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Daily Dose

Wash Your Hands to Stop Illnesses

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Happy Handwashing Day! Yes, today is Global Handwashing Day and it’s the 5th year that this day has been celebrated on October 15th.  While most people are aware of the importance of washing their hands, very few people use both soap and water which is the MOST effective way to remove bacteria. 

Handwashing with soap is such an important way to prevent disease transmission, especially for children under the age of 5.  Diarrheal diseases and respiratory diseases are the top two killers of children around the world (over 2 million children around the world die from these diseases each year). 

Simple handwashing with soap and water can prevent the spread of disease and decrease the number of children who will get sick. This is true in both developed and underdeveloped countries and is an inexpensive and reliable way to prevent disease transmission. 

Handwashing with soap could reduce the incidence of diarrhea by 30% and respiratory infections by 21% in children under the age of 5 years. 

So, as we approach the peak time of year for both respiratory and diarrheal disease in the United States, let’s all pull out the soap and remember to wash your hands!  Set an example for everyone especially your kids and teach then all about good handwashing and the importance of using soap and water. 

Remember to tell your kids to sing the ‘Happy Birthday” song as they wash.  That’s about as long as you need to scrub away most germs.

Daily Dose

A Germ-free Office?

To keep the germs at bay, it has been suggested to remove all toys & magazines from a doctor's office. Really? Aren't there germs on magazines in a lawyer, dentist or school office?I was just reading an interesting newspaper column in one of the advice columns carried in my daily newspaper. I just had to comment!  The writer had written in to suggest that doctor’s offices needed to change their practice of having magazines and toys for those in the waiting room.

Her feeling was that if doctors would discontinue having magazines in their offices, then patients would bring their own periodicals and that this would then reduce the spread of germs. The columnist also thought this sounded like a good idea and thanked the writer for such a great suggestion. I had to re-read the column as I really could not believe that someone would suggest that doctors should have empty waiting rooms!!!   Have we just gone overboard with “germ fears”?  I understand the need to wash your hands, and to try and keep your hands away from your face, to cover your mouth when coughing etc.  But taking magazines, newspapers, toys and books out of a waiting room seems a little extreme. There are also similar items in the waiting room of my dentist, lawyer, accountant, hairdresser etc.  I guess there could also be germs in those offices too, but no one is suggesting that these professions “sterilize” their waiting rooms and common areas. While I agree it is important to try and keep waiting rooms clean, especially in a doctors’ office (where not everyone is even sick), there is no way to keep any common area totally germ free. The magazines and books are not the only objects that may harbor germs. What about the chairs, the door knobs, the table tops, the counter tops, the fish tank glass, even the floor?  There is just not any way to keep the area entirely germ free, even with good cleaning. In my office we are very conscious about trying to keep the office clean to reduce the spread of germs. Our housekeeping staff that mop the floors and wipe the surfaces between morning and afternoon patients. To try and make an office germ free is as impossible as making a grocery store, a department store, a library or even a school germ free. It is just a fact of life that we will all be exposed to germs. To suggest that discontinuing the long standing tradition of having reading material in the waiting room of a doctor’s office in order to decrease the spread of germs just doesn’t seem to make common sense to me. If you (as a patient) are “afraid” to read a magazine at your physician’s office, then by all means bring your own. But to take away the books and magazines from everyone is just a bit too much. For many parents a trip to the pediatrician’s office is difficult enough without having to lug your own stash of toys and books. I have sweet moms who don’t even remember to bring diapers or wipes as they are just trying to get to their appointment.  Arriving to an empty waiting room to try and entertain 3 children waiting on their doctor seems like torture to me. Schools are full of germs too, but we send our kids there to learn (and occasionally get sick too). Getting sick is never fun, but germs are ubiquitous.  Don’t sweat the small stuff; remember there is a bigger picture. What do you think? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your comments below.

Daily Dose

Germs Are Lurking Everywhere

We are in the height of "sick season" with no end in sight. So how do you keep your kids healthy?Thank goodness it is February, as I have been sounding like a broken record as I go from exam room to exam room discussing the various illnesses we pediatricians are seeing right now.

