Tips for Gathering Safely this Holiday Season

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Whether you plan to get on a plane to visit extended family for Thanksgiving, spend time with friends and family for Christmas, or throw a New Year’s Eve party at home, many of us are preparing to gather with the people we love this holiday season.

While it might feel safer to gather this year, it doesn’t mean we should party like it’s 2016. As the weather gets colder and people are more frequently gathering indoors for dinners and holiday parties, respiratory viruses have ample opportunity to spread. It’s not just COVID-19 that you need to think about. Cases of cold/flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are already increasing and beginning to strain the healthcare system. This evidence suggests we should all consider approaching the holidays with cautious optimism.

Being cautious doesn’t mean we can’t plan for safe gatherings with friends, family, and loved ones. “People can celebrate the holidays safely, provided they take precautions and use available resources like vaccines, boosters, COVID-19 tests, and take extra care not to be around others when experiencing any symptoms,” says Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit County Public Health Officer. “We have the tools. We just have to use them.”

Here are some ways to mitigate risk without missing out this holiday season.

Get the updated COVID-19 booster and seasonal flu vaccines.
One of the best and safest ways to protect yourself and others is to stay up to date on your vaccines. This includes receiving the seasonal flu vaccine and the new COVID-19 bivalent booster specifically designed to provide broad protection against the original COVID-19 virus and now dominant Omicron variants. Experts recommend that everyone five years and older receive the updated COVID-19 booster as long as it has been two months since their last dose. Even if you have already been infected with COVID-19 it is important to get a booster dose. Regarding the seasonal flu vaccine, everyone six months and older should receive it each season.

Skagit County Public Health provides COVID-19 vaccines at no cost and no insurance is required. Protect yourself and your loved ones by scheduling an appointment at www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine or by calling (360) 416-1500. To find season flu vaccine providers near you, visit www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines.

Stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, or RSV.
Pay attention to symptoms in the days leading up to an event or gathering. A sore throat, runny nose, cough, fatigue, fever, and headache are all signs of respiratory illness, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV. The guidance is clear and remains the same as it has for quite some time – stay home if you have symptoms or aren’t feeling well – even if you’re negative on a COVID-19 rapid test. Respiratory viruses can have severe consequences for young children, pregnant people, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised.

Remember, it is still possible to have an asymptomatic case of COVID-19. You can spread the virus even if you do not have symptoms, so let’s review the recommendations about testing before gathering.

Test for COVID-19.
Testing is another great tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. The question isn’t whether or not to test but when. Whether you are taking a PCR test at a clinic, or an at-home antigen test, experts say it is best to test the day before the event or gathering and also right before. If you have symptoms or were recently exposed to COVID-19, interpret a negative at-home test with caution and stay home. 

Consider taking extra precautions leading up to your gathering.
For an added layer of protection, you may want to take extra precautions the week before your gathering. This might include wearing a mask in public spaces and limiting your time spent with people outside your household.

Mask up while you travel.
Although it is no longer required, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age two and older wear a high-quality mask in indoor areas of public transportation and transportation hubs. Whether you’re taking a plane, bus, train, or waiting at a terminal to board, consider wearing a well-fitting mask.

Ventilate your space.
If it isn’t reasonable to gather or hold your event outside, increase air circulation to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Opening the windows just an inch or two brings fresh air in and improves airflow. You can also purchase a portable air purifier or make a less expensive DIY option. If your space has central heating or an HVAC system, setting the fan to the “on” position rather than “auto” allows the fan to run continuously, which also helps reduce virus transmission.

Think about others and protect the most vulnerable.
Though staying up to date with vaccines (including the seasonal flu shot) is the best way to protect people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for complications from infection, there are additional prevention actions to take to protect the most vulnerable. Testing, masking, asking others to minimize community contacts the week before gathering, improving ventilation, and making sure people stay home if sick, are all important strategies to consider if you plan to gather with individuals with a higher risk of serious illness. And don’t forget that good old-fashioned handwashing and covering your coughs and sneezes also help prevent the spread of all kinds of germs and viruses.

“Don’t be the turkey who brings COVID to the table or the Grinch who steals Christmas from a loved one!” says Dr. Leibrand, Skagit County Public Health Officer.

