It's good to get children (and adults!) in the habit of washing hands frequently, because good hand hygiene is a way of stopping or at least reducing the chance of spreading diseases, from the simple cold and cough to more dangerous diseases such as meningitis and worms!
Does this mean children shouldn't get dirty?
Not at all! Children learn so much from getting mucky in the garden and playing outside. All you have to do is to ensure that they clean up properly afterwards. Then they get to enjoy and explore their world and lead a healthy life too!
We must instil in them that it is okay to get grubby to play outside to climb ladders and trees and stroke tame animals if they wish. However, we must make sure they understand why they must clean up afterwards to keep healthy.
When should we tell children to clean their hands?
Hands should be washed AFTER:
Hands should be washed BEFORE:
Eyes, nose and mouth
It is also important to teach children to respect their eyes, nose and mouth as a place where germs can get into their bodies. Don't frighten them, but try to make them aware that germs can get in and make them unwell if they are not careful about where they touch.
When you are out and about or running round a school playground, a public drinking fountain can be a welcome sight, a place to rehydrate and for free! But how safe is it to drink from the same fountain that hundreds of others have drunk from? Would you share a water bottle with strangers in the park? I doubt it!
Are you likely to pick-up germs, bacteria and disease from all the other people who have used the fountain before? The answer seems to be unproven! There is plenty of evidence to suggest that germs and bacteria are all over drinking fountains. Some research suggested there were less germs on toilets and door handles than drinking fountains, because they are cleaned and disinfected more often. So there are more micro organisms on water fountains! Shocking.
However, this does not mean that the water is infected. The nature of the water fountain shooting an arc of water means that the water itself should not be contaminated even if the pump is itself covered in germs. So if the water is clean, it remains clean even if it comes through a mucky water fountain. Evidence to prove this fact seems sparse either to confirm the water is safe or to say it is not safe.
I suppose we should take comfort from the fact that there is not an abundance of studies proving they are contaminated. And, indeed, that we never hear of swathes of disease or outbreaks because of water fountains being unclean.
So, should we drink from water fountains and let our little ones drink from them? Yes, probably, but only if they are able to drink from the arc of water and not need to suck, lick or get too close to the spout itself! If they are too little to manage this, use the fountain to top up a water bottle or cup.
Food safety advice tends to vary over time - some foods deemed unsafe to eat at one time may become positively beneficial at others, but there is always advice on some foods that should be avoided during pregnancy. Mostly such foods suffer increased exposure to dangerous bacteria, and if not stored properly between manufacture and consumption, they could pose a serious health risk to a pregnant mum to be.
Until August 2009, government advised that pregnant women should avoid peanuts for fear that consumption might be a cause of intolerance in children. This advice has changed now because science is not certain that this is a causal effect of allergies, indeed there is growing evidence that consumption of peanuts during pregnancy may actually reduce the likelihood of babies suffering peanut allergies.
Some foods such as soft cheeses and pâté should be avoided because there is an increased risk that they may carry listeria, a very dangerous bacteria to pregnant women. Pâté also contains high levels of vitamin A, a vitamin found in liver, which is also best avoided during pregnancy. High levels of vitamin A may have a negative impact on your baby's neurological development. For the same reason, you should avoid taking fish liver oils and eating liver in any other form.
Pregnant women should also be cautious against eating raw or undercooked foods, especially eggs, meats and shellfish. These all pose a higher risk to bacteria and viruses, such as salmonella.
Finally, certain sea fish may contain harmful levels of mercury to an unborn baby - avoid tuna, shark, swordfish and marlin whilst pregnant. High levels of mercury can affect neurological development in your baby.
Many other foods often considered dangerous actually pose no risk at all, these include:-
If you are pregnant, you will be looking after yourself and paying more attention to diet than usual, but most foods are perfectly safe to consume, you don't have to change your diet radically just because you're expecting a baby. Exercise caution, but don't stifle your lifestyle!
Did you know that the human body harbours more bacteria than there are humans on the planet, or that viruses constantly mutate which is why we suffer colds year after year?! Few of us really understand the difference between viruses and bacteria, but a little knowledge helps us to combat disease and remain healthy.
Bateria are single celled organisms, many of which are good for us or at least harmless. Bacteria in our gut helps break down food and bacteria are used to break down sewage and oil spills. Unfortunately, some bacteria are harmful to us and when infected, our body fights to emit them; this is why we develop coughs and colds and this is what the body is attempting when we contract food poisoning. Bacteria can be controlled with antibiotics, drugs specifically developed to target bacteria.
Unlike bacteria which multiply by continually dividing, viruses need to attach themselves inside our own cells in order to reproduce. Antibiotics don't have any effect on viruses and there's not much that can be done to fight them other than to leave the body to its own devices. You might take paracetemol or ibuprofen to help reduce your temperature, but there's no medication for the virus itself - you just have to sit it out and let your body fight it naturally. With children, the best you can do is help relieve the symptoms and encourage them to rest through the period of infection.
With little ones around the house, you'll find that bacterial and viral infections are common. Children clustered into nurseries or playgroups spread bacteria and viruses very effectively! Preventative steps to avoid being struck down both by bacterial or viral infections are much the same. Here are some tips to help prevent contamination in the first place:-
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