Sunday, March 29, 2020

What to do if your Internet seems slow

  • What is the problem?
    • Video you watch hesitates where it never used to. Second Life does not resolve objects quickly. Group chat barely works. Websites take longer than expected to load. Internet activities just seem slower overall and online gaming of any kind has become somewhat problematic.
  • What are the causes?
    • Too many devices at home
      More devices were purchased recently for your home. Now there isn’t enough bandwidth available for all devices to stream smoothly.
    • Too many people streaming/gaming in your home
      With people being sent home from work these days perhaps more people are using the Internet at your home. Now everyone’s connected experience isn’t very good anymore.
    • All your neighbors are also on the Internet
      Your Internet connection is not used only by your household. Once the cable is outside your home, the bandwidth is shared by you and a certain number of your neighbors. Your Internet Service Provider does not provide the maximum bandwidth per household as a maximum available on their Internet connection. They don’t do 50 Mbps times 150 customers equals 7500 Mbps. Instead, they calculate how much is used at peak, on average, and supply something close to that. That means if people on that segment of the Internet connection use more bandwidth than the ISP allowed for, everyone’s effective bandwidth will be lower than they expect. With many more people at home these days, this happens more and more often.
  • How to test!
    • This sounds drastic, but it's for everyone's greater good:  have everyone turn off their devices and/or computers for a few minutes except for one computer (not an Android or Apple IOS phone or tablet). Do this to make sure your test results are good.
    • Go to the one computer and open your favorite web browser. Head to When the page finishes loading there will be a large "GO" button in the middle. Click that and your test will begin.
    • What you get:  relatively accurate upload and download speeds for your Internet connection. It should be very close to what your contract with the ISP says you should get. If not, reboot the home router and try again.
    • If you continue to experience slowness, contact your Internet Service Provider and tell them what you've done already. That will speed things up.
  • Possible solutions!
    • Try turning off some of the devices
      Turning off some of the devices in your home that aren’t required at that moment, such as security cameras, computers, or tablets that aren’t being used, may help.
    • Ask people to stop streaming/gaming
      If you’re working at home and it has become difficult to complete tasks, see if someone in your house is streaming video or gaming online. Ask them to stop until you’re done with work or set up a lunch break schedule when they can go back online.
    • Reboot your router
      The device your Internet Service Provider sells or rents to you (a home router) is not corporate-class equipment and occasionally needs to be turned off and then back on. If that doesn’t happen, performance can become erratic. See if your home router can be configured to reboot on a schedule. Otherwise, unplug your home router from power, wait 30 seconds, plug it back in, and wait until all the lights are green. Then see whether performance improves.

      Note:  Doing that will disconnect all the devices in your home from the Internet. If rebooting the router fixes the problem, then it may have just been the same as asking people to stop streaming/gaming or turning unused devices off. If performance starts to drop off over time, then you may wish to commandeer devices around your home and make sure they are off.
    • Replace your router with a better model
      Home routers are not designed to be used for more than a few years. Your Internet Service Provider may have changed communication protocols that affect your home router. Your device may simply begin failing. If you find you’re having to reboot your home router on a regular basis just to make it work, then it’s time for a replacement. Investigate whether you can buy your own home router (so you don’t pay ongoing rental fees). If that isn’t possible, return the one you have to your provider and get a new one.
    • Upgrade your service
      You may have to bite the bullet and upgrade your Internet bandwidth. This may also necessitate getting a new home router to handle the increased bandwidth. A side effect may be increased connection speed to your home router.

      However, be wary of purchasing Wifi 6 routers because unless you’re paying for a multiple gigabit per second Internet connection it will not be useful to you. Well, unless you’re (a) using all Wifi 6 devices, (b) doing large file transfers internally on your home network, and/or (c) your household does a lot of device-to-device gaming.

Friday, March 27, 2020

National Disability Institute Financial Resiliency During Coronavirus Survey

National Disability Institute logo

The National Disability Institute (NDI) recently conducted two listening sessions to learn about the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on the disability community (people with disabilities, family members, nonprofit service providers and public agency directors).

At those sessions, Senator Robert Casey’s staff and federal leaders from the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Labor shared what Congress and federal agencies are doing to respond to the disability community’s needs, as they understand them.

NDI shares what they learned from the listening sessions:

Download NDI’s Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development two-pager on Promoting Financial Health and Resiliency for People with Disabilities and Their Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

You can still voice your thoughts on the subject:

Things to Do - Color It!