Despite us all feeling eager to get back to “normal”, we’ve come this far doing what we can to keep each other safe – let’s keep it going! Thank you for helping protect one another and doing what you can to steer clear of COVID-19, flu, and RSV. We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season!


Firework Safety Tips for Fourth of July

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Fourth of July is just around the corner and already next week which means fireworks and family fun! Although fireworks are fun, they can be very dangerous causing fires and deadly injuries. According to the National Safety Council, due to fireworks an average of 18,500 fires happen each year and about 200 people in the month of July go the emergency room everyday due to firework- related injuries. These injuries range from head, face, ear, arm, leg, hand, or finger and 34% occur to people between ages 24-44. Although, children aged 5-9 are more than twice as likely as other age groups to be injured by fireworks.

To keep yourself, friends and loved ones safe this holiday continue reading for some firework safety tips.

Tips to Celebrate Safely

  • Make sure to purchase legal fireworks from your area and labeled for consumer use.
  • Never leave young children alone with fireworks or to handle on their own, this includes sparklers.
  • Safer options for children are glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.
  • Always keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby, in case of a fire.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Do not use fireworks while being impaired by drugs or on alcohol.
  • If using fireworks or nearby, consider using protective eye wear.
  • Light fireworks one at a time and make sure to move as quickly as possible after lighting.
  • Do not relight or use a malfunctioning firework. To discard, soak them in water and throw them away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks including sparklers towards no one.  

For more resources visit:

Fireworks | CPSC.gov

Fireworks Safety Tips – National Safety Council (nsc.org)

Summer fire safety outreach materials (fema.gov)


Are you Wildfire Smoke ready!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yesterday was officially the first day of summer! This means nice warm weather, but also possible wildfires. Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas like forests, grasslands, or prairies. These dangerous fires spread quickly and devastate not only wildlife and natural areas, but also communities.

Wildfire smoke is a major threat to public health. Smoke from wildfires can cause wheezing, coughing, heart and lung disease, and even death. Wildfire smoke is also the largest source of particle pollution in Washington.

Here are some ways that you and your family can prepare for and stay safe during a wildfire. Below you will also find information about what to do following the aftermath of a wildfire in your community.

Prepare for Wildfires

  • Have several ways to receive alerts so you don’t miss anything important. Sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert. Also sign up for CodeRED or download the FEMA app and receive alerts from the National Weather Service.
  • Look out for air quality alerts. To check your air quality visit AirNow.gov
  • Make an emergency plan. Make sure everyone in the household knows what to do if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Know your evacuation zone.
  • Have a communications plan, and make sure everyone in your household knows it.
  • Have an emergency go bag ready for you, household members and pets. For a checklist visit Build A Kit | Ready.gov
  • Review important documents. Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents  are up to date. Create copies and keep them in your go bag!

Stay Safe During a Wildfire

  • Evacuate as soon as authorities tell you to.
  • Pay attention to emergency alerts for information.
  • Call 911 if you’re trapped and give your location.
  • Use an N95 mask to protect you from smoke inhalation.

Returning Home After a Wildfire

  • Do not return home until authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Look out for hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers.
  • Wear protective clothing when doing any cleaning.
  • Document property damage with photographs.
  • Reach out to family to check if they are OK or to let them know you are.

Helpful Resources:

The Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) offers resources on how to protect yourself and others during wildfire smoke events. See their website’s Wildfire Smoke Information page: https://bit.ly/3wgdcEM. For NWCAA monitors and related air quality information: https://bit.ly/3lXahMq.

For information on low-cost air sensors and a map showing local sensors: https://bit.ly/3iWcwxM.

Wildfires | Ready.gov

May 2 2022: Wildfires and Smoke | AirNow.gov

Wildfire smoke – Washington State Department of Ecology

Smoke From Wildfires – Toolkit | Washington State Department of Health



Don’t Fry Day: Sun Safety!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Imagine yourself in ten years from now. How do you look? How’s your skin? What if you were told that you had skin cancer? Most of us do not think about how important our skin is and how crucial it is for us to take care of it every day.  

Although we have not had much sunshine this spring, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day” to share awareness and remind everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors as the summer gets closer.  

Keep reading for some tips on how you and your family can prevent skin cancer and long-term skin damage.  

