Monthly Archives: February 2009

Ready or Not #35: Quarantine Family Members

What if family member gets sick?  I know, it’s a lousy question, but we have to face reality.  If the anticipated 30% of the population gets sick during a pandemic, then chances are, somebody in your family is going to get sick – and the bigger the family, the bigger the chances.  So what should you do with the sickie?  Quarantine them of course.

Connie, my dear friend who also writes for the www.apreparedhome.com website, has a large family and she has had her fair share of a sick spouse and sick kids.  So what does she do to keep the sick person from infecting the entire family, one by one until she is utterly exhausted and ends up getting sick herself?  You are right, she quarantines them.

Fortunately for her and her family, she has a small room in her basement that she has turned into the “sick room”.  Any time any one in the family comes home with the sniffles or a fever, she takes them to the sick room and it is completely off limits to everyone but her.  She feeds them, cares for them and provides entertainment and keeps the room as sterile as possible.  She also makes sure that when she leaves the room, she washes her hands and disinfects as much as possible so that she won’t spread the disease.
This strategy has served her very well for many years and has also helped to keep her family well.

Quarantining a sick person has been around for many years and there has been several times that governmental health agencies have quarantined houses and parts of communities, that the inhabitants are infected with a very serious viruses or other diseases, trying to contain them and keep others from getting sick – or even have it spread to pandemic proportions.  SARS and the Avian Flu virus are the two latest viruses that they placed quarantines, and for the most part they were pretty effective.

At a more personal/family level we should do the same thing – just like Connie.  First we need to designate one person as a caregiver – that will usually be the mom, but not always (after all, I have been sick before and my family had to take care of me) and so it would be a good idea to teach everyone in the family how to take care of a sick person.  They need to know how to administer the correct medicines.  They need to know how to take a temperature and what the numbers mean.  They need to know the kind of foods that are appropriate for a sick person to eat and it is really important that they make sure that the sick person drinks A LOT OF WATER.  That is very important.

I remember when I was a pre-teen, my whole family got sick except my dad.  He had to take care of everyone and he was quite militant about us keeping hydrated.  He brought us each a Mason jar filled with water for us to drink every hour or so.  We were left on our honor to finish it on our own until my dad found out that my brother was pouring his water down the furnace heat register.  After that he stood and watched while we drank the whole quart jar filled to the top with water.  I know that water doesn’t always taste really good when you’re sick, but it is a vital part of getting well.

Keep personal items separate.  Don’t let the sick person’s toothbrush be next to everybody else’s toothbrush and make sure that they use a different tube of toothpaste.  If possible, even set up a different bathroom for them to use so that the sickness can even be better contained.

Use very hot water to wash dishes and clothes.  I consider my dishwashers my personal dish sanitizing station.  Make sure that you dry the dishes with Heat Dry and not the Air Dry.  I do this whether we are sick or not because I like the idea that my dishes have been sanitized; the small amount of electricity that it uses is worth it.  Wash the sick person’s clothes in hot water and use chlorine bleach when possible and keep their items separate from the rest of the family’s clothes.  Wear disposable gloves when you are caring for somebody that is sick and you can also wear gloves if you feel at risk or when you go out in public.

Like I talked about earlier, it is important to know how to care for somebody that is sick, especially if his or her lungs are affected.  If you can, take a night course or get some schooling and get some nursing or basic first-aid skills.  Life will be so much more manageable and easier if there are people in your house that can take care of those that are ill.  Even if that person gets ill, they can still share their knowledge with those trying to do the care-taking.

Be aware of those individuals you know who are homebound and all of their needs before the pandemic strikes.  Do they need special care such as specialized help with medical equipment, OTC or prescription medications, and/or meals that need to be delivered?

If you will think back about the last time you were ill, not only will you remember how miserable you were, but also how bored silly you were.  When you set up your quarantine room, put in a small TV that can play DVD’s and possibly play video games.  You can give children toys to play with, but only allow toys that can be washed in the washer or sterilized.  You might even consider getting some coloring books or paperback books that you can throw away after they get well.

Make the room as easy to sterilize as you can.  If you don’t have an extra room that can be made into a “Quarantine Room”, you will have to use their bedroom instead.  If siblings share a room, make the healthy one move out and bunk with somebody else.  If you can, be very sparse in decorating and don’t decorate with items that can’t be sterilized after they get well.  You might even consider removing the carpet and replacing it with a wood floor, tile, or vinyl flooring.  You can put a rug down next to the bed so the floor won’t be cold on their feet, but make sure that it is a rug that can be thrown into the washer.  I won’t be removing my carpet any time soon, but some people might want to.

