Poison Ivy: What Makes You Itch?
By Maggie Poling, Grade 9

Scratch. Scratch. Scratch some more. SCRATCH!  When will this torment end? Even better, where did it all begin?  You may be “itching” to find the answer, and I may just have what you’re looking for. Perhaps you’re scratching because of an allergic reaction to urushiol.  This is a colorless and odorless oil that is derived from the leaves of plants, such as Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac.

Approximately 60 to 80 percent of people are allergic to urushiol, which is considered an allergen because it irritates the skin, creating a rash on most that you just can’t stop scratching.

Poison Ivy (and the other urushiol-carrying plants) can be located anywhere from the bushes in your backyard, to the woods a mile away; but that doesn’t mean you had to touch the leaf to get the rash.  Urushiol can be carried from one person to another, even from pet to person, which means you may have touched something or someone who had urushiol on their skin (or fur).

If you think you’ve had an allergic reaction, you may want to consult your doctor.  Most likely, they will recommend taking cold showers and applying calming lotion (like calamine) to the spots in question.

For future reference, try to wear long sleeves and pants next time you’re walking through the woods, or petting your dog for that matter (just kidding!). Otherwise, you may just find yourself itching like there’s no tomorrow.


The Importance of Washing Your Hands
By Maggie Poling, Grade 9

Germs are everywhere.  Literally, as I am typing this article, I am collecting bacteria on my fingertips.  Gross, right?  The only problem is, there’s really no way to get rid of germs.  Albeit, not all germs are bad.  Some bacteria is good bacteria, like the kind in yogurt.  However, there’s also the bad bacteria that we’d like to stay away from.  Considering germs are everywhere, this may sound difficult, but it is in actuality quite easy.

One basic step you can follow to prevent getting sick is this: washing your hands.  It may sound silly, but when you wash your hands, you prevent harmful germs from getting into your system through your mouth, eyes, nose and even ears.  Here’s the thing: this trick won’t work unless you do it correctly, so here are some steps to follow before, during and after you wash your hands.

It is important to wash your hands before doing the following: preparing food, eating, treating wounds or giving medicine, touching a sick or injured person, and inserting or removing contact lenses.  It is also vital to wash your hands after: preparing food, using the toilet, changing a diaper, touching an animal or animal toys, leashes, etc., blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands, treating wounds, touching an injured or sick person, and handling garbage or something that could be contaminated.

Now, perhaps you won’t believe me, but the way you wash your hands is crucial in the germ-annihilating process as well. Here is a step-by-step guide to follow:

1. Wet your hands with running water.
2. Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
3. Lather well.
4. Rubs your hands together forcefully for at least 20 seconds, or sing the ABC’s!  Make sure to clean all parts of your hand, including between your fingers, under your fingernails - you get the drift.
5. Rinse well.
6. Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel.
7. Use your towel to turn off the faucet.

Also, remember that hand sanitizer is a wonderful alternative for when you’re on-the-go.  Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is not any more effective than regular soap, and may in fact increase the spread of bad bacteria.  Mainly, keep your hands clean, and do it the right way! Scrub-a-dub-dub!


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