Soap in public restroom can contaminate your hands

Soap in public restroom can contaminate your hands

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of illnesses and the transmission of germs according to The Centers for Disease and Prevention. It should be done regularly, for at least 30 seconds, and especially after going to the restroom. During the day, you pick up germs and touching your face with contaminated hands is enough to make you sick. Soap removes germs more effectively than water but what if the soap is dirty? Can the soap transfer germs?

Originally, bar soaps were found in public restrooms but got removed when studies showed that they were unhygienic and could transfer germs. The use of soap dispensers has been encouraged to limit contamination. But in public restrooms, studies found that“One in four dispensers is contaminated” allowing germs to thrive in soaps. Washing your hands with contaminated soap can add more bacteria on your hands than you had before washing them, thus contributing to the transmission of germs and spreading of infections.

How does the soap get dirty?

Several reasons can explain this phenomenon. Soaps contain preservatives to limit the growth of harmful microbes, but those preservatives may break down over time and become less effective.

Dispensers aren’t cleaned properly. Dispensers should be thoroughly cleaned before refilling them. Bulk soap dispensers are the most common type of dispensers found in public restrooms. To refill a bulk soap dispenser, you have to top off the soap inside through a lid while the dispenser stays mounted on the wall. The amount of bacteria found in the dispenser was 1000 times higher than the recommended limit. Researchers found that even if you take the soap out of the dispenser, disinfect the equipment with bleach, and refill it with safe and new soap, within two weeks, the soap inside the dispenser will be as contaminated as before the cleaning. Bacteria in the dispenser can be resistant to bleach, and even a small quantity of bacteria remaining is enough to contaminate the soap. Soap dispensers are usually mounted on the walls and it is harder to clean the inside properly. Previous studies have demonstrated an association between the use of bulk soap refillable dispensers and bacterial contamination of the soap. Bulk soap refillable dispensers can increase the number of germs on the hands and may play a role in the transmission of bacteria in public settings. They have been removed from healthcare settings as they increased the risk of cross contamination but are still common in public restrooms.

“Topping off” or improper refilling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Don’t recommend adding soap to a partially empty soap dispenser as it can lead to bacterial contamination of soap”.

Airborne and environmental contaminants from the restroom can enter the dispenser when open, especially in an environment where faecal bacteria are thriving. In most contaminated dispensers, coliform and faecal matters were found in important quantity.

Cleaning personnel can contaminate soap when refilling the dispenser with bacteria present on their hands, like after having just cleaned the toilets or if they aren’t wearing gloves.

Companies usually use concentrate soap that they dilute after. If the dilution is too important and more than recommended, it can make the soap less effective against germs.

How to avoid this situation?

The best and easiest solution is to replace bulk soap dispenser with sealed soap dispenser. With a sealed system, to refill the dispenser, you only have to put a sealed bottle or a pouch inside the equipment and don’t risk touching the soap.

 

In a study, contaminated dispensers were replaced with sealed soap dispensers. One year after the installation, the soap from the sealed soap dispensers was contamination free. The use of dispensers with sealed refills instead of bulk soap refillable dispensers can lower the risk of contamination and can reduce the spread of bacteria.

As a user, If you aren’t sure about the soap in a public restroom, you can also complement hand washing with hand sanitizing to ensure safe hands.

Sources:

American Society for Microbiology. 2010. Bacterial Hand Contamination and Transfer after Use of Contaminated Bulk-Soap-Refillable Dispensers. [ONLINE] Available at: http://aem.asm.org/content/77/9/2898.full.

CDC. 2002. Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5116a1.htm

CleanLink. 2012. Soap Dispensers: Preventing Cross-Contamination. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cleanlink.com/cp/article/Soap-Dispensers-Preventing-Cross-Contamination–14671.

How to protect yourself against the haze?

How to protect yourself against the haze?