And just remember, “This too shall pass”.  Hopefully when it does all of our family will be healthy and happy.

Ready or Not #34: PureWorks and Face Masks

Last week we talked a little about possibly changing the way we greet others so as to not pick up or pass along a pandemic virus — actually any type of bacteria or virus.  We also talked about the possibility of working out of your home so that you can stay home and stay well.  It would also be helpful to work out of your home if you needed to take care of someone that is ill.  But not all of us have that option.  Some of us will still need to physically show up to work and socialize with others.  What to do then?

The biggest advice that medical experts suggest is to wash your hands several times during the day.  They also want you to disinfect your work station or area daily including: phones, door knobs, drinking fountains, keyboards, chair arm rests and other heavily touched or high traffic areas.

Another suggestion is to disinfect you.  Mostly your hands.  A lot of doctors suggest that you use the alcohol based hand sanitizers, but I don’t much care for them.  Yes they do work – until they dry.  As we all know, the minute the alcohol dries, the sanitizing abilities stop.  Also, alcohol, used consistently on the skin, will dry your skin out and actually cause cracking which gives bacteria and viruses more areas of entry into our bodies.  Another thing that I don’t like about alcohol based sanitizers is that they smell funny (like alcohol) and they leave a sticky feeling residue behind that is really irritating – in more ways than one.

I prefer the PureWorks® brand of sanitizing products because it feels good when you put it on and it is persistent for up to four hours.  It is not alcohol based but uses Quaternary Ammonium (QUATS) compounds as an active ingredient to be a first aid antiseptic and to help guard against infection.  They even have a One-Step Disinfectant to use as a surface cleaner.  The One-Step Disinfectant has been proven to kill the Avian Flu virus, salmonella, and many more viruses and bacterium on any surface.  This claim is supported by the EPA and the foam and lotions are compliant to FDA regulations.

I carry the portable foam dispenser with me in my purse so that I can use it whenever I go into public places and am going to be touching things that others have touched before (e.g. shopping carts, door handles, countertops, etc.), but my favorite product is the lotion.  I like the lotion because it doesn’t have a strong smell, it has a nice feel (it’s not greasy and there is no sticky residue) and I can apply it to my face, especially around my eyes, nose and mouth as a protectant.  I use the lotion in the morning, before putting on my makeup, which helps protect me around my ears, eyes and nose for at least a little while, and then I have another bottle at my desk to use on my hands throughout the day.

You can’t apply alcohol-based products on your face or around your nose or lips because it is too harsh and is dangerous if accidentally ingested.  The PureWorks products are safe to use.  The best part of using PureWorks® is that the product has what is called “persistence” meaning it doesn’t stop working like the alcohol does when it dries, but it continues working up to several hours (4 hrs.), depending on the circumstances you are in.  It is also safe for children and more mature folks who have thin skin. It is not absorbed by the body, it just stays on top as a protective barrier.  I have been using it for years and I really think that it makes a big difference.

There is another thing that you need to be concerned about if you are buying anti-bacterial products – do they have Triclosan as one of the ingredients?  If they do, be careful.  Triclosan is a pesticide and it is actually absorbed into your skin, even more quickly into your children’s skin and older adults’ skin because their skin is thinner.  I really don’t like the idea of using pesticides to wash my hands and I especially don’t like the idea of my children absorbing pesticides into their little bodies.  Remember, one of the most effective ways to protect yourself is to wash your hands – just make sure that you do it with safe products, good old fashioned soap and water is a good option here. (Two gallons of water, per person, per day for a two-week period)

Another product that people have considered using to protect themselves, and which the government also suggests as a good idea (go to www.cdc.gov/eid/content/15/2/233.htm for full article), is facemasks.  But not just any face mask will do.  You need a face mask that can help filter out viruses – at least to some degree.  In my research, I found out that most masks only make you feel as though you are protected, but they actually do very little or nothing at all, when it comes to protecting you from viruses.  You need to have at least an N-95 or N-99 filter to get any degree of protection.  If you are interested in potentially using a mask, you might want to look at an article that I found that talked about face masks and the Avian Flu virus.  You will want to educate yourself more about what you really need in order to try to stay healthy.

Myself, I have decided that I probably won’t wear a mask if I’m healthy, unless I am in a very precarious situation, but more than likely I will only use the masks if I am sick and don’t want to go out and possibly infect others – but that’s just me.

