Weekly Health Watch with items on how to keep your family illness-free during the school year, endurance training, flu vaccines and more.

When the kids head back to school, maintaining your family's health can be a challenge because they are exposed to germs from many other students. Here are steps to take to keep everything healthy during the school year.


Clean hands means fewer germs


Simply put, frequent hand washing is one of the best strategies for preventing germs from entering your body. The CDC makes the following recommendations: Always wash after visiting the bathroom and before eating. Teach your children to wash their hands for as long as it takes them to sing the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice. Always use soap and water, and always dry hands thoroughly.


Did you get your shots?


Even if you are practicing the healthiest habits, your body can't evade every illness. A flu vaccination is your best protection against catching the virus, according to the U.S. government. For other flu prevention tips and instructions on what to do if you are experiencing symptoms, visit www.flu.gov.


If you get sick, stay home


Not getting the proper rest will only make your sickness worse, and your child's performance in the classroom –– or your performance in the workplace –– could suffer if you don’t rest when you are ill. But perhaps the biggest reason for staying home is out of courtesy to other students and workers. Spreading illness is not something you want to be responsible for.


-- ARA


New Research: Highest child mortality rates


Sub-Saharan Africa is still home to the highest rates of child mortality, with 1 in 8 children dying before reaching age 5, which is more than 17 times the average for developed regions (1 in 143). Southern Asia has the second highest rates with 1 in 15 children dying before age 5.


-- World Health Organization


Did You Know?


The rates of new lung cancer cases in the United States dropped among men in 35 states and among women in 6 states between 1999 and 2008, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Health Tip: Do a daily endurance exercise


The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Do this and you will see improved endurance, stronger muscles, better sleep and reduced stress levels. Endurance exercises to try include running, walking, swimming, bicycling and dancing –– any sport or exercise that can be performed for longer periods of time to get the heart pumping.


-- Life Fitness


Number to Know


1.3 percent: The number of fires in the United States to which fire departments responded decreased 1.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. Public fire departments responded to 1,331,500 fires, the lowest since NFPA started using its current survey methodology in 1977.


Children’s Health: Flu vaccine in different forms


Children younger than 3 years old receive the same protective antibody response from the recommended two doses of licensed seasonal influenza vaccines regardless of whether the two doses are injected by needle, inhaled through a nasal spray or provided through one dose of each in any order, according to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. Doctors usually give young children two matching vaccines, and one goal of the study was to determine whether giving two different types of vaccines works just as well.


In addition, the researchers found that young children who received at least one dose of the nasal spray vaccine made a wide array of immune T cells. Stimulating broad T-cell responses may be important for protection against many diverse flu strains.


-- National Institutes of Health


Senior Health: Upgrading the bathroom


Remodeling a bathroom for an elderly parent can make life not only safer but also more enjoyable, improving comfort and personal dignity. Here are some things to consider:


Think about accessible storage. Keep bathing and grooming accessories neatly stowed out of the way to reduce trips and falls and keep them clear of wheelchairs. Accessibility and functionality are essential when planning for convenient storage options in the bathroom.


Make it easy on the eyes. High-gloss paints and tiles can produce an uncomfortable glare, so introduce matte finishes for better visibility. Choosing wall and floor colors or patterns that contrast is another great way to increase visual perception of space and help older adults feel more confident as they move about the room.


Replace a bathtub with a walk-in shower. Holding on to the ability to bathe independently is key to aging gracefully and with dignity. The ubiquitous tub/shower unit in so many homes may be uncomfortably high for the elderly and disabled to step over, and too low to sit down into for bathing.


-- ARA


GateHouse News Service