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)

UTIs – Not Fun

24 02 2010

There are hundreds of strains of Escherichia coli, a type of bacteria more commonly known as E.coli.

Most are harmless and live naturally in the intestines of humans and other mammals without causing illness.  But, there are a few strains that cause serious illness in humans when we eat or drink contaminated food or water.

Typical symptoms of E. coli infection are stomach pain and diarrhea. E. coli can also cause urinary tract infections (UTIs).

UTIs are common in children and women.  By the age of five, 8% of girls and 1-2% of boys have had at least one UTI.

Women and girls tend to get UTIs more often than men and boys for two reasons:

  • Women and girls have shorter urethras (where urine comes out)
  • The urethra is located closer to the anus (where you have your bowel movements), which increases the chances of bacteria from the colon coming into contact with the urethra.

Usually, there are no bacteria in urine. When bacteria get into the urinary tract (the system that brings urine from your kidneys to your bladder and then out through the urethra) it can cause symptoms of fever, as well as burning and pain with urination. This is a UTI.

Most often, UTIs are caused by E. coli that get into the urinary tract from stool left on the skin around the anus after a bowel movement. Bleh.

However, some UTIs result from eating E. coli-contaminated food.

To avoid infection and the spread of E. coli, CDC suggests:

  • Thoroughly cook meats and wash fresh produce before eating.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands after using the restroom, changing diapers, before and after touching food, after touching animals or the areas in which animals reside.
  • After using the restroom, wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from the anus from entering the urethra.
  • Avoid raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products or juices such as apple cider.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (except for the water in which you swim or play, as it might harbor E. coli).

No guarantees, but a little prevention might save you or your kids from lots of discomfort.