This is the time of year, every year, that our offices are full, and the parents of our patients (as well as the doctors and nurses) are beginning to be weary of the “sick season”. Unfortunately, there are still at least 6–8 weeks left of the winter season, as evident by the weather patterns across the country.  With frigid temperatures, ice, snow and sleet over 2/3 of the country there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown in the number of sick children either. The most common question I hear is “ how do we keep catching something, and we don’t go anywhere”, while this is followed by the other common statement, “I have spent the entire day sanitizing my house, and we are still getting sick”. I must say, I recall winter months with 3 young children when I know I even said these things, or at least thought them to myself !! With little children in the home the germs are rampant, and the more children you have the more germs you have. Seems like it is exponential. There isn’t enough Clorox or Lysol to kill those germs, as many of them are spread by aerosol droplets that cannot be scrubbed away before they are inhaled into our mucous membranes and there they multiply.  As much as we want to “get those germs out of the house”, spending hours a day washing every surface, every toy and every object in site, it is an exercise in futility and only serves to make one even more frustrated. That is not to say that I don’t believe in good hand washing and covering your mouth when coughing, but watching parents wipe down every surface (the grocery cart, the swing set, the high chair in a restaurant), just makes me chuckle a bit.  As much as one thinks that this is protecting a child from every germ, it most likely only sells a lot of hand sanitizer and wipes.  Viruses are ubiquitous right now, and even a mother’s wrath is not big enough to stop the mighty cold and flu virus. The best way to prevent these viruses (and bacterial infections) is to abide the age old advice of:  Get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy meals, practice good hand hygiene and get your child vaccinated against the diseases that we can prevent, including flu.  If your child does become ill and has a fever keep them home from day care and preschool. Older children who do not feel well and have a fever need to stay home too, even if they have a big test or athletic event. I see plenty of children everyday who have gone to school, but became ill while they were there, and they were already shedding viral particles (no fault of their own). That can happen to all of us, you never know when you are going to get sick, so can’t plan on staying home “just in case”. On the other hand, I also see many children who had a fever during the night or who vomited but “seemed better by morning” who are sent to day care and school.  Those children should not be going. Rule of thumb, your child needs to be fever free for 24 hours, without an antipyretic medication, before they return to school.  If a child vomits they too should stay home for a day to see if they develop other symptoms or continue to vomit etc.  Don’t rush to return your child to school when they are not yet feeling well. They will feel better at home and will not expose others to their germs. The good news is that we are halfway through the winter!!  Young children do get more illnesses, but with each illness they become a little stronger as their immune system is boosted and they begin to make antibodies against the many common viral infections of childhood.  Once your youngest child turns 3 years of age, you will see that you have fewer illnesses in the home and fewer trips to the pediatrician.  In the meantime, don’t spend hours trying to “wash the germs right out of the house” but rather spend the time watching an old movie, or playing a board game with your child while they are home sick.  Make lemonade out of lemons, and keep washing those hands. That’s your daily dose for today. Have a comment? Leave it below!

Daily Dose

Handwashing Keeps Germs Away No Matter What the Season

Although it is true that “sick” season does slow down for children during the spring and summer months some pesky germs manage to tolerate the warmer temperatures and cause illness.Now that summer is here we tend to think less about germs. Although it is true that “sick” season does slow down for children during the spring and summer months (and happily so does our office) some pesky germs, both viral and bacterial manage to tolerate the warmer temperatures and cause illness. Parents are always amazed that their child might show up with a fever, or vomiting, right in the middle of summer camp or swimming lessons, I agree very inconvenient.

This is the time of year for enteroviral infections and fevers that we talked about earlier, as well as for some of those other pathogens that cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The best protection against all of these summer germs continues to be good hand washing. Remind your children to wash their hands when they are around their friends at camp, after the playground, or even when older kids have been shopping at the mall or at the movies. It is especially important to wash your hands after swimming, as germs may be present in pool and lake water. Putting your hands into your mouth to eat right after getting out of the pool is not a good idea. Have your child head to the sink and wash their hands with soap and water, for a minimum of 10 seconds or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”, before they eat those fries or popsicles poolside. Old-fashioned hand washing with soap is still preferable to hand sanitizers whenever possible. The same is true after using the restroom, as kids are in a hurry to head back to the pool or to the playground and may skip the sink and the soap! That is how the germs are then spread to the pool water or the swing set or jungle gym for the next person to touch and then rub their own nose or eyes or put their little fingers in their mouths and become ill. It all sounds a little gross, but fecal material may be found in pools and with last summer’s outbreak of Cryptosporidium in different areas of the country good hand washing continues to be of upmost importance. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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