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





June: It’s a Guy’s Month

16 06 2011

Hey, men! It’s your week AND your month.

June is Men’s Health Month , and June 13 through 19 is Men’s Health Week.

What’s the point? Preventive medicine. Take care of yourself before you become unhealthy. Or, if you’ve already started down the path to poor health, do what you can to reverse that process.

The organizers of the Men’s Health Month and Men’s Health Week have tagged it with the line, “Awareness. Prevention. Education. Family.” Every single one of those terms applies to you, men. Here’s why:

  • Take the top 10 causes of death. Men die at higher rates from these causes than women. The top causes of death are heart disease, cancer, injuries, stroke, HIV/AIDS, and suicide. For every 162 women who die of heart disease, 249 men die of it. For every 2 or 3 women who commit suicide, about 10 men take their own lives. In keeping with that statistic, depression in men often goes undiagnosed.
  • In 1920, men and women lived about the same life spans. Now, women outlive men by an average of six years.
  • Men don’t go to doctors enough for well checks. Women are 100% more likely to go in for annual exams and preventive services than men.

How aware are you of what you need to do for preventive healthcare, not only for your own health but out of consideration for your family? Below is a short list to consider. For more information, find the complete list and other information at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

  • Age 18 and onward: Regular screenings throughout adulthood for depression, blood pressure, and diabetes (if blood pressure is high). High blood pressure is a silent, serious, and chronic problem that can cause stroke, heart attack, and kidney and heart failure.
  • Age 35 or older: Get screened for cholesterol levels. Do it even earlier, at age 20 and older, if you smoke or dip tobacco, are obese, have diabetes or high blood pressure, have a personal history of heart or arterial disease, or a family history of early heart attacks.
  • Age 50: Get colorectal cancer screening. It’s so easy. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your screening may need to be earlier than age 50. For example, I had my screening at age 38, partly because of symptoms. Because my doctor found and removed a large precancerous polyp, my first-degree relatives should all have their screening much earlier than age 50. My doctor told me that if I hadn’t had the colonoscopy done, I’d’ve been dead in five years. In other words, I wouldn’t have been alive to write this. Don’t be stupid. Get the screening.
  • Age 65-75: If you’ve ever been a smoker, look into getting screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm. The aorta is the largest artery in your body, and an aneurysm is a bulge in this artery. If it bursts, bleeding and death are a frequent outcome.

Think you can’t afford to take care of yourself? Use this search tool to find affordable or even free preventive healthcare in your area. June may be Men’s Health Awareness month, but you should be practicing awareness and prevention and educating yourself every day of your life, not only for you but also for your family. They need you around, healthy and alive, as long as possible.

By: Emily Willingham





Cleanup!

9 06 2011

One of the most important steps in reducing the number of germs, and therefore the spread of disease, is the thorough cleaning of surfaces that you work or prepare food on, or that come into frequent contact with children, such as toys that children put in their mouths, crib rails or diaper-changing areas.

Routine cleaning with soap and water is the most useful method for removing germs from surfaces.  Good mechanical cleaning (scrubbing with soap and water) physically reduces the numbers of germs from the surface, just as handwashing reduces the numbers of germs from the hands.  Removing germs is especially important for soiled surfaces that cannot be treated with chemical disinfectants, such as some upholstery fabrics.

However, some items and surfaces should receive an additional step—disinfection—to kill germs after cleaning with soap and rinsing with clear water.  Items that can be washed in a dishwasher or hot cycle of a washing machine do not have to be disinfected because these machines use water that is hot enough for a long enough period of time to kill most germs.

The disinfection process uses chemicals that are stronger than soap and water.

Disinfection also usually requires soaking or drenching the item for several minutes to give the chemical time to kill the remaining germs.  Commercial products that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) standards for “hospital grade” germicides (solutions that kill germs) may be used for this purpose.

One of the most commonly used chemicals for disinfection in childcare settings, for example, is a homemade solution of household bleach and water.

Bleach is cheap and easy to get.  The solution of bleach and water is easy to mix, safe if handled properly and kills most infectious agents.

To create the solution, all you do is add bleach to the water.  A solution of bleach and water loses its strength very quickly and easily.  It is weakened by organic material, evaporation, heat and sunlight.

Therefore, bleach solution should be mixed fresh each day to make sure it is effective. Any leftover solution should be discarded at the end of the day.