Picture of colorful autumn leaves
Nature in color - autumn leaves

Coloring can be an engaging activity for children and adults, whether using crayons, markers, colored pencils, or watercolor paints. You can stay inside the lines or not, it is your artistic choice.

You can start by making your own coloring sheet, or trade line-drawing sheets with another amateur artist in your household. Not good at drawing representative art? Grab a pencil, hold it over a blank sheet of paper, close your eyes, and do some scribbling. You’ve just created outlines for a wonderful abstract coloring page.

One of our Virtual Ability community members found this list of coloring pages from museums. Lots of detail in some of these line drawings, enough to keep the colorist occupied for quite some time. Check them out here:

You can also look up “adult coloring pages” in an internet search to find pages to download. This site has great outline drawings of various complexity, on a wide variety of themes:

Get out those colored pencils, and have fun!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Explaining COVID-19 in Their Language

People in the US who are Deaf are raised with American Sign Language (ASL) as their first language. For ASL-fluent Deaf persons, written English is a second language, if they learn it at all. It is important for Deaf individuals to receive information about the COVID-19 pandemic and measures they should use to protect themselves from infection in their first language. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has produced five videos in ASL for the Deaf community. View them here:

Children of all ages have been impacted by the many changes in their daily routines due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and measures taken to combat the pandemic. This understandably creates stress, so communicating with children should always be done in a calm manner. Let them take the lead by answering their questions when they come up with reassurance that adults are working to keep them safe. Emphasize hand-washing and other hygiene practices that they should have been doing all along. Take the opportunity to do fun things as a family if you are staying home together, but try to establish a consistent daily routine.

The National Association of School Psychologists has produced this parent resource to aid adults in explaining the COVID-19 pandemic situation to children of various ages:

Some persons need information about the COVID-19 pandemic and how to protect themselves provided in plain language. Green Mountain Self-Advocates is a group of people with developmental disabilities and their allies, based in Vermont. They have produced a PDF booklet that explains COVID-19 in simple words and images. It is available here: 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Things to do: (US) Disability Community Listening Sessions

National Disability Institute logo

(US) Disability Community Listening Sessions

Join National Disability Institute (NDI) and partnering organizations for a Listening Session to learn from individuals with disabilities, family members, disability service providers and public agency leaders about the current impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. We will hear from staff from the Office of U.S. Senator Bob Casey, who is working on legislation to respond to the needs of the disability community.

Individuals with disabilities and others with chronic health conditions are the most vulnerable populations susceptible to the Coronavirus.

Please help identify the needs, develop solutions and document for Congress and federal officials the challenges of:

  1. Access to testing and health services
  2. Access to prescription drugs and services part of usual routine
  3. Loss of income from furloughs or termination of employment
  4. Social isolation and mental health
  5. Access to online communication
  6. The new normal of virtual life
  7. Limited access to needed personal assistance
  8. Adverse impact to disability service provider agencies
  9. Other aspects of change and their adverse consequences

Please register for one or both webinars:

Session #1: Tuesday, March 24 at 11am SLT:

Session #2: Wednesday, March 25 at 3 PM ET:

Partnering Organizations:

  • American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) 
  • American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)
  • Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) 
  • Autism Society of America 
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law 
  • Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (CPSD) 
  • National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD)
  • National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
  • National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)
  • National Down Syndrome Congress
  • United Spinal Association
  • World Institute on Disability (WID)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Things To Do - SL Photography Friendship Challenge

Two people shaking hands on either side of a computer screen

Friendship is an important facet of our lives, and particularly so during times of stress and crisis.

Strawberry Linden has issued a challenge related to “virtual” friendships (we all know they can be real). Document one of more of your SL friendships with a snapshot taken in-world and share it with others.

You can read all about this challenge here:

Things to Do - Attend a virtual disability film festival

The ReelAbilities Film Festival is about bringing people together to connect, to be entertained, informed, and to appreciate the artistic expressions of people with disabilities. “Being together as a diverse community and enjoying films together is a special and unique experience that we are honored to facilitate each year.”

View the festival lineup here (free registration for all online screenings!):
From the Boston site,
Due to the rapidly evolving situation in the state of Massachusetts regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), Boston Jewish Film and The ReelAbilities Film Festival Boston are suspending all in-person film screenings for the 2020 ReelAbilities Festival. Please stay tuned for online screening schedules and information.
You can sign up to receive more information at (this is a link to only sign up for news).

