Category Archives: Health & fitness

Healthy at home: 5 tips for fighting germs around the house

Germs are lurking all over, but it’s my mission to keep them out of my house as much as possible.  I believe home is our sanctuary from all the bad out in the world, and that includes germs!

Sometimes it feels like a losing battle, especially during the school year when sickness goes around among the students, then those germs travel home with the kids to our house.  But there are effective ways to control the germs.

I did some research to find the best ways for fighting germs at home.  I want to be sure I’m doing all I can to keep my family healthy!5 tips for fighting germs around the house -

5 tips for fighting germs at home

1.  Leave the shoes at the door.   When you consider all the places you go and the condition of the floors, parking lots, roads, etc. that you walk on, your shoes can pick up a lot of nastiness – dirt, chemicals, and germs.  Kicking off shoes at the door is a great way to limit the traction of the germs from the rest of your home.

ABC News reported on a 2008 study by the University of Arizona that confirmed the presence of dangerous bacteria on shoes and determined that bacteria live longer on shoes than other places.  The study found that bacteria on shoes transfer to tile floors more than 90% of the time – and that carpet can harbor bacteria.  Eek!

Knowing this, we decided to ditch the shoes in our house.  We have a bench and a basket for shoes right inside the door.  We don’t travel farther than the bench with shoes on our feet.  The most commonly used shoes stay accessible in an attractive container near the door.  For those of us with a larger variety of shoes (OK, that’s just me), shoes are carried, not worn, between the door and the closet.

Just in terms of dirt, I can see the difference the no-shoes policy has on the floors, since the rug by the door gets dirty while the other areas remain clean.  I know the germs are being limited as well and not tracked all over the house.

2.  Wash hands well and often.  Hand washing is proven to help prevent colds and flu.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says it’s one of the most important things we can do to stay well.  However, we don’t all do it as often or as effectively as we should.handwashing callout

A 2013 Michigan State University study found that only 5% of people they observed in public restrooms washed their hands correctly to kill germs.  Yuck!  That means there are a lot of icky microbes being passed around!

Hands should be washed frequently throughout the day based on activity, such as preparing food, eating, using the bathroom, caring for someone who is sick, providing first aid, handling animals, and dealing with trash.  According to the CDC, the front and back of hands should be washed with soap and water (warm or cold) for at least 20 seconds for maximum effectiveness.  The Mayo Clinic reports that antibacterial soap is not necessary. 

In the Michigan State study, people only washed their hands for 6 seconds on average, 33% did not use soap, and 10% did not wash their hands at all.  No wonder hand-washing education is so important during cold and flu season!

With the kids exposed to so many germs at school, it’s definitely worth a few extra moments of time to make sure we’re all washing our hands well to prevent illnesses.

3.  Clean surfaces regularly.  Germs can live on surfaces for varying periods of time.  The New York Daily News reports that some bacteria can live on objects for weeks or even months.  It’s important to regularly disinfect surfaces at home to kill the germs.  Some places are obvious, like the toilet and faucet handle in the bathroom, but germs can linger in other places that may be easy to overlook, like the TV remote control, computer keyboard, doorknobs, and car steering wheel.  (OK, this last one may not technically be in the house, but it’s parked at the house, so it’s worth a mention.)

I’m thankful for the convenience of sanitizing wipes that make it easy to wipe down surfaces!  They’re a great line of defense against the germs trying to invade our home.

4.  Give the kitchen extra attention.  Even though bathrooms seem like they would be the germiest place in the house, the kitchen actually holds that title.

According to WebMD, kitchen sponges are the home’s top germ source.  Damp sponges can be zapped in the microwave for two minutes to kill bacteria.  Dish cloths should be allowed to dry between uses, washed at least weekly, and dried on high heat to kill germs.sponge callout

Kitchen surfaces like refrigerator and faucet handles, the sink and drain, trashcan lids, and phones should be regularly cleaned with disinfectant before and after use.  Cutting boards also must be disinfected – 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of water.  The safest option is to use two separate cutting boards:  one for raw meats and another one for other foods like fruits and vegetables.

For food storage and preparation, separate raw meat, chicken, fish, and eggs from other foods to prevent cross-contamination.  Wash produce well using cool tap water, but raw meat doesn’t need to be washed since it could spread harmful bacterial to surrounding surfaces.  Cooking meat to the appropriate internal temperature kills those bacteria.

