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A Guide To Hand Hygiene

Posted By Jo Greene, Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2019

handwashing

Although it’s been drummed into us since we were children, research suggests that we’re still not as good at hand hygiene as we should be. In fact, it is thought that 1 in 5 of us do not wash our hands after using the bathroom, which can lead to the spread of harmful bacteria. 

Throughout our history, hygiene has had varying levels of priority within our lives. However, having reached a point where cleanliness was “next to godliness”, more and more of us are  shirking our handwashing responsibilities. With the rise of campaigns such as Global Handwashing Day, it’s clear that hand hygiene needs to have a greater level of priority in our lives - and that in order to prevent the spread of germs, we need to spread awareness first. 

 

Why do we need to wash our hands?

Viruses and bacteria can be transferred from one person to another with just a single touch. And when we come into contact with so many dirty things on a daily basis, handwashing is one of the most important tools at our disposal to prevent the spread of harmful germs and bacteria.

Even before we fully understood the role bacteria played in infections, the benefits of handwashing had become clear. In the 1840s, an Austrian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis began using chlorine hand wash in his obstetrical clinic, reducing mortality rates to less than 1%. A decade later, the hygienic changes introduced by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War (amongst which was regular handwashing) lowered death rates by two-thirds

Handwashing alone can reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%, and can reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%. Preventing these illnesses and improving our health not only benefits our personal lives, but also helps to reduce sickness and absenteeism in the workplace, as well as keeping children in school, rather than at home with a cold or flu. 

However, despite the fact that we have come a long way in our hygiene since then, there is still vast room for improvement. It is thought that diarrhea, which can be contracted through drinking dirty water or eating food contaminated by dirty hands, kills 525,000 children under five around the world every year. Handwashing could therefore even be considered a moral imperative in the attempts to prevent the spread of life threatening diseases. 

 

When should we wash our hands?

As a rule, the NHS recommends that we wash our hands under the following circumstances:

  • After using the toilet
  • After handling raw foods like chicken, meat and vegetables
  • Before eating or handling ready to eat food
  • After having contact with animals, including pets

Some experts argue that handwashing does not necessarily need to be limited to mealtimes and bathroom breaks. The consensus seems to be that it’s advisable to wash your hands whenever they “feel” dirty. Though this may be pretty subjective, there are countless times a day when we may be touching things that are probably carrying large amounts of bacteria. 

For example, recent studies revealed that our smartphones, something that few of us are able to live without these days, are three times dirtier than a toilet seat. This, of course, doesn’t even take into account the amount of times that we may be handling door knobs, money, keys and other items that could be covered in bacteria.

Though washing your hands every five minutes is not exactly practical (nor is it particularly healthy), it is good to be aware of what you’re coming into contact with on a daily basis, and making sure that handwashing becomes a regular daily habit. 

But what exactly is the best way to ensure we are washing our hands correctly?

 

Step 1: Actually remember to wash your hands!

This may seem a little obvious, but it is amazing how many of us still do not wash our hands on a regular basis, even after using the bathroom. Further to the study referenced earlier, 91% of participants stated that they wash their hands after using the toilet, despite tests showing that only 1 in 5 actually did. 

There are many reasons why some people are lax about their handwashing habits. These can vary from an unhygienic looking environment, to a queue at the sink, to a general lack of understanding of the way that germs can spread in a bathroom. 

Whether it’s setting a reminder on your phone or going old school and hanging a sign above your bathroom sink, it is important to understand and remember the benefits of handwashing- and that this applies not just to bathroom visits, but also other activities where bacteria or germs could be spread. 

 

Step 2: Wash your hands correctly

There is almost little point in wash your hands regularly if you are not doing it correctly, as you could be missing entire areas of your hands where bacteria like to grow and transfer. 

The popular notion that hot water will kill more germs has recently been debunked by scientists. This is bad news for the 70% of people that have tried to cut corners with hand hygiene by simply rinsing their hands rather than using soap, as this will still transfer harmful bacteria.

