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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Staying Heathy This Winter

Well, it's done. Everyone that is able to receive the regular flu vaccine has. Little Micah Moo is exempt due to an egg allergy (for those who are not currently aware, the vaccine is cultured using egg protein, therefore, those with egg allergies should not partake), but I must say that all others involved were incredibly brave (including Daddy!) and did great :)

The question comes up every year about whether or not to vaccinate for the flu. Given that it is not used for long-term disease prevention, must be repeated annually, and does not prevent against all strains of flu because of the incredible ability of the disease to mutate, the list of cons is impressive. However, with 4 little ones, 2 of whom are in kindergarten and preschool respectively (and likely to pick up everything under the sun!), it's something that, when combined with good nutrition and loads of hand washing, works for us.

The H1N1 vaccine (commonly known as the swine flu vaccine) is not yet available from our pediatrician and we have not decided about whether we will seek it out when it does become available. Many people have fears about it related to problems that were experienced over 30 years ago, when a similar vaccine was linked (rightly so or not) to an increased incidence of Guillain Barre Syndrome, in which the body damages its own nerve cells, causing weakness and sometimes paralysis. Some studies found no link at all, others claimed that one person in every million might be at risk.

The difference between the vaccine produced in the 70's and the one today is that the H1N1 vaccine today is produced and tested in the same manner as the regular flu vaccine. Ironically enough, had the H1N1 strain of flu emerged only months earlier, it would have been included as one of the components in the regular flu vaccine for this year and would not have been administered as a separate dose.

According to some sources, Swine Flu has emerged in 190 countries, has infected millions, and has resulted in nearly 4000 known deaths. Whether you choose to immunize or not, it is important to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of this particular strain of flu and the typical treatment options. Above all else, as with any cold and flu season, proper hand washing should be top priority in every household. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should:

Always wash your hands before:
  • Preparing food
  • Eating
  • Treating wounds or giving medicine
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet
  • Changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage or something that could be contaminated, such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes

Of course, it's also important to wash your hands whenever they look dirty.

How To Wash Your Hands:

It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:

  • Wet your hands with running water.
  • Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
  • Lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
  • If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.

Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.

The Mayo Clinic also provides guidelines for using alcohol-based hand sanitizer as follows:

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers — which don't require water — are an excellent alternative to soap and water. If you choose to use a commercially prepared hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Then follow these simple steps:

  • Apply enough of the product to the palm of your hand to wet your hands completely.
  • Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, for up to 25 seconds or until they're dry.

If your hands are visibly dirty, however, wash with soap and water. Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another option, although they're not as effective as alcohol-based sanitizers.

Hand washing, whether with soap or hand sanitizer, doesn't take much time or effort, but can go a long way in helping to prevent illness. Adopting this habit withing your own family can play a huge role in keeping your loved ones healthy this winter season (and always!).

Thank you to The Mayo Clinic for some great information regarding proper hand washing!

6 comments:

  1. Such a fantastic post, Jen! Thank you!! I was just at the doctor's office yesterday dealing with both the flu and H1N1 vaccinations for my kids.

    I love that you were able to answer all of my questions in one place. Am seriously bookmarking this post now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is an interesting post with great tips! I think its important to protect and educate yourself with all this great information. There have been cases recently of the same reactions 30 years ago happening today though...here is a case of a really sad one I posted about-
    http://thereallifetravels.blogspot.com/2009/10/i-seriously-thought-this-video-was-fake.html

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  3. Nikki,
    Thank you for your comment. Although Desiree Jennings suffers from a very rare neurologic dystonia that has been linked to vaccines in general (rather than Guillain Barre, which was specifically linked to the prior flu vaccine), it definitely brings home the point that one should fully educate oneself about the risks and benefits of any vaccine prior to having it administered.

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  4. Thank you for all the wonderful information. I've been debating on whether to give my kids the H1N1 vaccine, so this was tremendously helpful. I wish you and your family the best of health!

    Jenn @ rookno17.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. A well written & very informative post, thanks for the great info!!!!
    cameron
    www.conquerthemonkey.com

    ReplyDelete

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