The haze in Singapore has been back for several weeks. It is not an exceptional event, for almost every dry season, outbreaks have occurred. Thick grey smog coming from Indonesia floats over the island causing people to stay indoors, closure of schools and unhealthy levels of pollution. Singapore’s air quality even reached hazardous levels and there is no indication on how long people will have to cope with this situation.

Cause of the haze

The current haze comes from forest burning triggered by illegal fires in peatland, and forest in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island and the Indonesian part of Borneo. These fires are created to quickly clear lands for palm oil, paper and pulp plantations

What is in the haze?  How to check air quality?

The haze is predominantly composed of two types of particles:

–          – PM10 are particulate matters of 10 microns in size. They are large enough to be trapped by the nasal passages when you breathe.

–          – PM2.5 are fine particulate matters that are no larger than 2.5 microns, a thirtieth the diameter of a human hair. They can get trapped deep in the lungs and go into the bloodstream.

Short term exposure to high levels of haze particles can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat in healthy individuals, while a long-term exposure to these particles on a regular basis can create heart and lung complications such as lung cancer or heart disease.

The PSI, Pollutant Standards Index gives information about air quality. Look for the three-hour PSI or 1-hour PM2.5 concentration levels published by the National Environment Agency (NEA). PSI is determined by the concentration levels PM10, PM2.5, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. During a normal day, without haze, the maximum concentration of PM2.5 is usually between 20 and 35 micrograms per cubic meters. The air is considered unhealthy when the concentration of PM2.5 hits 100, and hazardous when it exceeds 300.

How to protect yourself?

Stay indoors and close your windows and doors when the PSI is high

When the outdoor air quality reaches serious levels, stay indoors as much as possible and keep the windows and doors closed.

Cut down on physical activities

Exercising make you breathe deeply, allowing pollutants deep into your lungs. Reduce outdoor activities to limit your exposure to the haze especially when the PSI reaches 100 or more.

Stay hydrated

The haze causes drying conditions. Stay hydrated and drink more water than usual to flush out toxins absorbed by your body.

Use air purifiers at home.

Air purifiers and air ionizers can help to reduce the indoor particle level. Be sure to regularly change the filter to get rid of pollutants from the air efficiently.

Wear a mask.

Covering your nose with your hands is not enough to protect you. Wear a mask when the air pollutants levels are high. N95 masks seal to the face of the wearer and provide good protection against the haze as they keep fine particulate matter out. You can reuse your mask but don’t share it. Change it when it gets soiled or distorted in shape.

 

Teach people around you how to wear their mask. Not wearing your mask correctly can compromise its efficiency. 

step to wear mask

Surgical masks and paper masks are not effective in filtering fine particles. They can reduce the discomfort caused by the haze and prevent the larger irritant particles in the air from being breathed in but do not provide adequate protection.

Avoid smoking.

Smoking can make your lungs more sensitive to the effects of air pollutants.

Eat a balanced diet

Eat lots of vegetables and fresh fruits to get enough nutrients to help your body deal with the haze.

Eat food containing Vitamin A such as liver, carrots, sweet potatoes or spinach. Vitamin A protects your eyes and shields your lungs from air pollution. The chemicals in the haze destroy the Vitamin A contained in the lung tissues, weakening your defence against carcinogens.

Take Vitamins E and Vitamins C complements to strengthen your immune system. The two vitamins taken in combination will also keep your lung tissue healthy by building up levels of a protective protein to prevent enzymes released during inflammation from destroying the lung’s elastic properties.

Sources:

National Environment Agency. 2016. HAZE SITUATION UPDATE. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.haze.gov.sg/.

National Environment Agency. 2016. About Haze. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.haze.gov.sg/about-haze.

Ministry of Health. 2015. MOH Haze Microsite. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/pressRoom/Current_Issues/2014/haze.html.

MRSA, Symptoms and Prevention

MRSA, Symptoms and Prevention

MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a type of bacteria resistant to several widely used antibiotics such as penicillin and methicillin. It is considered as a superbug and can be difficult to treat.

