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Soap and water vs. hand sanitizer: Which works better?

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 5:18 AM

Hand washing with soap and water is the best defense against germs.
Hand washing with soap and water is the best defense against germs.

You probably hear it again and again, especially during winter months: "Wash your hands so you don't get sick." It's good advice, but which is better for removing germs – washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer? And how can you make sure that whichever method you're using, you're doing it correctly so you can rid your hands of as many germs as possible?

The following will help answer the debate as well as provide some tips to help you do the job right:

Which is better?

You really can't go wrong with plain old soap and water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand sanitizer is usually a good substitute in most cases where soap and water aren't available – with the following exceptions:

  • Killing the norovirus stomach bug
  • Killing some types of parasites
  • Killing Clostridium difficile (also called C. difficile), a bacterium that causes severe diarrhea
  • Removing pesticides or metals like lead
  • Removing visible dirt

Ultimately, you should be using hand sanitizer to help supplement rather than replace regular hand washing. Lather up with soap and water when you can, but when it's not accessible, hand sanitizer is much better than nothing.

Do antibacterial soap or other products work better?

Antibacterial soap, which usually includes triclosan, hasn't been shown to be any better at removing germs than "regular" soap, according to Business Insider. It does, however, cause harm by contributing to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and contaminating the water supply.

How to wash your hands correctly with soap and water

WebMD offers the following instructions:

You may think that you need to use hot water, but cold works just as well. Use soap to lather and scrub all over your hands, including their backs, between your fingers and under your nails, which usually is the germiest part of your hands. A few seconds of scrubbing isn't going to get the job done. Keep scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, or about the amount of time it takes to sing your ABCs. (It's probably best to do that in your head if you're in a public restroom!)

Rinse the soap off, and dry your hands completely with a towel or air dry them.

How to use hand sanitizer correctly

The CDC recommends the following steps:

Make sure you're using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply sanitizer to your hands, using enough to cover all their surfaces.

Rub your hands together – for about 20 seconds – until they feel dry. Don't wipe them off or rinse them before they're dry.

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How barbershops can help trim high blood pressure in black men

Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 @ 4:09 AM

Barber and customer. (Photo credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Barber and customer. (Photo credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Black men hoping to lower their high blood pressure may want to pay their favorite barber a visit — and bring a pharmacist along.

>> On Half of US adults now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelines

That’s according to new findings from the Smidt Heart Institute published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, for which a team of scientists studied 319 African-American men at high risk of heart attack and stroke recruited from 52 barbershops in the Los Angeles area.

>> Read more trending news 

For the study, the men were randomly assigned to two groups. Men in the first group met with barbers who encouraged them to speak with specially trained pharmacists during their monthly barbershop appointments.

During their visit to the barbershop, the pharmacists would assess the participants and prescribe appropriate medication. Any monitored blood tests and progress notes were sent to the patron’s primary care provider.

>> 7 ways to lower your blood pressure without medication

In the second group, barbers encouraged the men to seek advice from their respective primary care providers on treatment and lifestyle changes. Patrons were given pamphlets and blood pressure tips while getting their haircuts. There were no pharmacists involved inside the barbershop.

At the start of the study, the average top pressure number (or systolic blood pressure) averaged 154. After six months, it fell by 9 points for customers just given advice and by 27 points for those who saw pharmacists.

Two-thirds of the men who met with both their barbers and pharmacists were able to bring their unhealthy systolic blood pressure levels into the healthy range at that six-month mark.

Only 11.7 percent of the men in the second group experienced a similar difference in the same time period.

>> On Is your medical provider taking your blood pressure all wrong? Experts say probably 

Black men have especially high rates of high blood pressure — a top reading (systolic) over 130 or a bottom one over 80 — and the problems it can cause, such as strokes and heart attacks. Only half of Americans with high pressure have it under control; many don't even know they have the condition.

Marc Sims, a 43-year-old records clerk at a law firm, was a participant of the barbershop and pharmacist group. He didn't know he had high pressure — 175 over 125 — and when he came into the barbershop, the pharmacist said he was at risk of having a stroke.

