Teal Pumpkins Make Halloween Safer for Kids With Allergies

For kids with food allergies and their parents, trick-or-treating can be the scariest part of Halloween. Many candies contain common allergens like nuts, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat, and all it takes is the tiniest trace to set off a life-threatening reaction. Adding to the horror: the fun-sized versions of these snacks are often packaged without ingredient lists, forcing many families to sit out the Halloween festivities all together. Nonprofit organization Food Allergy Research and Education hopes to change that by encouraging houses to paint their pumpkins teal this year.

The Teal Pumpkin Project aims to raise awareness of food allergies and make Halloween inclusive for the one in 13 American children who are afflicted. Households can join the initiative this Halloween by painting a pumpkin teal and placing it outside their homes, indicating to families with allergies that they are handing out allergen-friendly, non-edible "treats" like small toys. A spokesperson for the initiative recommends stocking up on goodies like glow sticks, bouncy balls, bubbles, spider rings, and stickers as alternatives to candy.

When the project launched in 2014, teal pumpkins were placed outside households in seven countries and all 50 states. In 2015, the number of participating countries doubled. You can take part by signing the online pledge and sharing your pumpkin on social media using the hashtag #tealpumpkinproject. 

Why You're Probably Washing Your Hands All Wrong

Washing your hands is the best protection against germs.
Washing your hands is the best protection against germs.
rclassenlayouts/iStock via Getty Images

When some of us fall ill, we begin to wonder what brought on the coughing, sneezing, and aching. We might blame a sniffling person in the checkout lane or an office pandemic.

Obviously, there are many ways to catch a viral or bacterial infection. But the single best way to minimize that risk is to wash your hands. And while that might seem simple—it is, after all, a skill taught to us as children—you may not be doing it correctly.

Popular Science recently highlighted the importance of handwashing, noting that people may touch their face up to 52 times per day. If they’ve just touched a surface that’s harboring germs, that’s 52 opportunities for pathogens to settle in the mucus membranes and lash out with everything from flu to respiratory infections. Proper hand hygiene, according to the Centers for Disease Control, can reduce the community risk for respiratory illness by 16 to 21 percent and for unpleasantness like diarrhea by up to 40 percent.

The problem? People tend to wash too quickly, sticking their hands under the faucet for a few fleeting moments and moving on. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture evaluated 383 subjects and found that most did only a cursory wash.

It’s better to follow the CDC’s advice, which is to get your hands thoroughly wet with very warm water—which can be enough to kill some microbes—and then lather up, making sure to reach every fold and surface area between your fingers, around your wrists, and under your nails.

So far, this is not the stuff of surgical scrubbing. But here’s where most people drop the ball: Rather than soap up for just a few seconds, try to keep the cleaning going for 20 seconds. That’s two cycles of the “Happy Birthday” song. When you’re done, dry with a clean towel.

It’s good to wash up before eating, after coming from outside, handling an animal, or prior to touching your face for any reason, like putting in contacts or flossing. Obviously, washing after using the bathroom is a must, but you knew that.

As for hand sanitizer: It’s good for when there’s no running water available, but it can’t kill all germs, and it won’t do a whole lot if there’s visible dirt or grime on your hands. Water and soap remain the gold standard.

[h/t Popular Science]

China's Coronavirus App Is Alerting Citizens When They're in Danger of Being Infected

Coronavirus fears have spread throughout China and beyond.
Coronavirus fears have spread throughout China and beyond.
Kevin Frayer, Getty Images

Questions continue to linger around the new coronavirus, currently plaguing parts of China and other countries. In an effort to combat the spread of the virus, the Chinese government recently introduced a smartphone app that claims to alert users when someone suspected of having the virus has been nearby.

According to the BBC, the app, dubbed the “close contact detector," works by having phone users register their name and government ID number. Once they activate the service, they’ll be notified if they’ve been in a place where someone diagnosed with coronavirus has been. Patient A, for example, might have reported being on a train, in a classroom, or in an office space that the app user also occupied. The user would get an alert along with a notice to stay home in the event they might have contracted the virus.

Whether a user has been in close contact is determined by their physical proximity to someone suspected of having the virus. Airplane passengers in the three rows surrounding someone suspected of being infected would be considered in close contact. Other passengers may not be considered close.

The scope of the app appears to be limited to information provided by transit authorities and other institutions and does not appear to be an all-inclusive method of determining exposure.

The app is state-sponsored and was developed by the General Office of the State Council, the National Health Commission, and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. While critics have said the app presents an invasion of privacy and a way for government to track any user's movements, others have argued that the risk to public health warrants it.

"In this case the public good and the public health has to outweigh the privacy concerns, otherwise we have no shot of doing anything about this," Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told ABC News.

[h/t BBC]

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