Sand, Surf, and What?!

25 04 2011

Kids love to dig in the sand and build castles. They’ll work for hours, crafting structures of dizzying heights, sculpting the turrets and drawbridges just so with their hands.

Oh, and getting buried in the sand? Even better.

Turns out, all that digging and getting buried can expose kids to lots of germs.  Researchers found “… evidence of gastrointestinal illnesses, upper respiratory illnesses, rash, eye ailments, earache and infected cuts. Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal illnesses were more common in about 13 percent of people who reported digging in sand, and in about 23 percent of those who reported being buried in sand.”

Just makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?  Before you give up on the beach, know that there are things we can do to combat the germs.

Tell the kids they can play in the sand, but not to touch their faces with sandy hands, and make sure they clean their hands with soap or sanitizer when they’re done playing.  Also, send them to scrub down in a shower as soon as possible after play.  There’s no guarantee they’ll avoid an infection, but it’ll help.

Kids (and adults) love to swim in pools, lakes, and oceans. We’re usually swimming in urine,  garbage, or who knows what contaminants.  Due to the reality of raw sewage runoff, we could come down with all sorts of infections, including E. coli, after practicing the backstroke.

Blech, but hey, everything carries a risk. There’s no guarantee we’ll get sick or we won’t get sick from swimming.

So go. Swim. Enjoy and shower when you’re done.

Life is too short not to have fun on vaca!

(Photo from dMap Travel Guide)





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.





The Stink About Public Bathrooms

31 03 2010

Public restrooms!  Dirty, wet, odorous endurance trials—never fun, sometimes necessary.

Most of us detest public restrooms and we all have certain rituals we perform when we have to use them: piling on a liberal amount of toilet seat covers, hovering over the seat, using an elbow to open and close doors. Sometimes we just “hold it” until a more appealing option comes along.

Public restrooms are said to harbor an unhealthy mix of microbes. This may be true, but we were surprised to find those germs waiting in unlikely places.

Myth #1: Toilet seats are the germiest places in a public restroom.

Not so, say the experts. The germiest place in a public restroom is the floor. Also in the running are routinely touched objects: latches and sink handles.

Myth #2: The womens’ restroom is usually cleaner than the men’s restroom.

While it may smell better (due to the lack of urinals) and be more appealing (due to male grooming habits), women’s restrooms usually have higher bacteria counts than men’s restrooms, due to women spending more time in the restroom and often bringing their children with them to take care of business.

Bonus disgusting fact: germs are transported from the restroom when women set their bags and purses on the restroom floor and then take them back outside. What do the experts suggest? Use a hook or, if possible, have a traveling companion on the outside hold onto it for you.

Myth #3: The farther away a stall is from the door, the less used it is.

Actually, most people believe this and use the stalls that are farthest from the door. The cleanest stalls are usually the ones closest to the door.

Myth #4: Air dryers are more sanitary because you don’t have to push a lever/button.

Surprisingly, not so! Air drying machines blow germy air directly onto your hands, your clothes, and into the air you breathe.

Myth #5: Squatting is safer than using a cover or just using a bare seat itself.

Maybe, but squatting doesn’t allow the bladder to be fully emptied, putting you at risk for a urinary infection.

Myth #6: I can hold it, I guess! No big deal.

Holding it for too long also puts you at risk for a urinary infection.

Myth #7: Bathrooms harbor germs you don’t find in normal settings.

Bathrooms have the same germs you come into contact with everywhere else by shaking hands, touching rails, and opening doors.

Myth #8: All my rituals are useless and unnecessary.

There’s nothing wrong with turning off the faucet and opening the door with paper towels. No one is going to laugh at you for using a paper toilet seat cover. Rituals are there for comfort and do contribute to your health. You don’t need to pretend a public restroom is the same as the one you have at home, but it might be easier to “go” if you aren’t thoroughly disgusted by your surroundings. Just be sure to lather those hands after you’re done!

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Antibacterial soap – yes or no?

10 09 2009

You gotta love handwashing.  Water, soap, rub, and rinse.  Too easy and gets rid of lots of germs.

The question seems to be: do we need to use antibacterial soap?

Natural soap contains fatty acids that allow oil and water to come together more easily, which in turn allows the water we’re using to carry away the germ-infested oil and grease on our hands.

In the 1990s, antibacterial soaps came on the market for home use.  It seems like using them would be a no-brainer, but experts can’t agree on this.

One concern is whether long-term and widespread use of antimicrobials is contributing to the creation of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

Environmental experts are voicing concern about the long-term effects of triclosan and other chemicals used in these antibacterial products, which are building up in our waste water system, and ultimately being dumped into the environment where they disturb the natural ecosystem by killing desirable and important microbes.

In addition to questions about the environmental impact, the actual effectiveness of these ingredients in household soaps is now in doubt.  Most experts agree that antibacterial soaps are unnecessary in a healthy home setting, and may actually do more harm than good.

A 2004 report in Annals of Internal Medicine found that in a 48-week randomized double-blind study, there was no statistical difference in illness symptoms between the families that used exclusively antibacterial products, and the families that used exclusively non-antibacterial cleaning products.

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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!