Hand-washing 101: When Scrubbing up Spreads Germs

Our hands allow us to work, interact and take care of our children -- but they can also make us sick."Hand-to-face contact is the most common way germs are spread," says Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, the vice chairman of academic affairs in the pediatrics department at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, a physician at Children's Hospital Colorado, and the author of Germ Proof Your Kids: The Complete Guide to Protecting (Without Overprotecting) Your Family From Infections. That's why proper hand-washing is the best defense against cold and flu.

Most of us -- 85 percent, an American Society for Microbiology and American Cleaning Institute study says -- hit the sink in public. But Rotbart says the majority aren't scrubbing up correctly. Read on to get the clean truth about how to kill germs with proper hand-washing protocol.

  • Take it all off. Before you turn on that faucet, remove your rings. According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, ring-wearers had higher counts of bacteria on their hands before and after washing than those who didn't wear them. Afraid you'll misplace your band? Shift it up your finger and clean beneath it.
  • Add a squirt. There are dozens of soap options available, but you can keep it simple. "There's no need for an antibacterial brand," says Rotbart."They're no more effective than the standard variety." He also recommends reaching for a liquid form. "The residue in soap dishes can make those bars a breeding ground of bacteria." For the cleanest suds, sterilize your dispenser pump in the dishwasher every other week.
  • Scrub thoroughly. "The purpose of washing your hands is creating friction to rub away germs, not to kill them," says Rotbart. Teach your child to clean his entire hand, including the wrists, backs of hands, between fingers and beneath fingernails.
  • Time it right. How long you spend washing up is key: A study from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that rinsing with water for five seconds didn't remove any germs, but washing with soap for 30 seconds eliminated them all. Experts recommend lathering up for 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing the"ABC Song" or"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" twice. Then rinse thoroughly; the water temperature doesn't matter, says Rotbart.
  • Reach for a paper towel. "When you rub your hands with a towel, you're removing the last traces of germs," explains Rotbart. Since viruses can live on cloth surfaces, make sure each family member has his or her own. In a public bathroom that's all out of towels? Spend a little extra time with the air dryer."Bacteria continues to reproduce on wet hands," says Rotbart. In fact, a study published in Epidemiology and Infection found that when sick people touched someone else with damp hands, they transferred a whopping 68,000 microorganisms.

When to Wash
We all know to scrub after using the bathroom or before dinner, but there are less obvious times when your little one should lather up:

  • After playing with animals
  • After school and day care
  • After playing with someone who is sick, or in a doctor's waiting room
  • After playing outside
  • After blowing his nose or coughing into his hands
  • Before bedtime

When You're Not Near a Sink
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are great when soap and water aren't available. Germs can only survive in moist environments, and the rubbing alcohol in these sanitizers evaporates moisture on your skin, which kills any germs that may be on your hands. Rotbart recommends stashing separate bottles in your purse and kitchen.

Like this article? Get more by following us @FaceEveryDay or friending us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

Flu-Proof Your Home

This year has been one of the worst for cold and flu in recent history, according to medical experts (and moms!). But this fact doesn’t mean that your family is sentenced to the sniffles for the remainder of the season.

While it’s impossible to banish the viruses that cause cold and flu, you can limit your family’s exposure to them at home. We sorted through the research to find the smart ways you can protect your clan.

1. Disinfect surprising surfaces.
After someone gets sick, you’re diligent about washing the sheets and spraying down the coffee table, but don’t forget to clean all the common spaces. Scientists at the University of Virginia discovered that some of the most-infected areas in the home included fridge handles, doorknobs, remote controls, light switches, bathroom faucets and dishwasher handles. Since viruses can live on surfaces for up to eight hours, it’s smart to do a deep clean of your home.

2. Choose the right cleaners.
To effectively kill those flu-causing viruses, look for wipes labeled “anti-virus.” According to British researchers, these sanitizing wipes are more effective than the garden varieties. If you’re on a budget, pick up a disinfecting spray. Or whip up a solution on your own from bleach or vinegar, both of which are proven virus-killers. (Just don’t mix the two ingredients together.)

3. Start a hand-washing rule.
It’s no secret that scrubbing up is the No.1 way to fend off the sniffles. Teach your children how to wash up properly with soap and water, making sure to scrub all surfaces (don’t forget beneath nails, between fingers and on the backs of the hands) for at least 20 seconds. Then make sure that every member of your family hits the sink as soon as they enter the home; after bathroom breaks and sneezes; and before meals.

