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I’ve spent the last few days in a hospital, while a family-member had surgery and has been recovering.  This is a relatively new hospital, so it looks more like a nice hotel with its grand entry, “concierge-like” welcome desks, and comfortable furniture.  (They also have a great Au Bon Pain that is open 24 hours!)

Healthy tools available at the bottom of the kiosks: Face Masks, Facial Tissues and Alcohol Handy Wipes

One of the first things I noticed in the waiting areas were the Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks (pictured at right.)  These reminded me of an article I read a while back (Selling Soap) about how the risk of catching an infection IN a hospital is quite high, and that’s because the hospital staff doesn’t wash its hands enough.  The article talked about Cedars-Sinai Hospital in LA that had a successful campaign to encourage hospital staff to wash their hands more. 

I wondered whether these Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks were part of a larger push at the hospital to include everyone in the community.  Certainly, I have been a part of the hospital community for the better part of the past week, and I appreciated having the tissues there in the waiting room.  I saw some other folks go over and pick up a wipe or a tissue, too.  Though I have yet to see any face mask takers.

I have no doubt that seeing the kiosks in the waiting area has influenced my thinking about the importance of sanitation within other parts of the hospital; namely the rooms where patients are recovering.  There are signs all over the place that emphasize the importance of wearing gloves and washing hands before and after patient contact. 

I haven’t been keeping an eagle eye on the staff, but I can say that norm is for doctors/nurses/technicians to either put on new gloves, wash their hands or use a sanitizing gel when they walk in the room, and throw out the gloves or wash their hands on the way out.  It helps that each private room has a washing sink in the entry area, gloves are provided in three sizes, and there’s one sanitizing gel inside the door and another outside the door.

They have made it Simple and Easy to do this simple but effective community health safety step.  In my short tenure at the hospital, it’s become a habit!

So taking this out of the hospital, I’d like to think about what steps I can take to make hand-hygiene more of a routine for me, whether I’m at home or outside.  Some things come to mind:

  • Make an effort to wash my hands before each meal–especially when I’m eating out–and after I’ve used public transport or have shaken a lot of hands.  Also, after I get home from a day out. Do this enough, and it becomes a habit.
  • Increase this if I think I am getting sick, or have a cold.
  • Carry something like Purell hand sanitizer in my bag, as a backup.

Here’s a post from earlier about hand-washing, including a tip on how to know you’re washing long enough.

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I’ve seen signs for flu shots already. It’s that time of year again.

And according to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Autumn is the time of the runny nose, since the Nose and Mucous are associated with the season.

So, a couple of common sense ideas to stave off getting a runny nose (and catching cold):

  • Wash your hands: before you eat; after you get back from work or school; after you get off the bus or train (read this post)
  • Make sure you are hydrated. Especially in areas of the country where the heating is already drying out the air. Drink regular water. (read this post)

A month ago, I talked with a man in my building who complained about many months of feeling poorly. A couple of hours after eating, he would get a stomache and then a headache. It didn’t matter what he ate. This would always happen.

I was not surprised to hear that he got both a stomache AND a headache, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, issues with digestion and headaches are connected. I told this man that I practice acupressure and showed him the HOKU acupressure point, which is on the Large Intestine meridian. He said he felt immediately relaxation and a decrease in his headache.

Yesterday, I ran into him again and he looked great. Apparently a Chinese herbalist had turned him onto Po Chai Pills, which I just researched and learned is an herbal blend in small pill size that address symptoms of indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting… While my neighbor’s pills were the “original” brand from Hong Kong, it seems that po chai pill may be a generally used name for herbal supplement remedies for stomachaches.

His stomachache swent away, and so did his headaches. He carries a vial of Po Chai in his shirt pocket.

So, next time you have a headache, pay attention and see if your stomach is upset. Did you eat something unusual? Or does a regular headache correlate to a regular digestive discomfort?

I’m not trained in herbs, so I encourage you to check with a trained practitioner, if you are considering adding them to your own Healthy Intentions Toolkit.

Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.


Name: Hoku or Joining of the Valleys (Large Intestine 4)LI4 point

Location: On the top of the hand, on the web where the thumb and the index finger meet. (See the red dot on the hand in the photo.)LI4 demo1
To hold: Squeeze the point by putting your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your hand. Make small circular motions with your thumb until you feel the point; it is tender on many people.LI4 demo2Make sure that the hand that is holding the point is relaxed. The demo photo above shows you how to hold the point, but the hands are a little tense; the second photo, on the right, shows you the hands relaxed, which is how you want to do it.

Hold for 10 or 15 seconds initially, until you figure out what works for you. You can hold for a few minutes, but make sure that the holding hand does not get tense or tired out. Release gently if you feel any acute pain.

This is a wonderful point. It is effective for relieving so many discomforts, including headaches, constipation, insomnia, stress, shoulder and neck tension.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

It’s flu season, and there’s nothing like all the news about the flu outbreak in the San Quentin Prison this past week to motivate me to wash my hands. Often. And thoroughly.

This seems like such a small thing, but the when it comes down to it, a lot of Everday Wellness is about the basic everyday things we do. Wash our hands. Brush our teeth. Eat healthy foods. Laugh with friends. Take a walk–get some exercise.

happy handsSo, back to happy hands. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, effective hand-washing involves washing your hands in warm water with soap by rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds. How long is that? Imagine singing–or actually sing out loud–“Happy Birthday” twice through to a friend. (Read more: CDC Clean Hands Campaign)

There’s a lot of talk about the pros and cons of anti-bacterial soap and anti-bacterial hand sanitizers. My personal recommendation is to use anti-bacterial hand sanitizers only when water and soap aren’t available, and to prefer thorough hand-washing with regular soap, rather than use anti-bacterial soaps. (Ideal Bite has tips on soaps and hand-sanitizers that offer more info.  ADDED 1/16/07: Here’s more on planet-friendly hand sanitizers.)

And if you need another reason to take the full 20 seconds to wash your hands, think of it as a 20-second acupressure massage. There are many acupressure points on your hand, so give an extra squeeze on each finger while you wash away unwelcome germs.