Wednesday, January 31, 2024

How Often (and How) Should You Launder Bath Towels?

You wouldn’t use an obviously dirty bath towel; it might cause a skin irritation or infection. But you can’t see all the dead skin cells, sweat and microorganisms that are on a towel.

What sorts of microbes live on used bath towels?

• Skin bacterial pathogens such as Staph aureus which can cause MRSA

• Skin fungal pathogens that cause ringworm and athlete’s foot

• Eye pathogens, the bacteria and viruses responsible for conjunctivitis or pink eye

• Fecal pathogens including E. coli, C. diff, and Norovirus


Although it’s safest to wash towels after every time they are used, you can probably get away with as many as three consecutive uses if the towels are dried out between times. Drying wet towels will kill the microbes on them, or at least prevent them from multiplying. It may be difficult to get a wet towel dry in the humid bathroom.

You will want to stick to grabbing a new towel for each shower if you have open cuts or scrapes on your skin, if you’ve had recent surgery, if you are prone to abscesses, or if you have eczema or skin rashes. It is also important not to share towels with anyone else.

But don’t panic. The chance of getting an infection from a used towel is less than from touching an infected hard surface, like the wet bathroom floor or a doorknob.

Read the label on your towel before throwing it into the washer. Labels contain important care information. 

You should wash new towels before you ever use them. Chemicals for coloration, conditioners for softness, and formaldehyde to reduce wrinkles are added during manufacturing. You don’t want those on your skin. New towels also contain a lot of excess lint. Get rid of all this stuff by pre-washing all new towels. (The lintiness is a good reason to wash towels only with other towels, not with the rest of your laundry.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Avoid Dryer Fire Hazards

Home fires caused by clothes dryers are often preventable, and sadly not uncommon. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are 2,900 dryer fires annually, causing 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in damaged and destroyed property. Most of these fires occur during fall and winter; the top month is January. Failing to clean the dryer properly is the cause of over a third of these fires.

Pay attention to the dryer. If it is taking longer to dry your clothes, or they are still damp after finishing a drying cycle, there may be a problem. Here are some Do’s and Don’t's for clothes dryer safety.


• Have the dryer installed by a professional. This is not a DIY opportunity. Ask the installer to check that the electrical plug and outlet are appropriate.

• Read the manual that comes with your new dryer. If you inherit a dryer, you may be able to find the manual for that make and model online.


• Clean the lint filter both before and after each load. Scrub the lint filter with a nylon brush twice a year or more often if it gets clogged.

• Clean out the exhaust duct and dryer vent every three months. The duct is the large tube from the back of the dryer that sends hot air outside. The vent is the hole in the wall through which the duct empties. Both can become clogged with lint, which can send dirty air back into the house, overheat, or start a fire. You may need to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer and the vent in order to clean it out inside. Or you can call a professional to do this cleaning.

• Sweep behind and under the dryer regularly.


• Be sure there is a covering on the outside of the vent, to keep out dirt and weather. Check that the vent covering opens when the dryer is running. Look for insect and bird nests that may have been constructed in the vent opening.

• Keep the area around the dryer, indoors and outside, free of items that are flammable.

• Unplug or disconnect the dryer if you will be gone for an extended time.

• If the exhaust duct on your dryer is made of plastic or foil, replace it with either a rigid or semirigid corrugated metal duct. Plastic and foil ducts are too flexible; they trap lint easily and can crush, which prevents proper air flow.

• If the dryer is gas-powered, have it professionally inspected annually to ensure that the gas line and connections are secure and free of leaks.

Don’t's for the Dryer:

• Don’t overload the dryer.

• Don’t dry any item which states “dry away from heat” on the care label.

• Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber, or plastic.

• Don’t dry fabrics that contain flammable materials (alcohol, gasoline, oil). Instead, dry them outside or in a well-ventilated room away from heat.

• Never run the dryer without a lint filter. If the lint filter is loose or damaged, replace it. If it is clogged, clean it.