4. Run a humidifier.
Cold and flu viruses thrive in chilly, dry atmospheres, reports a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Running a humidifier adds moisture to the air, which may deter the spread of those germs. Bonus: The added moisture keeps your nasal passages from drying out, so you can breathe easier.

5. Set out the tissues.
Just one sneeze can spray cold and flu infected droplets six feet! To prevent the spread of germs in your home, teach your little ones how to sneeze into their elbows or a tissue. And don’t forget to remind them to immediately toss those used tissues into the trash.

Like this article? Get more by following us @FaceEveryDay or friending us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

Good Friends: The Key to Good Health

Friends are good for all kinds of things -- a girls' night out, late-night chats and shopping trips, to name a few. But did you know they're also good for your health? A study published in The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied showed a strong link between supportive social networks and healthy behaviors like eating well and exercising.  

Friendships are particularly important to women, says Irene S. Levine, professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend."Female friendships are extremely vital to a woman's well-being, because women help each other unload emotions, which is a real stress buster," says Levine.

Whether you're already surrounded by friends or you're looking to build better relationships, Levine offers these tips for nurturing your female friendships -- and your health:

1. Make friendship a priority.
Most women are so busy that it may feel self-indulgent to spend time on friendships. But it's important to make friends a priority in your life, says Levine."Know that [friendships] will ultimately make you a better mother, wife, daughter and person, because friendships make you feel more fulfilled," she says.

2. Be there.
While technologies like email and Facebook have made keeping in touch with friends easier, there's just no substitute for face time."Be there for your friend in the way you would want her to be there for you," says Levine. If your friend's nervous about going in for a mammogram, for instance, offer to go with her. Or if she needs a dress for an important occasion, take her shopping.

3. Celebrate together.
Remember the special events in each others' lives, whether it's a birthday, an important anniversary, a new job or a promotion."It makes for a more special relationship when you can celebrate each other's important events and successes," advises Levine.

4. Communicate.
When something's wrong, talk about it. Levine suggests you open the door for conversation and avoid pretending nothing's wrong. Just like in a good marriage, friends need to keep the lines of communication open. Let her know that you're there to talk whenever she needs you.

5. Develop rituals.
Patterns and regularity can help create a rich friendship, says Levine. Make your relationships stick by developing rituals that create lasting memories, like a regular girls' night out (or in!), a girlfriends' getaway, a lunch every Friday or a drink every Thursday night. Put it on your calendar -- and keep that time sacred.

6. Forgive and forget.
Every relationship requires give and take. You're two different people, and your friend may not always think the way you do or say the right thing. Recognizing that no one is perfect and being willing and able to apologize when you make a mistake is crucial."Apologize sooner rather than later so bad feelings don't have a chance to build up," says Levine."And don't keep score: The best friendships are those where people truly want to give and take in an unconditional way." 

7. What if you have trouble making friends?
If you're shy or introverted, you might have a hard time finding good friends. Start by engaging in activities you enjoy, suggests Levine. Join a gym or a book club, or volunteer for a community service group."Put yourself in a place where you'll see the same people over and over," says Levine."Show openness with simple things like smiling and showing interest in the other person. Just don't be too aggressive or reveal or ask for too much information too soon: Relationships need time to grow."

Like this article? Get more by following us @FaceEveryDay or friending us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

A School Nurse’s Tricks to Avoid Getting Sick

Your little one is coughing, sneezing and asking for comfort. How can you tell a cold from the flu? Knowing the difference between the two is important for any parent.

Although colds and the flu are both respiratory illnesses, they're caused by different types of viruses. The problem is that colds and the flu share symptoms, like coughing and sneezing. But I've listed a few ways to distinguish between the two. Keep in mind that every child is different. If you're worried about him or her, don't hesitate to call your pediatrician.

How can I tell if it's a cold? 
Colds are generally milder than the flu and usually last for about a week. Children typically develop a sore throat. The cold is more likely to cause sinus symptoms -- such as a runny nose, sniffling and sneezing -- followed by a cough. Kids can also present a low-grade fever, which is usually around 100 F. The symptoms of the flu also generally last longer -- up to two weeks -- than the symptoms of a cold, which usually last three to seven days.