Though handwashing seems like it should be a very simple process, according to the NHS, there is a correct procedure that ensures the maximum amount of bacteria are killed:

  1. Wet your hands with water.
  2. Apply enough soap to ensure it covers both hands entirely.
  3. Rub your hands palm to palm.
  4. Rub the back of your left hand with your right palm with interlaced fingers. Then repeat with the other hand.
  5. Rub your palms together with your fingers interlaced.
  6. Rub the backs of your fingers against your palms with fingers interlocked.
  7. Clasp your left thumb with your right hand and rub in a circular motion. Repeat this with your left hand and right thumb.
  8. Rub the tips of your fingers in the other palm in rotation, going backwards and forwards. Repeat this with the other hand.
  9. Rinse your hands with water.

Though this may seem like an exhaustive list, according to experts, the entire process should only last the amount of time it would take to sing Happy Birthday twice through. For those hoping to practice their singing skills, handwashing could actually kill two birds with one stone!

 

Step 3: Don’t forget to dry off! 

Almost as important as the handwashing itself is the process of drying your hands. Failing to do this can risk bacteria remaining on your hands and transferring to door handles, or other objects or people. In fact, because your hands are a damp and warm environment, not drying them could mean you leave the bathroom with more germs than when you entered.

In an age where we are used to the electric or “smart” method being more beneficial, the hand dryer is an outlier. Hand dryers, especially jet dryers, can spread water particles (and thus germs) in different directions at speeds of up to 370 mph. If you want to ensure your thorough hand washing process has not gone to waste, reaching for the paper towels is the far more hygienic method, even though it may seem a little old fashioned by modern standards. 

Regardless of whether you’ve returned from a dog walk, finished preparing a delicious meal or spent a penny in a public bathroom, hand hygiene never goes out of fashion, and should be a daily priority for all of us. 

Not only does good hand hygiene help to save lives in places such as hospitals, it can also prevent us from catching less serious diseases that cause us personal inconvenience, and can take us away from our jobs or hobbies.

By understanding the importance of handwashing and recognizing the benefits, we can aim to make hand hygiene a bigger priority in our daily routines. With enough practice, we’ll help it become a habit that - hopefully unlike unwanted bacteria - will stick around for good. 


Jo GreeneJo Greene is a writer as well as a part of VR Sani-Co, a family business providing washroom and sanitary services for businesses all over Kent and Sussex. She writes about women's health, both in private and in the workplace.

Tags:  Handwashing  Health  Hygiene 

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Take Your Health into Your Own Hands

Posted By NWI, Friday, November 2, 2018
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2018

Take 5 minutes to learn your personal cancer risk and get simple steps to take charge of your breast and ovarian health.  


Your health is in your hands.

Bright Pink is an organization like no other that seeks to advance the conversation around breast and ovarian cancer beyond awareness to action. It is built on a foundation of focusing on health, not cancer.

Today, Bright Pink is launching a new and improved version of their digital quiz, Assess Your Risk, to better empower all women to learn their breast and ovarian cancer risk and manage their health proactively. While Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an excellent time to talk about breast health, Bright Pink is fiercely committed 365 days a year to ensuring women can be their own best health advocates. They have updated their flagship program, Assess Your Risk, to do just that.

Take your health into your own hands

Want to learn more about what's different?

Already assessed your risk? Believe it or not, you should assess your risk annually as your breast and ovarian cancer risk can change over time and the medical community is always learning about new factors that affect our risk.

Bright Pink Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.


Tags:  Breast Cancer  Cancer  Health  Ovarian Cancer 

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15 Plants That Help Improve The Air Quality In Your Home

Posted By Gavin Wilson, Friday, October 12, 2018
Originally posted on Good Air Geeks. Used with permission.

One of the most significant environmental problems in the United States is indoor air pollutants, according to federal scientists. Believe it or not, your indoor air quality has just as much of an effect on you as the outdoor air quality does. The effects of the pollutants we find indoors can range from short term effects to long term effects. Your symptoms can range from mild-eye and throat irritation, to severe-cancer and respiratory disease. If you are exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide, there’s the risk of death.

Fortunately, rather than spending thousands of dollars on fancy machines and home improvements to try to keep your indoor air quality up to par, there’s an even simpler solution-a houseplant! You read that right. A houseplant can help improve your indoor air quality to give you a healthier living environment. Check out this list!

 

1. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera Plant

Aloe Vera is one of the best plants you could keep in your bedroom. It’s one of the most powerful plant air purifiers that exist. It’s highly effective when it comes to clearing the air from benzene and formaldehyde. Not only that, but it’s also great for absorbing CO2 levels that the darkness creates. You need to keep it in direct sunlight in order for it to perform the best. It’s also ideal for soothing scars, burns, and inflammation.