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Things to do - Virtual sewing party on 3/20!

Silhouette of sewing machine and cards of sewing needles

The Seamwork sewing community has set up a Slack channel so you can connect with other sewers and the Seamwork team. They will hold their first virtual sewing party this Friday, March 20th at 11:00 am, Pacific Standard Time (you can find your time zone here:

Anybody who sews is invited to join them. You don't need to be a Seamwork member to join this chat. It is open to everyone!

Connect with new sewing friends, share your projects, get help fitting a muslin, chat about self-care, show off your fabric stash, and use this time to emerge from social distancing, in a fun and safe way.

Click here to sign up:

Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation. What is the Difference?

These are actually all different ways to prevent the spread of germs. They vary in strictness of contact with other individuals. Any of the three levels can be mandated or voluntary.

Social distancing is a common sense response to the presence of contagious germs in a community environment. It means keeping your distance from others. Most experts state that staying at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from another person will prevent the exchange of germs either person may harbor. Recommendations of social distancing often mention avoiding large gatherings. How large is large? There really is no formal definition. And of course, frequent thorough handwashing and cleaning of common surfaces, although not usually thought of as a means of social distancing, are good ways to prevent the spread of germs from one individual to another.

Quarantine and isolation are related terms, both being means to protect the general public from infection. But there are significant differences between the two that everyone needs to understand.

The word quarantine derives from an Italian word meaning “forty days.” This was how long ships that carried passengers with plague had to avoid sending people ashore in the early 17th century. Quarantines are intended to prevent people (or groups of people) who have been exposed to a contagious disease, but do not yet show symptoms of that disease, from unknowingly spreading the infection to others who have not been exposed to the disease. People who are in quarantine may be quarantined individually or with others of the same status, because everyone who is quarantined is assumed to have become infected through previous contact with someone who has the disease.

Self-quarantine may be self-imposed or initiated by a suggestion or request from authorities. It usually follows your having been in close contact with someone who has been infected with a contagious disease. Health departments do contact tracing of people after they have been diagnosed, to identify everyone who they may have infected. The health department will notify you of the contact and generally suggest self-quarantine if you have been exposed to someone with an identified case of the disease.

What should you do if you are quarantined, either required or by choice?

  • Most important, do not panic. Quarantines are enacted for your health and the health of those you may come in contact with. 
  • You will generally be given specific instructions by the health department or other authorities. Follow these instructions carefully. 
  • Try to think of the period of quarantine as a form of “staycation.” You must not leave your home except if absolutely necessary. Plan on not going to church, work, or school, and no family gatherings or eating at restaurants. Use grocery and pharmacy delivery service where available.
  • If you need medical care, please start by trying telemedicine or a virtual consultation. If you must go in to the doctor’s office or clinic, be sure to call ahead. That way the medical facility can ensure that you do not infect others when you are there.
  • If you are quarantined with other individuals, even if they are members of your immediate family, avoid sharing items such as eating utensils, towels and bedding. Keep communal areas clean and disinfected. 
  • While there is no evidence that pet animals can get sick from human flu viruses, it is wise to limit contact with pets as much as possible during the quarantine period.
  • It is most important to follow basic hygiene practices, including frequent handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes, and keeping the environment clean, to avoid the spread of germs.

Isolation is for people who are showing symptoms of the communicable disease. For many diseases, this is the time when the infected person is most likely to spread the germs, although the germs that cause some diseases can spread before symptoms begin to develop. When persons in quarantine show symptoms, they are often then put into isolation. The purpose of isolation is the same as that of quarantine. Isolating patients with symptoms of a disease is intended to prevent germs from spreading to people who are well.

The origin of the word isolation is from a Latin word meaning “island.” An early example of the use of isolation to prevent the spread of disease was in 15th century Italy, where persons with plague were removed from the city of Venice to a nearby island. High level medical care may be needed by persons in isolation who have severe symptoms, and medical personnel must take exceptional care to avoid becoming infected themselves.

Can you be forced into quarantine or isolation? The short answer is, legally, yes. In the US, the Constitution’s Commerce Clause has been interpreted to mean that the federal government can quarantine and isolate individuals and groups to protect others from contagious diseases. States and tribes have similar localized authority. Governments at every level have “police powers” to enforce quarantines and isolation with punishments for disobeying them ranging from fines to imprisonment. The use of federal isolation and quarantine is rare in the US. The last time it was used was during the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic.

