How Effective are Hand Sanitizers?

SONY DSCThough old-fashioned hand-washing is the best way to keep hands clean and combat germs, gel hand sanitizers are a good alternative when soap and water aren’t readily available, a CHOC Children’s physician says.

“They certainly don’t take the place of proper hand-washing,” says Dr. Negar Ashouri, a CHOC infectious disease specialist. “That is still the best way to help prevent the spread of infection. But when you don’t have access to soap and water, hand sanitizers are a good alternative.”

Hand sanitizers can also supplement hand-washing, Dr. Ashouri says. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends scrubbing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. However, the average person doesn’t always wash their hands long enough or effectively enough to kill germs entirely. In addition, people don’t always use enough soap, or they don’t clean the entire hand.

If you coat the whole hand with the gel, alcohol-based hand sanitizers work well to help kill germs, she says. The CDC notes that alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Hand sanitizers should be alcohol-based and have a concentration of at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective. Dr. Ashouri says any brand is fine as long as it meets that level of alcohol concentration.

Also, she adds that it’s a myth that people build a resistance to gel sanitizers and that long-term use renders them ineffective.

Learn more about CHOC’s infectious disease division.

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What Parents Can Do to Prevent Ear Infections

February is ear, nose and throat health month, and any parent whose child has had an ear infection knows how important this is.  Ear infections are common in babies and children, but they can be prevented by focusing on cold and flu prevention and family hygiene, a CHOC Children’s physician says.

Frequent hand-washing by all family members helps cut down on the spreading of germs, and it’s also important to discourage children from rubbing their hands on their faces or in their eyes, says Dr. Nguyen Pham, an ear, nose and throat speciali20130425_2730st.

“Try to do whatever you can to keep your child from getting a cold or the flu because they lead to ear infections,” says Dr. Pham. “It’s rare a child will get an ear infection without having a cold.”

If a family member has a bad cold or cough, limit contact between the sick person and others at home. Keep children away from people who are sick to the extent possible. If a child has a bad cold, keep him or her home from school or daycare so the other children won’t be exposed.

Also, parents should ensure their child gets the influenza, or flu, vaccine every year, Dr. Pham advises.

“You can also get the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine,” he says. “This vaccine can lead to a reduction in frequent ear infections in some children. Parents can ask their pediatrician about this option.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies have shown that vaccinated children get far fewer ear infections than children who aren’t vaccinated.

Other things parents can do to prevent ear infections include avoiding exposing babies and young children to cigarette smoke (studies have shown that babies who are around smokers have more ear infections), and never putting a baby down for a nap or for the night with a bottle.

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Protect Against the Flu to Keep Children’s Learning on Track

Between fever and body aches, your child really suffers when flu-stricken – but the virus affects more than just your child’s health. Did you know that staying home with the flu affects your child’s learning, and has consequences for schools? Learn some more reasons why to protect against the flu in today’s guest post from Pamela Kahn, R.N., M.P.H., the Orange County Department of Education’s health and wellness coordinator.It’s no fun seeing your child laid low by the flu. As a parent, you do everything that you can to relieve the fever, body aches, chills, cough and stuffy nose that come with the flu, and to get your child back to normal again.

You aren’t the only one rooting for your child to stay healthy. The flu can have a profound impact on your child’s school. Infectious disease accounts for millions of lost school days a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, school-aged children are the group with the highest rates of flu illness, and they tend to be the ones who spread the flu.

A recent study showed that about half of school absences during January and February were related to respiratory and intestinal flu-like sickness. In fact, school nurses report that during flu season they often see more than 16 students per day in their offices, and send home on average five sick students each day.

Students with influenza miss more school days than their healthy peers. It’s important to remember that students who miss too much school are less likely to succeed academically. Further, students aren’t the only ones at school affected by the flu: Teacher absenteeism costs time and money, as well as possibly having a negative effect on your student’s learning.

The flu season may also affect school finances. With absenteeism, the Average Daily Attendance rate (money schools receive from the government)  for students during the flu season can decrease by as much as 2 percent, costing the school much-needed dollars.

The effect of widespread flu vaccination protects not only your child, but the whole community because school-aged children can easily share the virus with classmates, teachers and other school staff. Children who are not vaccinated were 2.9 times more likely to get the flu compared with vaccinated children.

So, while good nutrition, plenty of rest, exercise, and reducing stress  all strengthen kids’ and parents’ overall disease resistance, being vaccinated against the flu has been shown to both decrease the rate of influenza infection and increase rates of school attendance, which is good for your child, their teacher and their school.

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Protect Against Respiratory Synctial Virus

The flu is not the only virus you may want to protect your family from this season. Other bugs such as respiratory synctial virus (RSV), which causes cold-like symptoms, will be making the rounds.

RSV is common from fall to spring and can lead to serious illness, especially in infants and older adults. Infants and young children may experience a fever, reduced appetite, runny nose, cough, and wheezing. Older children and adults may have a runny nose, sore throat, headache, cough, and a feeling of general sickness.

The virus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, sending respiratory droplets into the air. These droplets can end up in other people’s eyes, mouths or noses, where they can cause infection.

To help prevent the spread of RSV, people who have cold-like symptoms should:
• Cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
• Wash their hands often with soap and water for 15–20 seconds
• Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with others
• Refrain from kissing others

To learn more, please visit the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/rsv/index.html

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Protect Your Kids from the Flu this Season

It’s not too early to get the flu shot! The flu season can start as early as October, (peaks in January or February) and can last as late as May. CHOC Children’s along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that all children ages 6 months or older be immunized against influenza as soon as the vaccine is available.

New quadrivalent influenza vaccines for the 2013-2014 season contain the same three strains as the trivalent vaccine, plus an additional B strain. The flu vaccine is especially important for people who are at high risk of complications from flu, including:

• Pregnant women
• People 50 years of age and older
• People of any age with chronic medical conditions
• People who are immunosuppressed
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• Health care workers

For a complete list, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/FLU/

Also, remind your family to take everyday preventive steps to stop the spread of germs. This includes washing hands often, using hand sanitizer, postponing play dates with sick kids, and wearing appropriate outdoor clothing. If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

For more information, check out this CHOC article with frequently asked questions:
http://blog.chocchildrens.org/who-needs-a-flu-vaccine/

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