"It woke me up," said Sims, who has a young son. "All I could think about was me having a stroke and not being here for him. It was time to get my health right."

Medicines lowered his pressure to 125 over 95.

>> On Suffer from hypertension? Sauna baths could help reduce it, study suggests

"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men," Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and author of the study, told the Associated Press. “And many have gone every other week to the same barber for many years. It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment" that makes it ideal for improving health.

Victor’s own hypertension was diagnosed by a barber in Dallas during his first barbershop-based study in the 1990s, he said in a news release. That study incorporated 17 Dallas shops, but no pharmacists. The results were modest at best.

But for the new research, the team “added a pharmacist into the mix" so medicines could be prescribed on the spot, he said. "Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes. It is often challenging to get people who need blood pressure medication to take them, even as costs and side effects have gone down over the years. With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier."

Victor and his team are now onto the next step: to determine if the benefits they found can be sustained for another six months and in black men with more moderate blood pressure levels.

Read the full study at

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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Allergic reaction to granola bar kills 12-year-old girl, family says

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 2:24 AM

12-Year-Old Girl Dies From Allergic Reaction To Granola Bar

A Georgia family is in mourning after an allergic reaction to peanuts led to the death of a 12-year-old girl.

>> Watch the news report here

Amanda Huynh had been hospitalized before for allergic reactions to peanuts, but it's still surreal for her brother that she's gone.

"She meant a lot, to me, and i feel like she means a lot to the community," said her brother, Dillon Huynh.

The honor roll student at Lee Middle School in Coweta County was on her way home Tuesday on a school bus when she took a bite of a granola bar.

It was a snack that her family says she had eaten before.

"She would always check everything and make sure it was right," Dillon said.

>> Read more trending news 

But she started to feel sick and school officials were able to call 911 for an ambulance to take her to the hospital.

Her brother shared pictures from her hospital bed where doctors told the family even if she woke up she would have permanent brain damage.

Amanda died Thursday, and her family held her funeral on Sunday.

The principal at Lee Middle School sent a letter to parents about how grief counselors will be at the school in the coming days.

Amanda's brother said he hopes her story will educate others about food allergies.

"(I want people to) live with her in their hearts and really know how serious this is," he said.

>> See a GoFundMe page for the family here

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Spills from this huge area hazardous waste site are reminders of dangers to drinking water

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 8:56 AM

            Hamilton, joined by state officials in the 1970s and 1980s, had to battle in court for the cleanup and continued monitoring of the former Chem-Dyne chemical-processing Superfund site at 500 Joe Nuxhall Boulevard, formerly Ford Boulevard. Monitoring of comination of the aquifer continues. PROVIDED
Hamilton, joined by state officials in the 1970s and 1980s, had to battle in court for the cleanup and continued monitoring of the former Chem-Dyne chemical-processing Superfund site at 500 Joe Nuxhall Boulevard, formerly Ford Boulevard. Monitoring of comination of the aquifer continues. PROVIDED

One of the largest hazardous waste sites in Ohio history, the former Chem-Dyne operation in Hamilton, at what now is 500 Joe Nuxhall Boulevard, also was one of the earliest tests of the federal “Superfund” programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Chem-Dyne accepted tens of thousands of oil-drum-sized containers, with stated hopes of recycling them into other products. But the drums sat, and leaked, and sometimes caught fire.

The situation was particularly dangerous because the site sits above the Great Miami Aquifer, a giant source of groundwater that holds 1.5 trillion gallons of water serves the needs of 3 million consumers for drinking water.

But officials in this region are on alert for chemical spills that could taint the water source.

THE RIVER: The Great Miami River could be the next big destination in Hamilton. Here’s why.

Spills from Chem-Dyne killed more than a million fish and water animals in the river, Ohio officials said when they sued Chem-Dyne and other companies. Fires there during the 1970s worried the community, and in September of 1976, Ohio officials sued, with then-Gov. Richard F. Celeste and Attorney General Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr. announcing the legal action.

A 1982 federal-court settlement involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered cleanup by the site’s operators and also payments by companies that had sent chemicals to the Hamilton location. The removal of soil and later cleansing of the property — by pumping water from around the land, removing chemicals and returning water below-ground — has continued for decades, and monitoring continues, under that court settlement.