If you are placed in quarantine of isolation, there are two important things you must do. The first is to stay calm. Fear is normal in these situations, but is not helpful. The best way to regain calm is to educate yourself from reliable sources of evidence-based information. The second thing you should do is to follow all mandates and fully cooperate with the authorities. Following requirements strictly will save lives, possibly those of you and your loved ones.

Things to Do - Visit a virtual museum of prosthetics

Drawing of a man with prosthetic leg using a crutch

This museum highlights the history of artificial limbs through poster images and 3-dimensional models. Some of the earliest ones were actually pretty complex, but because of the materials they were constructed from, they must have been quite heavy. Recent advances in available materials have led to both lighter weight and more natural looking prostheses. Some amputees use their prosthetics to display art.

The island on which the museum resides was used for a research project to find virtual world support for amputees learning to use their prostheses.
If you proceed counterclockwise, you will be moving forward through history.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Outbreaks, Epidemics and Pandemics. What is the Difference?

Picture of a woman chemist mixing vials behind a stop-watch

Many diseases or medical conditions are endemic within a population. The word endemic is derived from Greek words meaning “in the people.” This means an infection has a constant presence within a population.

Outbreaks are noted in geographic regions where there is a sudden increase in the number of people with the disease or condition, above the endemic baseline.

An outbreak becomes an epidemic when it enlarges and becomes more geographically widespread.

Pandemics are conditions when the disease or condition that started in one country has been detected to two or more other countries and is beginning to spread in those countries. Pandemics affect so many people that it is considered to have global impact. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

It is important to remember that these words apply only to the number of people with a disease or condition. They do not refer to the severity of the disease nor to the impact of the condition on individuals. Declaring a disease to be pandemic does not change how threatening it is to individual’s health or the functioning of nations. However, declaring a pandemic opens opportunities nationally and internationally to take the kinds of extensive public health measures necessary to contain or mitigate the disease.

Things to Do - Get information in Second Life on the current virus situation

White word Info on black background

A special information area on COVID-19 has been set up at the HEALTH HACIENDA on Inspiration Island by Brielle Coronet, RL Medical Librarian at a major U.S. teaching hospital in NJ, with contributions by Veronica, a RL Consumer Health Librarian in Connecticut. Brielle has set up a slideshow that you can operate to read the latest news.

It will be kept up to date as Brielle attends daily official briefings. If you have questions, leave them for her in the Dropbox near the slideshow.

The SLURL to visit the site in Second Life:

Monday, March 16, 2020

Things to do - Free opera every night!

Opera singers Louise Adler and Phillip Rhodes
Opera singers Louise Adler and Phillip Rhodes

Do you enjoy watching the grand spectacle of opera on stage? Ever sing along with the famous arias? Are you curious what opera lovers get all swoony about?

Here is your opportunity to listen to opera from the comfort of your home. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City has had to cancel upcoming performances, but it will do daily streaming of encores from past performances.

On Monday March 16 at 4:30 pm SLT, the series begins with Bizet’s Carmen, a perennial favorite with several memorable tunes.

Go to the homepage of the Met Opera at to access these musical delights. Each opera will be available at that site for 20 hours. The homepage link will open each nightly performance on the Met Opera on Demand streaming service. The performance will also  be viewable on all Met Opera on Demand apps.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Do the Five and Help Stop Coronavirus

By Phanessa Svenska, MSN, RN, CNL ®, and Virtual Ability Community Member.

Do the Five and Help Stop Coronavirus

  1. HANDS: Wash them often
  2. ELBOW: Cough into it
  3. FACE: Don't touch it
  4. FEET: Stay 6 feet apart
  5. FEEL: SICK? Stay home
(Google, 2020 Public service announcement:

COVID-19 symptoms:

  • FEVER Measured or not measured but you feel like you have a fever (subjective). General guideline - Your measured temperature is at or above 100.0 F. or 37.7 C.
  • Lower respiratory tract symptoms
  • Aching muscles
  • Fatigue

Less typical coronavirus symptoms include headache, vomiting, diarrhea, or phlegm build-up.

COVID-19 has not shown upper respiratory tract symptoms. Stuffy or runny nose have NOT BEEN typical symptoms of COVID-19.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020:

Common symptoms of COVID-19, Influenza, and a Cold. 

How are they different and how are they the same?

If you suspect you have COVID-19 CALL AHEAD.