How can I tell if it's the flu? 
More severe than a cold, flu symptoms tend to come on quickly: Your child can feel fine one day and horrible the next. The main symptom of the flu, however, is a fever. Kids can get a high-grade fever of up to 106 F. (Click here to learn more about when to call the doctor for a fever.) Other telltale signs include a dry cough, body aches and an overall feeling of fatigue.

What's the best way to treat the viruses? 
If your child has the flu, and she or someone in your home has a compromised immune system -- an infant, a senior citizen, or someone with a chronic illness -- call your pediatrician right away. Your doctor will want to prescribe an antiviral medication, which is most effective when taken 48 hours after onset. This can help prevent the spread of the flu, which can cause potentially dangerous complications, like pneumonia.

Otherwise, you can treat both illnesses the same way: Make sure that your child gets plenty of rest and fluids. You can use a fever-reducing medication, like acetaminophen, to bring down his or her temperature, as well as OTC meds to relieve symptoms.

If your child experiences respiratory problems and has trouble breathing, has a fever that lasts more than three days, or doesn't seem to be getting better with time, call your doctor. You want to make sure that he didn't develop a complication, such as pneumonia or a sinus or ear infection.

Like this article? Get more by following us @FaceEveryDay or friending us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

7 Steps to Boost Your Child's Immunity

The best offense is a good defense. It's a saying that holds as true for football as it does for cold and flu season. But fending off colds doesn't just mean reminding your kids to wash their hands."How much you sleep, what you eat and how you spend your free time all play a role in having a strong immune system," says Dr. Alan Greene, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and an attending pediatrician at Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif. Follow this eight-step plan to keep your little ones -- and you -- healthy, happy and sniffle-free.

Scale back on sweets.
According to the American Heart Association, the average American gets about 22 teaspoons of added sugar in one day -- more than three times the amount the organization recommends. Not only can an excess of the sweet stuff pave the way for weight gain, but it can also wear down the immune system."Refined sugar causes blood sugar spikes, which compromise white blood cells, the body's first line of defense against colds," says Greene. To scale back, swap out your kid's soda for water and offer fruit instead of candy. The American Heart Association advises that children ages 4 to 8 who get about 1,600 calories a day should limit their sugar intake to 3 teaspoons -- or 12 grams -- a day.

Clear the air.
Here's another reason to protect your child from secondhand smoke and chemical-based household cleaners:"These pollutants damage cilia, the tiny hairs in your nose that help block viruses," says Greene. Declare your home and car smoke-free zones, and use gentler cleaners -- or save the serious scrubbing for the times your kid's in day care or on a playdate.

Let 'em laugh.
When life gets hectic, it's sometimes simpler to rush through your day without cracking a smile. But taking time to have fun and giggle with your family is crucial for your well-being. In fact, research from Japan's Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine found that watching funny movies boosts the production of the body's natural cold- and flu-killing cells. Try having a tickle-fest, or pop in a chuckle-worthy DVD.

Serve some bacteria.
The good kind, that is! “Probiotics strengthen the immune system," says Greene."The trick is giving your child enough of these friendly bacteria." He recommends looking for a product with 5 to 10 billion units from more than one strain of probiotics, such as a combination of lactobacillus and bifidus regularis. Most yogurts contain 1 billion units per serving, so consider stocking up on fortified juices too.

Stress less.
Too much tension can trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that dampens your body's defenses, says Greene. Of course, it's impossible to rid your child's life of all stresses, but teaching him coping techniques can help him better deal with them. The next time he seems anxious, have him lie down with one hand on his tummy. Ask him to take deep breath; his stomach should push against his hand when he inhales and move away when he exhales. Eventually, he'll learn to take these "belly breaths" when he's feeling frustrated.

Get moving.
Freezing outside? Resist the temptation to camp out in front of the television. Staying active provides a number of healthy benefits, including a stronger immune system. According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who worked out five days a week came down with 46-percent fewer colds than their couch-potato counterparts. So bundle up and go on a family walk or create an indoor obstacle course.

Have a set bedtime.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who logged more quality shut-eye were five times less likely to get a cold than those who tended to toss and turn. Experts recommend that children younger than 12 should log 10 hours of sleep a night, one- to three-year-olds should get 12 to 14 hours, and those younger than 1 need 14 to 15 hours. To help put your little one -- and colds -- to bed, create an evening ritual that signals it's time for sleep, like reading a favorite book or doing a few easy stretches.

Like this article? Get more by following us @FaceEveryDay or friending us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.