Tips for Avoiding Back-to-School Illness | Ask the Nurse on hand washing

Afraid of illness? Wash your hands ALREADY!

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund
President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

He came in at 6 p.m. as he normally does and sat down for dinner. Thursday. Pasta. Jim and I have been married for 40 years. I still like him, which should tell you something. Actually, I like him a lot. “Have you washed your hands?” I asked. He gave me that look. 

“No, but I don't really need to because they're clean. Don't you remember? Accountants never get dirty.” I gave him the look back. “No, they are not clean.” 

“So, he says, “you're being a nurse tonight aren't you?” I was, and he knew better than to fight me. “Yes,” I said. “It's who I am. It's what I do.” So, he got up and headed down the hall to wash his hands.
And if you're mom never gave you the rules about handwashing, here's my personal favorite tip. It takes about 30 seconds of good lathering to kill the germs. It just so happens that's how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” just the slow way Marilyn Monroe did it when she serenaded President Kennedy.
Now, here are five things you should know about washing your hands, and, for pity sakes, lather up every time: This is a filthy planet. The germs that can kill you (or at least make you so sick you're not sure you want to live) are everywhere. Everything you touch - people, objects, surfaces -- will pass along the germs. If you wash once a day, you're just asking for trouble.

  • Every year, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections kill more than 3.5 million children under five around this world. These figures could be cut dramatically if handwashing with soap were widely practiced.
  • Diarrhea is responsible for children missing millions of school days every year. A recent study suggests that hand washing with soap at critical times could help reduce school absenteeism by around 42 percent.
  • With proper use, all soaps work about the same at removing germs. Worry about the H1N1 virus, if you wish. But worry more about dirty hands.
  • A child dies ever 3.5 seconds on Earth. Most die from lack of care as simple as they and their parents washing their hands often every day.

Tips for Avoiding Back-to-School Colds and Flu

1. Create a Regular Sleep Routine

The nights before school starts can be exciting as kids eek out that last little bit of summer vacation and make plans for the school year ahead. That makes it all the more important to help them begin working their way back into a normal sleep routine before the big day. Quality, restful sleep is crucial to immune system wellness. Researchers at the University of San Diego say even modest sleep deprivation can reduce the body’s immunity by 30 percent.

After children reach a certain age, it can be difficult to dictate a sleep routine. Instead of trying to force a lights-off policy, try to lead by example. If you get enough sleep for your unique needs, they are likely to do the same.

2. Share the Power of Probiotics

Probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are 'friendly' bacteria in our intestines and increasingly recognized for their importance not only in maintaining a healthy digestive system, but for supporting the body's natural defense mechanisms. Whether you choose to use supplements or include probiotic-rich foods (like yogurt) in your family’s diet, you’ll feel better knowing that studies have shown that probiotics can support the body's normal resistance to bacterial and viral infections.

3. Consider Food Choices

Did you know that eating foods high in sugar and fat can suppress the immune system? Think carefully about the foods that will support health and the vitamins and nutrients they contain, like vitamin C. A well balanced diet will help your child maintain a strongimmune system, so stock up the pantry withhealthy foods and be sure to include them in lunch boxes and after school snacks.

4. Teach Proper Hand Washing Technique

Little reminders to "wash your hands!" are a great start, but most kids don't wash their hands as often or as well as they should. Because hand-washing is the first line of defense against the cold, flu, and other contagious illnesses, it's valuable to remind children how and when to do it. Encourage hand-washing before handling food, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Teach children to use warm water and work up a good soapy lather. Scrub for about 20 seconds (that's about two rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") rubbing between fingers, under nails, and over the backs of hands.

5. Encourage Kids Not To Share Utensils and Cups with Friends

Kids naturally love to share, but it's not a good idea to share eating utensils with friends, especially during cold and flu season. Since viruses and bacteria are easily transmitted through saliva, this is one type of sharing that you should teach your child to avoid.

6. Get tissues for your issues!

Encourage children to cover their mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and to dispose of the tissue themselves. No time to grab a tissue? Encourage younger children to "catch" their cough in their bent inner elbow, not in their hand. Older kids can be taught to act like they're holding a cape across their face like Dracula. Teach your children to wash their hands immediately after coughing or sneezing. Ask the teacher to mention overing noses and mouths in the classroom, too!

Helping kids learn how to avoid bringing home the back-to-school cold is no picnic, but if your child gets sick then chances are you and the rest of your family members will also become ill. Follow these tips to give everyone a better chance of staying safe and healthy this year.