Talk with your health care provider over the phone. In the United States steps are being taken to set up drive through testing sites. Health care personnel will come to the car and test you in the car. You will return home if you are mildly ill and the test results will be communicated with you over the phone or electronically. A handful of drive through testing centers are beginning to operate. They are not yet available in most areas.

Call ahead if you have a medical appointment. Call your health care provider and tell them you have or might have COVID-19. This allows the medical personnel to prepare. The goal is to prevent contamination of the health care clinic or emergency room with the virus. It is important to limit exposing health care workers and other patients to the virus. If medical staff know you are coming they can wear personal protective equipment when they work with you. They will likely take you to an area separated from other patients.

What people should do if they get a little sick with COVID-19

  • STAY HOME: except to get medical care.
    • A little sick with COVID-19 is being called mild illness. 
    • People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home.
    • Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Do not use public transportation. 
    • Stay away from others as much as possible. At home separate yourself from other people in your home. 
    • Try to use one room and if possible a separate bathroom. Limit contact with pets and animals.
    • If you are sick wear a mask when you are around other people, pets, or before you enter a health care provider's office.
    • Wear a mask if you are a care giver and the sick person cannot wear a face mask.
(Personally, I would wear a face mask and gloves any time I was caring for someone with COVID-19.)
    • Dispose used tissues in a lined trash can immediately.
    • Clean your hands immediately after a cough or sneeze.
    • If no tissue is available cough into your elbow, not your hands.
    • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • If soap and water is not available, clean hands with an alcohol based cleaner that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as dishes, drinking glasses/cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding.
    • Wash these items thoroughly with soap and water after use.
    • Clean and disinfect all high touch surfaces every day (counters, table tops, door knobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, bedside tables).
    • Clean and disinfect areas that have or may have body fluids on them (blood, stool, etc.).
  • Self-monitored Isolation for mild illness
    • Stay at home until you are instructed to leave. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case by case basis in consultation with your health care provider and government health care departments. 
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2019:

Monitor your symptoms

Call the Emergency Medical Services (911 in the United States) if you have a medical emergency. If you have a medical emergency and need to call an ambulance, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. If possible, put on a face mask before emergency medical services (EMS) arrive. If you do not have a mask expect EMS workers to give you one to put on when they arrive.

Call EMS for worsening symptoms such as:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (respiratory distress)
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Bluish lips or face
  • If you are unable to be aroused your care giver needs to call
  • Severe worsening symptoms
This list is not all inclusive.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020).
Coronavirus COVID-19:

image of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Things to do in Second Life - Learn about your skin, viruses, and soapy water

Title:  Your Skin, Viruses, and Soapy Water

Presenter: Gentle Heron


SUNDAY Mar 15 at 4pm SLT
MONDAY Mar 16 at 9am SLT


In Second Life at Blue Orchid Cabana, Virtual Ability island


Learn the science behind how viruses infect and sicken us, how your skin combats viruses, and how you can assist your skin in protecting you from viral infections.
Presented in text and voice.

These sessions are open to the public.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Cleaning Surfaces Prevents the Spread of Germs

White-gloved hand washing countertop
Keeping surfaces clean helps to prevent the spread of germs

When someone coughs or sneezes droplets full of germs splatter onto nearby surfaces. Bacteria and viruses also get deposited on surfaces that are touched by hands that have not been properly washed.

Although germs usually live and reproduce inside living organisms, they can survive on external surfaces for significant amounts of time. Most flu viruses can live outside the human body for about 48 hours. The coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS can survive for as long as nine days on metal, glass, or plastic. Nobody knows how long the Covid-19 virus can live on a hard surface, but it is probably at least a week.

Bacteria and viruses are so small they are invisible to the naked eye. If an item may be contaminated, it is important to clean them because they will not appear visibly dirty. Did someone blow their nose, then touch the office microwave keypad without washing their hands? Did anybody cough into their palm, then push open the door to your apartment building? Perhaps someone had taken hold of the stair handrail but had not washed their hands all day. Touching shared objects that have become contaminated is a frequent source of infection.

Luckily, household disinfectants are designed to kill most common types of bacteria and viruses on “high-touch surfaces.” High touch surfaces include (but are not limited to) doorknobs, countertops, tabletops, bathroom sink fixtures, toilets, bedside tables, computers, and keyboards. Of course, be sure to clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool or other body fluids on them.

