With this year’s flu season taking on epidemic proportions, it is more important than ever that we exercise ‘cleanliness caution’ in our everyday dealings with people.
The majority of diseases, including the common cold, are passed from person to person after touching things and then putting them in the mouth. Many diseases are carried in the bowels, nose and eyes and are passed by infected persons to others because of poor hygienic practices.
Every time we enter the workplace, a store or a restaurant there is some risk involved. Every time we take public transportation, share an elevator, use a public restroom or telephone there is the possibility – a strong possibility – that we will come into contact with someone who has a cold or the flu. Many times we will not even be aware that sickness is lurking nearby. Remember that a person is most contagious in the 24-hour period before they start to exhibit any symptoms!
I have heard some people say that they get the flu every year, without fail. They say it as though it were an inescapable evil, but that simply isn’t true! Regular health practices in one’s home can go a long way to prevent a person from getting sick and putting family members and friends at risk. With just a few simple steps, we can protect ourselves and those around us. By implementing as many of these steps as possible, you give yourself, your family and your friends a greater chance of escaping the worst flu season ever.
Keep Your Immune System Pumped
If your immune system is strong, your body can fight off invaders much more effectively. It is important to eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on fresh fruits, whole grains and plenty of fresh vegetables. Stay away from junk food and drink a minimum of eight glasses of purified water every day. It is also important to get plenty of rest, exercise regularly and minimize stress in your life. You can supplement with immunity boosters like Vitamin C (1000 – 2000mg daily), Elderberry and Zinc lozenges but, remember that there is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle!
Never Put Your Hands In Your Mouth!
Most people will stay well if they do not put their hands in their mouths. Keep other things out of the mouth as well. Chewing on fingernails, licking fingertips while eating or turning a page, sucking on pens or other objects all spread disease. Germs can also enter through the eyes and the nose. So, it is really important to keep the hands out of the eyes, nose and mouth.
If You’re Sick – Stay Home!
The common cold can be caused by over 200 different viruses that can make you sick enough to stay home. However, people still continue to go to work and into public places. Restaurants are the worst. There is nothing more annoying than going into a place where food is being served and finding that the server is sick! They’re coughing and snorting and I’m wondering, why would anyone want to eat there? Unfortunately, many employers are either unaware or simply do not care about the health risk this poses to customers and fellow workers. Regardless of what type of work we do, if we are sick – we should be responsible about it and not put others at risk. It costs everyone so much more than a couple of days missed at work.
Whenever we go into public places, we come into contact with so many things that others have touched. Train yourself to keep some form of disinfectant handy at all times. Rubbing alcohol, wipes, hand sanitizing lotions and gels are all available in convenient travel sizes. Keep some stashed everywhere – at your desk, in your car, in your bag, by the bathroom sink – and use them before and after eating, using the restroom, going into public places, handling money, and so on.
Take A Hands Off Approach
Try to avoid touching things in public. Carry your own pen so you don’t have to use the common one. Spray public phones with alcohol before using them and keep your keys handy to push the elevator button. Use your foot to flush public toilets and avoid touching door handles – especially bathroom doors! Use your shoulder or a paper towel instead. Become aware of the things you do on an unconscious level that put you at risk.
Avoid Sick People
Even if you are very conscientious about not spreading illness, there will always be people who are not. Avoid those who come to work sick and walk away from the counter at the coffee shop if you see the server is not well. Choose another cashier if yours is coughing and sneezing and gently decline to meet with friends or family who are showing signs of colds, the flu or other respiratory infections. People are usually very understanding when you are up front with them.
Avoid Busy & Confined Public Places
The more people that are present in one airspace, the greater the chances that we will come into contact with illness. If you carpool, let your fellow riders know that you would like them to call if they will be traveling with you while they are sick. This will give you the opportunity to make other arrangements. Try to do your shopping during off hours and use the ATM or the drive through window if your bank has one instead of going in to see the teller. Shopping online can also decrease the frequency with which you need to go into high traffic areas. If you must go into a confined, public place you can protect yourself to some degree by coating the nostrils with ‘Zicam’ nasal gel or a light oil such as Vitamin E, plain sesame, jojoba or a light olive oil. And if you really want to get serious you could wear an occlusive germ mask, available at all drug stores.
Proper Hand Washing Practices
Always wash hands before and after handling food or eating, before and after using the toilet, after pumping gasoline, anytime you have touched something dirty and whenever returning home. Outfit all your sinks with antibacterial soap in a pump bottle and have paper towels available from a wall dispenser – cloth towels are not a good idea because they tend to house germs. Hand washing can only be effective if it is done in a manner that does not again contaminate the hands in the process.
All children should be taught proper hand washing practices. While it may be a challenge to get them to do so consistently, it is especially important given the tendency children have to put their hands everywhere and to put just about anything in their mouths!
Opt To Eat In
Eating out always comes with some dangers. Every now and then there are news reports about undercover studies on restaurants and these reports illustrate just how risky eating out can be. You don’t know the people who are preparing your food. You don’t know where they’ve been, what they’ve touched or their condition of health. During flu season, the risk to you is compounded and it is recommended that you eat at home as much as possible.
Watch Your Children’s Association
Children are notorious for getting into everything. They share a classroom or daycare with many other children who also get into everything. Try to keep on top of who your child is associating with. Decline to allow them to play with children who are not feeling well. Speak to you child’s teacher or daycare provider. Ask them to notify you if any of the children are being sent to school sick. At least then you have the opportunity to decide whether you want your child to be in that environment or not.
The bathroom is the most common area touched by many people. Everyone who is sharing a bathroom brings things in on their hands from wherever they’ve been and leaves them behind in the bathroom for others to pick up. A clean bathroom and habits that prevent the spread of disease are most important, especially in a household where many people share a bathroom.
Whenever possible, you should avoid public restrooms. When you absolutely must use them – be cautious. Never sit directly on a public toilet or let your child sit on one. Always use either a paper seat cover or squat over the bowl, (just like you would in the gym or aerobics class). Use a paper towel to touch doors, faucets, etc., and be sure to wash up well.
Avoid Hospitals & Doctor’s Offices
There is no place you will find more illness than in hospitals and doctor’s offices. When a doctor must be seen, let the receptionist know that you would like to wait outside or in the hallway until the doctor can see you. Again, avoid touching anything with your hands and remember a germ mask is always an option. Don’t be concerned about what people might think. I have done this on occasion and have found that people really pay very little attention to such things. When you return home, take a hot shower and change your clothes.
Many sore throats are simply due to a lack of proper oral hygiene. Gargle with warm, salty water and floss between teeth, daily. Use a water pick and a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide to clean out deep pockets and areas that are hard to get to. Use a tongue scrapper! This funny little contraption grows on you fast. Once you’ve tried it – you will wonder how you ever did without it. Scrape you tongue 6 to 8 times, twice a day. Be sure your teeth and gums are healthy and disinfect your toothbrush daily with hydrogen peroxide.
While it is impossible to protect ourselves entirely, we can greatly reduce the risk of catching a cold, the flu or something even more serious by implementing these steps as much and as often as possible. It is not an all or nothing thing. The more often we take precautionary measures – the greater our chances of successfully avoiding illness. Feel free to print this list and share it with others. Post it in the lunch room at work and in the bathroom. The more educated people are about how disease is spread the better off everyone will be.
Whether they be great or small, diseases cause a tremendous amount of suffering each and every year. With a little effort and some common sense, we can minimize this suffering by taking a responsible approach to illness and the spread of disease.