As a registered nurse, Alison Warren knows how important it is for her 3-year-old son, Hector, to wash his hands properly.
"The way to get rid of germs on your hands is to use soap and to apply friction," says the Madison mom, who recognizes that it can be tough to get kids to wash well. "This last week [Hector] has been a little more cooperative putting soap on his hands and rubbing, and doesn't just want to run his hands under the water."
Hands and home. These are the two fronts infection-control experts have this flu season to prevent spreading regular seasonal viruses and the added H1N1 flu. First off, if you're sick, you should stay at home. But schools, day-care centers and public-health officials have all stepped up efforts this fall to educate people on how exactly to get your hands clean and keep the germs at bay so kids - and parents - don't have to stay home sick.
With these campaigns and a new form of flu etiquette, health officials hope to keep the 30% of us expected get sick from the H1N1 virus to a minimum.
Part of the responsibility in educating the public, according to Meriter Hospital infection-control professional DeAnn Richards, is to learn the new norm for germ protocol and hold each other accountable for proper hygiene.
"There's an opportunity to have more one-on-one conversations. If you see someone cough or sneeze into their hands, you can advocate for kids to say let's go back and correct it," says Richards.
Hands are the number one way germs spread from person to person. You can blame old-school rules for creating the hard-to-break habit that many adults have. Back in the day, mom preached covering coughs and sneezes with hands. But that's exactly the wrong thing to do, according to new knowledge.
"What happens when someone sneezes or coughs and they take hand to mouth, which is what we have been accustomed to doing for many decades, the next thing we touch, whether it be desk, handrail, telephone or doorknob, becomes covered with virus," explains Dr. Ellen Wald, chair of Department of Pediatrics at UW Hospital & Clinics.
The virus can live on the surface for hours, where it can easily spread to others.
The solution: Cover your cough with a tissue, and then throw it away immediately. Alternately, turn away and use the inside of your elbow to catch a cough or sneeze.
And wash your hands frequently. Soap and water work best. Spend at least 20 to 30 seconds lathering before rinsing off and drying your hands. Sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice or the ABC's once to gauge the proper amount of time. Hand sanitizer is effective, too, but only in concentrations containing 60% or higher alcohol, and only if applied liberally - enough to keep hands wet for 30 seconds or more.
"This is a new era for hand hygiene," Wald says. "Now there are signs posted in schools and in hospitals. I try to educate people when I see them do the wrong thing, and it just takes years and years. You do the best you can and try to educate kids because you don't want them to get sick."
Education was the key last month when Meriter and the University of Wisconsin-Madison held a workshop aimed at getting information to child-care centers and family care providers. The H1N1 Pandemic Program Planning session (available for viewing online at the city channel: www.cityofmadison.com/mcc12/streaming.html) stresses what steps those who care for children can take to keep germs from spreading rapidly.
Says Richards, who spoke at the session: "We're more focused on the fact that illness really impacts the child as well as the parents and the workplace in general. If we can keep the kids healthy, it will have a positive effect on all of those areas."
Pam Bennett, manager at the Meriter Children's Center, says focusing on hand washing makes sense because it's so effective, and kids love the sensory experience of using soap and water. "Teaching them this simple life skill is really helpful," she says.
The Children's Hospital of Wisconsin last month launched a new website aimed at teaching kids four simple steps to flu prevention. With characters including Captain Cough and Misty Clean, Children's Flu Fighters (childrensflufighters.com) urges kids to 1. Wash your hands. 2. Cover your cough. 3. Sneeze in your sleeve. 4. Take the day off.
"Everyone, even children, has a role to play when it comes to stopping the spread of germs," says Seth Foldy, state health officer and administrator of the Wisconsin Division of Public Health of this campaign that makes teaching about flu fun.
Making it fun works when teaching washing technique, says Red Caboose Preschool teacher Lee Szuch. "In my class, I'm quite silly, but I'm pretty strict too. I make sure they're doing the right thing. The best thing you can do is to make it fun," Szuch says of the necessary hand-washing task. Szuch uses the smell test to get kids to the sink with a smile.
Last month, the Madison School District put its pandemic plan into action. Brief, age-appropriate flu-prevention lesson plans were taught in all schools. In addition, the district sent home information on guidelines for keeping kids home, and tips on prevention. Some recommend watching a Centers for Disease Control video (www.cdc.gov/CDCTV/HandsTogether/index.html) to understand good hand-washing technique.
District Health Services coordinator Freddi Adelson says Madison schools will work with public-health officials to make H1N1 vaccine available in schools for those who want to receive it there. So far, they've made available more soap and towels as well as providing sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer to elementary classrooms.
"We're really focused on prevention and having everyone taking responsibility to do everything they can to protect themselves," Adelson says. "We hope people respect the advice to stay home."u
Kids critics choice
Kalaanjali School of Dance
Oct. 10, Overture Hall Rotunda, 9:30 am, 11 am & 1 pm
Overture's free Kids in the Rotunda series introduces your child to classical Indian dance (assuming you haven't already done so).
They Might Be Giants
Oct. 11, Barrymore Theatre, 4 pm
The veteran alt-rock band now make goofy music for kids, both on TV shows and CDs. They perform a family concert.
Oct. 27-30, Wisconsin Historical Museum
The museum amps up the spooky quotient with movies, crafts and - of course - educational tidbits.
Beakers & Broomsticks
Oct. 30, Madison Children's Museum, 5:30-8 pm
A Halloween costume parade, music and trick-or-treating at participating businesses on State Street and the Capitol Square.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition. It was my husband who had originally signed up to chaperone the event, thinking that spending a few days with his 11-year-old daughter and her compatriots would serve as an excellent anthropological experience. But when an unexpected work obligation made it impossible for him to attend, it was me left holding the bag
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.