Weekly health rail, with items on swine influenza, safety tips for moms-to-be, news about teen marijuana use, and more.

The U.S. declared a public health emergency Sunday to deal with the emerging swine flu. Here are some basics on the illness from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

- Swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that can spread to humans.

- The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

- Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions and can vary in severity from mild to severe.

- Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products.

-- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Health at home: Safety tips for moms-to-be

As people begin thinking about starting a family, most parents-to-be ponder how their lives will change when their new bundle of joy arrives. Luckily, you only have to alter your habits slightly to ensure a safe haven for you and your new arrival.

Nursery no-no

For most expectant mothers, decorating the nursery is an exciting project to complete in anticipation of the new addition. However, when choosing the perfect shade to splash the walls, recruit dad, grandparents or friends to help with this part.

Nearly all paints -- even environmentally friendly versions -- emit fumes and it is unknown what their effects are on the baby. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that pregnant women avoid newly painted rooms (and their harmful odors) for at least two days after the job is done.

Bath safety

As the "baby bump" continues to grow, the excess weight around the mid-section will shift a mother-to-be's center of gravity, making her very unstable and increasing the risk of slips and falls. And, according to the Home Safety Council, falls are the leading cause (66 percent) of all nonfatal home injuries -- with the bathroom being a main culprit due to water and slick surfaces. Luckily, there are many updates to the bath that can provide added comfort and security.

For help getting in and out of the tub or shower, the Home Safety Council recommends installing grab bars. In addition to grab bars, a shower chair may be an additional consideration.

Feline frets

While Fluffy may be a best buddy, her litter box is a "must avoid" for pregnant woman due to the risk of toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a microscopic parasite that often resides in cat feces. Be sure to keep litter in rooms where moms won't be exposed and let someone else in the household take over the chore of cleaning the litter boxes.

Safe cleaning

Most cleaning products are safe during pregnancy. However, there are many things to consider that will keep mom and baby-to-be safe from harm.

First, always ensure there is good ventilation and avoid using any products that say "toxic" since they have solvents that could harm the baby. Sites such as www.greenhome.com list the latest lines of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Or, for added peace of mind, just use a combination of baking soda and vinegar as a cleaning solution for just about anything in your home.

Begin to baby-proof

Once the baby arrives, he or she will be mobile before you know it. So, take time now to baby-proof your home. Take an inventory of sharp corners, cabinets with dangerous objects and electrical outlets; then purchase and install the necessary safety items, such as corner pads, outlet inserts and cabinet locks to keep baby safe.

Next, look for any breakable items that are low enough to be reached or heavy objects up high that could topple over. Inviting friends' babies and toddlers over is a great way to "test" the baby-proofing efforts.

-- ARA

Did You Know?

According to the American Urological Association, researchers have found that as body mass increases, so does a patient's risk of urinary tract infection.

Health Tip: Reduce stress, refocus your life

Three quick tips to help recharge, refocus and reorganize your life:

- Recharge regularly: Make sure you eat at timely intervals throughout the day, as food is energy for you emotionally, mentally and physically.

- Leave work worries at the office: A study by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute reported that one in three U.S. employees is chronically overworked.

- Plan ahead: Find a balance between juggling busy work schedules, attending kids' sporting events and trying to plan a great tasting family meal. Prioritize projects at the beginning of each week.

-- ARA

Number to Know: 2015

The U.S. is committed to ending deaths from malaria by the year 2015, according to Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Children’s Health: Teens use cannabis for relief

A new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy suggests that around a third of teens who smoke cannabis on a regular basis use it as a medication, rather than as a means of getting high.

The most common complaints recorded were emotional problems (including depression, anxiety and stress), sleep difficulties, problems with concentration and physical pain.

The teens' experiences with the traditional medical system were uniformly negative, the authors said. They emphasize that the unmet medical needs of these teens are of key importance in these findings.

Senior Health: Think memory worsens with age?

Thinking your memory will get worse as you get older may actually be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that senior citizens who think older people should perform poorly on tests of memory actually score much worse than seniors who do not buy in to negative stereotypes about aging and memory loss.

Memory also suffers if senior citizens believe they are being "stigmatized," meaning that others are looking down on them because of their age.

GateHouse News Service