Here Come the Germs!

24 09 2013

I love my kids. I do. But, may I just say, entre nous, that my heartbeat slows and I’m immersed in a narcotic sense of freedom when they toddle off to school each September.

That euphoric bliss lasts about two weeks. Maybe. Then come the colds, the aches, the lethargy, the sniffles, the who-knows-what.

Does your family experience the same thing? Here’s what’s going on:

  • In the US, kids under 17 years of age experience over 50 million colds each year. M-m-million!
  • Kids miss almost 22 million (there’s that “m” word again) days of school due to colds.
  • Diarrhea is no slouch when it comes to affecting the health of our kids—it’s a big contributor to missed school days.
  • Bacteria and viruses can survive on desktops, doorknobs, walls, water spigots, cafeteria trays, shoes, backpacks, purses, and other surfaces for minutes or even hours. A few even longer, depending on the environment. The germs lurk on surfaces, waiting for unsuspecting hands to slide by and pick them up.
  • Some kids and teachers don’t cover their coughs and sneezes, and they don’t clean their hands when it’s important to do so. Depending on the germ, it may float in the air and wait to be inhaled, or drop on a surface and wait to be picked up, or transfer from germy hands to surfaces or the waiting hands of others.

What can we do? We can’t completely protect our kids from the germs in the world (and there’s no way I’m homeschooling), so we teach them how to protect themselves and live with the fact that they’re occasionally going to pick up germs. Picking up germs is not a bad thing. That exposure helps strengthen the immune system and does other good things for the body that are best left to another blog post.

To keep illness down to a manageable level, share these tips with your family:

  • Wash hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing, playing inside or outside, going to the bathroom, or touching animals, and before preparing or eating food and at any time that the hands look dirty. And, wash those hands as soon as you come home from school or, well, anywhere.
  • Use hand sanitizer in place of soap and water if no soap/water is available, but soap and water are preferred. Remember that hand sanitizer kills many germs, but only while it’s being rubbed onto the hands. Once it’s dry and the hand touches something germy even two seconds later, germs will live on the hands again.
  • Cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow. Coughing and sneezing into tissues is OK, but not ideal. The tissues are thin and the germs blast right through onto the hands, requiring an immediate hand cleaning. Plus, the germs are more likely to escape the tissue and float around waiting to be inhaled, or drop onto surfaces, waiting to be touched.
  • Don’t share with others anything your mouth touches. This means don’t share forks, spoons, water bottles, food, drinking glasses, straws, lipstick or any other makeup, come to think of it, and don’t use anything that’s touched another person’s mouth, such as their pen or pencil or any item already listed. This is not a complete list, just one to get you thinking about how germs can be passed from one person to another.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, as these are entryways for germs.
  • Walk around your home with a disinfecting wipe and clean doorknobs (interior and exterior), light switches and the wall area around them if the wall surface will hold up to the moisture, keyboards, remote controls—anything around the house that gets touched a lot.
  • Call your provider and your child’s provider and make sure the entire family is up-to-date on immunizations.

Share your tips in the comment section. Let’s try to have a healthy school year!

 

By Trish Parnell

 

 





School’s Here!

13 09 2012

School is here. So, new clothes, cell phone, new haircut, make-up, sweet-smelling body spray . . . what else could you possibly need?

Sports physicals―Want to play a sport this year? Gotta get a physical. Check your school website for the forms. Lots of places offer free physicals. Check that out on the website or call the health department.

Shots―Nobody wants them, everybody gets them. And don’t forget your flu shot. Local health clinics or your doc’s office will know what shots you need for your grade/school.

More Must-Haves, Must-Dos

It’s all about the numbers―Write down phone numbers of people who can help you in an emergency. Stash the list in your backpack or locker. These numbers might be in your cell phone, but if you lose your phone or the battery dies, you’ll still have the list.

Meds and health stuff―If you take medicine regularly, or have any health problems like allergies or asthma, make a list of these things, including doses of the meds. Include your doc’s phone number so that if you lose your meds or are having health-related problems, you can give this info to the school nurse and not have to remember everything.

Lighten up―If the school gives you lots of books to take back and forth every day, carrying them can make you sore. See if you can get two of each book and keep one at home and one at school.

Eat breakfast―The commercials are right: it’s the most important meal of the day. And don’t load it up with sugar. Try eating healthy stuff like fruits, proteins (not too fatty though) and whole grains every morning for a week and see how you feel. If you like it, keep it up.

Eyes and ears―If you’re having trouble hearing or seeing, tell your parents. If that doesn’t help, tell the school nurse. There are things that can be done to help! After all, why make life any harder than it needs to be?

What else do you need to get the year going right?





Germs (and kids) Go Back To School!