Disinfectants with 62-71% ethanol (ethyl alcohol), 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) can “efficiently” inactivate most types of coronaviruses within a minute of being applied. Sprays and wipes intended for household use have instructions on their labels for safe and effective cleaning. The labels also include precautions you should take when applying the product, which may include wearing gloves and ensuring good ventilation while using it.

One item you may forget to clean is your cell phone screen. That is likely the surface we touch the most during any given day. Other coronaviruses similar to Covid-19 are known to survive on glass for up to four days. If you touch your phone screen with contaminated hands, then wash your hands thoroughly, and then touch your phone again, you have just recontaminated your hand. You can wipe down the screen with face wipes, baby wipes, or a solution of water and rubbing alcohol half-and-half. Apple offers complete instructions for cleaning iPhones here:

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Hand-washing 101

Key Points

  • Frequent and proper hand-washing has always been the best protection against the spread of flu viruses and other germs.
  • Avoid touching the T-Zone of your face.
  • Wash all surfaces of your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you cannot wash your hands.
  • Hand-washing has been shown to reduce the risk of acquiring a respiratory infections such as a cold or the flu by between 16 and 21%.

Why is frequent and proper hand-washing so important to overall health?

Washing your hands removes bacteria and viruses from the skin surface. The skin surface of dead cells is a barrier to germs entering the body, so removing them aids the effectiveness in keeping them from entering and causing an infection.

But removing germs from your hands not only lowers your risk of an infection, it protects the health of others around you. Germs from your hands can transfer to commonly touched objects such as handrails, table tops, and shared office equipment. The next person touching these items can pick up the germs onto their hands without knowing it.

Why should you not touch your face?

While dead skin cells serve as a barrier to the entry of germs, there are places in the body where live cells are exposed. These are the mucous membranes that line the eyes, nose and mouth on the face. This region of the face is known as the T zone. The surfaces of mucous membranes are places that germs can easily enter the body.

Most people touch their eyes, nose, and mouth many times an hour, without realizing they are doing so. People have been shown to unconsciously touch their face as often as 23 times per hour, and almost half of those touches included contact with a mucus membrane. Germs can easily enter the body through the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth, and cause infections. This process is called self-inoculation.

Researchers have developed a model for infection risk due to face touching, taking into account the “rate of pathogen transfer to the hands via contact with contaminated environmental surfaces, and the rate of pathogen loss from the hands due to pathogen die-off and transfer from the hands to environmental surfaces and to target facial membranes during touching.”

Learn why not to touch your T zone from this video with Henry the Hand:

When should you wash your hands?

It is impossible to keep your hands totally germ free. But proper hand washing does significantly lower the number of viruses, bacteria, and other microbes on your skin.

Your own germs are all over your body, including on your hands. This is especially true if you are ill or have been blowing your nose for any reason. Therefore, to avoid spreading your germs to others, you should wash your hands before:

  • Handling your contact lenses
  • Preparing food 
  • Eating
  • Caring for anyone who is ill or injured

Certain daily activities expose your hands to additional germs. Always wash your hands after you:

  • Blow your nose, sneeze or cough
  • Use the toilet
  • Prepare food
  • Handle garbage
  • Touch an animal, animal food or treats, or animal waste

Since germs get on your hands from things you touch that have been touched by other people, you should wash your hands after doing the following:

  • Caring for anyone who is ill or injured
  • Changing a diaper or cleaning a child who has used the toilet
  • Touching items in common usage, such as door handles, grocery carts, gasoline pumps, ATMs or other public keypads, public bathroom fixtures, shared office equipment

To avoid other sources of germs:

  • Avoid shaking hands (or cheek kissing)  
  • Do not share snacks from packages or bowls that other people are dipping their fingers into

And of course, if your hands are dirty, wash them right away.

Unfortunately, observational studies have shown that only two thirds of persons wash their hands at all after using a public restroom and about three-quarters wash after using their home bathroom. (There is a significant gender difference here: while 35% of women don’t wash their hands in public bathrooms, 69% of men do not do so.) It is frightening to realize that over 93% of people observed to cough or sneeze did not wash their hands.

What is the reason for this unhealthy lack of hand-washing? While three-quarters of those surveyed were aware that hand-washing prevents communicable diseases, a third of them said they were “not accustomed” to washing their hands, and a third said hand-washing was “annoying.”