Sun Safety Tips:  

  1. Do not burn or tan 
  • Avoid intentional tanning and tanning beds. 
  1. Seek Shade 
  • When it’s very hot out, sit under a tree or other shade structure. Use an umbrella when at the beach. 
  • Sun rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
  1. Wear protective clothing  
  • Use long sleeve shirts and pants 
  • Wide brimmed hat and sunglasses 
  1. Apply Sunscreen throughout your day 
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher for protection from harmful ultraviolet A and B radiation.  
  • Budget friendly and clean sunscreens: CeraVe sunscreen, Neutrogena sunscreens, Derma e sunscreen, etc. To check if your sunscreen contains any harmful ingredients visit: Best Recreational Sunscreens | EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens 
  • Apply 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.  
  1. Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand 
  • These surfaces can be very harmful and reflect the damaging rays of the sun leaving you with a possible sunburn.  
  1. Get vitamin D safely 
  • Take vitamin supplements 
  • Incorporate in your healthy diet.  

What is Melanoma? 

Melanoma is a skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body and causes over 9,000 deaths every year. People who die of melanoma lose an average of 20 years of life expectancy. Melanoma can be caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sun or sources such as indoor tanning.  

Why Is it important? 

Skin Cancer is one of the most common diagnosed cancers in the United States. Too much sun exposure can age your skin, lead to skin cancer, weaken, or suppress your immune system.  

According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, more than 1 million Americans are living with melanoma. Early detection of melanoma can save your life. Without additional prevention efforts, cases of melanoma will continue to increase in the next 15 years.  

You can detect it early by carefully examining all your skin once a month and visit your doctor if you notice a new or changing spot on your skin. For more helpful tips, visit How to Spot Skin Cancer

Please visit the sources for more information:  

Don’t Fry Day : National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention 

Healthy Skin  |  American Skin Association 

Best Recreational Sunscreens | EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens 

How to Spot Skin Cancer 

Preventing Melanoma | VitalSigns | CDC 


The importance of HPV Vaccination

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Did you know HPV is a common virus that can cause certain cancers later in life? According to CDC, more than 42 million American are currently infected with HPV types that cause disease and about 13 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year.  

What is HPV?  

HPV, also known as Human Papillomavirus, is a common virus that can cause cancers later in life. It is one of the most common sexual transmitted infections (STIs). HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by sexual contact with someone who has the virus, even if they do not have signs or symptoms.  

Who should get vaccinated? 

Children ages 11-12 years should get two doses of HPV vaccine, given 6 to 12 months apart, but HPV vaccines can be given as early as age 9 years. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about getting the HPV vaccine to prevent HPV infections. The vaccine is available for all people—male or female.  

It is recommended that everyone through age 26 should get the HPV vaccine. Adults between ages 27 and 45 years old who were not already vaccinated might still be able to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their medical provider about their risks for new HPV infections. The HPV vaccine for adults provides less benefit because most people in this age range have already been exposed to HPV at some point.  

Why is vaccination important?  

You can protect your child from certain cancers later in life with the HPV vaccine. The earlier the better! It can protect your child long before they ever have contact with the virus. 

HPV infections can cause certain cancers in both men and women. Some of those are cervix, vagina and vulva cancer in women and penis cancer in men. Both men and women can also get anus and back-of-the-throat cancer. Cancer usually takes years, even decades, to be detected after a person is infected with HPV.  

Are HPV vaccines safe and effective? 

The HPV vaccine can prevent over 90% of cancers caused by this virus and work best when given at age 11-12 years, before contact with the HPV virus.  

HPV vaccination is safe! More than 135 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed throughout the states since they were licensed. Also, 15 years of monitoring have shown that HPV vaccines are very safe and effective in protecting against the HPV types targeted by the vaccine. For more information about HPV vaccination please visit, HPV Vaccine Safety | CDC.  

For more resources please visit: 

https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/index.html

HPV Resources, Education, and References | CDC 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Information (immunize.org) 


Connecting the Dots: Youth Alcohol Awareness!

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Did you know, April is Alcohol Awareness Month? If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to reflect on your drinking patterns and the role that alcohol plays in your life.

This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunity for Recovery, which focuses primarily on youth education and prevention. This specific group of individuals can be easily influenced by alcohol and other substances if not educated or informed about risks. For this reason, we are asking you to join us this month to help raise awareness in our communities, schools, and homes on alcohol use. 

