Clean Those Hands!

11 08 2016

My older daughter started preschool when she was three.

That autumn, our lives changed — our healthy little family became a sick, exhausted mess.

Every three to four weeks for the next several years, at least one of us would be felled by some illness.

I remember commenting on it to the preschool director. She laughed and explained that it happened to every teacher and family new to preschool or daycare.

A perfectly healthy family or individual would, soon after their first exposure to school, dissolve into a puddle of sickly goo and stay that way for years.

It was due to the teeming mass of sneezing, coughing, nose-picking, walking petri dishes we called children, who cheerfully plastered germs on each other and on every surface in the building.

preschool

We were all immunized against the diseases for which there were vaccines. But, that didn’t account for those germs running free with nothing to stop them but a pair of clean hands.

We had to up our hand cleaning game, big time.

And here’s the thing about clean hands — one could almost say the conundrum of public health — when we use soap and water on our hands, we wash off most of the germs, but as soon as our clean hands touch an unsterilized surface (a.k.a. pretty much anything or anyone in the world outside of instruments in an operating room), germs hop right back on our hands.

The same is true with hand sanitizer. As soon as it’s dry and our hands touch a germy surface, we’re loaded for bear, as my grandma used to say.

One could ask, why bother to clean our hands?

It’s a fair question. The answer is simple — by cleaning our hands numerous times a day, we continually get rid of the hitchhiker germs.

If we add cleanliness to the habit of keeping our hands away from our eyes, nose, and mouth, then we have a good shot at avoiding lots and lots of infections.

Cleaning our hands frequently throughout the day is not a guarantee of good health, but not cleaning them is a sure way to spend a lot of time feeling lousy.

 

 

by Trish Parnell

Image courtesy Pixabay





Measles – What’s The Big Deal?

2 06 2016

Why are public health people excited about a handful of measles cases?

Right now there’s an outbreak in Arizona. As of the moment I’m writing these words, outbreak in this instance means 11 cases. Doesn’t sound like a big deal.

But, there are reasons for concern.

To put some perspective on this, prior to 1980, before most kids were getting immunized against measles, infection caused 2.6 million deaths each year.

Measles is wildly contagious. Let’s say I’m infected with measles—I pop into the local Walmart’s restroom, do my thing, wash my hands, and cough before I go out the door. Everyone who enters that restroom for the next two hours will be exposed to the virus, which is hanging in the air and also waiting on the countertops, taps, and doorknob.

Just walk into the restroom and you’re exposed. It’s that easy to pick up.

Protection comes through immunization, although there are some who have been immunized who will still become infected. No vaccine protects 100% of the people 100% of the time.

Keeping your hands clean and away from your eyes, nose, and mouth also helps to prevent infection.

When you have measles, you will almost surely get a rash. What most of us don’t realize is measles can bring so much more than a few red spots:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the brain, which may lead to deafness or intellectual disability
  • SSPE – a fatal disease which lurks in the body for years after the initial measles infection disappears
  • Death

When you can become infected by simply breathing the air an infected person passed through two hours ago, it’s reason enough to get excited.

Make sure your family is protected through immunization, and check with your healthcare provider if you’re not clear about your family’s immunization history.

Preventing measles is worth a minute of our time.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





HCPs, Clean Your Hands Please!

24 05 2016

It’s hard to believe the number of posters, lectures, threats, and gimmicks that are produced each year just to get healthcare professionals to clean their hands.

Why, oh why won’t caring nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and others who tend to our medical care clean their hands as often as they should?

We know there are some who prevent infections by keeping their hands clean throughout the day. Thank you for that. This discussion isn’t about your habits, but the poor habits of some of your colleagues.

Common excuses for not cleaning hands are no time, no sinks around when you need them, patient care is more important than hand hygiene, can’t find soap and/or paper towels, simply forgot, or don’t agree with the recommendations.

CDC says that “Studies show that some healthcare providers practice hand hygiene less than half of the times they should. Healthcare providers might need to clean their hands as many as 100 times per 12-hour shift, depending on the number of patients and intensity of care.”

That breaks down to cleaning your hands eight times an hour on average, or once every 7.5 minutes. Of course, that number varies depending on your duties during a shift.

No matter what the precise number, we can all agree that healthcare professionals need to clean their hands a lot while at work.

On the one hand, it seems that such repetition would form strong habits. But on the other hand, if repetition isn’t there, if hands aren’t cleaned every single time a patient’s room is entered and every single time one is finished with a patient, habits won’t be acquired.

Acquire the habit. Please.

provider-infographic-2-know-how-germs-spread

 

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Stay Healthy This Winter!

30 09 2013

Stay Healthy This Winter

Click here for larger image!





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

 

 





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





Here’s to Clean Hands

15 03 2012

It’s no secret that clean hands are one of our most effective weapons against infections. At PKIDs, we’re big on handwashing. One of our first projects as an organization was the development of a handwashing video for young kids. It still gets used today:

Several years later, PKIDs and students from the Art Institute of Portland developed a handwashing cartoon that’s perfect for middle school or high school students. It’s a flash program and can be played from a computer.

We also have a handwashing poster that can be downloaded from our site. There are two versions—one with PKIDs’ brand on it and one that’s unbranded, should you want to put your own contact info on it.

Yep, we think clean hands are a big deal in the fight against infections. If you know of any resources health educators can use, just put them in the comments section. Thanks!