Do As I Say, Not As I Do

4 08 2010

Mo, the silent one

I just spent a few days with two colleagues from PKIDs.  We have a lot in common: we’re moms of school-age children, we work for the same nonprofit, we work from home offices, and we’re all unusually aware of how efficiently unclean hands can spread germs.

So why, I have to ask, did we keep forgetting to clean our hands before noshing?  We’d get about a third of the way through bread or something else you pick up with your hands, and one of us would stop and look guiltily at the other two.  Out came the sanitizer as we agreed that it was good the kids weren’t there to see our fall from grace.

Rachael, who is more thoughtful than I, had several ideas as to why we were not as good as usual about keeping our hands clean:

  • Like most people, one of the biggest barriers to handwashing is that we simply forget in the rush of daily life
  • We were out of our routines and routine is an important step in keeping hands clean
  • We didn’t have a plan – when out of our routine, it’s important to have a plan
  • Hey, at least we put on the hand sanitizer as soon as we remembered

On the other hand, Mo has been mysteriously silent about the question of our forgetfulness.  She may have come down with something . . .

If, like us, you’re having too good a time to stop and find soap and water, at least tuck some hand sanitizer in your bag or pocket.  Maybe you’ll remember to use it!

Wish we had.





Babies, Kids, and H1N1

3 09 2009

Delivery/Post-Partum and H1N1 – what do I do?

Breastfeeding may help protect newborns against influenza, but mom’s good handwashing habits before and after breastfeeding are just as important. If you are on medication for flu, you can still breastfeed. Your provider may suggest that you wear a mask when near your baby. If you have symptoms, you can still breastfeed; the milk is not contagious. But stay away from your baby if you are feverish.

Mothers who are infected with H1N1 when they deliver do not necessarily have to be separated from their newborn. A mother on medication should be able to breastfeed; separating her from her infant would not be advantageous. A mother who is actively sick with symptoms will not be very capable of caring for an infant and will need help, which will also help minimize contact and transmission. All caregivers should be vaccinated, and should also get a Tdap vaccination (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis).

Do I need to worry about outbreaks in schools?

Because of the H1N1 outbreaks in community settings (camps, e.g.) this summer, experts do expect schools to be breeding grounds for H1N1.

School closure is an option, but is not expected to be necessary. Students (or anyone) with flu symptoms should stay home.

Other Concerns

Getting the pneumococcal vaccine can help reduce your risk of developing pneumonia as a complication of influenza infection.

For mothers infected with H1N1, masks are recommended in certain circumstances. Talk with your provider if you’re concerned. You should not need to wear a mask or gloves at home.

Do NOT attend a “flu party.” You should NOT purposefully infect yourself, or your children, with H1N1.

Recommendations

  • Fever and respiratory symptoms need to be taken seriously. Call your provider if you have any symptoms or concerns. Ask them for specific instructions; for example, they may want you to put on a mask before entering their office to help prevent infecting pregnant women.
  • Get vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses. The seasonal vaccine will not protect you against H1N1.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Maintaining good nutrition and getting plenty of rest will also help prevent illness.
  • Continue to receive prenatal care from your provider.
  • Everyone who is sick should stay home.

To get vaccinated, talk with your provider. OB/GYNs are supposed to receive vaccine to have on hand, in addition to clinics, pharmacies, and other typical venues for flu vaccine administration. If you have any concerns, about anything, at any time, talk with your provider – that’s what they’re there for!

To explore this issue further, visit:

Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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Pregnancy and H1N1 Vaccine

2 09 2009

So you’re pregnant, and you don’t want to get flu, but you also want to know that whatever goes into your body isn’t going to hurt your baby. Here’s info on H1N1 and the vaccine to help you make the best decision for you and your baby.

Is vaccination safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies?

Killed virus vaccines, such as the flu vaccines in shot form, are so safe that any risk to the unborn baby is nearly unmeasurable. FluMist, however, is live and cannot be given to pregnant women. (It can be given to other members of the family who are eligible to receive it.)

What about thimerosol?

As a pregnant woman, you can ask for a thimerosol-free vaccine, because providers are being directed to reserve thimerosol-free doses for pregnant women (and younger children) who are concerned about thimerosol. It should be noted that many studies conducted by independent bodies have shown that thimerosol does not pose any danger.

Should I get both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines?

Pregnant women can get both vaccines. It’s recommended that you get each vaccine when it becomes available. The seasonal flu vaccine will be available sooner than the H1N1 vaccine, which should come out mid-October.

Should I wait until later my pregnancy to get vaccinated?

Pregnant women can receive the flu vaccines at any time during pregnancy, including the first trimester. In fact, it’s recommended that pregnant women receive the vaccine early on, since respiratory issues later in pregnancy can be more serious.

You can start the 2-dose H1N1 vaccination series during pregnancy and finish it after your baby is born. Babies ages 0-6 months cannot get the flu vaccine, so if the mother gets the vaccine during pregnancy, it can help protect her baby.

Other concerns…

The vaccine is safe for women planning on natural childbirth. Disease is a natural process, but so is building immunity.
Alternative/online education could be an option for pregnant teens enrolled in schools experiencing outbreaks (because teens are generally considered higher risk for H1N1 as it is). If you are a pregnant young adult attending college, you can continue attending even if cases of H1N1 are reported. You should definitely get vaccinated and wash your hands – a lot.