Our youth in Skagit County

According to the 2021 Healthy Youth Survey, Alcohol use has been reported by youth as young as 6th grade, and prevalence of regular use increases each year. By 12th grade, approximately 1 in 5 12th graders reported drinking in the past month. This can be for many reasons, perhaps one being that children in these grades are not getting enough information about alcohol.

Why is it important?

Research shows that heavy alcohol use during teen years can permanently damage the still developing brain. Alcohol use at a young age is also associated with violence, poor school performance, suicide, and risky sexual behavior. The use of alcohol at this early age can lead to possible substance abuse later in life and Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which affects about 15 million adults in the United States. There are more than 380 deaths each day in the U.S. due to excessive alcohol use, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation.

Looking for something positive? Research also shows that about 50% of children who have conversations with parents about risks are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, than those who do not. That’s why “connecting the dots” with your child, sibling, cousin, niece, or nephew is so important.

What can we do to help spread awareness?

Although one month out of the year is not enough time to help educate and help everyone recover, continue to spread the word about the importance of alcohol awareness to friends and family.

Get creative and make informational flyers about the topic with resources and distribute them around your neighborhood town, local stores etc. Host a fundraiser to donate money to local non-profit treatment facilities.

For more information please visit:

Alcohol Awareness Month | AlcoholAwareness.org

Alcohol Awareness Month: Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder and Ways to Get Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

Skagit County | Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute (uw.edu)

HYS Fact Sheets (askhys.net)

Alcohol and Public Health | CDC


April is STD Awareness Month: Say Yes to Test!

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Did you know in 2020 Washington State reported 613 Sexually Transmitted Infections cases in Skagit County? This month is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month. Join us by sharing information about STIs to friends and family on how to stay safe and stop the spread!

What is a STI?

A STI is an infection that is passed from one individual to another through sexual contact. STIs are also known as a sexually transmitted disease or STDs.  According to American Sexual Health Association ASHA, Americans contract around 20 million STDs every year, with young people (aged 15-24) making up half of the cases.

Most Common STIs

https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/2020/images/infographic-SM-1.png

Current trending STIs are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis. Chlamydia is the most reported STI in the U.S., with 15 – 24-year-olds making up nearly 2/3 of all cases. This STI is known as the silent STI due to it rarely having symptoms, therefore people often spread it before even realizing they have it.

Another prominent STI is Gonorrhea which has seen a 75.2% case increase since 2009. If caught early, it can most likely be cured early with a single dose of antibiotics.

Syphilis can cause serious health problems if not cured with treatment. This infection develops in three stages and has different signs and symptoms. It can also be spread from mother to her unborn child. In 2020 144,000 cases of syphilis were spotted in the country, which has been the highest in 30 years.

Why is it important to seek medical care and get tested?

Some STIs, like Chlamydia, if undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to a serious condition called pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) that can cause infertility and increase the chances of transmitting or getting HIV.

Say Yes to Test every year and with every new partner! A way to reduce your risk of getting an STI is by practicing safe sex and using condoms every time you engage in sexual activity. Ask your health care provider at your annual check up to do a screening for STDs. For a list of providers near you visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/search_results?location=98273.

What can Skagit County Public Health do for STI prevention and treatment?

Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) does not offer any testing or treatment services to the general public but will test and treat as part of contact investigation for someone who has already been identified by a provider as STI positive. SCPH also provides free testing (via blood sample) and antibiotic treatment for the sex partner of positive cases, through a program called Expedited Partner Treatment (EPT). The patient must live in Skagit County to receive this. If a sex partner lives outside of Skagit County, they will be referred to their local county health department and be provided with adequate care. Our office also offers free condoms for anyone, located in the restrooms!  For questions or concerns feel free to contact us at (360) 416-1500 or visit our website for more info.

For more information please visit:

https://gettested.cdc.gov/

STI Awareness Week — April 11-17 – HIV (va.gov)

STI Awareness Week | Knowtify (nd.gov)

STI Awareness Month (ashasexualhealth.org)



Are You Tsunami Prepared?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As you may recall, on January 15, 2022, a tsunami warning was placed for parts of the U.S. West Coast and Alaska after a volcano eruption occurred near the Tonga Islands. Waves were projected to be 1-to-3 feet along the western coastline extending from California to Alaska.

