Your Hands and Health
When a person sneezes and puts his hand across his mouth or blows his nose, the hands need washing before touching telephones or doorknobs. The U.S. Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, says that “80% of common infections are spread directly by hands and touching, not through the air.” Dr. Audrey Karlinsky of the University of Toronto recommends washing frequently and rubbing soap into your hands “for 10 to 15 seconds, taking care to get in between the fingers and under the nails.” After that, she suggests, you should rinse your hands in hot water and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet. How can you get children to take enough time? Have them recite the whole alphabet while they soap up, suggests Dr. Karlinsky
Bundle of Joy—And More Work!
Many young couples underestimate the additional work load that comes with a child. This often leads to conflict between the mates after the child’s birth. A study carried on at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, showed that young mothers are often dissatisfied because of the radical changes brought by the birth of a child. On average, mothers need an additional 40 hours a week for the child—of which 6 are for the extra cleaning, laundry, and cooking required and 34 are devoted directly to their offspring. For fathers, 17 hours devoted directly to the child was their only additional activity. According to the report, the marital stress “is not so much a question of who changes the diapers or gets up at night to bottle-feed the baby but, rather, of the dividing up of the housework.”
TV and Accidents
Children who spend much time watching TV may be inclined to attempt to imitate the dangerous characters they see. According to a study conducted by Spanish researcher Dr. José Umberos Fernández, the likelihood of childhood injury increased with every hour that a child spent in front of a TV set. Fernández suggests that this is because TV presents a distorted view of reality. What might parents do to offset this effect? Parents should share in selecting the programs their children see and help them to use a “critical and demanding eye,” instead of accepting everything they see as reality.
Kids and Caffeine
Even if children do not drink coffee or tea, many consume enough caffeine in carbonated and chocolate drinks to suffer withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking them, reports The New York Times. A team of psychiatrists led by Dr. Gail A. Bernstein, of the University of Minnesota Medical School, focused on the effects of caffeine on the attention span of 30 school-age children. The children’s intake of caffeine was raised to the equivalent of drinking three cans of cola a day. After one week the children stayed off caffeine for a day. On this day and for a week afterward, the students’ attention span dropped sharply. “The best way to prevent this phenomenon,” commented the researchers, “is to have children avoid consuming high levels of caffeinated beverages.”
Exporting Toxic Wastes
Because of the high cost of waste treatment, “the rich countries export their toxic wastes to the poor ones,” says Sebastião Pinheiro of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources. One study showed that “about one million tons of dangerous wastes are exported annually to Third World countries.” What is done with the imported toxic wastes? They may be burned as fuel in new electric power plants. “The developing countries defend the thesis that it is necessary to create jobs here at any cost,” says an adviser to a Brazilian environmental agency. Still, questions are being raised worldwide. The question is: “Should decisions about the location of factories be determined by estimates of where the cost of human life is lower?” Ironically, the answer seems to be yes.
Each year, up to half a million preschool children go blind simply because they do not eat enough food containing vitamin A. Two thirds of these children die within a few months after losing their sight. According to the World Health Organization, this occurs primarily in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America where people eat few yellow fruits, yellow vegetables, dark green vegetables, leafy vegetables, and other foods containing vitamin A. Throughout the world, 40 million children are vitamin-A deficient, and of these, 13 million already have some eye damage. A lack of vitamin A can also inhibit physical growth, increase the severity of infections, and raise the likelihood of death in infants and young children.
Inactive Brain Gets Rusty
Are long periods of inactivity beneficial for the brain? Definitely not, said Professor Bernd Fischer at the Medical Trade Fair in Düsseldorf, Germany. His findings indicated that “experiments had shown that a person’s thinking ability was measurably reduced following just a few hours of complete absence of stimulus”. The professor advised those whose ideal vacation is one of slothful inactivity to think again. “Like an untrained muscle,” commented the newspaper, “after a lengthy vacation of inactivity, under some circumstances the brain needed up to three weeks to attain its former level of performance.” Sports, play, and interesting reading material were said to prevent the brain from getting rusty during vacation.
“Air pollution is posing increasingly serious health problems in some of the world’s biggest cities, and is now an almost inescapable part of urban life everywhere.” So states a recent report published jointly by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program. The report, based on a scientific study of 20 cities, indicates that motor vehicle traffic is a major cause of air pollution. It also points out that the number of motorized vehicles worldwide, about 630 million at present, will probably double in the next 20 or 30 years. Air pollution adversely affects the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, leading to increased disease, disability, and death.