• Don’t use cloth or wire to cover the vent opening. It can become clogged with lint.

• Don’t leave the dryer running if you go to bed or leave the house.

Treat your dryer well and it will last between ten and 25 years.


Friday, January 19, 2024

Preparing for Winter Storms

Row houses with snow-covered road

It is a wise idea to prepare your living quarters for winter weather. The cold can cause health issues and damage your property. Here are some ideas to help you survive bad winter weather.

Seal drafty windows, doors, and walls.

Be sure to close garage doors.

Disconnect outdoor hoses. Turn off and insulate all outdoor faucets.

Open the cabinet doors below sinks. This allows warm interior air to circulate and keep pipes from freezing. Let water drip from taps to prevent pipes from bursting if they do freeze.

If you have a ceiling fan, be sure it is operating clockwise. That will send warm air (which naturally rises toward the ceiling) down toward the floor.

Pipes and water heaters located in the attic or basement should be wrapped in a blanket of insulating material so they don’t freeze.

If you heat with a fireplace or wood-burning stove, be sure your chimney is cleaned and inspected. This reduces the chance of home heating fires.

If you will be leaving the home unattended, set the thermostat to 65 degrees or higher.

If your electricity goes off, DO NOT open your freezer or refrigerator. Keeping them shut keeps the food inside cooler and safer for longer. How to tell if the food is still safe when the electricity comes back on? Here’s a quick trick using a cup of water and a coin:

Be sure your car is prepared with a winter emergency toolkit and survival supplies. Stay off the road if at all possible.

For more information about preparing for winter storms:


Wednesday, January 17, 2024

January is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

This area of the body and  topic may not be one you’re used to thinking about, but please read on.

There’s bad news and good news about the bottom end of your digestive tract. (Sorry about the bad pun.)

The bad news is that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, after lung cancer.

The good news is that colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. That’s because of colorectal cancer screenings.

Screenings for colorectal cancer can find growths and polyps inside you before they become cancerous. They can also detect developing cancers when they are smaller and easier to treat. 

It’s important to know that screenings can find colorectal cancers before they cause symptoms you might notice. At that point, it’s serious.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that most people start getting colorectal cancer screenings around age 45. However, if your family has a history of colorectal cancer or if you have other risk factors, you may need to have earlier screenings.

Talk with your healthcare provider about what type of screening is best for you. A colonoscopy is the most thorough screening, There are also in-home screening options.

It’s a lot to think about. But now you at least are aware.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

WARNING! Water beads toy recall

In the spirit of the Safe Toys and Gifts exhibit on Healthinfo Island in December, 2023, we should point out the danger of water bead toys. These cute little polymer balls expand to 100 times their initial size when they absorb moisture.

Unfortunately, they apparently look enough like candy that young children will swallow them. And then they expand inside the child, causing life-threatening symptoms.

Due to their danger, several stores are stopping selling them. If you planned them as stocking stuffers, please don’t give them to young children.

For other tips about safe gift giving this holiday season, please check out the poster exhibit: 

You can also search this website for toy recalls: 

Thanks to Gingerjoy for the heads up on this dangerous toy.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

January is One Health Awareness Month

People, other animals, plants, and our mutual global environment are all intimately connected. The health of any one of these is linked to the health of all the others. Protecting the environment, plants, or animals protects humans.

This is the concept of One Health.

Recognizing this interconnectedness and acting responsibly on it requires a collaborative approach from all segments of our society. We must safeguard the environment and all living things in order to protect human health.

For background information about One Health Awareness Month:

From the One Health Commission:

From the Centers for Disease Control: 

Links for research and other resources about One Health:

From the Environmental Protection Agency (EPD):

One Health Library:

Tools and Toolkits: 


Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Displays and Exhibits for Healthinfo Island for January 2024

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs. While on Healthinfo Island in Second Life, click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. If you click each poster, you will get a private message with additional information and live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo IslandCheck out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, Jan 30