Should you fly yet? An epidemiologist and an exposure scientist walk you through the decision process

We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to travel. And that typically means flying.

We have been thinking through this issue as moms and as an exposure scientist and infectious disease epidemiologist. While we’ve decided personally that we’re not going to fly right now, we will walk you through our thought process on what to consider and how to minimize your risks.

Why the fear of flying?

The primary concern with flying—or traveling by bus or train—is sitting within six feet of an infected person. Remember: Even asymptomatic people can transmit. Your risk of infection directly corresponds to your dose of exposure, which is determined by your duration of time exposed and the amount of virus-contaminated droplets in the air.

A secondary concern is contact with contaminated surfaces. When an infected person contaminates a shared armrest, airport restroom handle, seat tray or other item, the virus can survive for hours though it degrades over time. If you touch that surface and then touch your mouth or nose, you put yourself at risk of infection.

Before you book, think

While there is no way to make air travel 100% safe, there are ways to make it safer. It’s important to think through the particulars for each trip.

One approach to your decision-making is to use what occupational health experts call the hierarchy of controls. This approach does two things. It focuses on strategies to control exposures close to the source. Second, it minimizes how much you have to rely on individual human behavior to control exposure. It’s important to remember you may be infectious and everyone around you may also be infectious.

The best way to control exposure is to eliminate the hazard. Since we cannot eliminate the new coronavirus, ask yourself if you can eliminate the trip. Think extra hard if you are older or have preexisting conditions, or if you are going to visit someone in that position.

If you are healthy and those you visit are healthy, think about ways to substitute the hazard. Is it possible to drive? This would allow you to have more control over minimizing your exposures, particularly if the distance is less than a day of travel.

You’re going, now what?

If you choose to fly, check out airlines’ policies on seating and boarding. Some are minimizing capacity and spacing passengers by not using middle seats and having empty rows. Others are boarding from the back of the plane. Some that were criticized for filling their planes to capacity have announced plans to allow customers to cancel their flights if the flight goes over 70% passenger seating capacity.

Federal and state guidance are changing constantly, so make sure you look up the most recent guidance from government agencies and the airlines and airport you are using for additional advice, and current policies or restrictions.

While this may sound counterintuitive, consider booking multiple, shorter flights. This will decrease the likelihood of having to use the lavatory and the duration of exposure to an infectious person on the plane.

After you book, select a window seat if possible. If you consider the six-foot radius circle around you, having a wall on one side would directly reduce the number of people you are exposed to during the flight in half, not to mention all the people going up and down the aisle.

Also, check out your airline to see their engineering controls that are designed or put into practice to isolate hazards. These include ventilation systems, on-board barriers and electrostatic disinfectant sprays on flights.

When the ventilation system on planes is operating, planes have a very high ratio of outside fresh air to recirculated air – about 10 times higher than most commercial buildings. Plus, most planes’ ventilation systems have HEPA filters. These are at least 99.9% effective at removing particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter and more efficient at removing both smaller and larger particles.

How to be safe from shuttle to seat

From checking in, to going through security to boarding, you will be touching many surfaces. To minimize risk:

Bring hand wipes to disinfect surfaces such as your seat belt and your personal belongings, like your passport. If you cannot find hand wipes, bring a small washcloth soaked in a bleach solution in a zip bag. This would probably freak TSA out less than your personal spray bottle, and viruses are not likely to grow on a cloth with a bleach solution. But remember: More bleach is not better and can be unsafe. You only need one tablespoon in four cups of water to be effective.

Bring plastic zip bags for personal items that others may handle, such as your ID. Bring extra bags so you can put these things in a new bag after you get the chance to disinfect them.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as often as you can. While soap and water is most effective, hand sanitizer is helpful after you wash to get any parts you may have missed.

Once you get to your window seat, stay put.

