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February 16, 2017

Handwashing: A History


The benefits of proper hand hygiene are well-documented. From teaching it to children in schools and homes, to requiring it of employees in health care and food service industries, handwashing is an ongoing topic of discussion in several professional and personal settings.


How long have we been doing this? When did humanity begin to learn the importance of hand washing?




In 1847 a Hungarian physician named Ignaz Semmelweis was working at a hospital in Vienna, Austria. Dr. Semmelweis suspected a link between the high incidence of postpartum fever and death among patients, and the interns who cared for those patients…interns who also, as part of their duties, performed autopsies. After having the interns disinfect their hands with a chlorinated lime solution, Dr. Semmelweis saw an immediate reduction in fatal postpartum fever among patients. His findings, however, were met with rejection and ridicule. He was let go from the hospital, and the harassment he received in the Vienna medical community drove him to Budapest. Eventually he was committed to a mental institution, where he died. It wasn’t until 1859, when Louis Pasteur– a chemist, not a doctor– developed his germ theory of disease, that the advantages of handwashing were recognized.


Today we know the benefits of handwashing: many transient microorganisms are easily removed with good hygiene practices, and proper hand washing greatly reduces the risk of healthcare associated infections. We know we should wash our hands prior to handling or eating food, after changing a diaper or using the restroom, after coughing or sneezing, after playing outdoors, after playing with animals, and any other time our hands may have been contaminated.


Hand washing is most effective when done correctly. While washing hands, many often miss fingertips, thumbs, the backs of hands, and wrists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 20 seconds of hand washing to remove disease-causing germs.


Are you washing your hands effectively? If you need a refresher course, be sure to check out GlitterBug Gel and Potion.



February 6, 2017

Drug-Resistant Superbug Spreading Quickly


It sounds like something from a science-fiction movie: an illness-causing bug that won’t disappear with the usual medication. The bacteria is not easy to track because person-to-person transmission may be occurring without symptoms. It causes over 9,000 infections and 600 deaths each year, and those numbers are growing.


CRE (or Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, if you prefer) is a family of superbugs which tends to spread in hospitals and long-term care facilities and is, essentially, resistant to almost every existing antibiotic. Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), refers to it as a ‘nightmare bacteria,’ which lives in the gastrointestinal tract.


A 16-month study was conducted by a Harvard-MIT research team to examine the frequency of and type of bacterial strains causing CRE infections in hospitals. Studies on outbreaks are more common, but this work gets at the root of what’s causing disease in affected patients, as well as a ‘population snapshot’ so as to more thoroughly study how disease is transmitted.


One major finding from the study reveals very little direct transmission between sick patients. In other words, those who are infected may very well spread the germs but without actually becoming sick themselves. This asymptomatic transmission may create more questions than the research answers until further studies can be done to determine whether this transmission occurs in health care facilities or simply anywhere in the community. Being able to take environmental samples to identify the presence of resistant organisms would help to identify what patterns exist in transmission, a process which scientists hope to see developed within the next decade.


A more immediate step forward would be for hospitals to screen patients for CRE upon admission with a routine bacteria culture paired with antibiotic susceptibility testing.


What can be done in the meantime? Dr. Alex Kallen, a medical officer in the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, reminds us of the essential nature of hand hygiene and environmental sanitation. He encourages patients, “Make sure people are washing their hands when caring for you. Make sure they are cleaning their equipment.”


If you find yourself or a loved one as a patient in a hospital or similar facility, don’t be afraid to speak up if you notice care providers not cleaning their equipment or hands. Hand hygiene is essential to preventing the spread of all bacteria, including resistant superbugs.


January 25, 2017

Resolving to Practice Good Hand Hygiene



Did you make any resolutions for the new year? January is almost over, so let’s check in: how are those resolutions going for you? If the mere thought of it made you slide down in your seat a little bit, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 41 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, but only 9.2 percent feel they’ve been able to be successful in keeping their resolution.

The good news is, while it’s a trendy tradition to resolve to make improvements at the beginning of the new year, it’s never too late to begin to make positive changes. Of the resolutions mentioned in the survey, the most common types were those related to self-improvement. Health-related goals are at the top of the list. So if you’re looking for a quick way to be successful in sticking to your resolutions, here’s one of the easiest and most important things you can do: resolve to practice good hand hygiene.

