For a few months now, I have been acting as a Emergency Preparedness and Self Reliance Specialist for my church. It is very different from what I was doing before (I was a secretary for the Primary, which is the children aged 18months-12 years old) and it has been a bit of a challenge for me. Most of this is because I like to be more of a behind the scenes type of person. For this new assignment, every other month, I get to do a quick presentation to the women in our ward (church) on some topic relating to self reliance or emergency preparedness. This is so hard for me, I get so nervous and despite how much I prepare, I feel like when I get up in front of everyone, it just comes out in a jumble and makes no sense. I also think I talk too fast out of nerves so that probably makes it worse too.
This last Sunday, I did a presentation on something that is near and dear to me, preventing infectious diseases. In college, I studied Microbiology and worked for several years in a lab studying infectious diseases after I graduated. One of my responsibilities in that lab was to perform disinfectant tests where we studied the efficacy of different disinfectants at killing various microorganisms (like staph and salmonella). I felt like I needed to share some of the knowledge that I have because of what I studied.
I am not sure if I said everything that I wanted to in that presentation and I think this is good information to share with everyone so I am sharing it on this blog.
The best way to prevent sickness is to keep our bodies healthy. Our bodies can do amazing things when we take care of them. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, reduce/minimize stress and think positive. People who think they are going to get sick, often do. The healthier you are, the easier it is for your body to fight infections and although you may still get sick, your body will be able to handle it better and be able to get rid of it faster.
Secondly, most infections are spread, through contact with our hands and then into mouth or respiratory tract. Wash your hands, A LOT. Not just after you go to the bathroom, but before you eat or prepare food, after changing diapers, after going shopping (grocery carts are full of germs), when kids come home from school, after playing sports/going to gym, after sneezing or blowing your nose, after handling dirty laundry. Also, use soap and make sure you wash them for long enough: sing the ABC song or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star while you lather to know that you are doing it for long enough. Also the most common way of contracting a cold or other infection is from germs getting on our hands and then into our mouth, nose or eyes so avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes so that any germs on your hands cannot get into your body.
Thirdly, you want to keep things clean, but you don't want to be a "germaphobe", it is better to just be what I call "Germ aware". You don't want a sterile house, you need to be exposed to some germs for a healthy immune system. Your immune system needs to be stressed a little to stay active and strong. It is like exercising, you can't not exercise and then one day just expect to be able to run a marathon. There are also good, healthy germs that help keep the bad ones away and you don't want to kill them by disinfecting too much. Focus on disinfecting more when family members are sick to prevent the spread of known disease to other household members, but don't try to keep your home germ-free all the time.
When using disinfectants, You don't need to spend a lot of money. Regular household Bleach is highly effective and strong, but it is also harsh and corrosive so you don't want to use it all the time. The most effective bleach concentration is 10% at room temperature so you need to dilute it with water and DO NOT mix it with anything other than water. Dilute it even more for use in the kitchen and rinse afterwards because it will leave a residue and you don't want to ingest it. I like to use 10% bleach on bathrooms when a family member is sick with a stomach bug. Stomach bugs can spread like crazy and you want to be sure to disinfectant well to prevent them from spreading to everyone in your family. It is also good to add it to your laundry when washing underwear etc (whites only as it will ruin colors) as many stomach bugs can survive your washing machine.
Use vinegar on commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, computer keyboards, etc. It won't kill everything, but it will kills things like cold and flu viruses and it is mild so you can use it everyday, and it won't hurt you if you drink/eat it. Just be careful though as it will not kill microorganisms that are slightly acid resistant like E. coli so I recommend using something else after preparing raw meat (I like to use those disinfectant wipes).
Also remember that time is important when disinfecting. The surface must stay wet for proper length of time for the disinfectant to be effective. Be sure to look at product labels to see what manufacturers recommend for this.
For things that can't get wet or that you can't launder, put them outside in the bright sun for the afternoon: UV rays from the sun will help disinfect them for you. We like to take the pillowcases off our pillows every once in a while and stick them outside to freshen them up.
If you do get sick, STAY HOME. Quarantine yourselves so that you don't spread your sickness to others.
You also don't want to have to drag your sick kids along to the store or have to go yourself when you are under the weather, so I made this list of things that I recommend having on hand for when you or your family gets sick:
Helpful items to have in case of sickness:
Food Items: Gatorade/Pedialyte, Saltine Crackers, Canned Soup, Rice, Applesauce, Juice, Popsicles, Ginger Ale or Sprite.
When sick, one of the most important things your body needs is to stay hydrated. Giving kids juice, popsicles, and clear soda will help get your kids to drink more.
Medications: ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol), Tums, Pepto Bismol, decongestant, allergy medication, Benadryl, other prescription medicines, also a thermometer.
Make sure they aren't expired and be smart about using them. Follow the instructions on the package and your doctor's recommendations.
Hygeine/Clean-up: masks, gloves, household bleach, vinegar(or other type of disinfectant), disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, plastic bags.
This information is only meant as suggestions and should in no way be used to substitute for a medical care from a doctor.