27 08 2012

Kids are headed back to school, and all their germs are going with them. This means that germ-swapping is about to take place. Are you ready? Is your child?

Share these three concepts with your kids and their school year is likely to be healthier than years past.

Clean your hands

Use soap and water if possible and if not, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Clean hands before leaving the house, after you get to school, before you eat, after using the restroom, and anytime your hands are dirty. Important: keep your hands off of your eyes, nose, and mouth, and don’t touch any scrapes or breaks on your skin unless your hands have just been cleaned.

Get immunized

Parents, this one is up to you. Most kids aren’t going to remind you that they need to be vaccinated, so please put it on your schedule to get it done. We don’t have vaccines against every disease, but in combination with clean hands and standard precautions, they’re effective shields against infections.

Practice standard precautions in daily living

Practicing standard precautions means assuming that every person’s blood or body fluid is infected with HIV, HBV, or other bloodborne germs, and then acting accordingly to prevent infection. Since most people who are infected are unaware of their infection status, it’s safest to assume everyone is infected with something and to keep barriers between yourself and another person’s blood or body fluid. This means that you never use your bare hands to touch someone’s blood (or body fluid). You get a towel, or put gloves on, or find something to put between you and the fluid. Kids should simply tell an adult if they see someone who is hurt and know not to touch anything leaking from another person.

If you repeat the messages often enough, the kids will adopt the habit of prevention.

By Trish Parnell
Image courtesy of Johnny Ancich





Telling the School About Your Child’s Infection

12 03 2012

[Ed. note: One of our parents hired an attorney to write a letter to the preschool her daughter will be attending. She chose to inform the school of her daughter's illness, but wanted to do so in a way that would best protect her daughter's rights. She kindly offered to share the letter in case others would like to use it. We've edited it to make it generic, but PKIDs does not take responsibility for the contents of this letter or any person's use of this letter, nor does the mom who provided it. Consider it a form letter for your adaptation. Please contact an attorney to review any documents you prepare.]

Please be advised that this firm has been retained by Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are the parents of Jane Smith, a (number) year old girl who was recently enrolled in the ABC School.

The purpose of this correspondence is to address a situation that is of great concern to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, that is, the health and well-being of their daughter and those who care for her. The Smith’s daughter is a carrier of the hepatitis [B or C, whatever is true for you] virus.

Although there is no legal or ethical duty for my clients to inform you or the school of the specific health status of their daughter, the Smiths, in their personal discretion and out of an abundance of caution, have chosen to share this very private and confidential fact with you. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control do not advocate that parents of children with hepatitis [B or C] routinely inform day care providers of the hepatitis [B or C] status of their children.

Under normal conditions, a child with hepatitis [B or C] poses no threat to other children or to day care staff. Please bear in mind that the hepatitis [B or C] virus (hereinafter “HBV or HCV”) is not transmitted casually: it can be, for example, transmitted through blood, sexual relations, needles and mothers who carry [HBV or HCV] to their newborn child.

There is no data to demonstrate that hepatitis [B or C] is transmitted through feces or urine, nor is it transmitted by stool contamination of food or beverages, or casual contact. Changing diapers or helping children with “accidents” associated with potty-training generally do not place one at risk of contracting [HBV or HCV].

[This next paragraph is only for HBV kids in some states:] In addition, since the State of [your state] requires children to have a series of immunizations against HBV, it is highly likely that Jane’s classmates are already protected from any potential transmission of HBV. The medical information record required of children admitted to the ABC school indicates that such inoculations are mandatory for enrollees. I assume your day care staff have had such vaccinations and are similarly protected.

Regardless of any minimal risk a carrier of [HBV or HCV] pose to others, my clients and I assume that proper, standard precautions are taken when dealing with the bodily fluids of any child in the ABC school. You have been made aware of Jane’s condition, but you may not be aware of other children who may carry blood-borne pathogens as well, not just [HBV or HCV].

Mr. and Mrs. Smith wish to convey to you their desire to keep the lines of communication open and fully cooperate with the ABC School and its staff regarding this situation. Mrs. Smith has provided me with written materials that she has collected about [HBV or HCV]. If you would like copies of this literature to help educate staff members about [HBV or HCV], please contact me and I will provide you copies of this material. If you have further concerns, my clients are also willing to participate in any meetings you may wish to have with them, or you may discuss this situation with a health care professional of your choice.

Although Mr. and Mrs. Smith have chosen to disclose private, confidential information about their daughter to your organization, it is of the utmost importance that no one other than officials at the ABC school are to be informed about Jane’s health status. In fact, my clients would prefer that you limit disclosure of Jane’s [HBV or HCV] status to your staff members on a “need to know” basis and that as few people as possible be told this information.

