Kids and Germs

wash hands to kill germsWHAT ARE GERMS?

“Germs is a nonmedical term for any organism that can cause an infection,” says Dr. Nieves. What kind of infections? Kids, especially in schools, can contract respiratory infections as well as skin infections, says Dr. Nieves. To prevent the spread of germs, especially in classrooms, parents,  teachers and caregivers should make sure children are instructed on proper hygiene techniques, like handwashing.

Children should wash their hands:

  • Before eating
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After blowing their nose
  • After playtime

GERM BUSTERS

Sharing may be a good way for kids to learn social skills, but it’s not the best way to stay healthy, Dr. Nieves says. To shield children from “germ  monsters,” Dr. Nieves advises parents to encourage their children not to share items like utensils, food and drink. Also, making sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines and seasonal flu shot is key.

H2O vs HAND SANITIZER

If you’re not sure when soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers are in order, do a hand check. “When you see actual dirt and grime, you need soap and water,” says Dr. Nieves.  “You can use hand sanitizer when you know your child has touched something that may be contaminated, such as a door knob.”

FEELING BLUE?

It’s best for kids to stay home when sick, but if missing work to care for them isn’t an option, parents should ensure good communication with the school to minimize the spread of germs to other students. “If kids have a cold, they have to be extra cautious, washing their hands after touching their face or nose,” says Dr. Nieves.

FAST FACTS

  • Kids should spend 15 seconds vigorously washing their hands.
  • 60% is the lowest percentage of alcohol a hand sanitizer should contain.
  • 9-to-1 is the ratio of bleach to water in a solution that parents can make to kill germs.

View the full feature on Kids and Germs

Dr. Nieves
Dr. Delma Nieves
CHOC Research Specialist,
Pediatric Infectious Diseases

PHYSICIAN FOCUS: DR. DELMA NIEVES

Dr. Nieves began her work at CHOC in 2010. She completed her pediatric residency at CHOC and postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at the Mattel Children’s Hospital. Her clinical interests include infectious diseases of newborns and the immuno-compromised, with a  focus on pertussis. Her published works include “The Common Cold: Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases,” and several peer reviewed studies on the topic of pertussis in young infants.

Dr. Nieves’ philosophy of care: “I think the most important thing is to empower parents and children to be able to take care of themselves.”

EDUCATION:
University of Washington School of Medicine

BOARD CERTIFICATIONS:
General Pediatrics and Pediatric
Infectious Diseases

More about Dr. Nieves

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on September 16, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson.

Meningococcal Disease – What Parents Should Know

Please take a few minutes to check out these must-know facts and guidelines on Meningococcal disease, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What is Meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a severe bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcus. Neisseria meningitidis bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., living in close quarters, kissing, sharing drinks, eating off same fork). People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting the disease.

Who can get Meningococcal disease?
Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but it is more common in infants and children. Other persons at increased risk include household contacts of a person known to have had this disease, immunocompromised people, and people traveling to parts of the world where meningococcal disease is prevalent.

What are the symptoms?
A common outcome of meningococcal infection is meningitis. When caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria it is known as meningococcal meningitis. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the protective membranes covering their brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges, become infected and swell. The symptoms include:

• Fever
• Headache
• Stiff Neck
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Increased sensitivity to light
• Altered mental status (confusion)

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis can appear quickly or over several days. In newborns and infants, symptoms (fever, headache, neck stiffness) may be difficult to notice. The infant may appear to be irritable, inactive, vomiting or feeding poorly.

Another common outcome of meningococcal infection is bloodstream infection, either septicemia or bacteremia, and the more serious of the two is septicemia. When someone has meningococcal septicemia, the bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, damaging the walls of the blood vessels and causing bleeding into the skin and organs. Symptoms may include:

• Fatigue
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Rapid breathing
• Cold chills
• Severe aches or pain in the muscles, joints, chest or abdomen
• Red dots which can progress to dark purple rash
Please note: Meningitis and septicemia can sometimes occur together.

If you think you or your child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away.

How is Meningococcal disease treated?
Meningococcal disease can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics. If meningococcal disease is suspected, antibiotics are given right away. In some cases the infection has caused too much damage to the body for antibiotics to prevent death or serious long-term problems. Depending on how serious the infection is, other treatments may also be necessary. These can include such things as breathing support, medications to treat low blood pressure, and wound care for parts of the body with damaged skin.

How can Meningococcal disease be prevented?
Vaccination is key. Keeping up to date with the recommended immunizations is the best defense against the disease. Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for all children at age 11-12 years, with a booster at 16 years. Children with certain underlying medical issues, or those who are traveling to certain areas, may need to be vaccinated earlier.

Available vaccines cover most, but not all strains. Even if you have been vaccinated, there is still a chance you can develop a meningococcal infection. People should know the symptoms of meningococcal meningitis and meningococcal septicemia since early recognition and quick medical attention are critical. In addition, maintaining healthy habits, such as getting plenty of rest and not coming into close contact with people who are sick, can help.

For more information, please visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/index.html.

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About Respiratory Synctial Virus (RSV)

The flu is not the only virus that local hospitals have been seeing this winter, other bugs – such as RSV, which causes cold-like symptoms – are making the rounds.

RSV 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.

RSV 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. While there is no RSV vaccine, there are ways to help prevent 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 following helpful links:

http://www.choc.org/healthlibrary/topic.cfm?PageID=P02541

http://www.cdc.gov/features/rsv/index.html

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Three-Step Approach to Fighting the Flu

The 2012-2013 influenza season started early and activity remains high nationwide. This may continue for some time. With that in mind, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a three-step approach to fighting influenza:

1. Get a flu vaccine.
2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

In addition, the flu vaccine may be harder to find now than it was earlier in the season. You may need to contact more than one provider (pharmacy, health department, or doctor) to find available vaccine. The flu vaccine locator provided by the CDC ( http://flushot.healthmap.org/ ) may be helpful in your search.

For more information, visit the CDC flu resources.

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Reduce the Risks of Cold and Flu Bugs

It’s cold and flu season! While there’s no protection against germs at school or the workplace, there are ways to reduce the risks.

Your child might have a cold if he or she has a stuffy, runny nose, a sore throat, a hacking cough or sneezes frequently. The flu spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Signs of the flu include fatigue and weakness, a high fever, severe aches and pains, headache and a cough.

To help prevent these bad bugs, remind your little ones – and yourself – to:

– Wash hands often to keep from spreading germs.

– Place travel-size hand sanitizer in their backpacks.

– Postpone play dates with sick kids.

– Bundle up to stay warm. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing.

– Consider getting your child a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends yearly flu shots for all children ages 6 months and older. The best time to get the shot is October or November, however it’s not too late to get it now!

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