 

2. Snake Plant

Snake Plants

Also known as “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, this houseplant provides quite a bit of oxygen to indoor environments, especially at night. It can help to reduce eye irritation, headaches, respiratory symptoms, and the need for ventilation. These plants are also very resilient, so you can leave them for long periods of time without care.

 

3. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus plant

The Eucalyptus plant has been used for centuries to cure many kinds of ailments. They are a tad hard to find for a houseplant, but if you do, the leaves of it can raise healthy fluids in the air passages of your body. The leaves are filled with tannins, which is what helps with this process. Just by breathing in the scent from this plant, it can help to lower congestion issues and keep colds at bay.

 

4. Areca Palm

Areca Palm

The Areca palm is another common household plant. It helps filter the air around you and it can add moisture to the surrounding atmosphere. It also has the amazing ability to purify trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde. You can also substitute it as an air humidifier if you don’t have a regular dehumidifier. These plants like bright sunlight, but not too much as it can scorch the leaves. You should also not overwater them and they live better in moderate temperatures.

 

5. Dracena

Dracaena

The Dracaena comes in an outstanding 40 different varieties, unfortunately, if you have cats or dogs, you cannot have this plant because it’s toxic to them if eaten. On the plus side, if you don’t have cats or dogs, this plant is ideal for removing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and trichloroethylene. The Corn Plant version of this is great for removing cigarette smoke from your home.

 

6. Boston Fern

Boston Fern

This pretty fern is ideal for removing formaldehyde and xylene. It’s best when used in a room that’s relatively cool with high humidity and indirect light. It needs to stay moist to survive as well. Check it daily to see if it needs a drink and you should soak it once a month.

 

7. Peace Lily

Peace Lily

These plants are much smaller than many of the other plants on the list, but don’t let that fool you. These beautiful plants are great for cleaning the air and they’re easy to grow. This plant removes ammonia, formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. They do let off some pollen and a floral scent, so you may want to avoid having too many of them in one room.

 

8. Ficus

Ficus Plant

The Ficus is quite the large plant. If grown indoors, they can reach 10 feet tall. This plant is very low maintenance, but it packs a punch when it comes to its air-cleaning abilities. It can remove trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and benzene. These plants love the bright, indirect sunlight.

 

9. Garden Mum

Garden Mums Orange

NASA spent quite a bit of time researching the ability of these plants. These colorful flowers are very common in gardens and can be seen at almost every garden store in the world. They are great for clearing the air of benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and ammonia. Once they reach full bloom, you can transport them outside if you would like.

 

10. English Ivy

English Ivy Plants On Wall

The English Ivy is the number one best air purifying houseplant, according to NASA. In a 2005 experiment, the English Ivy removed 94% of airborne feces and a whopping 78% of mold in the air in just 12 hours. It also has the ability to improve allergy and asthma symptoms and it absorbs formaldehyde. These plants are easy to grow in moderate temperatures and medium sun exposure. These can be toxic if eaten by kids or pets.

 

11. Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

This colorful plant can help filter benzene, which is commonly found in detergents, plastic, paint, and glues. These plants are also great for treating high blood pressure, headache, dizziness, swelling, fever, cold, type 2 diabetes, and even chest pain. These plants need a lot of sunlight to grow indoors, so make sure you place them in an area where there’s sun in the winter. Keep the soil damp at all times.

 

12. African Violets

African Violet

These purple flowers have an array of benefits. Just looking at these plants can help stimulate adrenaline release and can increase the flow of oxygen to your brain. In turn, this helps you relax. These are very easy to care for and they like indirect sunlight.

 

13. Heart Leaf Philodendron

Heart Leaf Philodendron

This climbing vine is excellent when it comes to removing formaldehyde from the home. These are very easy to care for although toxic to kids and pets. If you plan to keep this in your home, keep it out of reach of them.

 

14. Lady Palm Plant

Lady Palm

This unique plant has the ability to get rid of all indoor air toxins in your home. It has also been very effective in getting rid of cancer causing chemicals in the house, such as formaldehyde. This is a very toxic chemical and this plant can rid your home of it and help your lungs.

