Blog Archive - August 2007
August 28, 2007
I LOVE to color! I'm not picky - I enjoy coloring with my grandchildren in coloring books with wonderful-smelling crayons and coloring with colored pencils in adult coloring books with geometric designs or in meditation coloring books I found in Japan. They are therapeutic as you color geometric shapes and meditate on a topic - focusing your thinking and quieting your mind. Coloring is really an enjoyable activity for me. And, we all know that coloring is a good activity for children to help them develop fine motor skills and promote creative thinking as they experiment with color and design.
So we have created a nanobugs coloring book for our website. It can be fun (and educational) for all ages. The nanobugs images are simplified and drawn with closed lines for coloring. Go to "Activities" to find the coloring book. There are several coloring options: you can print out the nanobug character and color it with crayons or markers or you can use the crayon "mouse" and color freehand or you can use the paint "mouse" and fill in the areas. Then you can print out your completed picture and post it on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board.
Have some fun with the nanobugs - color them as the original art (many times the color chosen for the nanobug is significant because that is the way it appears under the microscope -other times a color is chosen just to create an "attitude") or just go crazy and color any color that pleases you.
Right now I have a purple Aspergillus fumigatus on my refrigerator done by my elder daughter, Hannah (the nanobugs product manager and mother of 4). She was sooooooo proud when I displayed her brightly- colored nanobug on my fridge!
August 24, 2007
I promised to discuss soap - this is an important topic with infection prevention. With so many options these days, product selection is tough. Even though the fragrance of hand soap is important to me, smell is not a priority criterion in product selection. But before we evaluate soaps for handwashing, we should first identify the purpose of soap in this process. Basically soap decreases the surface tension on the hands and allows removal of dirt and microbes.
We have 2 types of microbes on our hands: resident microbes are part of your normal skin flora (Staph epidemidis and Staph aureus) and can't be totally eradicated even with surgical hand scrubs in the hospital. You can't sterilize hands! Transient microbesare those that you pick up "along the way" - in the restroom, while preparing food, gardening, studying in school, etc. Some of these microbes we pick up are pathogenic (disease-producing) and most are non-pathogenic.
The process of handwashing with soap and water goes like this:
We decrease the surface tension on the hands (with soap) to aid in the mechanical dislodgement of microbes (and dirt) which is accomplished by friction created by one surface moving over another and then the force of the running water will send the microbes and dirt down the drain where they can't hurt us.
We don't target any specific nanobugsin this process - we just get rid of as many as possible. We don't have to kill them - just get rid of them. In fact, as you add antibacterial agents to liquid soaps you can irritate the skin cells at the same time. And it is really important to maintain the integrity of skin - rough dry skin allows more hiding places for microbes. Then we need more friction and chemicals to remove them.
Bar vs. liquid? Bar soap works perfectly fine for doing the job of producing a lather and decreasing surface tension on the hands. But the bar must be rubbed and the soap distributed to all surfaces of the hands and wrists. But the problem with bar soap is the "between uses". Bacteria like a warm dark moist environment to grow and thrive. The soap becomes contaminated as you rub it with dirty hands. It is best to lightly rinse the bar before you put it back in the soap dish. The bar should be placed in a draining soap dish so the surface has a chance to dry. If the bar sits in a puddle of water between uses that soupy mess can incubate bacteria and you can be adding more bacteria to your hands when you begin washing. Not good.
But nowadays it is hard to find just plain hand soap without all the antibacterial agents. I prefer a bar of soap kept in a good draining soap dish. But I keep liquid in a pump at each sink for my guests and grandchildren. Bars of olive oil soap are great in the kitchen and Ivory soap is easy on the hands and cheap but can quickly get mushy in a non-draining soap dish. Don't buy huge bars of any soap - they tend to crack over time and they are too large for hands of children and so they tend to skip the soap.
I found a unique soap for teaching good handwashing techniques and promoting handwashing in children especially. It is called Squid Soap. I bought it at the gift shop at BryanLGH Medical Center here in Lincoln. It is a liquid soap (not antibacterial formula) that has a little added feature.: on the top of the dispenser there is a small orange dot "ink pad". SO when the child presses down on the plunger a small orange dot is inked onto the palm. With proper washing for 15 seconds and adequate friction - the dot disappears. If you don't want the inking experience you can cover the ink dot with the transparent cap and pump the soap as with any dispenser. Another little perk - a soft squid toy comes with the dispenser. It is easily detached and can be a tub toy for toddlers.