As we’ve heard from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ‘Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.’ When you avoid contacting and spreading illness, you’re able to tackle those other resolutions (like getting to the gym, right?). Make a family or workplace goal to wash hands regularly so it becomes a habit. Review proper hygiene methods with GlitterBug Gel and GlitterBug Potion.

Healthy living begins with small changes made daily. Commit today to practice good hand hygiene, enjoy better overall health, and move on to those other goals that lead to a better life (and success in keeping resolutions!). Make this new year happy and healthy!



January 13, 2017

Help for Dry Hands

Dry hands

Have you noticed your skin getting more dry as the winter weather rolls in? Do you have cracks on your hands or fingers? If so, you’re not alone.


“As the seasons change, the environment for the skin is changing. The humidity level is changing,” explains Indy Chabra, a dermatologist at Midlands Clinic in Sioux City, South Dakota.


Xerosis (or dry skin) is caused from a loss of too much water or oil in skin. Many factors contribute to xerosis, including age, skin diseases (like eczema), frequent hand-washing, certain medications, and winter weather.


For healthy winter skin, apply moisturizer within five minutes of showering, and also before bedtime. A ceramide-based moisturizer (recommended by many dermatologists) can effectively be absorbed to moisturize your skin, but it may take up to seven days to see and feel it working.


When washing your hands (or any other part of your body), use lukewarm water and a gentle soap, so as to not dry your skin. Try a hand cream rather than a lotion; apply and let it absorb rather than quickly rubbing it in. (As always, with any soap or moisturizer, if irritation and/or discomfort occur, seek out the care of a health professional.)


Humidifiers can help air in homes from becoming too dry, contributing to the effect of winter weather on your skin.


Remember to take the simple, daily steps you can to clean and protect your dry skin.



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January 6, 2017

6 Ways to Stay Healthy Through the Winter Season

Man or Mircrobe


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is as true today as it was when Benjamin Franklin said it. Though it may not be possible to completely avoid sickness throughout the upcoming winter months, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.


Here are six smart, preventative measures you can take to avoid the transmission of illness and infection this season:


Vaccination Getting a flu vaccine reduces the risk of influenza, which can lead to bacterial pneumonia, by 60 percent. Beyond that, by getting the vaccine you are helping protect those around you with compromised immune systems, for whom the danger of contracting influenza is significantly more serious.


Hand-washing Meticulously washing hands after being in public areas, and before eating, is important. Many viruses can stay on surfaces for days, and without washing our hands before eating, those viruses might enter the body through the mouth.


Avoiding congested places As much as is possible, avoid places where you’re likely to encounter large crowds of people. The more individuals in close proximity, the more likely for others to contract an illness.


Warmth Rhinovirus (a common cold virus) replicates faster at lower temperatures, so avoiding chills and keeping a warmer core temperature can help lessen your risk for respiratory illnesses. Wear warm clothes and layer to keep warm and avoid compromising your immune system.


Rest, hydration, self-isolation Lack of sleep can lower the strength of your immune system. Proper hydration and avoiding others who may be sick, while taking the time to rest, can work wonders for your health and energy during this potentially stressful time of year.  


Medication Always check the potential side-effects for any medications you’re taking, and confirm with your doctor or a pharmacist that the medications you need for varying symptoms aren’t contraindicated. Read all labels and warning, and remember many cold remedies cause drowsiness.


Be healthy, stay healthy, and enjoy all the fun winter has to offer!



December 23, 2016

Can Being Cold Make You Sick?


We bundle up when it’s cold outside so we can stay comfortable by being warm. But does staying warm also contribute to being healthy?


Prolonged exposure to cold can lead to serious health problems like hypothermia and frostbite. Infants and older adults are particularly susceptible to sickness in winter months. But the common cold is caused by rhinovirus, which replicates more readily at cooler temperatures– like in a nasal cavity, rather than a place closer to a warmer core body temperature.  


Ellen Foxman, an assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, and her colleagues have embarked on a study to determine whether colder temperatures make the virus more effective or the immune system less effective. Examining the innate immune system (present in every cell) in airways in mice, and in human cells, yielded similar results: at a warmer core body temperature, innate immune pathways blocking viral growth are more active, and an enzyme that degrades the viral genome works better.


