california poison control tide pods

Poisoning is the #1 cause of injury-related death in the U.S. The third week in March each year is designated by Congress as National Poison Prevention Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about the burden of poisoning in the U.S. and highlighting specific ways to prevent it.

All Californians are reminded to be prepared in an emergency by programming the California Poison Control System’s toll-free number, 1-800-222-1222!

Calls to the California Poison Control System are answered quickly by pharmacists, nurses and poison information specialists who have extensive training in poison prevention and treatment. Callers receive expert treatment advice and referral free-of-charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are handled with confidentiality and language interpreters are available in over 200 languages.

be poison safe with text tips


  • 80 percent of poisonings occur inside the home, and most are treatable and preventable.
  • The most common sources of poisoning in young children are items typically found at home, including cleaning, cosmetic, and personal care products, as well as over-the-counter and prescription medications.
  • Adults – who are most commonly poisoned by cleaning products, or by the improper use of sedatives, antidepressants, pain relievers, or prescription drugs – are far more likely to die from poison exposure.


  • Keep all household products in their original containers and never store in empty beverage or food containers. Someone may accidentally drink or eat it.
  • Store all household cleaning and personal care products behind locked cabinets, out of sight and reach of children.
  • Install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in your home. Change the batteries every 6 months and test that they are working.


  • Choose Your Poison is a free online game to play with the whole family. Can you tell the difference between pills and candy?
  • Connect on Facebook and Twitter to receive news, tips and poison prevention information from poison experts.
  • Sign up for weekly text-message tips by texting “TIPS” to 20121 (or PUNTOS for information in Spanish).
  • Order free poison prevention and education materials at calpoison.org.

quit smoking


Kick Butts Day, organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, occurs on March 21, 2018. This is a great day to get involved in helping smokers you know give up smoking.

If you or someone you know smokes cigarettes, know that quitting is far and away the best step you can take toward improving your health. Smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans every year – more than HIV, drugs and alcohol, car accidents, and guns combined. Along with a significant risk of lung cancer, smoking contributes to many other health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illness and many other types of cancer.

How to Quit Smoking
Are you ready to quit? Here are 5 tips experts recommend to help you succeed.

  1. Make a Plan
    Start by deciding how you want to quit and ask friends and family to support you. For some, quitting cold turkey may be the best choice, while others may prefer medication or a nicotine replacement tool, like gum or the patch, to help them through the physical cravings. Your doctor can help you decide which is right for you.
  1. Avoid Temptations
    The physical craving for nicotine should dissipate after a couple of weeks, but temptation to fall back into your old habits may persist much longer. To reduce temptation, avoid going places where other people smoke, and identify situations that previously made you reach for a cigarette so you can figure out how to deal with them before they happen.
  1. Adopt New Habits
    One of the hardest aspects of quitting is breaking the routines you had while smoking, and the best way to break old habits is by introducing new ones. Try chewing a stick of gum after meals, when you would otherwise want to smoke, and if you feel like taking smoke breaks at work, get up and walk around the block instead.
  1. Create a Win-Win with Exercise
    Whether it’s walking, biking or lifting weights, exercise is a great tool for quitting smoking. Being active takes your mind off the desire to smoke, while the endorphins released help you feel happier and more energized. And you get the usual benefits of working out, including weight loss, improved cardiovascular health and better lung function.
  1. Reward Yourself
    Set attainable, short-term goals to keep you motivated for the long-term goals, and then give yourself a (nonsmoking) reward for meeting them. For example, put aside all the money you’d normally spend on cigarettes in a week, and at the end of the week use the money for concert tickets or gear for a new hobby.


Go to mywha.org/quit for information on WHA’s online smoking cessation program.

WHA Members: Learning your health status and risks allows you to take control of your health so you can live a longer, healthier life. Take the first step and sign up with Optum to access all the tools and coaching that are available right at your fingertips!


The first day of spring is March 20, 2018 and spring break travel season is in full swing! Each year, more than 65 million Americans travel for spring break and this number continues to grow each year. When planning a trip, the last thing we want to think about is getting sick or injured. Read our tips to stay alert while making memories with family and friends.


Did you know? If you travel more than 100 miles from home, school or in another country and are in need of assistance, WHA’s partner Assist America is only one call away!