5.  Kill germs lurking in laundry.  Washing machines and laundry detergents have become more environmentally friendly by using cooler water and gentler cleaning agents, but those don’t kill the germs in laundry.  So you may be spreading germs among your clothing if you aren’t careful.

According to ABC News, laundry germs are killed by:

  • very hot water (at least 140-150 degrees F).
  • chemicals such as chlorine bleach or non-chlorine bleach with peroxide (Clorox 2).
  • UV rays from the sun when drying clothes outside.

Thus, it’s important to wash laundry carefully depending on how soiled the clothes are and to clean inside the washing machine with bleach periodically to get clothes truly clean.

Enjoying my first Influenster VoxBox!

After joining Influenster, I thought it would take a while before I was selected to receive a VoxBox with products to try.  I was so excited to get the email just a couple of weeks later saying that my first Influenster VoxBox was on its way!  Woo hoo!

After I told my 8-year-old daughter about it, she was just as eager to check it out.  We watched for it to arrive, wondering what would be included.  We knew it was the Surf’s Up VoxBox, so it sounded like a great package for summer fun!

My daughter went out to get the mail for me and came back in exclaiming “Mom!  Mom!  It’s here!”  I knew that could only mean one thing: my first Influenster VoxBox had arrived.

When we opened the box, we found COVERGIRL’s Bombshell Curvaceous by LashBlast mascara, Sinful Colors nail polish in the Ocean Side shade, First Aid Shot Therapy in berry flavor, a coupon for a free Jamba At Home Smoothie kit, and Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun Lotion.

Surf's Up Influenster VoxBox -

These are some fantastic products to try out!

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun Lotion

The Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration after sun lotion come in handy right away after I spent a little too much time out in the sun.  I came in with a touch of red on my shoulders, so I applied the lotion.  It has a nice coconut papaya scent.  When my son walked up a few minutes later, he immediately said, “Mom, you smell good.”Influenster Voxbox

This lotion combines moisturizing lotion with aloe gel for a great, hydrated feeling on sunned skin.  With the aloe, it has a cooling effect when applied.  It seems to have helped keep my shoulders from feeling dry or unpleasant after a bit too much sun.  I definitely like having this around for the summer!  I will buy this product after my sample is gone.

SinfulColors Professional nail polish

I love the color of the SinfulColors Professional nail polish in my Influenster VoxBox.  The lovely shade of blue, called Ocean Side, is perfect for summer.  It’s a bold shade that I may not have selected for myself, but I actually love wearing it, so I’m glad this is the color I received.  It looks great and wears well.

Sinful Colors Ocean Side shade Influenster VoxBox product review - amerrymom.comI had never purchased a SinfulColors nail polish before, but I will in the future.  I love both the product and the price point.  At just $1.99, it’s very affordable to try out a new, vibrant color.  And it’s safe since it’s free of the formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP toxins that are found in some nail polishes.

I used the polish for a fun mother-daughter home manicure session.  We love our summery nails!

COVERGIRL’s Bombshell Curvaceous by LashBlast mascara

This was the variable product in the Surf’s Up VoxBox.  Some people received Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Shampoo and Conditioner.  Others received COVERGIRL’s Bombshell Curvaceous by LashBlast mascara.

When I first applied this mascara, I was impressed with the volume and curl it added to my eyelashes.  I have skimpy eyelashes, so mascara always makes them more noticeable, but I found that this mascara was extra effective in giving me a dramatic change with curved lashes without using an eyelash curler.

This formula lasted very well.  The product information says this mascara works like a waterproof formula.  I always use waterproof mascara since I have sensitive eyes that easily become irritated and watery.  I had no problems with smudging with this mascara, and it came off well with my makeup remover wipes.  The only drawback was that it went on a little clumpy.  I had to use a separate eyelash brush to separate my lashes.  After that, I was happy with it.

First Aid Shot Therapy

I tried the First Aid Shot Therapy sample from my Influenster VoxBox one morning when I had a headache and sore shoulders.  It’s billed as fast-acting pain relief due to its liquid format, and it did seem to work quickly.  I was feeling better soon.  I thought the berry flavor was pretty good.  It wasn’t exactly a fruity drink, but it tasted better than many liquid medicines.  The individual portion was handy.