From 1987 through 2010, some 35,020 volatile organic compounds were removed, according to state regulators, at a cost of more than $30 million.

RELATED: Hamilton leaders seek fountain of water innovation

This media outlet published an article Sunday about efforts to prevent such pollution and clean up environmental spills to protect the aquifer.

RELATED: How safe is our drinking water? Investigation shows dangers

Chemicals at the site included pesticides, chlorinated hydrocarbons, solvents, waste oils, plastics, resins, PCBs, acids and caustics, heavy metal and cyanide sludges. Workers at the site often mixed liquid wastes in open pits, releasing noxious vapors, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report from the time. “Reportedly, 55-gallon drums were punctured with pickaxes and allowed to leak or were dumped into the ground or into a trough or pit,” while tank cars reportedly were emptied into the ground, as well as troughs and sewers, according to the same reports.

“We’re happy they’ve reduced an enormous amount of contamination,” said Tim McLelland, manager of the Hamilton-to-New-Baltimore-Area Ground Water Consortium. “Obviously, it’s not still all cleaned up, so it’s on our radar.”

RELATED: Companies are coming to Hamilton from thousands of miles to help solve the world’s water problems

John Bui, who manages Hamilton’s drinking-water-processing operations, said the contamination has never threatened the city’s well fields. It “has been contained on that site, and it’s been monitored there,” Bui said.

Unthreatened by the chemicals are the city’s water wells that are north of the former Chem-Dyne property, as are wells the city and Fairfield uses to the south, which mostly are in Fairfield.

RELATED: What makes Hamilton’s tap water world’s best tasting?

Hamilton won a gold medal for best municipal tap water in the world at 2010 and 2015 tasting competitions in Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Late last month, the water won a silver medal at the same competition, for second-best in the nation.

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Heart attack sufferers more likely to survive if doctor is away, study says

Published: Sunday, March 11, 2018 @ 6:59 AM

Study: Women Receive Alarmingly Unequal Heart Attack Care Compared to Men

If you are recovering from cardiac arrest, doctors are essential to the healing process, right? According to a new report, you’re more likely to survive if your cardiologist is away.

>> On You may be able to better avoid heart attacks with this common snack, study says

Researchers from Harvard University recently conducted a study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, to determine the possibility of survival for people who suffer heart attacks when their doctors are away.

To do so, they examined the 30-day survival rate of Medicare heart attack sufferers admitted to the hospital while their doctors were at the five-day Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics meeting.

>> Read more trending news 

After analyzing the results, they found that 19.5 percent of patients died within 30 days of admission when the doctor was present. It was just 16.9 percent when the cardiologist was away.

Some heart attack sufferers require stents, which are tubes inserted into the heart blood vessels to help clear passageways. About 15.3 percent of heart attack patients, who needed stents and were admitted on meeting days, died within 30 days. About 16.7 percent admitted on non-meeting dates died within the month.

>> On You can avoid strokes and heart attacks with these two household fruits, study says

“Which doctor treats you does matter. The types of doctors who attend these meetings seem to provide different care, at least for a subgroup of patients,” coauthor Aunupam Jena said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate paradox given that professional conferences are designed to actually makes us better physicians and improve the care we deliver.”

The scientists said doctors who attend the conferences perform more stents. They’re also more focused on publishing research and more likely to run clinical trials, compared to their peers who do not go to the meetings.

“If doctors focus their attention on a particular kind of procedure, they might not develop other clinical skills that are as important to influencing outcomes as is knowledge of a specific procedure,” Jena said. “Treating a cardiac patient isn't just about cardiac issues—it's about other factors that the patient brings to the hospital.”

Although the researchers have drawn conclusions about cardiac specialists who attend conferences and those who don’t, they said the true differences are still unknown.

That’s why they hope to continue their investigations to explore how a variety of physicians develop their nonprocedural skills over time.

>> On Got heart disease? You may have a better chance of survival if married

“The fact that mortality actually falls for heart attack patients during these conference dates raises important questions about how care might differ during these periods,” Jena said. “What we really want to know is how we can close the gap in outcomes and save more lives.”

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