, they were able to proceed with the adoption. “Amy is now a happy, healthy and fun-filled 10-year-old little girl, and she certainly completed our family,” Sandra added.

Consistent, Quality Health Care

Today, approximately 16,000 children in New York state are in the foster care system and waiting for homes. Foster parents are special people; they open their homes and hearts to children who cannot continue to live safely with their biological families.

Studies show that children in the foster care system do better when their health is closely monitored during the various transitions and psychosocial stressors they may experience.

Amy Houghton, with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, understands the importance of consistent, coordinated health care for children in the foster care system. Amy leads the Excellus BCBS Foster Care team that works to enroll foster care children into health insurance plans and coordinate their care to make sure they have consistent access to necessary social, community, medical and behavioral health services. The Foster Care Team works with other service providers in the community to advocate for children in foster care and ensure that they are receiving high quality care.

“I am proud of our dedicated staff and their commitment to helping this population live healthier and more secure lives through access to quality health care and services,” said Amy.

To learn more about foster care, visit:

Picture of a woman sitting on her porch with her two sons

A Happy Medium: Our Family’s New Habits in These Unprecedented Times

They say it takes roughly 21 days to create a habit. As I write this, my kids and I are on day 40 of staying home from work and school—just like everyone else—to keep ourselves and those around us safe.

I admit, I was one of those parents who had grand plans of creating a routine, a “new habit” if you will, that we would stick to. Everyone wakes up by a certain time, meals on a schedule, set times for schoolwork and my work, and time for exercise (after all, the excuse that there’s no time doesn’t really apply anymore!).

Life on “Corona-cation” Time

Well, “corona-cation” as my son repeatedly refers to this unusual time, seems to dictate our new habits. Make no mistake, my teenage boys and I know EXACTLY how serious this is and there’s no making light of what we’re all being asked to do. They haven’t seen their friends since in-person school ended on March 13, and they’re discovering that even though they don’t always like each other, they’re lucky they have each other to ride bikes with and to walk the dog.

Picture of Deanna and her two children

Deanna and the boys (photo courtesy of Deanna Vincent)

But because they don’t see their friends in person, the only place they interact with them is, you guessed it, in the gaming world. So, the routine I had hoped to adopt hasn’t panned out. My teenagers are “living their best life” right now. They’re in bed until around noon, they get up to eat (and eat and eat), do homework, get outside for a little while if it’s nice out, then game with their friends until long after I’ve gone to bed.

“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits” – Mark Twain

My “new-normal” schedule? Well, it’s not much better. I’ve seen the jokes on Facebook; “don’t forget to change out of your daytime pajamas and into your nighttime pajamas before you go to bed!”  Ha. Ha. The only comfort is knowing if it’s being shared on Facebook, I can’t possibly be the only one living like this.

Overall, even though there’s no routine or habits forming at my house, everything is running smoothly, so why worry? I’m still able to focus on my work and the boys are getting things done. In fact, I haven’t had to pay much attention to their schoolwork at all, and assumed all was well.

Until I received an email from a teacher. Then another, then a third, followed by a phone call from the assistant principal. What the…?  That’s when I realized it was time to start “mom-ing” again and get my house back in order.

Meeting in the Middle-ish

The first step was to find a happy medium. It’s not realistic for me to be the mom who has a set schedule for everything—right down to when to do the laundry. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not me. I’ve always been more of a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” kind of mom.

So instead of set times, we have timeframes. I’m all about the “ish”—9-ish, 10-ish, noon-ish. So that’s the clock we live by right now.

  • For the boys, there’s no more sleeping until noon (or later), regardless of what time they went to bed. Ten (-ish) is their wake-up call. I’m also being much more vigilant about checking the school’s parent portal for missing assignments. This really matters now since our school isn’t grading students anymore. You pass or fail based on completion of the work.
  • Both boys are still engaged in some of their extracurricular activities (Boy Scouts and music). My oldest is “this close” to his Eagle Scout project, and my youngest is a decent drummer. Having set times for lessons and meetings has restored shred of normalcy for them, which helps with our schedule.
  • They also share dog-walking duty and general playtime with our pup. Somedays, it’s the only exercise they all get, but at least it’s something.

Making the Most of It

I personally have some new-found habits that have formed as well.

  • I walk. A LOT. It’s the part of the day I most look forward to. I’ve experimented with different routes and I’m up to over four miles a day. It provides the mental break I need and physical movement that has been sorely lacking (if my back is any indication). This truly is the highpoint of my day.
  • Dinners at home are a thing again. Both boys play winter sports so from October through February I am on the go, as is dinner. With all of us home every day, dinner together at the kitchen table every night with home-cooked meals has been a great bonding time for us. Even though we’re all in the same house, we’re all usually on different floors. Believe it or not, we come together for dinner and have something to talk about.
  • When it isn’t a home-cooked meal (I think I’ve made more meals in six weeks than all last year—a girl needs a break!), it’s takeout from one of our favorite establishments, and sometimes from a new place we’ve been wanting to try. We want these places to be open for when we can dine out again someday so supporting local businesses has been great.

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These are unprecedented times that we’re all living in right now. There’s no manual or instruction book on how to do it or do it right. The best habit we can all embrace is being generous with the gift of grace, for ourselves and for those we live with. After all, tomorrow is a new day for many of us, which makes us the lucky ones. And when this is all over, that really is all that will matter.

World Asthma Day

May 5, 2020 is World Asthma Day, when the National Institutes of Health stands with patients, families, advocates, researchers, and health care professionals to raise awareness about this common chronic respiratory disease, the people it affects, and the biomedical research that improves its prevention and treatment.