This is more than you wanted to know about soap, I bet.
August 21, 2007
When we bring large numbers of people together in the same place -like a school- and they spend the day together - each contributing their own nanobugs - the environment can get overloaded with microbes - some pathogenic (disease-producing) and many non-pathogenic. Now, don't get paranoid - nanobugs are an important part of our internal and external environment. Bacteria are found not only in and on people but in all living creatures and they also live and thrive in water and on the earth. In fact, a teaspoon of rich fertile soil contains over one hundred million bacteria! Do you suppose there is a teaspoon of dirt dispersed over a kid who has been playing hard outside? Probably not; but keeping children clean is important for their health. I'm not suggesting that we try to create a sterile environment for them - just knock the bacterial count down from time to time (preferably daily).
Hand hygiene is the best way to prevent infections and keep the nanobugs under control. You have to teach and consistently remind children about hand hygiene and role model good technique. As soon as children arrive home from school they should be sent to the bathroom to wash their hands. (And parents should wash when they get home from work, too). Hand hygiene must be done often and correctly. Here's the procedure:
Hand Washing with Soap and Water:
Hand hygiene can also be accomplished with an alcohol-based liquid, gel or foam if your hands are not visibly dirty. (If they are, use soap and water wash instead)
(Clorox has a new spray hand sanitizer that is easy to use.)
It is best to bathe or shower at night before sleeping. And no pets in the bed with sleeping children - unconsciously sharing microbes like staph and strep and contributing to the microbial count of the bed environment where they spend 8+ hours.
And a word about soap.... guess I'll save that for tomorrow........now it is time for my bedtime bath.
August 6, 2007
It is one of those August days when you just step outside and you can hardly breathe because of the heat plus the humidity. Your body sweats profusely but it doesn't help cool you down because the air is too full of moisture already to take on any more. Everyone knows the purpose of sweating is to cool the body down through evaporation of the moisture - but we usually don't appreciate this gift of sweating when the environmental humidity sabotages the outcome.
There are also consequences of even successful sweating: body odor being #1. You can curse the nanobugs for that human situation. The main contributor is Corynebacterium acnes - one of the Diphtheroids - also Staph aureus and Staph epi. These nanobugs hang out in the hair follicles and the creases in the skin (especially the underarms and groin). Sweat itself is basically odorless - certainly not offensive (unless you have been eating foods with strong odors - like garlic and onions). However, unpleasant or offensive odors develop when bacteria on the skin are allowed to multiply and break down the sweat into odor-causing by-products. Bacteria grow best in a warm, dark, moist environment and so hot sweaty skin enhances their multiplication and will eventually produce a strong odor.
What's the solution? Your unison response is probably: anti-perspirants!! Many choose this strategy - to stop the sweat (in their armpits) - thus eliminating the culture media that sweat provides. Most anti-perspirants contain aluminum chloride and work by plugging the sweat glands and limiting production of the sweat. Deodorants work to slow the multiplication of bacteria and the production of those stinky by-products. Ingredients like tea tree oil, lemongrass and oriental cypress are natural ingredients that help to control odors. But the most common strategy is the use of a combination of deodorant and anti-perspirant. Because it is not practical or wise to apply those chemicals to our entire skin surface, a good bath of shower once a day (or twice daily in this hot weather) will eliminate a lot of the nanobugs and slow down the multiplication of those that are still there after bathing. Remember - usually you don't have to kill bacteria, just wash them off of your skin and out of your clothes and send them down the drain. Antibacterial soaps are not really necessary and the chemicals used in these formulations can be irritating to the skin. Good mechanical cleansing with soap (to decrease surface tension and help release the bacteria) and thorough rinsing is an effective and economical strategy.
Some people sweat excessively even when it is not a hot humid summer day. Check out this link: Can't Stop Sweating the Big Stuff to learn some tactics for dealing with this aggravation from Dr. Susan Taylor, a noted dermatologist. You may be surprised, like I was, to learn that one strategy is to inject Botox into the problem areas to paralyze the sweat glands so they are not triggered to produce sweat. Don't get me started on that again - utilizing the neurotoxin from Clostidium botulinum to stop sweating. Course, I have never personally had to deal with this excessive sweating problem other than the occasional hot flashes I experience these days.