Thankfully, this event did not result in any major damage along the Washington coastline. It was a good reminder, however, that we should always be prepared for future tsunami events considering our location here in Skagit County.

Are you and your family prepared for a tsunami? Join us in recognizing Tsunami Preparedness Week this week! Register at Tsunamizone.org for resources and get some tips on how to be safe in the event of a tsunami.

What is the Cascadia subduction zone? Why should you care?

The Cascadia Subduction Zone runs for 7 hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, this zone expands along Oregon and Washington, wrapping around Vancouver, Canada. 

An article (“New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County”) from the Skagit Valley Herald in 2021 did a great job at summarizing the risks posed by our location. The article informs us that the most recent modeling of a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake alongside the West Coast would result in greater flooding, and a greater risk for a local tsunami event than formerly predicted.

What you should do to prepare before, during, and after a tsunami?

The above goes to show the importance of tsunami preparedness. There is so much that individuals and families can do to prepare for, and anticipate, these types of events. Here are a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that you’re ready if—or when—a tsunami occurs.

BEFORE

Step 1: Get a Kit

Remember, this will be your emergency bag and will be the only thing you’ll have, so make sure to prepare to meet the needs of yourself and/or your household. To find a guide for kit building, visit Ready.gov.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Make a communication and evacuation plan with your friends and family. Remember to have a plan for your pets as well! Have a couple of designated meeting areas for you and your family in case you become separated. Make your plan by visiting Ready.gov!

Step 3: Be informed

Learn what you need to know to keep you and your family safe. Also, monitor the news and share your newly acquired knowledge with family and friends. Basic knowledge of first aid and CPR can also go a very long way!

In Skagit County, a great way to stay informed is by signing up for CodeRed alerts. Register here to receive emergency alerts and notifications in your area through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System. 

DURING

  • If you feel an earthquake: DROP, COVER, and HOLD on to anything you can that is sturdy to protect yourself.
  • When you have noticed that the earthquake has stopped, get together with your household members, and go over your emergency evacuation plan to safely get out.
  • Contact a Coast Guard emergency frequency station or any local radio station for any emergency information and listen for an official tsunami warning. If directed to do so, evacuate at once.
  • Make sure to take your emergency go-bag and your pets with you! If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for them to stay either.
  • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. The further up and farthest away from the water the safer you and your loved ones will be during the disaster.
  • Avoid any downed power lines, buildings, bridges, or heavy objects during your evacuation.
  • Finally, wait until officials say it is safe before attempting to go home. There can be a series of waves within hours.

AFTER

  • Reach out to family and friends to let them know you are safe and to check in.
  • If you become injured or sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, do not hesitate and call 9-1-1.  
  • If evacuated, only return if authorities have said it is safe to do so.
  • Document any property damage. Take picture and keep an inventory for your insurance company. You can also contact Skagit County’s Department of Emergency Management at (360) 416-1850 for assistance.

For more resources please visit:

Tsunami Preparedness | Tsunami Safety Tips | Red Cross

TsunamiZone

SKAGIT COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

New tsunami modeling shows more flooding likely for Skagit County | Environment | goskagit.com


It’s Not Luck! 3 Tips to Prepare for an Emergency

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Have you ever asked yourself if you or your loved ones are ready in case of a disaster? With recent floods within the county, it is smart to start to preparing yourself, family and friends for any type of emergency. This March, in association with St. Patrick’s Day, the “It’s Not Luck” campaign asserts that no one should rely on luck when it comes to being prepared for disasters and emergencies. After all, luck is for the leprechauns. Don’t leave disaster prep to chance.

Don’t know how to prepare in case of an emergency? Keep scrolling for some helpful tips.  

1. Know your risk for the area where you live and work.

Be informed of what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Also, find out what plans are available for the locations you go regularly. Customize your personal and household plans based on what household members would do if an emergency occurred while they were at that location. 

2. Make a plan to lessen the impact of those risks.

Come up with a plan with your family, friends, or household and discuss questions like what is my shelter, communication, and evacuation plan to start your emergency plan.

As you make your plan think about specific needs in your household and responsibilities. Share your needs and responsibilities and how people in the community could possibly help each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like operating medical equipment.

Finally, fill out a family emergency plan and practice your plan with your family/ household. You can download one here at https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-04/family-emergency-communication-plan.pdf

3. Build a kit to be ready for disasters and emergencies.

After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.