So go ahead and put that scarf around your nose– the warmth might help you avoid that cold after all. Even more, Foxman recommends washing your hands so germs aren’t transmitted to your eyes, nose, or mouth. She explains, “If the virus isn’t in your nose, it can’t cause infection.”



2016 Food Safety Survey Report


The annual food safety surveys, as conducted by the FDA in partnership with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), has measured and tracked the public’s understanding of proper food safety and handling techniques for nearly 30 years. The questions are designed to measure trends and practices, and the results shed light on consumer food safety knowledge and actions.


Of note in the 2016 report is significant information surrounding handwashing.


  • While rates of handwashing increased between 2006 and 2010, rates have remained constant or decreased between 2010 and 2016.


  • Consumers report being likely to wash hands with soap after touching raw meat or raw fish, but not as likely to do so before preparing food or after cracking raw eggs.


  • About half of consumers report using devices like smartphones or tablets during food preparation, but only about a third of those report washing their hands after touching the device while preparing food.


With touch-screen technology being a newer trend in food preparation, additional research is needed to understand its role and how it affects food safety.


For further details you can read and download the 2016 Food Safety Survey Report.

As a special holiday bonus, do you need a new song to add to your holiday playlist? Here’s one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with 12 ways to be safe and healthy during the holidays.



November 26, 2016

What About Drying Your Hands?

Have you ever noticed someone exiting a restroom while shaking their wet hands? Maybe you’ve done it, too– you’ve taken the time to properly wash, but you’re in a hurry, and don’t want to take the extra time to get paper towels or stand near an air dryer.

Hand drying is an important part of hand hygiene, and shouldn’t be skipped. The reason is simple: germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands than dry hands.

Which method, then, should you choose? Should you dry your hands with towels (paper or otherwise), or use an air dryer? There isn’t conclusive research on this topic, as most studies compare residual microbes (not just germs) remaining on hands following different drying methods. Microbes are tiny living organisms which may or may not cause disease, and it has not been proven that removing microbes from hands is linked to better health.

What is clear, however, is the point that using a clean towel or air drying hands is the proper final step in effective hand-washing. So the next time you’re tempted to shake your hands dry or rub your hands on your clothes, pause and take the 60 seconds or so needed to face the world with clean, dry hands.


What About Drying Your Hands?


Time for Effective Handwashing

Do you know how long it takes to effectively wash your hands? It’s not something we often think about in our day-to-day routine, but for those who wash their hands as a critical part of their careers, it’s a good idea to pass along a reminder.

The CDC recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes to hum the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice.

Though it’s important for everyone to wash their hands, those who work in health care or food industries have a crucial responsibility when it comes to hand hygiene.

The GlitterBug Handwash Timer can help to ensure employees are aware of the time it takes– and the time they’re taking– to wash their hands in a busy workplace. It can also keep kids on-task and help them not rush through the process.

Whether you use a timer, or a trick like singing a song or counting to yourself, be sure to take the time you need to effectively wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs and sickness.


GlitterBug Handwash Timer



November 22, 2016

Tips for a Clean and Healthy Thanksgiving

This week families and friends will gather to give thanks, make memories, and share delicious meals. Whether you’re hosting or traveling, you can take precautions to help protect your loved ones from sharing any sickness during your visits.

Safely handle the turkey Frozen turkeys should be thawed in cold water (changed every 30 minutes), never on a countertop. Cooking your turkey should be done in an oven set to at least 325° F, and cooking time will vary depending on the weight of the bird. The turkey is done when it has reached an internal temperature of 165° F (use a digital thermometer, and check the turkey’s thickest areas of the breast, thigh, and wing joint).  

Keep all kitchen areas clean Wash utensils, food prep areas, and, yes, HANDS. Hot water and soap will get rid of illness-causing bacteria. It’s especially important to ALWAYS wash your hands and all equipment before and after working with raw meat, poultry, or seafood so you don’t spread bacteria that live in these uncooked foods.

Don’t ignore the leftovers Separate cooked foods into small containers, and refrigerate or freeze immediately. In smaller portions, they’ll be preserved faster and more evenly, and later they’ll be easier to reheat as needed.

Food handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems leading to poultry-associated foodborne disease outbreaks in the U.S. Properly handling food and keeping up with cleaning up will help keep those illnesses at bay.

Pass the turkey, not the germs. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


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