How did MRSA become resistant?

Originally, Staphylococcus infections were sensitive to penicillin. MRSA first appeared in the 1960s. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics and vaccines caused some strains of staphylococcus to become resistant to penicillin and methicillin. Several reasons can make bacteria resistant:

–          Patients press doctor for medication to help them overcome their cold and other minor illnesses. Thus, doctors prescribe antibiotics to patients when it isn’t completely necessary, for example for viral infections like the common cold when the drugs only work on bacterial infections.

–          People tend to stop treatments when symptoms are fading. Germs aren’t all eliminated and the remaining one becomes stronger and resistant.

–          Some people also flushed the remainder of antibiotics in the toilet. The drugs reach water supply where germs are able to evolve and refine their ability to outsmart these medications.

How can you get MRSA?

You can carry the bacteria on your skin or in your nose without having any symptoms of the illness. MRSA is spread by contact. Touching the skin of another person who has MRSA or touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face can infect you. MRSA can also make you sick by entering your body through an open cut or wound.

Symptoms

The symptoms of MRSA depend on where you are infected. In most cases, it causes mild infections on the skin. The infected area on the skin can become red, swollen, and painful and can even have pus. You can then get fever.  MRSA can also cause more serious skin infections or infect surgical wounds, the lungs, the bloodstream or the urinary tract.

Who is at risk?

Everyone can get MRSA but staying in hospital can put your more at risk. People who have a surgical wound or intravenous, or the one who are hospitalized for a prolonged period of time are more likely to be infected. People with a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or who take antibiotics are also at risk.

How to prevent getting MRSA?

To prevent the spread of MRSA, keep your hands clean by washing them thoroughly with soap and water during at least 15 seconds and thoroughly dry them. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water and soap aren’t available. In hospital, hands or gloves may become contaminated with MRSA when healthcare workers touch a patient and then spread the superbug from one patient to another. Healthcare providers should wash their hands before and after touching a patient and change gloves between patients.

Cover your cuts and scrapes with a bandage and keep them clean and dry. Avoid touching other people’s wounds or bandages.

Avoid sharing personal items such as clothes, towels and razors. Other items that should not be shared include brushes and makeup.

Use a tissue to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing and throw it after. You can also sneeze or cough in your inner elbow to avoid spray of saliva and secretions and contaminating your hands.

Disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, computer keyboards to avoid cross contamination.

What can you do to prevent the development of MRSA?

The misuse and overuse of antibiotics created superbugs like MRSA. Use antibiotics safely and in the right condition.

Antibiotics should only be used against bacterial infections. they aren’t effective for viral infections such as a cold or flu. Don’t take antibiotics without a prescription as they might not be the appropriate choice for your condition or may not have any effect.

Follow your doctor’s instructions when you are prescribed an antibiotic and don’t stop the treatment earlier than expected.

Sources:

CDC. 2013. General Information About MRSA in the Community. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/community/index.html.

MayoClinic. 2015. MRSA infection. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mrsa/basics/symptoms/con-20024479.

WebMd. 2015. Understanding MRSA Infection — the Basics. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-mrsa

NHS. 2015. Symptoms of an MRSA infection . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/MRSA/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

How to protect your baby against germs? [infographic]

How to protect your baby against germs? [infographic]

Children catch between six to ten colds per year. When you have an infant, keeping him away from illnesses is hard. Children under 3 months are especially vulnerable, parents should be very careful to protect their babies during this period. Germs are everywhere and you can’t completely avoid them. As a parent, it’s easy to get stressed out and worried. Even though your baby will be sick at some point, you can follow some tips to reduce the risks.

How to sanitize your hands?

How to sanitize your hands?

Using Hand Sanitizers keep your hands germ free!

We recommend the following Hand Sanitizing Steps prescribed by World Health Organization (WHO).

Duration of entire procedure – 20-30 seconds.

