The Dangers of Spring Cleaning

13 03 2013

spring-cleaning1Spring is nearly here. Does your yard beckon, displaying fast-growing weeds and frumpy foliage?

Mine calls to me, along with the garage, all of the windows, the closets, and every surface that is bespeckled with dust.

If you can’t fight the urge to clean, beware of the risks (you knew this was coming). If, however, you can resist the urge, feel free to use this list in your defense, should your SO wave a rake or sponge your way.

I can’t clean or do yard work . . .

—until I get my tetanus shot. Rusty nails, hoes, and rakes that are pokey and dirty, debris blown onto the yard from winter storms—they’re just waiting for me. (Swap out this Td shot for a one-time Tdap shot, get protected against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.)

—because I saw mouse poop in the garage and I don’t want to get hantavirus by sweeping up those virus-laden bits. I have delicate airways. (There are safe ways to clean up mouse droppings, but the SO doesn’t need to know that.)

—as long as there are mosquitoes in this world. West Nile virus is everywhere! And I can’t wear mosquito repellent while doing yard work because it smells funny, although that’s not the case when I’m kayaking. Strange.

—while ticks live in this world. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever—these are all insidious infections brought on by ticks. I believe I saw a tick on the bathroom wall last week. Possibly it hitched a ride on the dog, which shook it off while in the bathroom. I really have no other explanation.

These excuses are reasonable and clear. If your SO is having trouble swallowing understanding them, feel free to share our contact info.

By Trish Parnell

The Weeder, the Girl, and the Vaccine

12 07 2012

When we were but moppets, Dad paid a nickel for every weed my brothers and I and the neighborhood kids pulled out of our yard on Saturday mornings.

He’d appoint my oldest brother to be in charge, and then he would disappear into the house to watch a game.

One hot day, my best friend stepped on the pointy end of her hand weeder and a spike punctured her foot. I remember lots of yelling and blood and my dad suddenly being there in the yard, picking up Lori, and running with her into the house.

Mostly, though, I remember how afraid we all were that Lori would get tetanus. Well, we called it lockjaw, because most of us were under 10 years of age and didn’t know the word “tetanus.”

Tetanus goes way back in recorded history, all the way to the fifth century BCE, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the cause of tetanus was discovered.

By WWII, a tetanus toxoid was available and widely used to prevent tetanus. This toxoid was combined with a pertussis vaccine and a diphtheria toxoid in the mid-1940s to make up the DTP vaccine. Many years and versions later, we have several combination vaccines for use in preventing tetanus.

Tetanus disease happens when certain bacteria usually found in dirt or dust get into a cut on the skin and, once in the body, produce a toxin. It’s the toxin that causes the symptoms we associate with tetanus, including:

  • Headache
  • Tightening or spasms of the jaw
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fever
  • Difficulty swallowing

It can get serious, with spasms strong enough to break a child’s bones, and the fatality rate is high—10 to 20 percent.

Tetanus isn’t something that passes from person to person, and it can be prevented through regular vaccination. Which vaccine you get and when you get it depends on your age and immunization history.

Anyway, that was a thrilling day in our childhood. Lori hobbled around the rest of the summer, free of tetanus but banned from the creek and other of our favorite haunts.

Mom no longer allowed Dad to leave the wee weeders under the care of my brother. Instead, he sat in a lawn chair on our tiny porch and listened to the game on the radio while scanning the yard for potential hazards.

The upside to this was that Dad would overheat from the sun bouncing off that concrete porch, and he’d take us for ice cream after the weed-pulling was done.

To read more about tetanus, visit these links:

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Garden Guides

It’s August – Get Immunized!

8 08 2011

Are you aware of immunizations? You may think that as someone who has passed the childhood years, you’re finished with immunizations. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and here at PKIDs, we thought you should be aware that immunizations aren’t only for kids anymore. Here is a handy guide to immunizations for specific populations, from children to tweens and teens to those who are more mature in years.