Before you go hog-wild and purchase a lot of masks, you might want to wear one around and try it out first.  I get a little claustrophobic when I put one on and I notice I tend to breathe a lot heavier and deeper when wearing one (yes, I did get light headed).  I once used a disposable mask that had a breather hole on the front and I found it much easier and more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.  Also, if you have glasses, the masks with the breather holes help your glasses not to fog up as much.  I did find a disposable face mask, T-5000V P95, that has a breather hole in the front
(http://www.safetyhood.net/1845590.html) and I think that I am going to get it because if I’m going to be wearing an uncomfortable mask, I want to be comfortable as possible.

Probably the most effective way to protect yourself, if you have to be in the public during a pandemic or bad flu year, is to stay at least seven-feet away from anybody, if possible.  They (the people that measure sneezes and coughs) have found that most sneezes and coughs generally travel about six-feet from point of delivery. (Droplets travel approximately 3’ and micro-droplets — the stuff you can’t feel — about 6’).  If you are doing the sneezing and coughing, shame on you – go home and go to bed!  Don’t go out and share the misery, unless you have to, but make sure to wear your mask if you do.

Now go wash your hands and make sure you stay hydrated and healthy.

Ready or Not #33: Pandemic – Preventative Measures

The government has stated that the H5N1 virus (Avian Flu virus) is changing (through rapid mutation) and they expect it to eventually be able to transmit from human to human not just bird to human.  They also know that it could start anywhere and spread quickly.  After all, we are a global society and very mobile.  Instead of taking months to spread globally, it could take only days or weeks to reach the United States and then spread from New York to California, with several additional stopping points across the nation in virtually no time at all.

Dr. Richard Benjamin, of the American Red Cross, brought up several points that need to be observed in order to protect you from getting sick.  Most of these are obvious and most of them we ignore (e.g. plenty of rest, eating healthy, and exercising). But he said that it is more important than ever that we start taking care of ourselves so that if we are exposed to any illness, we will have a better chance at fighting the disease and keeping our immunity strong.

His suggestions on how we can protect ourselves now and in the future are:
•    Wash your hands often with soap and water
•    Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing.  (Do not cough over your shoulder; the guy behind you won’t appreciate it.  It is best if you use disposable tissue to cover your mouth, but in a pinch you could do like my son and cough inside the front of your shirt.  This keeps your germs on you and doesn’t spread them to others.)
•    Disinfect commonly shared items: phones, computer keyboards, drinking fountain buttons, door handles, etc.
•    If you are sick, stay home (PLEASE!)
•    Eat healthy (and drink plenty of fluids – a.k.a. water)
•    Get plenty of rest (Remember the saying, “Early to bed, early to rise…”?)
•    Exercise (Even if you don’t feel like it)
•    Build your immune system (Keep your immunizations up to date – including adults, take your vitamins, de-stress your life, etc.)
•    Get a seasonal flu shot (This helps to build your immunity and Dr. Benjamin said that it MIGHT help against pandemic.)

The Red Cross has a “Pandemic Flu Family Preparedness Guide” that you can get at your local chapter or visit www.redcross.org/pandemiflu.

What it comes down to is that we need to educate ourselves.  It is OUR responsibility to take care of OURSELVES and OUR families.  We need to do every thing that we can to protect ourselves from getting sick – pandemic or not.

I was thinking that as a society, in order to stay well, we might want to consider changing some of our social graces such as shaking hands and giving hugs to acquaintances or people on the street.  Maybe we could find another way to acknowledge each other and show affection.  Some suggestions have been that we give elbow bumps instead of high-fives or hand shaking, etc.  You might laugh at this, but at one point in time high-fives were thought to be weird – it might just be worth your health to reconsider how you greet others.

Also, another thing that you might consider is if there is an outbreak in your office and you don’t want to get exposed, or you are feeling a little under the weather and don’t want to expose others, you might want to anticipate the possibility of working out of your home – if you have that option.  Think ahead of time and ask yourself if you would need to purchase any special type of computer program now for your computer at home or work?  Would you need to have any special add-on’s to your telephone system?  Holding meetings via the computer is becoming more and more acceptable, and it is certainly cheaper – and potentially healthier.

Think about how you and your place of employment is going to address a pandemic outbreak and how you and your boss can prepare ahead of time to protect your health and your job.  Just something else to think about.  Now go in and drink some orange juice to build up your immune system and go to bed early so that you stay well rested and strong – and avoid petting any sick birds from China.