Wednesday, January 20, 2016

8 Family Health Tips when on a family field trip.

Going out to have a fun family field trip is a great way to bond and enjoy some fun together.  However, going to public places can be hazardous to your health causing all sorts of health related illnesses.  From viruses to bacterias including strep, staphylococcus, mononucleosis, flu, e-coli, bed bugs and even fecal matter, there are a host of germs that can negatively impact your family.  The good news is even though cleanliness at your favorite field trip location may not be up to your standards you have at home, there are things a family can do to protect themselves. We want nothing more than to provide your family with great tips to help your family stay safe, healthy and happy while out on your adventures.  Let's take a look at some things to think about.
We are huge movie fans and enjoy our time together at the movie theater.  As we walk in, you can hear popping echoing through the lobby as the smell of buttery, salty goodness of the popcorn as it rushes through your nose.  You can see the brightly colored packages of Red Vines, Goobers and Sour Patch Kids in the candy display while hot dogs are sizzling as they roll back and forth in the warmer.  The lobby looks clean as you glance across the large open lobby however what is truly awaiting for us as we approach the counter?  This is your time as a parent to assess the situation and if it doesn't seem clean, trust your instinct.  According to professors and assistant professors of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University, one needs to use their best judgement and error on the side of caution.  Remember, concession stands are mini kitchens which are required to ensure food safety for its guests.  Food items must be kept at proper warming / refrigerated temperatures at all times and theaters are no exception to health inspections.  If the soda machine area appears dirty, the popcorn seems to have been sitting a while without the machine popping a fresh batch or there is just a general dirty appearance behind the counter, you should question your purchasing decisions.  Watch the staff as they prepare other patrons orders, did they wash their hands while you were standing in line?  Are they wearing food safety gloves and changing them for each new customer? Paper and coin money is one of the dirtiest items we touch on a daily basis.  Did the cashier handle money then serve food without washing their hands or do they have runners helping them?  Assess the situation and make healthy choices for your family.

Other places to consider include the theater seats, the drink holders, 3-D glasses, the theater floor and the facilities.  Experts have studied all of these areas and found issues at a host of public places across the Nation.  Understand experiences described above are not the norm, however, you can never be too sure and you have to take precautions into your own hands.  Studies have discovered group B strep and fecal matter on theater seats as well as a host of other germs.  Drink holders and arm rests are touched many times a day and are hard for theater employees to clean in between showings.  With sugary drinks present multiple times a day, bacteria quickly multiplies and can be an excellent source of illness.  Although your 3-D glasses may have a plastic wrapper on them, it is possible that staph is still present which can lead to facial skin infections or even worse, pink eye or other staph infection of the eyes.  Maybe the theater floor feels sticky under your feet.  It's no wonder when sugary sodas can easily get spilled in the darkness of the theater.  This area can be a breding ground for viruses and bacteria.  Finally, the facilities; with hundreds of people lining the halls to see the latest episode of their favorite childhood space exploration, the facilities are used numerous times a day by hundreds of people.  Although probably the cleanest area of any facility, the risk of germs are elevated during peak hours when the focus is on moving people in and out of the theater and filling their popcorn buckets and gallon sized sodas.

WHAT TO DO TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY:
All of the preceding is very possible at any public location and taking steps to minimizing your risk is really the focus we would like to share.  We are not attempting to shame any business because truthfully, many businesses "DO" care about the safety of their guests.  So, what additional steps can you take to protect your loved ones?

Do a Litmus Test on their Food - Parents, you need to understand that children have limited attention spans and many cannot communicate circumstances that they might be experiencing even up to the age of 12.  Think about this, can your 3 year old tell you if their food or drink is too salty, too bitter, has a funny taste or tastes like alcohol?  A few years ago, Los Angeles news stations reported on a National restaurant chain who accidentally served a child alcohol.  The saving grace in this story was the parent was smart enough to taste every food and drink item for their child prior to letting her chow down.  It was this parents wise family practice that saved the child from a potentially deadly encounter with alcohol poisoning.


Serve yourself Soda - Attend theaters which provide the serve yourself soda bar.  Pay special attention the cleanliest of the area and if it looks atrocious, point it out to a manager immediately.  Under poor conditions, prevent your cup from touching any surface areas.  Do not set your cup down on a dirty looking counter top to attach your lid.  Instead ask for your family to help hold the popcorn and candy while you attach your lid.  If the lids appear to be handled by another person, opt for a lid further into the holder to ensure it's cleanliness and inspect your straw to ensure it is completely sealed.  Your safest bet, choose bottled water as your drink.  Nobody needs the extra calories and your body will thank you for a splash of the good stuff.
Bring Sanitizing Hand Cleaner or Wipes - Use a few sanitizing wipes or grab a tissue and squirt some hand cleaner into it.  Make sure your hand cleaner contains at least 60% isopropyl alcohol.  Wipe down everything and don't cross contaminate.  Use one wipe for the drink holder and arm rest, use another for your 3-D glasses and make sure to squirt a bit into your hands before you dig your mits into that popcorn bucket.
Watch your kids - Kids are kids and if they drop their last Reese's peanut butter cup on the floor before the movie even gets started, you can bet they are going to chase after it!  Really, who wouldn't right...it's a peanut butter cup!  Now, I am not a germ-o-phob by any shape and I firmly believe the 5 second rule is occasionally healthy for building your immune system against everyday germs.  However, as I mentioned, the floor of a movie theater is a breeding ground for illness.  The rule of thumb for any location that you are field tripping at should be, Location, Location, Location!  Aunt Sally's kitchen floor is probably pretty safe especially when you can smell the scent of bleach from the front drive.  Watch your kids and make sure they aren't picking up anything off the floor that could have been contaminated or for that matter looks like a candy but is another patrons heart, diabetes or blood pressure pill.  BOTTOM LINE - WATCH YOUR KIDS!!!
Theater Seating -  There isn't too much you can do to be safe.  Let's face it, other people have sat in the seat you have chosen and theaters just don't have the resources to replace them every time you decide to go to the movies.  So, What to do?  Wear long pants and shirts that cover your entire upper body.  Do not take off your shoes to expose your bare tootsie's (feet) to the potentially grimy floor.  If you must touch the seat with your hands, use sanitizer before you dig into your snacks.  Extreme measures might include grabbing a paper towel or toilet safety sheet and place it on your seat just in case.  Consider removing your clothing after you get home and wash them immediately.
Popcorn / Candy sharing - Don't let anyone just dig in with their bare hands.  Remember kids are kids and they are climbing over everything, jumping in their seat and touching who knows what near them.  Ask the concession stand for some extra trays or drink holders to use as a tray and then pour snacks into each family members separate container.  This helps keep the germs localized should illness break out.
Facilities - Take careful assessment of the condition of the facilities.  If the floor is dirty or there is pooling water on the sink, its a pretty good sign nobody has cleaned them in a while.  Speak to a manager immediately to have this corrected before you decide to go.  Use soap and warm water to wash your hands and use a clean piece of toilet tissue or paper towel to open the door.
Where to Place my Purse - Girls, Don't Place Your Purse On The Floor!!!!  Leave it at home, place it in your lap, find a clean place to hang it or leave it in the trunk of your car out of visibility.  Enough said!
By taking care of your family with a few easy steps, not only are you protecting yourself but in the long run you are protecting the health and safety of others in your community.  Let's all do our part to living a cleaner and healthier lifestyle.  Now join us and go enjoy a movie at your local theater.  We will be however just with some extra precautionary measures!
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