 

15. Bamboo Palm

Bamboo Palm

Also known as the reed palm, this plant is rather small and loves shady indoor spaces. It also has the ability to grown small flowers and red berries. This plant filters out trichloroethylene and benzene. It’s great for using around furniture that may offgas formaldehyde. It grows to about 5-7 feet tall and loves humidity with bright, indirect light.

 

Conclusion

And there you have it, a list of 15 of the most effective plants for ridding your home of indoor air pollutants. These plants and flowers have the amazing ability to keep your home fresh and smelling great. You would not believe how many dangerous toxins are floating around the house. Just one of these plants can keep those toxins away and your lungs clean and clear. If you enjoyed this list, feel free to share it with your friends and family.


Gavin Wilson is the director of content over at goodairgeeks.com. He lives with his wife, his dog (Mr. Peanut Butter), and his "attack cat" (Bojack!). He is a nature lover and cares deeply about the environment. He hopes to help make a cleaner and greener Earth with this website.


Tags:  Air Quality  Clean Air  Health  Plants 

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National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Posted By Rechá Bullock, Friday, September 7, 2018
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2018

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from a study conducted by the CDC from 2015-2016 show that nearly 1 in 5 school-age children and young people 6 to 19 years of age in the United States are obese (CDC, 2018). Obesity is an excess proportion of body fat, technically defined in terms of a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30 or above. BMI is calculated in a different way for children and teens 2-to 19-years of age. BMI must be age and sex-specific because the amount of body fat changes with age for children and adolescents. Growth charts are used to verify BMI as a percentile ranking for children. A child is considered medically obese if their BMI is at or above the 95th percentile of children of the same age, height, and sex (CDC, 2017). 

Children who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and depression. Also, children who are overweight or obese are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers, which can cause children to act out, suffer from depression, and have low self-esteem. These chronic health conditions can significantly set a child back and interfere with their ability to thrive and be successful in a school setting. Moreover, obese children are at a higher risk of chronic health problems into adulthood, which can include hypertension, heart disease, renal failure, stroke, sleep apnea, hypercholesterolemia, death, and even some types of cancers (colon, breast, and endometrial) (Turner et. al., 2012).

It can be very difficult for parent(s) to manage the weight of an overweight or obese child. This is especially true if the parent(s) are also overweight and have poor eating habits. To make matters worse, some health care providers do not feel comfortable discussing weight issues with parents due to the fear of alienating or embarrassing both the parent and child. In fact, in a study provided in the International Journal of Obesity, of the 8,639 overweight or obese children aged 2-18 years of age, who visited a health care provider annually, from 1999 through 2014, only 22.12% in 1999 and 34.43% of parents in 2014 were notified by their child’s health care provider their children were overweight or obese. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were provided to parents for this study from 1999 through 2014. The study found health care providers increased notifying parents that their child’s weight was unhealthy between 1999 and 2014. However, the opportunity for health care providers to provide clinical interventions to address or reduce childhood obesity is substantially under-utilized (Hansen et al., 2016).

 

So, What’s Causing Childhood Obesity?

The answer to finding the sole causation of childhood obesity is not as clear as eating too much food and not exercising enough. A number of health care providers and researchers alike believe one of the most significant problems for the spike in childhood obesity rates is directly related to the number of foods that have significant amounts of sugar. In fact, Dr. Mark Hyman from the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic thinks sugar is just as addictive as a drug. In the film documentary Fed Up, Dr. Hyman revealed that added sugars and sweeteners are causing diseases in children that were once only seen in adults. 

Some key risk factors for childhood obesity include genetics, having a family history of obesity, cultural norms, limited or no physical activity, and having a low-income. It can be difficult to buy healthy foods such as fruits and green vegetables if families have a low income and live in a food dessert, where there is limited or no access to healthy foods. Some additional risk factors and challenges that are contributing to childhood obesity is unhealthy school cafeteria food which can be high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. Children who do not get enough physical activity at home and at school are at an increased risk for being overweight or obese. And, some children are unable to participate in physical activity where they live if their neighborhood is unsafe. 