Like The “Feeling of Drowning”

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. It is a major contributing factor to missed time from school and work, with severe attacks requiring emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Sometimes these asthma attacks can be fatal.

“During an asthma attack, airways become swollen and inflamed, and the muscles around the airways contract and the airways produce extra mucus, causing bronchial tubes to narrow,” said Lisa Y. Harris, MD, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield vice president and chief medical officer. “Some sufferers liken an asthma attack to the feeling of drowning because it is extremely difficult to breathe.” Mild asthma attacks may last only a few minutes; more severe episodes can last from hours to days and become a life-threatening emergency.

Nearly 13 percent of upstate New York children younger than age 18 are affected by asthma.

Complete an Asthma Action Plan

“World Asthma Day is a great reminder for parents to consult with their pediatrician to develop or update their child’s asthma action or management plan,” said Harris.

Asthma action plans indicate a child’s daily treatment, including which medicines to take and when to take them. It also explains how to identify when asthma symptoms are severe enough to contact the child’s pediatrician or to take the child to urgent care or a hospital emergency room. All adults and schools who care for a child with asthma should have a copy of the child’s asthma action plan and understand their responsibilities regarding the child’s care.

Six steps to controlling your child’s asthma:

  1. Check in regularly with your child’s doctor to make sure medications are working and available at home, at school, or wherever your child will be.
  2. Make sure your child takes all asthma medications as directed.
  3. Alert the adults in your child’s life about their asthma, including details about triggers and signs of an asthma attack. That includes alerting school staff, scout leaders, Sunday school teachers, their friends’ parents, etc.
  4. Teach your child to recognize their asthma triggers and warning signs.
  5. Reduce asthma triggers at home by washing bedding with hot water once a week and using allergy-proof covers on mattresses and pillows.
  6. Prevent the spread of germs by encouraging proper hand-washing by the entire family and making sure that every family member age 6 months and older receives a yearly flu shot.

A free, downloadable poster, “Breathe Easy: 6 Steps for Controlling Your Child’s Asthma” is available from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield by clicking HERE.

An older couple sitting on the floor of a room they just painted.

Get A Hobby!

Since Saturday, March 21, 2020 – and every weekend thereafter – Rick Nangreave, of Monroe County, has been painting. He’s painted his finished basement (his office), the mudroom, kitchen, downstairs hallway, upstairs hallway, staircase, laundry room, living room, and dining room.  All that is left is his wife’s office and two bedrooms.

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But why this sudden urge to push up his sleeves, get the rollers, brushes and drop clothes out, and, well, paint?

“For me, I find it very relaxing, rewarding, and therapeutic… it’s something I truly enjoy doing,” he says.

Rick, who didn’t want to sit idle, wanted to keep his mind active, and needed a distraction. By painting in his off hours, Rick is doing what so many have discovered is a healthy way to pass the time while practicing social distancing.

“Hobbies, an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure, are for everyone, not just those who live relaxed and leisurely lives,” says Amanda Shanahan, RD, Employee Wellbeing Manager, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “In fact, those that live stressful, busy lives may benefit even more from hobbies than those living quieter lives.”


Good health is more than the physical. The social, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual parts of your life also play a factor in maintaining good health, Amanda says. Hobbies can help you develop these areas of your life. They allow for you to be creative. A hobby can provide a time to take your mind off your stressors and engross yourself in an activity that offers pure enjoyment.

And that is exactly the case for Rick, who explains “when I paint, I typically have my headset on, and I get into the zone. I often wonder if it’s like a runner’s high?”

How do you choose a hobby?

For Rick, painting was an obvious choice because it was something he learned from his father.

“My dad was a shipfitter in the Navy during World War II and after serving our country, he became a carpenter and had skills and talent to basically do anything when it came to home improvement.  He was that all around handyman. He could build, remodel, electrical, plumbing, and yes, paint,” he says.

A New Sense of Balance

On the other hand, a hobby can be a reason to try something new. That’s how Emily Field has approached her new hobby: the unicycle. Sharon Field, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Wellness Specialist and Emily’s mom, said the hobby is a new one that Emily had no experience or real knowledge of, but was simply interested in learning.

“Emily is a competitive gymnast who was looking to stay active with balance, and this is one of the ways she chose to do it,” Sharon says. So, Emily gave a new hobby a try. And try she did. Watch Emily practicing the unicycle in the video below.

Ready. Set. Pick a hobby!

If you’re not sure about your passion, here’s how you can get started:

  • Think about your childhood. Is there something you liked to do in the past that you want to revisit?
  • Look around your house. Maybe there are hobbies you started but had to put aside for a while. Do you have a musical instrument or crochet needles that have gotten tucked away? Is there a piece of furniture you’ve been looking at for years thinking “I really want to have that refinished”?
  • Know yourself. If you don’t like to sit or have patience, quilting might not be for you.

What’s next?

  • Make and find time. You may not have hours in your day to spare, but you may have more than you think. Could the time you spend at night watching TV or surfing the net be time to spend on a hobby?
  • Start small. Don’t feel that you must start by spending oodles of time or money when you start.
  • Join a club or group online. This is a way to meet people with a similar interest. You may also gain some great tips on furthering your interest.

It may take some time and several tries before you find your true passion.  Talk to friends and co-workers or do a few web searches.  The possibilities are endless.

As for Rick and Emily’s advice, both suggested that you find your passion and immerse yourself into it – and just have fun!

Share Your Hobby!

Do you have a new hobby? Share your hobby in the comments section below.