Here's 12 more tips to make sure your school year starts off well:

7. No tissues? Sneeze and cough into your elbow and encourage friends to do the same.

8. Avoid the germy spots, like the water fountain spout.

9. Backpacks carry more than books. Wash them!

10. Exercise!

11. Keep surfaces clean. Encourage a daily desk wipe down.

12. Manage stress. Create a daily homework schedule that leaves room for play!

13. Avoid sharing hand towels. Who knows if the other hands that use them are always clean

14. Give yourself some space.

15. Get fresh air! Take a break to breathe deep.

16. Hydration, hydration, hydration.

17. Do I have to separate you two? If you’re talking to the hands and face, then yes. Avoid touching the mouth and nose.

18. Look to the sky. A bit of sunshine can work wonders.


August National Immunization Awareness Month

Immunization, or vaccination, helps prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. To stay protected against serious illnesses like the flu, measles, and pneumonia, adults need to get their shots – just like kids do.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention  Immunization Guidelines

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Immunization Guidelines

National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to promote vaccines and remind family, friends, and coworkers to stay up to date on their shots.

Talk to friends and family members about how vaccines aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can get shots to protect them from serious diseases.

Download your copy of Immunization Recommendations:

0-6 year Immunization Recommendations (English)

0-6 year Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

7-18 years Immunization Recommendations (English)

7-18 years Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

19+ years Immunization Recommendations (English)

19+ years Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

National Physical Fitness Month | Ask the Nurse

Be prepared for a strong-willed person to be strong-willed.

by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare and "Mother"
Last segement in a four part series about Christine Hammerlund and her Mom.

For a woman who spent decades raising six children, three girls and three boys, and making every meaningful decision in her life, it doesn't make sense for her to give up that independence without a fight.

Sure, Mom was slipping and had been for years. But she was still the person who ran her family. There can be challenges, but caring for her now is among the greatest blessings I could have been given. These years will be important to me forever, and I don't plan to come up short for her.

Just because she now suffers from dementia, do not expect her too become some soft, pliant victim. She still will fight for herself. She's your mom, isn't she?

With my Mom, there was no doubt that resentment was part of the process. We had to take my mother's car away from her and she was upset about it for years.

She had a caregiver that came into her home two days a week. We increased that to three days a week and finally five days a week. She didn't think it was necessary. She would tell me that she ran out of things to talk to the caregiver about, and she had sent her home. My attempts to talk to her about it would turn her angry and defensive.

One important thing: Mom didn't want to be told what to do. Never did. Never will, I would guess. She wanted to be asked and still does. Sound familiar?

Sometimes the caregivers direct my Mom's activities for the day, not giving her a choice, and she balks at that. Understand that my Mom is not able to make decisions for herself but she wants to have a say, usually she'll go along with whatever I say as long as I say it respectfully.

I'd say that's what makes her Mom.

The Case for Physical Fitness


by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare

Deciding to step up your physical activity is a great move for your health. It will take you to exciting destinations - like elevating your mood, increasing your energy, improving your sleep, and helping you manage stress.

Elevate Your Mood

With skyrocketing costs, hectic schedules, and the stressors of everyday life, it's easy to develop a glass-half-empty mindset. But daily exercise - aiming for at least 10,000 steps - can help you see your glass half full by:

  • Releasing endorphins - hormones that help boost your outlook
  • Alleviating depression and reducing anxiety
  • Balancing levels of serotonin, which creates a more stable frame of mind.

Increase Your Energy

Have you ever started your day energized and ready to go, only to be crashing by mid-afternoon? Many people experience this dip in energy. Not only is it a problem in how you feel, it also can hinder your work performance. You can beat the slump with consistent walking habits.
More effective than any caffeine drink, exercise can provide long-lasting energy. In a recent study, previously inactive people increased their energy by 20% and reduced fatigue by 65% through a regular workout routine. When you're physically active, your body actually responds by generating more energy.

Improve Sleep

Head outdoors and walk in the daylight - it can regulate your body's production of melatonin at night, allowing a deeper, more relaxing sleep. Studies also show that physical activity 3-4 hours before you go to bed can promote better quality sleep and a restful night.

Manage Stress

Everyone has stressors, and some may not be quickly or easily solved. In fact, some sources of stress may never go away. So what do you do? Get moving! Walking helps manage stress by:

  • Promoting a positive mindset; a good attitude is a serious force against stress
  • Giving you time to clear your thoughts and work through what's bothering you
  • Managing your instinctual fight-or-flight response and providing a healthy way to expel negative emotions.

Aerobic activity (walking, running, swimming, or cycling) and flexibility workouts (yoga or Pilates) both reduce stress.

A Winning Strategy

The physical benefits of exercise are well known - it's your biggest weapon against weight gain and helps prevent many conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. But exercise also offers benefits that can't be measured on a scale or by a doctor - like mood, stress, and energy levels. Improve your outlook and your health with a fun, flexible walking routine.

Sleep and Your Health: The Zs Have It

Do you treat sleep as a luxury, a few brief hours of rest squeezed in between home, work, family and social obligations?  Think again—a sensible and sufficient sleep schedule is of prime importance to your good health and well being.  Many people have a hard time making the connection, accepting fatigue, lethargy and more serious complaints as a fact of life or a product of our hectic lifestyles.  But what if we understood better how essential quality sleep is, and began to apply some self care by making healthy sleep a priority instead of an afterthought?  Consider these sleep facts and statistics:

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