Childhood obesity prevention initiatives must be put into place for children who are overweight. If not, children will begin to experience shorter life expectancies than their parents. As children head back to school, September is the perfect month to make changes that include more physical activity at school and swapping unhealthy meals for healthier alternatives. According to the CDC, children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day (CDC, 2017). One of the best strategies to address childhood obesity is to take a population health-based approach, which involves spreading the word about prevention strategies that will help inform and educate parents, clinicians, and schools. We also need the federal government to support this complex health problem by implementing social media marketing campaigns that promotes healthy eating and weight reduction strategies. The government can also help by implementing legislation and policies that restrict companies from marketing unhealthy and sugary foods and beverages to children. 

In honor of National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, here are some prevention strategies and tips to decrease weight and promote healthy growth for children: 

  • Parents should talk to their child’s health care provider for clinical interventions to address obesity
  • Parents should learn how to read food labels 
  • Cook and eat healthy meals
  • Watch food portions and avoid second helpings
  • Avoid eating at fast food restaurants 
  • Limit or remove sugary drinks and junk foods from meals
  • Teach kids the importance of eating healthy by allowing them to help cook healthy meals
  • Use app-based programs to monitor physical activity like Kurbo Health or Fitbit Ace™ for kids
  • Make exercise a family activity
  • Parents should discuss school menus with their child’s teacher to determine if fruits and vegetables are on the menu. If not, parents should opt to make their child’s lunch and include healthy food and snack options. 
  • Schools can ensure children get regular recess that includes at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity

There are a number of great resources available online to learn how to read labels as well as healthy recipes that parents can cook for their families. Here’s a great resource of healthy recipes provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Deliciously, Healthy Family Meals (PDF). Let’s all do our part to reduce childhood obesity. Spread the word and share this article. Be Well!

Sources: 

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2018, January). Childhood Obesity Facts.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017, August). What is BMI?
  • Couric, K. and David, L. (Producers), Soechtig, S. (Director). (2014). Fed Up. [Documentary]. United States: Radius-TWC
  • Hansen, A R., Duncan, D. T.,  Woo Baidal, J. A., Hill, A., Turner, S. C., and Zhang. J. (2016). An increasing trend in health-care professionals notifying children of unhealthy weight status: NHANES 1999–2014. International Journal of Obesity volume 40, 1480–1485.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2010, December). Keep the Beat.
  • Turner, M., Burns, S. M., Knight, L., Ward, K., Garo, A., Morris, T., and Conaway, M. (2012). Weight management practices among heart and vascular health care providers in an ambulatory setting MEDSURG Nursing, 21(4), 222-232.

Rechà Bullock is a Certified Wellness Practitioner, Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist, Health Coach, Yoga Teacher (200-RYT), public health professional, and plant-based foodie. Her passion for health and wellness comes from a lifelong love of fitness, health, nutrition, yoga, and a desire to help people transform their health by eating foods that are nutrient rich.

Rechà's goal is to provide information to help people make food choices that are healthier for them and their families. "We cannot afford to continue to purchase and consume foods that are at odds with our health, such as genetically modified foods, steroids, antibiotics, artificial ingredients, and processed sugars." 


Tags:  Children  health  Nutrition  Obesity 

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National Family History Day is around the corner

Posted By NWI, Friday, December 1, 2017
Updated: Friday, December 1, 2017

Bright Pink

 You may have picked out your recipes and finalized your strategy to dodge an awkward conversation with Uncle Harold, but are you prepared to tackle family health history this holiday season?

This conversation should definitely be in your holiday game plan. Over the coming month, Bright Pink will help by breaking down the why, when and how to collect this information. Let's Get Started.

Family matters.
Up to 25% of breast and ovarian cancers are familial or hereditary, so your family health history can act as a powerful roadmap for you and your healthcare provider. When you know your risk, you can manage it proactively! Read on.

Know what to ask. 
Both sides of the family are equally important in determining your personal level of risk. While breast and ovarian cancer history is important, other types of cancer can also be indicators of an inherited genetic risk—so capture everything you can. This worksheet can be your guide.

Collect, then assess. 
Once you’ve learned all you can, it’s time to put that knowledge to work. Visit AssessYourRisk.org to complete our digital quiz and receive a personalized report on your baseline risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

And remember, things change! Collect your family health history and assess your risk annually. Make it a Holiday family tradition! 

Gab with us!
For more inspiration and support, connect with us on social. We'll be sharing tips all month long! 

Tags:  Cancer  family  Health 

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