Patients receiving treatment for infertility can get the flu vaccines. There is zero evidence that flu vaccine harms development of the unborn baby’s brain.

Pregnant healthcare workers need the H1N1 vaccine. If the flu is very active around them, their job description may need to be adjusted.

What should I do if I’m pregnant and get exposed to H1N1?

If you are exposed to a KNOWN case of H1N1, tell your provider; you may need medication. If 5 kids in your child’s school have it, this is not the same as being directly exposed.

Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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Handwashing Poster/Video Contest

1 09 2009

Handwashing

Global Handwashing Day will be here in a few weeks. We’re sponsoring a poster and video contest! (cheers in the background)

Poster Submissions: Email your original artwork to pkids@pkids.org by 15 September. The winner will get a $200USD gift certificate.

Video Submissions: Upload your video to YouTube and follow the submission guidelines below by 15 September. Videos should be short in length, like that of a commercial or PSA. The winner will get a $500USD gift certificate.

Goals

We want the poster and video to remind people that handwashing is an important method of disease prevention (get rid of germs before they get you), and with luck, the memory of the poster/video will stick with them next time they start to prepare food, leave the bathroom, finish playing outside, or do whatever it is they do to get germs on their hands. We want to stop disease transmission so people of all ages stay healthy.

Whatever your vision is of soap and water and clean hands, that’s what we want to see. Be funny, be serious, be esoteric, but most of all, be creative and original!

For the complete rules and guidelines, visit our contest page.





MRSA

25 02 2008

MRSA is in the news these days and it can be scary.  MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacterium that causes infections in and on the body.

It’s considered the super bug of staph (Staphylococcus aureus) infections because this strain is resistant to some of our antibiotics.  This resistance makes it harder to treat.

A MRSA infection on the skin may cause boils or pimples or it may cause an infection that runs so deep it has to be drained.  Treatment for such an infection may or may not include antibiotics. 

MRSA may also infect wounds or get into the lungs, the bloodstream or the urinary tract.

About 25 percent of us walk around with staph bacteria on our bodies or maybe up our noses, but we don’t become infected.  Of the 25 percent, about one percent carries MRSA. 

Should the staph get into the body through, say, a cut, we could get an infection.  Usually these infections aren’t serious, although it’s possible for them to become dangerous.  They may even cause pneumonia.

The good news is, staph is usually treated with antibiotics.  The bad news is, there are strains of staph, like MRSA, that have developed resistance to some of our antibiotics.  This super bug keeps changing and adapting, making it necessary for us to develop new antibiotics in a hurry.

To the disgrace of everyone involved, MRSA infections are exploding in healthcare settings, with MRSA now causing up to 40 to 50 percent of the staph infections in U.S. hospitals.

MRSA has also expanded from hospitals and other healthcare settings out into the community, where it is referred to as Community-Associated MRSA (CA-MRSA).

CDC tells us that in 2003, 12 percent of MRSA infections were acquired in the community.

Prevention is key to remaining MRSA-free and CDC recommends the following:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 15 seconds. Use soap and water or an alcohol-base hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage to prevent bacteria from entering the wound.  If you have to touch another person’s wounds or bandages, put a barrier between your hands and the soiled materials or open skin.
  • Don’t share personal care items like nail clippers or scissors, razors, towels and so on. 
  • Wipe down shared gym equipment before and after use.
  • Using the dryer rather than line drying helps kill bacteria.

MRSA is identified with lab tests.  Should your provider determine you have a MRSA infection, there are plenty of antibiotics that do work, although you may not even need to be on antibiotics.





Handwashing

19 09 2007

We have soap. 

We have hand sanitizers – the stuff we squirt on our hands and rub in when we don’t have soap and water. 

Oh, and we have germs.  Boy, do we have germs. 

What we don’t have is forward motion on this whole keeping-the-hands-clean concept.

What’s wrong with us?  The latest handwashing survey put out by the American Society for Microbiology and the Soap and Detergent Association says we’re washing our hands less often than we were two years ago.

Now, I don’t want to point any germy fingers, but you guys are really tanking on this.  And then you lie about it.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.  Eighty-nine percent of men say they wash their hands every time they use a public restroom, but only 66 percent were spotted actually doing it.

We women are doing our fair share of not washing and lying about it.  Ninety-six percent of us say we wash our hands in a public restroom but only 88 percent of us are actually doing it.

So, I suppose it’s not a question of who’s lying and who isn’t, but who’s lying more.  Not much ethical ground to stand on here.

Our hands go around picking up germs all day long off of escalator rails, chair arms, table tops, buffet tong handles, other people’s hands, money, door handles, the place on the door where we push so we don’t have to touch the door handle, and, well, lots of other places.

If we rub our eye, blow our nose or eat a peanut, the germs that we’ve picked up with our hands will be go right in and make themselves at home in our bodies.  Gastro bugs love to send us running for the toilet or reaching for anything that’ll hold liquid.  Respiratory bugs delight in making us cough and hack and sneeze and feel miserable.

That’s just the regular stuff.  Let’s not even talk about liver or kidney failure, pneumonia or other ills that send us to the hospital.

Apparently, keeping our hands clean actually makes a difference.  Fifteen seconds of soap and water or a squirt of hand sanitizer could be the difference between taking a day off because we’re sick or taking a day off because we’re not sick. 

Gesundheit!