Keep the Germs Away and Avoid the Flu
The flu season doesn’t end when winter is over. The flu virus stays active throughout the spring months, along with other infectious diseases. When traveling, tourists come into contact with hundreds of other people who have not been vaccinated and may carry the virus. To avoid getting sick, make sure you get the flu shot before you leave. In addition, the following steps can help keep the germs away:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Do not share drinks, even if you believe the other person is not sick.
  • Wipe your plane’s seat and table with a disinfecting wipe.
  • Often, our body’s immune system is at risk when we finally take a break from our busy lives. Make sure you get plenty of rest and sleep during your vacation.
  • If you feel as if you are coming down with a cold, make sure you drink plenty of water or other hydrating drinks.
  • If you still feel sick after a couple of days, call Assist America for a medical evaluation and referrals to healthcare providers near you.


Know that the Zika Virus is Still Around
For those traveling to South and Central America, protect yourself against the Zika virus. Although it’s no longer making the news, the Zika virus is still very much a health threat in tropical destinations, especially for pregnant women. There is no vaccination for the virus yet, so, when traveling to known infected countries, make sure to:

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants.
  • Stay in places with windows and use air conditioning units to cool the room.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellent. You can use the CDC’s Search Tool to find the repellent that is right for you.
  • Apply sunscreen before spraying the repellent.
  • Avoid areas with stagnant water which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes (swamps, lakes, lagoons, fountains, etc.)


Protect Yourself from Gastrointestinal Distress
If you’re heading to an exotic destination, basic precautions can be taken to avoid spending your vacation in the hotel bathroom. Do your research about the safety of drinking local water. When in doubt, carry bottled water and use it for everything – even for rinsing your toothbrush! If the water is unsafe, steer clear of fresh fruits and vegetables, as these have likely been washed in local tap water that could make you sick. Cheap food options from street vendors may look appetizing, but steer clear as they will likely not meet the proper health standards.


Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
Spring Break is known to be a time when people let loose and are looking to have fun. Those fun times often involve the consumption of alcohol. It is important to remember and to remind your children of drinking age that alcohol impairs judgement and responsivity and its consumption can be especially dangerous in situations in which water sports, swimming, skiing or other vacation activities are involved.


Check Your Vaccination Status
When traveling abroad, you may need specific immunization. Make sure to check our Pre-Trip Information feature on the Assist America Mobile App and website to see which vaccines are required for your destination and other information including visa requirements and security advisories.

Make this year’s spring break memorable by having fun and helping yourself and your family stay safe and healthy. When leaving for your vacation, remember to download the free Assist America Mobile App for Android and iPhone for immediate connection with Assist America’s 24/7 Operation Center and access to a wide range of services.

my perspective garry maisel blog

Western Health Advantage’s mission includes affecting positive change through outreach and giving back to our community. That’s why we’ve recently created CommunityFit, a neighborhood program open to everyone, not just WHA members. The program takes place in Sacramento and runs from March 13 to May 4, 2018.

CommunityFit is a free community-based fitness program offering classes in three parks in downtown Sacramento. All instructors are certified in group fitness and have many years of teaching experience. CommunityFit classes are for all fitness levels and abilities. Three types of classes are offered: circuit training, yoga, and mindfulness meditation.

Participants choose the most convenient time, place, and activity for exercising or meditation. Their friends and family can register and join them. Exercising in a neighborhood park does not take much travel time or require a membership fee. Our hope is that having free and regular fitness opportunities nearby and being encouraged by others can help overcome barriers to participation.

Exercise classes are typically easier to commit to than individual fitness programs and they also promote neighborhood solidarity and use of public spaces. When paired with other tools, a community fitness program can contribute to a healthier and more active neighborhood. More people are spending time outside and around nature; healthier lifestyles are being promoted for participating residents; and new and stronger community relationships are being encouraged.

CommunityFit is a community activity designed to make neighborhood exercise accessible and fun for everyone. If this pilot program in Sacramento is well received, we may expand it to other communities.

Go to choosewha.com/communityfit to learn more about our new community fitness program.

happy mature couple hugging

To increase awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screening, Western Health Advantage is proudly participating in Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month this March. In California, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed (excluding skin cancers), with over 15,000 Californians diagnosed annually.

Thanks to improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment, more than a million people in the U.S. count themselves as survivors of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older. You may also be at higher risk if you are African American, smoke, or have a family history of colorectal cancer. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer – that’s why it’s so important to get screened.