NEVER mix bleach with anything but fresh tap water!  Other chemicals may react with bleach and create and release a toxic chlorine gas.

Keep the bleach solution you mix each day in a cool place out of direct sunlight and out of the reach of children.  Please keep all chemicals away from children.

If you use a commercial disinfectant, read the label and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly.

Recipe for Bleach Disinfecting Solution

(For use in bathrooms, diapering areas, etc.)

  • 1/4 cup bleach
  • 1 gallon of cool water

OR

  • 1 tablespoon bleach
  • 1 quart cool water
  • Add the household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) to the water

Recipe for Weaker Bleach Disinfecting Solution

(For use on toys, eating utensils, etc.)

  • 1 tablespoon bleach
  • 1 gallon cool water

Cleaning Up Blood and Body Fluids

Spills of body fluids, including blood, feces, nasal and eye discharges, saliva, urine, and vomit should be cleaned up immediately.

Wear gloves or protective material such as plastic sandwich baggies when cleaning up blood or body fluids.  Be careful not to get any of the fluid you are cleaning in your eyes, nose, mouth or any open sores you may have.

Clean and disinfect any surfaces, such as countertops and floors, on which body fluids have been spilled.  Discard fluid-contaminated material in a plastic bag that has been securely sealed.

Mops used to clean up body fluids should be (1) cleaned, (2) rinsed with a disinfecting solution, (3) wrung as dry as possible, and (4) hung to dry completely.  Be sure to wash your hands after cleaning up any spill.

Washing and Disinfecting Diaper Changing Areas

Diaper changing areas should:

  • Only be used for changing diapers
  • Be smooth and nonporous, such as formica ( NOT wood)
  • Have a raised edge or low “fence” around the area to prevent a child from falling off
  • Be next to a sink with running water
  • Not be used to prepare food, mix formula or rinse pacifiers
  • Be easily accessible to providers
  • Be out of reach of children

Diaper changing areas should be cleaned and disinfected after each diaper change as follows:

  • Clean the surface with soap and water and rinse with clear water
  • Dry the surface with a paper towel
  • Thoroughly wet the surface with the recommended bleach solution
  • Air dry – do not wipe

Thanks to CDC for the info! This is one in a series of excerpts from PKIDs’ Infectious Disease Workshop. We hope you find the materials useful – the instructor’s text and activities are all free downloads.





A Camping We Will Go!

2 06 2011

Headed for the woods this summer? Danger lurks ‘neath leafed canopies and waits in sparkling streams. And we’re not talking snakes, here.

Mosquitoes, however, do make the naughty list. Some will taste your blood and leave West Nile virus in exchange. Ticks may come bearing Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever with their bites.

The sparkling, bubbling stream near your tent may be bursting with the parasite Giardia intestinalis, or any number of other nasties you don’t want to ingest. (Giardiasis is a form of diarrhea you’ll never forget.)

Taking a tumble while gamboling about the woods can leave you open to infection – possibly tetanus. If the family isn’t vaccinated, tetanus can be contracted through soil exposure to a cut.

Have you been put off the idea of camping?  Don’t leave the tent in the box – just slather on insect repellent, purify that water before drinking, and keep your hands and skin scrapes clean.

Taking a few precautions will keep your campers happy around the fire. Just save us some s’mores, won’t ya?!





Vaccine Education Center

28 04 2011

Dr. Paul Offit, Director, VEC

The science of vaccines can be . . . daunting. The lists of ingredients and potential side effects make us want to second guess ourselves and our children’s providers. We need to be sure we’re making safe choices.

And the complicated schedules! They’re enough to make sane people pound their heads.

The folks at the Vaccine Education Center (VEC) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have a gift for presenting the complexities of vaccines and attending issues in a way that’s easy to understand yet comprehensive in scope.

The VEC website has a special section for parents and adults of all ages.  While there, you can sign up for the Parents PACK newsletter to get monthly immunization updates.  In the March issue, there’s a timely post on measles and the dangers of rubella parties.

You’ll also find age-specific information on vaccines and the diseases they prevent. There are FAQs, but if you can’t find your question, you can send it in via a form provided on the site.

The VEC has created a library of educational materials on specific vaccines and commonly asked questions. These resources range from information sheets to more consumer-friendly bookmarks and brochures.

They also maintain essential tools, including vaccine schedules, facts about vaccine preventable diseases, and the latest in vaccine science.