Immunization starts in childhood, with the standard shots against measles, mumps and rubella, chickenpox, polio, hib, hepatitis, diphtheria, pneumococcal, rotavirus, tetanus and whooping cough for children ages six and under. These vaccination programs have been extraordinarily successful at saving lives and permanent negative effects from these diseases. For example:

  • Vaccines have successfully wiped smallpox from the face of the planet. This horrific disease could kill as many as 25% of those infected and left survivors with permanent disfigurement. Scientists declared it globally eradicated—thanks to vaccines—in 1980.
  • Polio used to hit about 50,000 people every year in the United States. Between 13,000 and 20,000 of those cases were paralytic polio that left thousands of children disabled, some in iron lungs, unable to breathe on their own. Thanks to immunization, polio is a thing of the past in the Western Hemisphere but is resurging in areas where immunization programs have been suspended, including Nigeria.
  • The United States is currently experiencing measles outbreaks, primarily among unvaccinated groups. These outbreaks have resulted in high hospitalization rates. Vaccines against measles prevent infection—which also means preventing the death and disability that this highly infectious disease causes. In areas of the world where vaccines are lacking, hundreds of thousands of children die every year from measles.
  • Have you ever known anyone who has died of diphtheria? If not, that’s because of vaccines. About 13,000 people died each year in the United States before the vaccine. In 2002, there was a single case of diphtheria in the US.
  • And take chickenpox. You may not consider chickenpox to be deadly, but before the vaccine, the death rate was about 0.41 per million cases. The death rate has dropped 97% among children and teens since the advent of the varicella vaccine.

Tweens and Teens

Don’t leave out children over age six when it comes to immunizations. Kids ages 11 and 12 need boosters for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis), and everyone needs protection against meningococcal with a booster after a few years. Further, current recommendations are also for girls to get the HPV vaccine, which protects against the viruses that most commonly cause cervical cancer. Remember that your daughter’s sexual behavior or history is not the only determinant of whether or not she will be exposed to the virus; her partner’s past matters, too. The HPV vaccine is also licensed for boys—talk to your son’s provider about vaccination.


If you’re grown, you still need to get a tetanus booster every decade, or TDaP if you haven’t received at least one booster for whooping cough. If you’re age 60 or older, get your shingles vaccine to avoid a painful viral attack on your nervous system. Adults age 65 or better also should get a one-time pneumonia shot.


Everyone should get vaccinated against flu each year, either with a shot or a nasal spray. The nasal spray contains live, weakened viruses and is approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant. The flu shot is approved for people ages 6 months and over, either healthy or with chronic health conditions. Children younger than 2 years, pregnant women, and people over age 50 are especially vulnerable and a specifically targeted population for flu shots. If you have a fever, egg allergy, or a history of reaction or Guillain-Barré following a flu shot, you should not get the vaccine.

Speaking of people who can’t get vaccines for medical reasons, one final thing to be aware of during National Immunization Awareness Month and beyond: Vaccinations as preventive healthcare don’t prevent disease only in you or your child. They also protect those who can’t receive vaccine protection because of allergy or medical conditions. It’s protection for all of us.

By Emily Willingham

Image courtesy of CDC

A Camping We Will Go!

2 06 2011

Headed for the woods this summer? Danger lurks ‘neath leafed canopies and waits in sparkling streams. And we’re not talking snakes, here.

Mosquitoes, however, do make the naughty list. Some will taste your blood and leave West Nile virus in exchange. Ticks may come bearing Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever with their bites.

The sparkling, bubbling stream near your tent may be bursting with the parasite Giardia intestinalis, or any number of other nasties you don’t want to ingest. (Giardiasis is a form of diarrhea you’ll never forget.)

Taking a tumble while gamboling about the woods can leave you open to infection – possibly tetanus. If the family isn’t vaccinated, tetanus can be contracted through soil exposure to a cut.

Have you been put off the idea of camping?  Don’t leave the tent in the box – just slather on insect repellent, purify that water before drinking, and keep your hands and skin scrapes clean.

Taking a few precautions will keep your campers happy around the fire. Just save us some s’mores, won’t ya?!