Wear a mask. If you already have an N95 respirator, consider using it but others can also provide protection. We do not recommend purchasing N95 until health care workers have an adequate supply. Technically, it should also be tested to make sure you have a good fit. We do not recommend the use of gloves, as that can lead to a false sense of security and has been associated with reduced hand hygiene practices.

If you are thinking about flying with kids, there are special considerations. Getting a young child to adhere to wearing a mask and maintaining good hygiene behaviors at home is hard enough; it may be impossible to do so when flying. Children under 2 should not wear a mask.

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These Children's Books Featuring Adopted/Foster Kids Will Make You Cry

Foster care adoptions reached a record high in 2020 — so why aren’t more kids and parents talking about fostering, or adoption in general, as a key process that has led to so many families being built? Of course, raising these topics with your kids isn’t easy; our words and even our tone can shape adopted and foster kids’ experiences and have a lasting impact on their mental and emotional health. But there are some amazing children’s books featuring adopted or foster kids that can help — teaching both kids and adults how to have thoughtful conversations about adoption and foster homes, and tackling subjects like grief, sadness, confusion, adaptation, and love.

That’s why we’ve gathered some of the most beautiful books out there that are suitable for young children and teens and which center on adoption and foster care. These are beautiful, relatable stories guaranteed to open up discussions and let kids know that they’re not alone in their feelings or experiences.

The Story of My Open Adoption

This heartwarming story, from solo mom by choice (and SheKnows writer!) Leah Campbell, is about Sammy Squirrel who is adopted at birth by the bunny family. A perfect option for teaching kids about the ever-more common open adoption process.

I’ve Loved You Since Forever

We love a lot of things about Hoda Kotb, and her children’s book about adoption is pretty high on the list. Kotb has two adopted daughters, Hope and Haley, whom we just know she has loved since forever. Although Kotb penned this book in response to adopting her eldest daughter, its themes of enduring love apply to any family, adopted or otherwise.

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born

Many children have questions about their birth, but what happens when a child’s parents weren’t there to recount all of the details? Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, written by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrated by Laura Cornell, tells the story of one young girl who loves to hear about the night her parents brought her into their family. This sweet book acknowledges that adopted children have an array of different stories and reminds readers that their births — and all of the moments since — are valuable and cherished by their families.

Morris and the Bundle of Worries

The adoption and foster care processes can be stressful for children who don’t always understand why their situations are changing. Sadly, these experiences can lead to increased risk for poorer physical and mental health in the long run, including depression and anxiety, according to a study commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Too often, these children will internalize their feelings as they may not believe they can confide in a trusted adult.

Morris and the Bundle of Worries, written by Jill Seeney and illustrated by Rachel Fuller, tells the story of Morris the Mole who hides his worries from his loved ones. Throughout the book, Morris’ friends help him to understand that they care about his feelings and want to help him face his problems. With their assistance, Morris learns that while it’s normal to feel worried sometimes, he doesn’t have to experience any of his emotions alone.

Elliot

Placing a child into adoptive or foster care can be a complex and emotionally wrought decision for parents. Often, it can be just as confusing and challenging for children, who don’t understand why their lives are changing or why their parents may not be equipped to provide them with the care they need.

Elliot, written by adoptive mother Julie Pearson and illustrated by Manon Gauthier, is the story about a young rabbit whose parents believe another family could better care for him. Throughout the story, a social worker named Thomas helps Elliot navigate the foster care system in hopes of finding a family who can love and care for Elliot the way he deserves.

While the book has received a lot of positive recognition, some readers have said they felt the book seemed to place blame on Elliot for his changing circumstances because he cries and has outbursts. If you want to read this book with kids, you might want to explain that there’s nothing wrong with Elliot, or any other children in adoptive or foster care, and they are all worthy of love.

Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care

Maybe Days is a fantastic resource for children who have questions about why they are in foster care and how the process works. Author Jennifer Wilgocki breaks down what kids can expect from their parents, social workers, foster families, and more in ways they can easily digest, while illustrator Alissa Imre Geis’ drawings help younger children visualize various scenarios. The book, published by the American Psychological Association, also helps children get in touch with and better understand their feelings.

Picnic in the Park

No two families are the same, and that’s a reason to celebrate! Picnic in the Park introduces kids to different family dynamics — including families with LGBTQ parents, single parents, adoptive parents, and foster parents — so that they can grasp the beauty and importance of diversity at a young age. Together, author Joe Griffiths and illustrator Tony Pilgrim highlight that while families vary, the one thing they often share in common is love.

And Tango Makes Three

This delightful book from authors Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrator Henry Cole introduces children to adoption and LGBTQ couples by following penguins Roy and Silo on their journey to become parents. The story is based on the real Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins, who lived together at the Central Park Zoo and raised a penguin named Tango. (Sadly, Roy and Silo are no longer a couple in real life, which may be a discussion you want to have with kids another day.)

Sam’s Sister

Navigating the adoption process can be stressful, especially for those who arrange to have their children adopted by other parents. But the process can also be hard on the adopted child’s siblings, who may not understand why their parents don’t feel they can adequately care for another child. Sam’s Sister, written by Juliet C. Bond, LCSW and illustrated by Linda Hoffman Kimball, invites readers into Rosa’s world as she questions why her parents chose to find another family for her baby brother, Sam, and how she, ultimately, learns to accept a new family into her life.

The Great Gilly Hopkins

This award-winning classic from author Katherine Paterson is an excellent read for middle school-aged kids. Eleven-year-old Gilly Hopkins has moved between foster homes for most of her life. She’s smart, she’s driven, and now that she’s moved into her most recent house with the Trotters, Gilly has devised a plan to escape. The story is at once funny and heart-wrenching, as Gilly tries to reconnect with her biological mother and learns that love and acceptance sometimes come from the least expected places.

After kids have finished reading, they can watch the adapted film, which features Julia Stiles, Glenn Close, Kathy Bates, Octavia Spencer, and Sophie Nélisse.

The Story of Tracy Beaker

The Story of Tracy Beaker is the first in a series of books told from 10-year-old Tracy’s viewpoint written by Jacqueline Wilson. In this book, readers meet Tracy, a young girl who lives in a children’s residential home that she likes to call “The Dumping Ground.” As you can tell, Tracy isn’t too fond of her current situation.

To cope with her feelings, Tracy makes up elaborate stories and tales about her mother, whom she dreams will raise her again one day. While these tales help Tracy feel better in the short-term, she often finds herself feeling sad and angry with her current situation and doesn’t understand why she can’t fit into a conventional family. Throughout the book, Tracy warms up to new possibilities and learns to love herself.

Please note that this book does tackle issues like neglect, abuse, and violence. It may not be suitable for children under age nine.

Three Little Words: A Memoir

Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s memoir, Three Little Words, revisits her childhood experiences living in 14 different foster homes. In the book, Rhodes-Courter recounts her feelings of loneliness, her frustrations with the system, and the painful memories of her mother and abusive foster parents. The book, while at times heartbreaking and difficult to read, highlights Rhodes-Courter’s strengths as she discovered her self-worth and her voice.

This book is best suited for teens and adults.

A version of this story was originally published in May 2019.

For more great reads with your kids, check out these diverse children’s books featuring girls of color.






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Seven things you might not know about blood

Blood is fascinating. Many people learn at school that its function is to transport oxygen and nutrients around the body and remove waste products. But blood has many more functions, including defence against pathogens, regulating our temperature, and keeping important internal chemicals and nutrients balanced.

Here are some other things you might not know about blood.

1. Blood is both liquid and solid

Blood is a connective tissue in the body. It has a multi-cellular component (made of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) and a liquid extracellular matrix.