Note: If hands are visibly soiled, they should be washed with soap and water before applying Hand Sanitizers

Zika Virus, Symptoms, Prevention

Zika Virus, Symptoms, Prevention

Zika virus is now becoming a matter of concern as more and more people are getting infected all around the world.

The virus is spread to people by mosquitoes from the Aedes species. These mosquitoes also transfer diseases like dengue and chikungunya. Mosquitoes can give the virus by biting someone already infected and then biting other people.

The word Zika comes from the Zika forest in Uganda, where the virus was first discovered by scientists in 1947. Before 2015, Zika virus outbreaks only occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, the virus reached Brazil and is now spreading to many other countries.

For the moment, the virus has not really spread in Asia. There have only been a few cases reported in Thailand and Taiwan. But, as people travel a lot, it is easy for a virus to spread around. For the moment, no cases have been found in Singapore but the virus will probably reach the island in no time. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is following the situation closely and is taking precaution measures to avoid any huge outbreaks.

Symptoms

The symptoms of the Zika virus are similar to chikungunya and dengue. The symptoms are:

–          fever

–          rash

–          joint pain

–          conjunctivitis.

Not every person infected will develop symptoms, about 1 in 5 people will actually become ill. The illness lasts from a few days to a week and is usually mild but if a woman is infected during pregnancy, it can cause a neurological disorder, microcephaly, to the unborn baby. The infant’s head will then be significantly smaller than the one of other infants and his brain won’t develop as much as the one of the others.

Prevention

There is no vaccine available against the Zika virus.

To avoid getting infected, protect yourself against mosquitoes by using insect repellent. Cover your body, arms and legs with clothing and sleep under mosquito nets.

Aedes mosquitoes usually lay eggs in and near standing water in buckets, bowls, flower pots. You can reduce their breeding by ensuring that there is not stagnant water in and outside your house.

Sources:

WHO. 2016. Zika virus. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/.

CDC. 2016. About Zika Virus Disease. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/.

MOH. 2016. Zika Virus. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/pressRoom/Current_Issues/2016/zika-virus.html.

How to stop the spread of germs in school?

How to stop the spread of germs in school?

 Like many public places, germs are thriving in schools. The close interaction between kids makes it easy for germs to spread among them. Once one kid is sick, you don’t have to wait long until many other fall sick too, leading to absenteeism from the students and teachers. Kids, especially the smaller one may not be aware of germs and may not know the right hygiene practices. The school has then a role to play and can reduce the spread of germs to ensure a safe environment for everyone and reduce absenteeism.

Phone Facts

Phone Facts

Our phones are an essential accessory in our life. We use and carry them all day long, bring them everywhere even in the most intimate places. According to a street survey conducted by a local University, it was found that 9 out of 10 people use their smartphone in the restroom.

Phones are a hotspot for germs and can harbour 25 000 germs per square inch. Regularly cleaning them can reduce the risk of getting sick.

Below are recommended cleaning tips for your phone:

–          Frequently remove fingerprints and grease from the screen with a microfiber cloth.

–          Once a week, turn off your mobile phone and put some alcohol-free disinfectant on a soft cloth to wipe your phone and its case clean.  Dry it off immediately with a soft cloth.

–          Avoid taking your phone to the restroom and regularly wash your hands with soap and water. Cleaner hands mean a cleaner phone.

Sources:

Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials. 2009. Are we aware how contaminated our mobile phones with nosocomial pathogens? [ONLINE] Available at: http://ann-clinmicrob.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-0711-8-7.

Hindustan Times. 2013. Germs are often a phone call away. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/germs-are-often-a-phone-call-away/story-Ut1Xxr7Dt39hqEbQjQ6HqO.html.

Asia One. 2016. 90% Singaporeans use their smartphones in the toilet, but only 10% clean them. [ONLINE] Available at: http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/90-singaporeans-use-their-smartphones-toilet-only-1-clean-them.