Five Minutes (or Less) for Health

clock face showing 5 minutes before the hour

Take five for your health! Being healthy and safe takes commitment, but it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Most things are so simple and take so little time, that you’ll wonder why you’ve been avoiding them. Taking just a few of the 1440 minutes in a day is worth having a safer and healthier life for you and your family. Below are some steps you can take to help protect your health and safety in five minutes or less.

Five Minutes or Less for Health Weekly Tips

One Minute or Less for Health

Take folic acid

The B vitamin folic acid helps prevent certain birth defects. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and while she is pregnant, her baby is less likely to have a major birth defect of the brain or spine. All women who could possibly get pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day in a vitamin or in foods that have been enriched with it.

Wash hands

Wash hands to lower the risk of spreading germs and getting sick. It is best to wash hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds.

Check cruise ship inspection scores before you travel

If you’re planning a cruise, check cruise ship inspection scores before your voyage. Cruise ships are subject to health and safety inspections twice a year to ensure that vessels are maintaining adequate levels of sanitation and to provide guidance to vessel staff when needed. CDC staff members inspect cruise ships with a foreign itinerary that call on U.S. ports and that carry 13 or more passengers.

Know local travel laws

Most people think about travel vaccines when they’re planning an international trip, but few people consider the possibility that they might be involved in a car crash. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among healthy travelers, and no vaccine can prevent a car wreck. Fortunately, a little bit of knowledge and awareness can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

Prevent poisonings

Whether they’re drugs, medications, or household chemicals, follow instructions, and keep products out of the reach of children. Put the poison control number (800-222-1222) on all phones, and make sure all family members know when to call it.

Protect your skin

  • Wear sunscreen, seek shade, and cover up to help lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer.
  • Wear insect repellent with DEET or Picaridin to protect yourself from mosquito and tick bites, which can cause disease.
  • Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to help prevent burns.

Buckle up

Lower the risk for motor vehicle-related injuries. Make sure everyone is properly restrained in safety seats or safety belts. Children ages 12 and younger should always be buckled up and seated in the rear seat of vehicles. Placing children in age- and size-appropriate restraint systems lowers the risk of serious and fatal injuries by more than half.

Pledge to protect your teen driver

Parents can help protect their teen drivers from crashes—the leading killer of U.S. teens. It’s proven that parents can make a positive difference when it comes to preventing the number one killer of teens in the United States—car crashes. The 60-second “I Pledge” video shows a number of moms and dads pledging to protect their teen drivers.

Gear up

When playing active sports or riding a motorcycle or bike, make sure you and your family wear protective gear, such as helmets, wrist guards, and knee and elbow pads.

Fight the urge to smoke or use tobacco

The urge will usually pass in 2-3 minutes. When you feel the urge, do something else. Take deep breaths and let them out slowly. Drink a glass of water. Carry things to put in your mouth, such as gum, hard candy, or toothpicks. Smoking even a few cigarettes a day and being around secondhand smoke (smoke from someone else smoking) can hurt you and your family’s health. The only safe choice is to quit completely.

Protect your hearing

Hearing loss can result from damage to structures and/or nerve fibers in the inner ear that respond to sound. This type of hearing loss, termed “noise-induced hearing loss,” is usually caused by exposure to excessively loud sounds and cannot be medically or surgically corrected. Use hearing protectors such as ear plugs and ear muffs when you can’t lower noise to a safe level.

Wear a life jacket

All boat occupants should wear a life jacket to lower the risk of drowning. U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are now more attractive in appearance and comfortable to wear. When properly fitted, a life jacket can help prevent a tragedy.

Read food labels

See how much fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars, protein, and other ingredients are in the product. Note what the serving size is to make sure you don’t eat more calories than you think you’re getting.

Place infants back-to-sleep

To help lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), always place infants on their backs (face-up) when they are resting, sleeping, or left alone.

Send a health-e-card

Health-e-cards are a quick and easy way to remind someone that you care about their health. Choose from a growing list of electronic greeting cards featuring a variety of health and safety topics.

Five Minutes or Less for Health

Test smoke alarms

Every month, check your smoke alarms to ensure they work properly. Check or replace the battery to your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the alarm or detector sounds, leave your home immediately, and call 911.

Do a skin and body check

Check your skin and body regularly for lumps, rashes, sores, discolorations, limitations, and other changes. Do checks during and after bathing. Take note of other changes such as those related to urine or bowel habits, thirst, hunger, fatigue, discharge, vision, and weight. If you find or experience anything suspicious, see your health care provider.

Make an appointment

One of the best and easiest ways for adults to keep themselves healthy is to make sure they get recommended exams, screenings and immunizations. Screenings are designed to help detect some diseases in their early, most treatable stages. Make the appointment now.

Know your numbers

Keep track of your numbers for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), and others. These numbers can provide a glimpse of your health status and risk for certain diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. Be sure to ask your health care provider what tests you need and how often. If your numbers are too high or too low, he/she can make recommendations to help you get them to a healthier range.

Make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations

Keep track of your and your family’s vaccinations, and make sure they stay up-to-date. Children, young adults, and older adults all need vaccinations. Vaccinations help protect people from diseases and save lives.

