I can’t believe the news I’m hearing about how unhygienic day-care facilities and school cafeterias are! What can I do to make sure my children aren’t being made sick by their day care and schools?
Maureen G., Jacksonville, Fla.
You may get sick reading the answer to this question, so reader discretion is urged! Two current reports have brought this issue to the forefront: A recent report on school cafeterias in New York City turned up the presence of vermin, rodents and other hazards, such as schools without any soap or cold water for lunchroom staff to wash their hands.
And it’s not just NYC; this kind of situation is not uncommon. In 2009, USA Today reported that over 8,500 schools across the country failed to have their kitchens inspected at all in the previous year, and another 18,000 fell short of a requirement in the Child Nutrition Act for cafeteria inspections at least twice a year.
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Then there was another, more recent study that’s important for the more than 32 million younger kids in child-care facilities. It found that only 30 percent of day-care workers and only 4 percent of parents helping at those facilities followed hand-washing guidelines. That may be one reason the risk of infection is two to three times greater for children cared for at an early-childhood center than at home.
The standards for hand-washing include: Always washing hands before and after food and drink preparation and handling, eating and diapering — and always washing after handling a cellphone, contact with bodily fluids, taking out or touching garbage, cleaning and touching sand.
To make sure your child’s day care or school cafeteria is up to par: Discuss hygiene with the staff at the day care; review inspection reports; work with parents/PTA to stay on top of inspection findings; if facilities are lacking, contact the school board and/or start a fund-raising initiative (car washes? food sales?) to help pay for upgrades.
My sister just went through chemo after breast cancer surgery, and now she’s getting major hot flashes. Someone suggested electroacupuncture to help her get through it. What do you think?
Margaret H., Syosset, N.Y.
Many women experience hot flashes after breast cancer treatment, because some breast cancer treatments trigger menopause. We think trying acupuncture to control the symptoms is a smart move; hormone treatments are generally ruled out, even for women who didn’t have estrogen-dependent cancer.
Fortunately for your sister, the results of a recent study showed that for women who had hot flashes, electroacupuncture was just as effective — and in some cases more effective — than gabapentin, a non-narcotic, non-hormonal anti-seizure drug sometimes prescribed to ease menopausal symptoms.
At Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center and the Center for Integrative Medicine, acupuncture is one of the most utilized services, and is most effective with regular and frequent treatments. Acupuncture’s been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for over 3,500 years, and there are almost no downsides when done by a licensed practitioner.
But if traditional acupuncture doesn’t reduce or eliminate your sister’s symptoms, she might try electroacupuncture, an amped-up version of the traditional form. It’s been around since the mid-1900s, and it is applied by using a slight electric current passing between a pair of needles inserted along meridians and on trigger points. While traditional acupuncture tries to get your qi (energy) flowing again, electroacupuncture aims to jump-start stagnating qi. The frequency and intensity of the electricity used varies, based on the patient and the condition being treated.
The only reasons someone shouldn’t try electroacupuncture is if he or she has a history of seizures, epilepsy, heart disease or stroke, has an infection near the acupuncture point, is pregnant or wears a pacemaker. And electroacupuncture shouldn’t be used on someone’s head or throat, or cross over the midline from nose to bellybutton. So find a licensed acupuncturist/electroacupuncturist — your sister’s oncologist should be able to recommend someone — and get her jump-started.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To submit questions, write to Drs. Oz and Roizen, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019-5238, or visit sharecare.com. Their column appears Monday.