Unlike the other connective tissues in the body, blood is a liquid. The extracellular matrix, plasma, is liquid and suspends the cells in blood. But when tissues are damaged, by a cut for example, blood becomes a solid like other connective tissues. This is known as clotting.

Clotting is activated by exposure to anything other than the smooth inner surface of a blood vessel, where a cascade commences to plug the wound. Platelets stick to the open wound, then soluble fibrinogen, a type of plasma protein, is converted to insoluble fibrin, which forms a “mesh” around the plug and prevents further blood loss. Over time, as this heals, the mesh and plug are broken down (or pulled off, if you pick scabs).

In most people, the blood is made up of about 45% cells—mainly red blood cells, only 1% are white blood cells—and 55% plasma. Too much or too little of any of these can cause disease, such as anaemia.

Blood cells are constantly produced and recycled. The body produces about 2 million red blood cells a second, but this can be vastly increased in times of stress, such as at high altitudes, where less oxygen is available.

On average, men have between 4.7 to 6.1 million cells per microlitre, and women between 4.2 to 5.4 million cells per microlitre. There are 1,000 microlitres per millilitre.

2. Volume is always changing

The volume of blood in a person’s body changes over a 24-hour period. The body has its highest volume before lunch, as liquid is taken into the body.

A pregnant woman’s blood volume can increase by up to 50% during pregnancy. This is to support the uterus, which has the placenta and developing foetus in it.

But on average, men normally have between five to six litres of blood, and women have between four to five litres.

3. There are more than four blood types

We inherit our blood type from our parents. We either have blood type A, B, AB, or O. These groups determines what antigens you have, which means that depending on your blood type, blood from a person with an incompatible group cannot be transfused into another person.

But the other main blood group typing is Rhesus (Rh). People are either Rh+ or Rh- – meaning a person who is Rh+ has additional antigens, and cannot donate blood to someone who is Rh-, as this can cause an immune response.

4. We’re always making more blood cells

We constantly recycle blood cells and can make more blood cells when blood is lost. This means we can donate approximately 470 millilitres of blood at one time. The body takes about 12 weeks for men and 16 weeks for women to fully replenish all the blood cells donated.

However, if we lose more than 40% of blood volume (a process known as exsanguination), we die. If we lose around 10-20% of blood, the body goes into shock. While in shock, the body will try to fix the situation by increasing heart rate and breathing, and the body sweats and skin loses colour.

5. Blood has a ‘use-by’ date

It used to be that “whole” blood donations had to be used all at once. But now, the blood is separated into its different components – red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma—to make sure it is used as efficiently as possible, since a patient may only need one blood component.

Blood, like all things, has a use-by date. How quickly it must be used depends on the part of blood. Red blood cells can be stored for about six weeks. But platelets only last a few days so are constantly needed. Other parts, such as plasma, can be frozen for up to a year. White cells are usually filtered out of donations.

6. Blood loss was medicine

“Bloodletting,” which dates back at least 3000 years, used to be a popular treatment for many common ailments. Many cases of bloodletting used leeches, which can consume five to ten millilitres of blood at a time—about ten times its body weight.

Bloodletting is behind the red-and-white poles you see outside a barber’s shop. The red represents the blood, and the white represents bandages. Barbers used to perform common medical procedures, including bloodletting.

Bloodletting is still used, even with leeches that are specially farmed, in cases of plastic or reconstructive surgery. They help to remove clotted blood in an area of tissue that requires healing or attachment.

Another form of bloodletting uses a needle to remove blood and reduce the amount of iron in the body to treat haemochromatosis – where there’s too much iron in the body.

7. Not all blood is red

Human blood is red because of the presence of haemoglobin. But not all animals bleed red.

Icefish have clear blood, and one species of skink (a type of lizard) has green blood. Peanut worms have purple blood, and many bugs and beetles have yellow blood.

The colour of blood is usually because of specific proteins in the blood. These proteins may also have some survival advantage depending on the environment in which the species lives.