To assemble your kit store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

After assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed. Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work, and cars.

Need a checklist, no problem download a printable version to keep or to take to the store with you. https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/ready_checklist.pdf


Teen Substance Use Prevention Starts with a Conversation

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Research suggests that one of the most important factors in healthy child development is a strong, open relationship with a parent or caregiver. Believe it or not, parents and caregivers are the most powerful influence in a child’s life and can make a huge impact when it comes to youth substance use prevention.

Parents and caregivers need to start talking to their children about alcohol and other drugs before they are exposed to them—typically in the early preteen years. But before you get talking, it is important to get prepared. Before beginning the conversation with your child, consider: What are your goals or what you like your child to walk away with?

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of talking to your child about alcohol or other drugs, start with a game plan. Keep reading for a list of 5 helpful goals for when you talk to your child.

1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse.

Studies have shown that over 80 percent of young people ages 10–18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision whether to drink. It is important to send a clear and strong message that you disapprove of underage drinking and misuse of other drugs.

It is recommended that parents begin talking to their children about alcohol at 9 years of age. Need some ideas for how to start this conversation with your child? Check out Start Talking Now for some conversation starters.

2. Show you care about your child’s health, wellness, and success.

Young people are more likely to listen and internalize your message when they know you’re on their side. Reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink or use other drugs—because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re open and you show concern.

Children are also less likely to drink or use marijuana or other drugs when their parents or caregivers are involved in their lives and when they feel a close connection. Some ways to increase or improve family bonding include:

  • Giving your kids at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time every day
  •  Doing fun things together
  •  Giving positive feedback about the healthy choices your child makes
  •  Eating as a family five times per week

3. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol and other drugs.

You want your child to make informed decisions about alcohol and other drugs with reliable information about their dangers. So where are they getting their information?

You wouldn’t want your child to learn about alcohol and other drugs from potentially unreliable sources—from friends or social media. So, establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information!

After all, kids who learn a lot about the risks of alcohol and other drugs at home are less likely to use. In Washington, 85.3% of 10th graders who report having clear family rules about alcohol and drugs don’t drink (Healthy Youth Survey, 2018).

So, before you begin the conversation, make sure you have the facts! To get started, visit Start Talking Now.

4. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll discourage risky behaviors.

Show that you’re aware of what your child is up to, as young people are more likely to drink or use other drugs if they think no one will notice or that there will be no repercussions. If possible, try to do this in a subtle way, without prying.

The best way to monitor your child’d behavior and stay engaged in their daily life is by having a conversation. Try asking some of these questions when they spend time with their friends:

  •  Where are you going?
  •  What will you be doing?
  •  Who will be with you?
  •  When will you be home?
  •  Will there be alcohol, marijuana or other drugs?

5. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking and drug use.

Even if you don’t think your child wants to drink or try other drugs, peer pressure is a powerful thing. Having a plan to avoid alcohol and drug use can help children make better choices. Talk with your child about what they would do if faced with a decision about alcohol and drugs.

You can help your child practice how to say “no” by visiting Start Talking Now.

Making sure that your child knows that they can come to you when they need you is also critical. Plan ahead—talk to your child about what they should do if they find themselves in a dangerous situation. Maybe it’s texting a code word for a no-questions-asked pick up.

Thankfully, you don’t need to accomplish all of the goals listed above in one conversation. It is important to chat about these topics frequently and beginning at a young age. In the end, the most important goal is to make sure that your child knows that they can come to you when they have questions or when they need help.


Want to get involved in teen substance use prevention initiatives in your community? Find out more about our local prevention coalitions:

Mount Vernon
MV HOPEhttps://mvhope.com/
Coalition Coordinator – Bethany Sparkle (b.sparkle@skagitymca.org)

Burlington
Burlington Healthy Community Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/Burlington-Healthy-Community-Coalition-105142296193 
Coalition Coordinator – Liz Wilhelm (liz.wilhelm@unitedgeneral.com)

Sedro-Woolley
Sedro-Woolley RISE – https://www.facebook.com/SedroWoolleyRISE
Coalition Coordinator – Samantha Stormont (sstormont@swsd101.org)

Concrete
Concrete Resource Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/concreteresourcecoalition
Coalition Coordinator – Marlena White (marlena.white@unitedgeneral.org