Immunizing Against Meningitis B

12 05 2016

I have two children—one is in high school and the other is in college.

It’s time for the older one to leave her pediatrician and connect with an adult doctor. But before waving goodbye to her childhood medical home, I asked her pediatrician to immunize both girls against meningitis B.

Meningitis (meningococcal disease) can be caused by any one of several germs, or fungi, or even cancer.

Mening B Immunization

We can’t easily prevent all cases of meningitis, but there are vaccines to stop infections from certain germs.

We have good vaccines that protect against several strains of bacterial meningitis, but until recently, we didn’t have any approved vaccines to protect against meningitis B.

This strain has caused outbreaks at colleges around the country because the young people aren’t protected.

In the US, we now have approved vaccines for use against meningitis B. They require two or three doses, depending on which one you use.

Because the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) doesn’t yet recommend that all young people be immunized against meningitis B, the girls’ pediatrician doesn’t stock the vaccine in her office.

When I told her I wanted the girls protected, she ordered it and we received a call from her office after a few days, telling us it was in.

I also checked with my insurance company to make sure they would cover the cost of the vaccine, and they said yes. That was a relief! The price to fully vaccinate both girls would be a hit to my pocketbook.

After vaccination, the girls complained of sore arms for a couple of days, and we go back in a few weeks for a second shot, but I have to say, it’s a load off of my mind and I’ll be happy when they’re fully protected.

We’re lucky that insurance covers the vaccine, and that we have insurance.

It’s worth a call to your older child’s healthcare provider to see if he or she has received the meningitis B vaccine. If not, please get your child protected against this rare and awful disease. You know the old saying: Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

 

 

 

By Trish Parnell

 





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 – They’re a Pain!

27 12 2012

Do you disinfect your countertops and sinks just before you start baking or cooking?

It sounds logical, but I don’t do it. I clear the debris and swipe at the crumbs before hauling out the pans, flour, sugar, and other yummo ingredients.

I know that at any given moment, my kitchen countertops are not free of germs. (Well, I do use something to kill the little microbes, but only once a day—usually just before bed.)

So, here’s where I’m going with this—my oldest daughter and I were in the germy kitchen last weekend, preparing dinner. She washed the veggies, and then set them on the counter. The germy counter.

I told her to put the clean stuff on a plate, not directly on the counter, because it hadn’t been disinfected. She rolled her eyes (did I mention she knows everything because she’s 17?) and told me I think way too much about germs.

She’s probably right, although I didn’t tell her that.

But, to play devil’s advocate, let’s take a moment and review a typical Saturday.

We go to the grocery store and Costco, touching cart handles and checkout stations and bins, just like the thousands of shoppers before us.

We return to the car, unload boxes and bags into the back end, and get into the front seat.

After I’ve opened the driver’s side door and touched the steering wheel and the gearshift, I put my hands all over the outside and inside of my purse, trying to unearth the hand sanitizer. I squirt on more than I need and rub briskly until dry, after which I promptly put my clean hands onto the germy steering wheel and gearshift.

Did you know that once the sanitizer is dry, it won’t kill any new germs that make it to your hands?

We drive home, grab the boxes and bags, carry them into the house and put them on the floor, chairs, and countertops in the kitchen. If we only have a few boxes or bags, we just use the countertops.

Hey, it’s easier!

The girls put away the groceries while I do the debris-clearing and crumb-swiping. Then, out come the pans and flour and what-have-you that we’ll be using for that day’s baking or cooking.

You see my problem. In fact, after explaining our routine, I’m just now seeing how lazy I’ve been about a clean cooking environment. My excuse is, I know how germy the countertops are and I never put any food on them.

My daughter is right in that I do think too much about germs, but I’m right in that there are some basics we should observe to reduce the risk of infections, which I swear I’ll start observing as of this minute.

Never put purses, briefcases, grocery bags or boxes, or anything that’s been sitting around a germy environment, on the kitchen countertops. Whatever germs the boxes etc. have on their bottoms will transfer to the counter.

Take two minutes to disinfect the cooking and prep areas.

Wash hands with soap and water, and realize that the germs you have on your hands when you turn on the water will stay on the faucet for a certain amount of time, unless you then disinfect the faucet. (It’s never-ending, really, isn’t it?!)

Well, I’m sure you know there are heaps of rules for safe handling of food. But that’s about all my stomach can take. Please share your keep-it-clean cooking ideas in the comments!

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





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.





Be Ready to Fight Those Germs!

2 05 2011

(Thanks to our 11-year-old guest blogger, Paloma, for this timely reminder and her exciting design choices!)

When you sneeze or cough and then you touch something, you’re spreading germs all around.

For example, sneezing then climbing into the school bus, touching the hand rail and the backs and bottoms of the seats.  Everywhere your hand touches, it leaves germs behind.

  

When a kid sneezes or coughs and doesn’t use a tissue or wash their hands after, they spread a lot of germs around.  That’s how a lot of colds and flu and other diseases jump from kid to kid.

To prevent from getting sick or spreading your sickness around, you can wash your hands, and if you don’t have soap around, you can always carry hand sanitizer in whatever you have, like a satchel or a purse.

Kids should bring hand sanitizer to school because school is probably one of the most likely places where you can get sick because little kids are sneezing and touching things after and probably not using a tissue, but I’m sure they do sometimes.

You don’t always know where the germs are because they are little tiny germs and you can get them by just touching one thing that has someone’s germs on it.

Make sure to always wash your hands when you cough or sneeze, and if you don’t have any soap then sanitize. If you don’t have sanitizer make sure you go pick some up.

Germs hate soap and sanitizer.

NO MORE GERMS NO MORE GERMS NO MORE GERMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Always remember to cover your cough with a tissue and when you sneeze cover it up with a tissue. And when you sneeze into a tissue or cough into one you still have to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Soap would be better to use if you had some around.  Always wash your hands before dinner or before you empty the dishwasher etc.

BE READY TO FIGHT THOSE GERMS!!!

Photo credits: Creative Commons, Mountainside Medical, Discovery School





iPad shmiPad, It’s Germy!

7 04 2011

Don’t you love your iPad? Your Droid? Your iPhone? Whatever touch-screen device you use, isn’t it (sigh) maaaarvelous?

It’s also germier than a subway toilet, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. Viruses can stay viable on the surface of these devices for awhile. If we share our touch-screen device with others, the germs they leave behind can transfer to our fingertips. Once that happens, it’s easy to become infected.

So, how can we disinfect the device without getting moisture into the inner workings or damaging the surface?

According to Apple’s public relations team, the only way to clean an iPad is to:

…unplug all cables and turn off iPad (press and hold the Sleep/ Wake button, then slide the onscreen slider). Use a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth. Avoid getting moisture in openings. Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean iPad. The iPad screen has an oleophobic coating; simply wipe the screen with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove oil left by your hands. The ability of this coating to repel oil will diminish over time with normal usage, and rubbing the screen with an abrasive material will further diminish its effect and may scratch your screen.

Not the greatest advice for disinfecting, since water and wiping do little to kill germs.

One way to keep germs off of our device is to use a case and a screen protector, then clean/disinfect those pieces rather than the actual device.

Another way to curb the transmission of germs from a touch-screen device is good old hand hygiene. Washing our hands or using a hand sanitizer before and after we use a touch-screen device will limit the spread of germs.

Now, we got some Splodin’ to do!

(photo courtesy henke on Flickr)