To keep information fresh, the VEC pens a monthly “Ask the VEC” on a myriad of topics.

Starting in 2011, the VEC will present three or four webinars a year addressing evolving issues, recent ACIP meetings, new science and media reports.

There are layers and layers of information available on the website, for those of us who feel more is better.  And what parent doesn’t?

The VEC staff constantly works at sifting vaccine fact from fiction and explaining the difference in ways we can all understand.  If you have questions, they’re worth checking out.





Sand, Surf, and What?!

25 04 2011

Kids love to dig in the sand and build castles. They’ll work for hours, crafting structures of dizzying heights, sculpting the turrets and drawbridges just so with their hands.

Oh, and getting buried in the sand? Even better.

Turns out, all that digging and getting buried can expose kids to lots of germs.  Researchers found “… evidence of gastrointestinal illnesses, upper respiratory illnesses, rash, eye ailments, earache and infected cuts. Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal illnesses were more common in about 13 percent of people who reported digging in sand, and in about 23 percent of those who reported being buried in sand.”

Just makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?  Before you give up on the beach, know that there are things we can do to combat the germs.

Tell the kids they can play in the sand, but not to touch their faces with sandy hands, and make sure they clean their hands with soap or sanitizer when they’re done playing.  Also, send them to scrub down in a shower as soon as possible after play.  There’s no guarantee they’ll avoid an infection, but it’ll help.

Kids (and adults) love to swim in pools, lakes, and oceans. We’re usually swimming in urine,  garbage, or who knows what contaminants.  Due to the reality of raw sewage runoff, we could come down with all sorts of infections, including E. coli, after practicing the backstroke.

Blech, but hey, everything carries a risk. There’s no guarantee we’ll get sick or we won’t get sick from swimming.

So go. Swim. Enjoy and shower when you’re done.

Life is too short not to have fun on vaca!

(Photo from dMap Travel Guide)





Celebrating Prevention! NIIW 2011

18 04 2011

Protecting babies from infectious diseases is a big deal around here, as evidenced by disease prevention taking up a chunk of space in our mission statement.

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), observed April 23-30 this year, is part of a larger global vaccine education initiative with WHO. For the past 17 years in the U.S., the CDC, health departments, and immunization organizations across the country have marked the week as a time to showcase immunization achievements and raise awareness of the need for continued vaccination of babies.

We asked our child immunization friends to share their planned activities, and we did some research of our own to find novel programs to share. To learn about activities in your area, visit the CDC’s NIIW site for details. Here’s a sampling of events coming up for NIIW:

  • Arizona – The Cochise County Health Department is giving free diapers to parents who bring in up-to-date immunization records. Children who need vaccines will also be vaccinated at the event and parents will receive free diapers. Scientific Technologies Corporation is doing a blog series during NIIW and promoting the week on their homepage.
  • Connecticut – The New Britain Immunization Program has collaborated with the New Britain Rock Cats Minor League Baseball Team to give free tickets to stadium visitors who have their children’s immunization records reviewed. The Southwestern Area Health Education Center will honor WIC moms and dads at a Mother’s Day Social where attendees will get education and play CIRTS (Connecticut Immunization Registry and Tracking System) BINGO.
  • Illinois – The Chicago Area Immunization Campaign has partnered with Jewel Osco, a local pharmacy chain, to distribute 15,000 immunization information cards with people’s prescriptions.
  • Nevada – The Northern Nevada Immunization Coalition will host “Give Kids a Boost: Sun Valley Health and Safety Fair” (GKAB Fair) to alleviate the barriers of health care access and transportation.
  • Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Department of Health has partnered with birthing hospitals and childcare centers to have area children to draw pictures inspired by the story “The Flu and You,” by Geri Rhoda, RN. The pictures will be used on placemats designed for use in the maternity wards and will include the infant immunization schedule and information about the importance of vaccinating caregivers with Tdap.
  • Texas – The Hidalgo County Health & Human Services Department will host an event with speakers from Mexico and Texas educating promotoras (health educators in Latino communities) on vaccine preventable diseases, the importance of vaccines, and the Mexico/US immunization schedule. The Immunize Kids! Dallas Area Partnership is reaching out to Hispanic families and women’s centers with education packets and presentations.

Do you have great activities planned for NIIW? Post a comment and tell us about it!

(photo courtesy snorp on Flickr)