Additionally, anyone so informed should be cautioned that this information is highly confidential and extremely private, it is not to be disclosed to other persons, particularly parents of other children in Jane’s class.
As you may imagine, my clients are very concerned that, should information be leaked to other parents, Jane may suffer retaliation, discrimination or be socially ostracized by other children or their parents.

There are a number of laws and statutes which protect the confidentiality of private information, including both health and educational records. For example, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C.123g (the Buckley Amendment) mandates that any institution which receives federal funds is prohibited from releasing a student’s records to any one other than school officials who have been determined to have a legitimate interest in the child. There are also protections for privacy of a student’s medical records under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U. S. C. 12101, et seq.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith have only sought my assistance because this subject is of such personal importance, they felt that a disinterested, objective person might be able to more effectively convey their concerns.

My clients and I trust that all of the parties involved in this situation will cooperate and work toward a positive solution to the concerns of my clients, as well as those of the school. Mr. and Mrs. Smith also hope that this fall is the first of many happy semesters Jane will spend at the ABC school.

If you have any comments or concerns, please feel free to contact me by 4:00 p.m. on (day/month/year), as Jane is scheduled to begin school the following day.

If I do not hear from you, I will assume that there will be no problem with her attending this school and/or you have encountered this situation before and are well-versed in issues of this nature. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.





Teens Score High On Tests and Sex!

22 11 2010

We were scanning headlines the other day and ran across this one on Time.com: Teen Sex Not Always Bad For Grades.

What a relief! As parents, this is what concerns us about our teens having sex.  “Sure,” we boast, “Hannah’s having sex, but  that little highschooler is cranking out As like there’s no tomorrow!”

This study, presented at a recent American Sociological Meeting, confirmed that teens having sex while in a “serious” relationship did much better in school than teens having casual sex.

Does this mean we should be rooting for a committed relationship for our kids? Or rooting for a time machine to take us back before these gosh darn people presented their findings?

What we really fear is that our teens will find out about this and adopt it as their new slogan: Sex = Good Grades!  Wootwoot!

This is a conundrum for us.  Our organization supports science-based information.  We applaud the study—the effort put forth to bring us this piece of information.  But, we are also parents, and many of our offspring are (gulp) teenagers.

We don’t care that having sex while in a “serious” relationship doesn’t affect grades.  It can affect one’s STI status, and make one a parent before the baby fat has gone from one’s cheeks.

This may sound strange but, moms and dads, if your pimply-faced darling’s grades start to improve, maybe it’s time to worry.





School Lunches: What Can YOU Do?

7 05 2010

On the ladder of cuisine jokes, school cafeteria food is probably the biggest target around, edging out horrifying airline meals and bland hospital fare.

Apologies if your child’s school has a good chef in the house, but most of us remember our school lunches for what they were: nightmarish concoctions of mystery meat and formless flavors garnished with a spork.

After a couple of weeks at school, you learn the menu and act accordingly: reach for the favorites and avoid the scary stuff. It’s no wonder kids get hooked on fatty burgers, cheesy pizza, and sugary soft drinks.

A man you might have seen on TV recently aims to halt the trend (and before you read on, in the interest of disclosure, no, we do not have any financial interests in anything connected to him, but we think he’s doing a heck of a job). His name is Jamie Oliver, a TV celeb, chef, and restaurateur who gained fame in Britain for pushing healthier eating habits on Britain’s children.

Bringing his bold form of nutrition intervention stateside, he can be seen coaxing children to identify various vegetables and demonstrating what really goes into those tasty chicken nuggets (put chicken leftovers in a blender and press a button) on ABC’s Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

And, he’s not the only one on a crusade to see what goes into the morsels our kids eat at school. One teacher pledged to eat each school lunch, just as her students did each day.

Others see it as a cultural studies opportunity, comparing U.S. school lunches to those served around the world.

Even if cafeterias aren’t award winning bistros, some families depend on school food programs. Sometimes it’s the only meal kids get all day.

Making quality meals with nutritional ingredients can spike the food bill—something cash-strapped school districts don’t have the luxury of fixing quickly.

So, what can you as a parent do?

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation suggests:

  • Meet Over Lunch: Read the school menu with your child and look for the healthiest choices.
  • Pack a healthy lunch: Fill your child’s lunchbox with healthy, tasty foods–like whole grain bread, fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk and 100% juice.
  • Get Growing: Get a group of parents together, pick a place, and design the perfect garden for students. Then set a budget, raise a few dollars and start digging!
  • Study: Find out whether your kids can get healthy foods in the cafeteria or vending machines. And see if the school is selling healthy foods at fundraisers.
  • Appreciate: Tell teachers and school staff that you value their efforts to provide healthy foods and beverages at school.
  • Work with your school principal, district school board or food service department to adopt nutrition standards like the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Guidelines for all food and beverage sales outside of school meals, including through vending, a la carte, school stores and fundraisers.