Jamba Juice At Home Smoothie

My Surf’s Up VoxBox contained a coupon for a free Jamba Juice At Home Smoothie kit to sample, and an additional coupon for $1 off.  I love smoothies, so I was happy to try this kit at home.  It was super simple to make – just open the package, put it in the blender with a cup of apple juice, and blend until smooth.  Good thing I had just enough apple juice in the fridge since I didn’t read the package while I was at the store to realize I needed to add apple juice.Smoothie kit from Surf's Up Influenster VoxBox - amerrymom.comWith this kit, it took less than two minutes for two smoothies.  And they tasted great!

I was hoping to try the Orange Dream Machine smoothie kit that I saw on the Jamba All Natural Smoothies web site.  That one sounded perfect.  The grocery store didn’t have that flavor in stock, though, so I chose the Strawberries Wild flavor – which is strawberry and banana with non-fat yogurt.  It was a very good smoothie.  The taste was mostly strawberry with just a touch of banana flavor.Jamba Juice At Home Smoothie from Influenster VoxBox coupon - amerrymom.comThe only bad thing about the smoothie kit was the price at my local Kroger.  The information with my Influenster VoxBox said the retail price range was $2.99 – $3.49.  I found it for $3.69.  That was fine for my free version, but I would prefer to pay the lower price.  I’ll have to look for a lower price locally.

Overall impressions

I liked each of the products in my Influenster VoxBox.  I would happily use each of these products and brands again.  It was great to receive my first VoxBox with samples to test them out.  The great thing about the Influenster program is that anyone can join and get involved to qualify for a VoxBox.

Head over to the Influenster web site and sign up if you’re interested!

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Find a safe sunscreen -

Find a safe sunscreen for fun in the sun

School’s out and we’re already past Memorial Day.  That means the summer season is here!  We all know that sunscreen is important for our outdoor summer activities, but how do you decide which kind to use?Choosing a sunscreen - learn about harmful ingredients -

As a mom, I want the best, safest sunscreen for my family.  I’ve found it disturbing to learn that some ingredients in sunscreen may be harmful.  The idea that the sunscreen we apply to protect our skin could potentially cause harm?  Yikes!

When choosing a sunscreen, there are several ingredients to consider to make an informed decision about a product.  The ingredients below are FDA approved and supported by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).  However, other groups and continuing research are raising some questions regarding their safety.

    • Retinyl palmitate – According to WebMD, this Vitamin A derivative is sometimes added to sunscreen to reduce signs of aging; however, it is not an essential ingredient and dermatologists are divided regarding its use.  Environmental Working Group (EWG) points out in its sunscreen FAQs that “data from a study by scientists at the FDA and the National Toxicology Panel (NTP 2012) showed that retinyl palmitate may speed the growth of skin tumors when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight.”
    • Oxybenzone – This ingredient, a UV filter, is FDA approved for people over 6 months old. The AAD web site says, “No data show that oxybenzone causes any significant health problems in humans.”  On the other hand, EWG reports in its sunscreen FAQs that “data are preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms.”
  • NanoparticlesWebMD says that these tiny particles are used in mineral sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide so they are colorless (not white) when applied to the skin, but experts debate whether the particles can enter the body through the skin.  The site’s sunscreen safety article notes that sunscreens are not required to disclose on the label whether they include nanoparticles.

In addition to these questionable ingredients, there are concerns about the safety of spray sunscreens.  The FDA is investigating the safety of these sunscreens.  EWG notes that the particular concern is inhalation of nanoparticles, so careful application is necessary – especially around the face.

I was really bummed to learn there is a potential problem with spray sunscreens, since they are so convenient to apply to active kids.  For our family, I’ve decided to go with safety over convenience and use a lotion sunscreen instead of sprays.

With all these sunscreen safety concerns, it’s hard to choose the best option that provides sun protection without any potential harms from the sunscreen itself!

Obviously, it’s important to read individual product labels to find sunscreens that you’re comfortable applying to yourself and your family.  EWG, in its sun safety tips, recommends looking for products with zinc oxide, 3% avobenzone or Mexoryl SX that offer broad spectrum protection without a high SPF (because a high SPF may be misleading and result in too much time spent in the sun).

EWG also has a helpful online resource, the 2014 Guide to Sunscreens, that rates various sunscreen options.  The guide is searchable to find individual products and learn more about their sun protection and ingredient safety.

All of the links within this post contain helpful information about sunscreen choices as well as tips for application.  It’s definitely worth the time to do some research to stay safe in the sun this summer!