It seems that the American public does not pay adequate attention to evidence-based preventive health behaviors. Instead, they tend to focus on billable professional healthcare treatments, while the healthcare system itself focuses on marketable newly developed products rather than less expensive options.

How should you wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water at a comfortable temperature  either warm or cold, it does not matter. Turn the water off.
  • Apply soap and lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Generally this is the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday or the alphabet song twice through.
  • Scrub all surfaces of your hands, including the backs, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Turn the water on again. Rinse well to remove soap. Turn the water off.
  • Dry with a clean towel or air-dry your hands.

Unfortunately, the average person washes his or her hands for only six seconds. Only about 5% of the population washes hands properly.

Here are a couple of comedic videos on proper hand-washing technique that just might inspire you to scrub for the full 20 seconds:

Do you need to use antimicrobial soap?

Probably not. Research has shown “Antimicrobial hand soaps provide a greater bacterial reduction than non-antimicrobial soaps. However, the link between greater bacterial reduction and a reduction of disease has not been definitively demonstrated.” In another study “The most beneficial intervention was hand-hygiene education with use of non-antibacterial soap.”

Why is the Food and Drug Administration recommending against the use of antibacterial soap? The ingredients have not been shown to be either safe for long term use nor as effective as plain soap and water.

What if you can’t wash your hands?

You will need to clean your hands sometimes when you do not have access to soap and water. An acceptable alternative is to use an alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

  • The proper way to use hand sanitizers is to:
  • Carry hand sanitizer with you so you can frequently clean your hands when you are away from home.
  • Read the label to find out how much to use each time.
  • Apply that amount into one palm.
  • Rub your hands together, then rub the gel over all palm and back surfaces of your hands and fingers.
  • Continue to rub in the gel until your hands are dry. Do not wipe it off.

According to research using a hand sanitizer is not as effective as regular soap and water hand-washing, but it is far better than not cleaning your hands at all.

Please remember!

Properly washing your hands (and avoiding touching your face) is the most effective way to avoid catching flu viruses and other respiratory infections. It is also the best way to avoid spreading your germs to others.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Combatting Dry Winter Skin

Picture of a human hand with dry skin
Dry skin of a human hand

The cold and dry winds of winter outdoors can cause your skin to turn red, become chapped and itch. Heated dry indoor air adds to these problems. If you have eczema, winter environments can exacerbate your symptoms. An older person’s skin has less collagen and elastin, making it less able to recover from these common winter problems. Here are a few strategies for combating skin discomfort during the winter season.

  • Take long warm baths or showers, followed by a moisturizer

Hot water may feel good on itchy skin, but it brings blood to the surface and increases inflammation. That’s why the temperature of your soak is important. Warm, not hot. Stay in the water for 5-15 minutes.

Wash your skin gently with unscented soap and a soft washcloth. Fragrances and dyes can irritate skin, and loofahs and shower scrunchies do even more damage. Apply a moisturizer as soon as you have patted yourself dry to lock in the moisture you just soaked in.

  • Moisturize often

Moisturizers contain oil to add to your skin’s natural barrier that keeps moisture in and irritants like germs and pollen out. Of the various forms of moisturizers, creams and ointments contain more oil than lotions, and thus do a more effective job. If you prefer the feel of a fast-absorbing lotion, be sure to put it on more frequently. You can purchase small bottles to keep in your desk or purse, and by the kitchen sink, so that you can apply more moisturizer whenever you feel itchy.

  • Find the best moisturizer for your skin

If you will be spending time outdoors, use a moisturizer with sunscreen. Sunburns make skin conditions worse. Be sure you are covered with at least SPF 30 on any skin exposed to the air. Don’t forget your lips, they need sun protection also.

One helpful ingredient to check for in your moisturizer is ceramide. These chemicals are naturally found in healthy skin. Don’t be discouraged if, over time, one brand of moisturizer starts to become less effective. Switch brands until you find another one that works well.

  • Try anti-itch products to aid sleeping

Calamine lotion contains zinc that acts as an anti-inflammatory. Antihistamines won’t actually stop the itching, but their sedative effect can aid sleep that is disturbed by itchiness. Be sure to consult your doctor before using any new medication.

  • Wet wraps and ice packs are old-fashioned remedies, but they can be effective

Dampen fabric or gauze with warm water. Wrap the fabric around the inflamed area. You can even enclose it in plastic wrap to keep bedding dry if used to aid sleep. During the day, try an ice pack wrapped in a towel to reduce inflammation.