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Can't sleep? Try these acupressure techniques to help you drift off

When you’re tossing and turning and sleep just won’t come, you’ll try anything – fancy pillow sprays, herbal remedies, hypnotherapy apps, desperately ringing up a pal and asking them to tell you a bedtime story.

In these dire situations, it’s worth giving acupressure a go, mostly because it’s free, easy to do, and if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything.

And actually, it just might work. Then you’ll get to drift off into rest and everything will be dreamy.

We chatted to Renata Nunes, a physiotherapist, massage therapist, and acupuncturist, who shared her guide to simple acupressure techniques you can do on yourself at home to help you get some sleep.

‘Chinese medicine understands insomnia as disharmony between Yin and Yang,’ Renata explains.

‘The energy between Yin and Yang must be harmonious and must flow into each other in a daily cycle. Yang energy should flow during the day and Yin energy at night.

‘Yang is brilliant energy, the sun, the day, occurs intensely, Yin is passive energy, at night, it occurs in a timid way. Someone with insomnia has a greater Yang tendency than Yin.

‘Treatment must find the balance between Yin and Yang, fire and water. In this case, fire is represented by the heart and water is represented by the kidney.

‘The ideal would be to make an assessment to check the disharmonies of each patient. However, in this time of isolation, we can work with some points to help calm the mind and sleep better.’

Don’t get put off by the Yin and Yang talk – you don’t necessarily need to buy into all of that to see benefits from acupressure techniques.

Ready? Let’s try these.

Yintang – to calm the mind

Yintang describes the point right between the eyebrows.

Renata says: ‘Make a very gentle massage between the inner ends of the two eyebrows in a circular motion clockwise.

Also you can tap the point with your fingertip.

‘As you apply the pressure allow all the muscles of your forehead to relax. This is a good point to calm the mind and insomnia.’

GV 20 – to dispel negative thoughts

This is at the top of the head, in the middle of the line that connects the apex of the two ears. You can press the point down and back.

Try making circular movements counterclockwise direction.

Renata says this technique can also help to relieve headaches.

Heart 7

Applying pressure to this area is said to help relieve insomnia, irritability, and chest pain.

‘Draw a vertical line between your fourth and fifth finger and stop at the crease of the wrist,’ Renata explains. ‘The point is at the height of the wrist crease next to the tendon.

‘You can press the point and make circular movements in a clockwise direction. Also, you can rub the whole wrist.’

Kidney 6 – to nourish kidney Yin

This is the spot on the inner side of the foot, in the depression below the ankle .

Renata recommends pressing this point, making circular movements in a clockwise direction, and tapping it, to help ‘calm the mind, open the chest, and invigorate the kidney’.

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Finally! You Can Get Adult & Kids Face Masks at Old Navy

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to have sewing skills and spare breathable fabric lying around the house, you might be in the same boat as so many of us, still struggling to find good masks for our children and ourselves. Today we have good news for you: Old Navy has is now selling super cute, stylish kids masks and adult masks, at rather incredible prices.

The masks are in the kind of preppy and preppy prints Old Navy has always used for its shorts and pajamas. There are plaids, checks, paisleys, anchors, tropical motifs, stripes, polka dots, and the occasional Warhol-esque banana. You can’t choose, however. The kids masks and adult masks are sold in “surprise packs” of five for $12.50.

All the masks are three-ply 100 percent cotton, with elastic over-ear straps.

There is a catch here. As hospitals have known long before us, it’s pretty difficult to get something — even something as simply designed as a reusable cloth mask — into production very quickly, especially when we’re in the midst of a pandemic. So even Old Navy’s factories aren’t able to get us instant gratification here. These masks have only been available for pre-order since 5 a.m. ET Friday, are selling so fast that they the estimated shipping date is May 27 as of this writing. Get your orders in soon!

Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes. 

Still mask shopping? Most of these kids masks are available right now.






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