Eat healthy

Take the extra time to make better food choices. Eat more fruits and vegetables as a meal, less saturated fat, and healthy grab-and-go snacks. There are many quick and easy ways to add healthier choices to your day.

Wash children’s hands and toys regularly

Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil, both of which are sources of harmful lead.

Know important asthma triggers

An asthma attack can occur when you are exposed to things in the environment, such as house dust mites and tobacco smoke. These are called asthma triggers. Your personal triggers can be very different from those of another person. Some of the most important triggers are:

  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke (Secondhand Smoke)
  • Dust Mites
  • Outdoor Air Pollution
  • Cockroach Allergen
  • Pets
  • Mold
  • Wood Smoke

Learn the signs for developmental problems

Check to see if your children can do the things associated with their age. From birth to 5 years, your children should reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, and act. A delay in any of these areas could be a sign of a developmental problem.

Know the signs and symptoms for heart attack and stroke

If you or someone you know is having a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately. With timely treatment, a person’s chance of surviving a heart attack is increased, and the risk of death and disability from stroke can be lowered.

Encourage health through play

Encourage kids to adopt safe and healthy habits with these fun pages and activity book. Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day.

Take a break

If you think you’re getting sick, feel yourself losing control, or are dealing with stress, take a break. Just taking a few minutes can give you the opportunity to clear your head so you can make better decisions about your and your family’s health and safety.

Take care of your teeth and gums

Drink fluoridated water and use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride’s protection against tooth decay works at all ages. Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly to reduce dental plaque and help prevent gingivitis (a form of gum disease).

Keep foods safe

Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours. Wash hands, utensils, and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food. Wash produce. Cook meat, poultry, and eggs thoroughly. Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department.

Ask questions

Before seeing your health care provider, write down all of your questions and bring the list with you to your appointment. Write down the answers during your discussion. Make sure all of your questions are answered before you leave and you know exactly what the next steps are. Don’t risk injury or other problems because you are not clear on what to do.

If instructions are confusing, get help. Talk to your health care provider. Call or visit the website of the pharmacy, clinic, equipment manufacturer, or business for information. Make sure you use credible sources and websites and ask your health care provider if the information you found applies to you. With more knowledge, you can make better decisions about your health.

Listen to a health podcast

Podcasts on a variety of health and safety topics are available online. Most are one to five minutes long, and some are longer.

Disinfect surfaces to keep germs away

Cleaning removes germs from surfaces, and disinfecting destroys germs from surfaces. Disinfecting after cleaning gives an extra level of protection from germs. Areas with the largest amounts of germs and frequently used areas- such as the kitchen and bathroom- should be disinfected with a bleach solution or another disinfectant as often as possible to avoid the spread of germs.

If you have diabetes, check for sores and vision changes

If you have diabetes, check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling. Call your doctor immediately if you have sores that will not heal. Also, tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your eyesight.

Get a radon test for your home

Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family’s health. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Testing is inexpensive and easy.

Go green

Lower greenhouse gases in the environment, reuse products, and recycle items that can no longer be used.

Learn healthy contact lens wear and care

You only have one pair of eyes, so take care of them! Healthy Habits = Healthy Eyes. Enjoy the comfort and benefits of contact lenses while lowering your chance of complications. Failure to wear, clean, and store your lenses as directed by your eye doctor raises the risk of developing serious infections. Your habits, supplies, and eye doctor are all essential to keeping your eyes healthy.

More Than Five Minutes and Worth It

Be active

Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and that strengthen your muscles. Doing 10 minutes at a time is fine. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day. Include activities that raise their breathing and heart rates and that strengthen their muscles and bones.

Be prepared

Practice family drills at home to make sure everyone knows exactly what to do in case of an emergency. Although some people feel it is impossible to be prepared for unexpected events, the truth is that taking preparedness actions helps people deal with disasters of all sorts much more effectively when they do occur. Have an escape plan in case of fire or other emergency, and practice it as part of your family drills. Know your local weather conditions and forecast so you can prepare for any severe weather.

Know your family’s health history

If you have a close relative with a chronic disease, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer, then you could have an increased risk for developing that disease. Keep track of your family health history by writing down the health conditions of each family member. Take a few minutes to update this information from time to time. This way, you’ll have organized and accurate information ready to share with your health care provider. Family health history can help him/her determine which tests and screenings you should have. In many cases, adopting a healthier lifestyle can lower your risk for diseases that run in your family.

Prevent falls

Check for hazards around the home to prevent falls. Each year, thousands of older Americans fall at home. Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook but easy to fix.

Get involved

Get to know the people your children are around on a regular basis. Engage in conversation, participate in activities, review Internet networks to people and sites, observe, and learn more. Talk to your kids about how to protect themselves from disease and injury and to avoid risky behaviors related to tobacco, sex, and more.

Pack a traveler’s health kit

Pack items that you will need to stay healthy and safe on your trip, such as sunscreen, insect repellent, prescription medicines, and basic first-aid items.

Learn tips for caregiving

Whether your family member with special needs is a child or an adult, combining personal, caregiving, and everyday needs can be challenging. Being informed, getting support, and taking care of yourself can help you and those you care for stay safe and healthy.

Page last reviewed: December 23, 2015