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Babies, Kids, and H1N1

3 09 2009

Delivery/Post-Partum and H1N1 – what do I do?

Breastfeeding may help protect newborns against influenza, but mom’s good handwashing habits before and after breastfeeding are just as important. If you are on medication for flu, you can still breastfeed. Your provider may suggest that you wear a mask when near your baby. If you have symptoms, you can still breastfeed; the milk is not contagious. But stay away from your baby if you are feverish.

Mothers who are infected with H1N1 when they deliver do not necessarily have to be separated from their newborn. A mother on medication should be able to breastfeed; separating her from her infant would not be advantageous. A mother who is actively sick with symptoms will not be very capable of caring for an infant and will need help, which will also help minimize contact and transmission. All caregivers should be vaccinated, and should also get a Tdap vaccination (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis).

Do I need to worry about outbreaks in schools?

Because of the H1N1 outbreaks in community settings (camps, e.g.) this summer, experts do expect schools to be breeding grounds for H1N1.

School closure is an option, but is not expected to be necessary. Students (or anyone) with flu symptoms should stay home.

Other Concerns

Getting the pneumococcal vaccine can help reduce your risk of developing pneumonia as a complication of influenza infection.

For mothers infected with H1N1, masks are recommended in certain circumstances. Talk with your provider if you’re concerned. You should not need to wear a mask or gloves at home.

Do NOT attend a “flu party.” You should NOT purposefully infect yourself, or your children, with H1N1.

Recommendations

  • Fever and respiratory symptoms need to be taken seriously. Call your provider if you have any symptoms or concerns. Ask them for specific instructions; for example, they may want you to put on a mask before entering their office to help prevent infecting pregnant women.
  • Get vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses. The seasonal vaccine will not protect you against H1N1.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Maintaining good nutrition and getting plenty of rest will also help prevent illness.
  • Continue to receive prenatal care from your provider.
  • Everyone who is sick should stay home.

To get vaccinated, talk with your provider. OB/GYNs are supposed to receive vaccine to have on hand, in addition to clinics, pharmacies, and other typical venues for flu vaccine administration. If you have any concerns, about anything, at any time, talk with your provider – that’s what they’re there for!

To explore this issue further, visit:

Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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Pregnancy and H1N1 Vaccine

2 09 2009

So you’re pregnant, and you don’t want to get flu, but you also want to know that whatever goes into your body isn’t going to hurt your baby. Here’s info on H1N1 and the vaccine to help you make the best decision for you and your baby.

Is vaccination safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies?

Killed virus vaccines, such as the flu vaccines in shot form, are so safe that any risk to the unborn baby is nearly unmeasurable. FluMist, however, is live and cannot be given to pregnant women. (It can be given to other members of the family who are eligible to receive it.)

What about thimerosol?

As a pregnant woman, you can ask for a thimerosol-free vaccine, because providers are being directed to reserve thimerosol-free doses for pregnant women (and younger children) who are concerned about thimerosol. It should be noted that many studies conducted by independent bodies have shown that thimerosol does not pose any danger.

Should I get both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines?

Pregnant women can get both vaccines. It’s recommended that you get each vaccine when it becomes available. The seasonal flu vaccine will be available sooner than the H1N1 vaccine, which should come out mid-October.

Should I wait until later my pregnancy to get vaccinated?

Pregnant women can receive the flu vaccines at any time during pregnancy, including the first trimester. In fact, it’s recommended that pregnant women receive the vaccine early on, since respiratory issues later in pregnancy can be more serious.

You can start the 2-dose H1N1 vaccination series during pregnancy and finish it after your baby is born. Babies ages 0-6 months cannot get the flu vaccine, so if the mother gets the vaccine during pregnancy, it can help protect her baby.

Other concerns…

The vaccine is safe for women planning on natural childbirth. Disease is a natural process, but so is building immunity.
Alternative/online education could be an option for pregnant teens enrolled in schools experiencing outbreaks (because teens are generally considered higher risk for H1N1 as it is). If you are a pregnant young adult attending college, you can continue attending even if cases of H1N1 are reported. You should definitely get vaccinated and wash your hands – a lot.

Patients receiving treatment for infertility can get the flu vaccines. There is zero evidence that flu vaccine harms development of the unborn baby’s brain.

Pregnant healthcare workers need the H1N1 vaccine. If the flu is very active around them, their job description may need to be adjusted.

What should I do if I’m pregnant and get exposed to H1N1?

If you are exposed to a KNOWN case of H1N1, tell your provider; you may need medication. If 5 kids in your child’s school have it, this is not the same as being directly exposed.

Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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