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