Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why I Immunize: Part I

I am a mother who loves science.  I also love my children and do everything in my power to do the best I can by them, including using logical practices to prevent disease and injury.  I also have my own, very real long term health concerns that lend to some difficulty in providing immunity and protection for both my soon-to-be-baby and the toddler.

There are a number of things that can be done to prevent disease without going so far as to place one's child in a bubble and never allow them contact with the outside world.  I follow trends in medicine closely and form my own rules based on what has the highest proven safety rate.  To explain all of the options and give them as much discussion on both sides (pros and cons) they will be broken into topical sections.
If this is your work let me know.  I want to credit the artists
because it contains huge amounts of awesome and you deserve credit!

In these entries I plan to cover the most basic forms of prevention and some of the situations where prevention has been ignored to detriment of community health.  From the basics of person hygiene and hand washing, to the controversy of vaccines and epidemics, I believe there should always be open discussion to reach a solution.  Anyone having a topic or supported information that might be interesting to add as an alternative is welcome to submit it for discussion provided that can show credible sources. 

I will refer often to both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) because they provide a great dictionary for easy reference and are responsible for the information a typical pediatric center will provide when asked by parents. 

Please understand that while there is a point to having a dialog about health choices, the spreading of misinformation or admittedly false "facts" is not helpful.  Most notably the infamous claims that vaccines cause autism which were based on intentionally falsified documents do not lend to providing an education for parents.  Discussion about allergies to vaccine components and alternative choices to support good health are very useful and can assist a parent know how to prevent many kinds of undue risk to their child.  Health information from homeopathic sources is wonderful and welcome with verifiable proof such as clinical or otherwise approved trials (many countries require different types of tests).
At the end of my prepared sections I will share some of the home remedies and alternatives to over the counter items that I have found to be safe and successful in my own home.  I cannot promise they will work for everyone, nor that they might not be problematic in terms of allergic reactions which you should always watch for with any new substance.  Many of these are based on herbal medicine and for those interested in it I highly recommend doing your own study on the topic and making a reference library. 
Section One: Hygiene As Prevention
To ease into this, we'll start with the basics, hygiene as prevention. 
MDH poster for the prevention of disease through hygiene.
Washing hands and brushing teeth is so basic we start on these skills with toddlers.  My two year old is so fond of washing hands and baths that he will ask everyone in our house to lift him up so he can use the skin.  I'm not discouraging this behavior, hand washing helps remove exposure to bacteria and viruses we come in contact with through even the safest daily behavior.  

I'm a fan of homemade soaps and it really does help when picking out smells that things like mint and lemon are both naturally anti-bacterial and work without damaging the skin.  When making a hand soap purchase, go for a soap that does not contain perfumes as they often involve a chemical base that can promote headaches and be problematic on sensitive skin.  If you are a fan of organics or shop at farmer's markets but have not found something to be attached to so far, I suggest the awesome soaps from LUSH: Handmade Cosmetics and use their "Sexy Peel" as our hand soap if I am out of my farmer's market goodies.
While we all know hand washing is simple and essential, how often is it actually done and when should we do this?  Yes, I'm going into detail on something we all learned as children because the numbers of people who do not practice the basics is worrying.  To quote the CDC "About 2.2 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the world."

Cholera is a world wide issue and comes from the transfer of contaminated fecal matter the next victim via oral means, large countries have outbreaks due to poor conditions where the virus can hide after feces enters the water supply.  Pinkeye (Conjunctivitis) is an issue because the touching of eyes and face is so common that failure to wash hands between activities can spread infection from both the viral and bacterial agents which create this issue. Salmonella is a risk we are aware of in my home because we have had reptile pets and chickens which may increase the chance of exposure through both skin and eggs.

While these infections can be prevented with hand washing (and proper food prep techniques if you are consuming eggs), there are cases where washing might not be viable at the moment and so we move to the next solution.  Next on the list of typical choices is hand sanitizers.

Most parents know about these little bottles that appear as if by magic at playgrounds and birthday parties when kids show up with sticky hands.  I carry a bottle in my diaper bag and use it after cleaning my hands with a baby wipe post diaper change or dealing with other disgusting messes.  As a temporary fix for exposure to possible contamination, these are wonderful, but there is a downside too.

The problem comes when over use of these products does not always prevent contamination AND can lead to more resistant bacterial strains.  While they serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things, the dependence on such things may also factor in to the resistance of some bacteria to known treatments.  This becomes a more pressing problem when sanitizers are being used as the primary defense in medical settings like hospitals where people who have a lower resistance level will naturally congregate. 

To recap what I said here, the following is a simple list of times to wash hands and how to properly wash them:

When Should You Wash Your Hands:
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating prepared food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
 How Should You Wash Your Hands:
  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them with a blower.

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