Hand Washing the Gateway to Better Health

September 23rd, 2007

I have finally recovered from the stomach ache I thought might kill me. After talking to several friends and the mothers of some of my children’s friends I discovered that it is some sort of weird “bug” going around. So just a heads up if you or your child have a horrible stabbing abdominal pain that even hurts to the touch. It probably isn’t an appendix ready to burst.

We joked that perhaps we should look for a meteor laying around town somewhere.

This morning I was reading news online and came across this report that says hand washing in the U.S. is declining. Why? Why, people?

I have admitted before that I am something of a germophobe, but in a healthy way. No, really. I don’t have vats of Purell in my house, or antibacterial soap, nor to I keep my children in a plastic bubble, though I’d really like to for many reasons other than their likelihood to come across germs.

But I refuse to bring them to those McDonald’s or ChuckECheese indoor playgrounds ever since I saw a news expose showing how they were never cleaned and contaminated with e-coli and all sorts of flesh eating bacteria. Excuse me, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

“Fifteen to 20 seconds of friction and soap and water will remove so many germs from your hands and help with your wellbeing. That is a marvelous intervention that will work all over the world,” Judy Daly, director of the Microbiology Laboratories at the Primary Children’s Medical Center in told reporters.

Something as simple as hand washing could prevent the transfer of so many germs.

The article went on to say that only 77% of people washed their hands after using a public restroom, compared to 92% of people who SAID that they did. And men, they were by far the worst offenders. There was a huge discrepancy between the rates of hand washing between men and women. “[J]ust 66 percent of men [were] seen washing their hands in public bathrooms, compared with 88 percent of the women.”

Even 88% seems startling to me.

Your mission this week, should you chose to accept it, is to drill hand washing into your children. Make it a habit in the home so that it will become a habit out of the home as well. And you know what they say about children copying what you do and not what you say. Model the behavior for them.

I will thank you from the bottom of my germ phobic little heart. But even better, you can thank yourself when you are NOT cleaning up vomit from your child’s bedroom floor in the middle of the night. Yes, they will still get sick, but at least you can feel as though you were doing something proactive.

(cross posted at Handipoints)

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month

September 5th, 2007

Not all of us live in areas where we are going to be hit by tornadoes, tsunamis, or flash flooding. But most of us will at one time or another experience a situation where our comforts that we expect living in the 21st century, are stripped away.

Maybe just for a day or two, but our level of preparedness can make the difference between having an “adventure” or being a complete embarrassment to our pioneer ancestors. I’ll admit it right here, it is a good thing that I was born during the century that I was.

I am a wimp.

I live in an area where winter storms frequently knock out power for extended periods of time. I am furiously knocking on wood as I type this because it has been a few years since we have lost power for an extended number of days.

In the winter, the icy cold frigid winter, of 2003 we had a snow storm that knocked out power to our entire area for 6 days. Six long LONG days.

You have heard it said that what doesn’t kill you, teaches you something. Oh, let me share my wisdom:

When there is a widespread power outage, none of the gas pumps will be working. So if you only have a small bit of gas in your car, a usual occurrence here at my house, you will be stuck at home.

If you have a well, like our house at the time did, you will not have running water. You will, however, try to turn the water on several times a day as well as flush the toilet.

Your electric stove won’t work. (Duh.)

Your outdoor grill might be buried under a couple feet of frozen snow.

You will not be able to find matches. And going out to the car, starting it, pushing in the cigarette lighter so that you can light a rolled up piece of paper to light your camp stove, will NOT be fun. Especially when it burns down to your fingers and you have to drop it before ever lighting anything.

You will gladly trade one of your small children for a small percolator so you can make coffee in the morning on your camp stove.

You will need that coffee and wine more than ever before. Maybe simultaneously.

Have a corkscrew handy.

When there is a storm brewing, make sure that you have batteries for all of your flashlights. Lighters or matches, and candles are also very good.

What have we done to prepare?

1) We bought large kerosene heaters and make sure to always have plenty of kerosene on hand during the winter.

2) When there are storms coming in we make sure that our cars are filled up with gas.

3) Camp stove and camping gear (sleeping bags) are easily accessible. (And fuel for the cook stove so you aren’t eating dry raman noodles)

4) Fill up all tubs with water, for washing, flushing toilets

5) Make sure that we have food to eat that does not require cooking or refrigeration. Things like those individual cups of Raman are always good to have on hand since you only pour boiling water into the cup and it cook right there.

6) Get some disposable plates and silverware. Since you may not be able to wash anything, do you want to have it piling up? I don’t.

7) I JUST bought a crank battery operated weather radio last winter. So that when our power goes out and there is three feet of snow on the ground I can turn on my radio and find out that there is three feet of snow on the ground.

So those are my tips for small disasters, though that is probably too strong of a word to describe the times when my power is out and I can not access the internet or vacuum for 36 hours.

FEMA has a disaster supply list of things that every family should consider having on hand. Most of these things I already have in my first aid kits. But look over their website, it is chockfull of information that might be appropriate for you and your family.

Asiaing has a disaster preparedness coloring book for children that you can download and print.

Last year Daring Young Mom and her family took part in a mock disaster to see how prepared they would be in the event of a true disaster.

Walk yourself through a fake disaster sometime. See what would happen if you had to rely on your emergency supplies to get you through. I think you’ll be surprised at how much work you have to do. Prescription meds? Feminine hygiene products? Toilet paper? Not a nut? Cash in small bills? Know how to shut off your gas and water? Hand crank NOAA radio to listen for broadcasts about why the sky is suddenly green? An ounce of sanity?

Her post is hilarious, but also eye opening. How many of us think that we are prepared, but really aren’t? Or how many of us know we aren’t really prepared, but don’t fully realize the extent of our unpreparedness. (Yes, that is totally a word.)

Next week I am going to have an interview with a family that lived through Hurricane Katrina. They thought that they were as prepared as they needed to be.