Take these healthy steps to help prevent colorectal cancer:

  • Get screened starting at age 50. If you have a family history of colon polyps or cancer, your doctor may recommend getting screened before age 50.
  • If you smoke, quit smoking. If you don’t, don’t start. Stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Colorectal cancer has been linked to heavy alcohol use. If you drink, limit alcohol use to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
  • Get plenty of physical activity and eat healthy, such as by including lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

For more information, visit the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and American Cancer Society websites.

Did you know? WHA is a sponsor of Sacramento’s annual Undy Run/Walk – another way we support our community and help prevent colorectal cancer.

undy run walk

On Saturday, February 24, 2018 Western Health Advantage (WHA) will be raising awareness about colon cancer by participating as a sponsor and as a team – WHAtch Your Tushie – in the 2018 Sacramento Undy Run/Walk put on by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

Sacramento is one of over 20 cities nationwide that holds an Undy Run/Walk, and this February we will be hitting the streets in our boxers or briefs for this family-friendly event. The Undy Run/Walk is a fun twist on a serious topic which is sparking much-needed conversations and kicking colon cancer’s butt, one city at a time. And if that’s not enough, you even have the chance to stroll through a larger-than-life inflatable colon on site and learn more about colon cancer! (How many chances do you have to do that in your life?)

The 5K and one-mile fun run/walk – which take place in William Land Park – include a wellness expo area and a special ceremony to support everyone impacted by this disease. The run/walk begins at 9 a.m.

A healthy diet, daily exercise and proper colon screening can help prevent and detect colon cancer. WHAtch Your Tushie and get your colon checked! Talk to your doctor and together decide the type of screening that’s best for you. For more information about colorectal cancer from the American Cancer Society, visit cancer.org.


Join WHA’s team

Sacramento Undy Run/Walk page

Info on colon cancer and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance




map of United States with California highlighted


Covered California’s open enrollment period, which is for individual plans, just ended. Thinking about that reminds me of some of the differences between how our state implements the Affordable Care Act compared to how it’s done at the federal level. The differences stem from competing beliefs as to whether the ACA should be an important source of insurance for those that don’t get it through their employer.

  • California’s open enrollment period went until January 31, 2018, compared to the federal deadline of December 15, 2017 in those 39 states that did not set up their own exchanges. That’s three months for Californians to choose their health plan, instead of 45 days.
  • While Covered California spent over $100 million on marketing (including outreach and enrollment assistance) in 2017-18, the feds under the new administration cut back on their marketing of Obamacare to $10 million, a tenth of what was spent the year before (with just another $37 million for enrollment assistance).
  • People seeking individual policies from Covered California had a lot of choices – 11 health insurance companies participate in the exchange, including WHA (though the number varies within each region). In other parts of the country, many insurers have left the market, leaving consumers with one health plan and higher prices.
  • Last October, the federal government stopped paying insurers, including WHA, subsidies that help low-income consumers with their medical costs. Those cost-sharing reductions were still offered to individuals, however, and California makes sure consumers know about them.

Covered California operates for the benefit of consumers. This is done in part by selecting the health insurance companies that participate in the exchange and by negotiating rates. It’s also accomplished by designing the benefits that all health plans must offer to consumers. Individuals compare health plans and choose the one that is best for their health needs and budget.

Covered California’s objectives dovetail nicely with Western Health Advantage’s mission, which includes improving healthcare access and affordability. Businesses look to WHA for competitive health plans that take care of their employees’ needs. We value that trust and aim to cover more employees and families in our networks, which stretch from the Bay Area to the foothills of the Sierras.

California has lowered its rate of uninsured residents from 17% before the start of the ACA in 2014 to about 7% by the end of 2016 (this includes an expansion of MediCal). The national uninsured rate is dropping much more slowly. Not only that, better health outcomes, better quality and lower costs are being achieved in California.

WHA and Covered California make the marketplace more competitive, for businesses and individuals, respectively, for the benefit of all.

P.S. You can still enroll in a Covered California individual plan if you have a “qualifying life event” (e.g., if you lose your employer-sponsored coverage. Click here for more info.


garry maisel

-Garry Maisel is the President and CEO of Western Health Advantage. For more information about WHA, visit westernhealth.com.


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