November 5, 2012
Germ-factory

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Walking Germ Factory in Cold and Flu Season

Remember what every flight attendant tells you on take-off? “If there is an emergency while in mid-flight, and the oxygen masks drop done, put your mask on first, and then turn to help whomever is seated near you.” The same principle applies to your own health. If you are not healthy and well, then you cannot help anyone around you stay well, and you could actually be a carrier of diseases to friends, family, classmates and co-workers.

Germs and viruses live on every single surface we touch.

At work and school we come in contact with many people: opening doors, sitting in classrooms, and using computers that others have touched and used. All those surfaces could have been coughed on, sneezed on, and have contaminants such as viruses just waiting for a hapless host to come along.

Even money can be contaminated.

Money is rarely laundered (in the washing machine sense), and you have no idea whose hands held it last or if they wash their hands or not. Someone with a cold or the flu could blow their nose into a tissue or sneeze into their hand, not wash their hands, and then touch money or other surfaces. A study reported in the Southern Medical Journal showed that bacterial contamination showed up on 94 percent of the dollar bills they collected for their sample. Pretty gross, right?

Another study done in Switzerland where researchers actually inoculated banknotes with the flu and tested survival rates of the influenza viruses showed that when the viruses were mixed with respiratory mucus, the virus lived up to 17 days! Imagine how many times that money in your wallet has changed hands.

Why do some people get sick more often than others?

Believe it or not, the best way to stay healthy is to cultivate a healthy immune system. You simply cannot avoid the cold and flu carriers—they are everywhere. People who are under stress (the majority of the world these days) are more likely to develop colds and flus, as their immune system is not able to fight off invaders when they come in contact with the viruses. People under chronic stress, such as being in a difficult relationship or having a chronic disease, are under a great deal more stress. That stress impacts their immune system by producing hormones such as cortisol that tells the immune system to slow down while it does its work in a stressful situation.

What to Do to Avoid Being a Walking Petri Dish.

    1. The very best thing to stay well and healthy is to reduce your stress level. I know that is easier said than done. Get selfish and take time for yourself—even if it is only 10 minutes a day. When I had five sons at home, I locked myself in the bathroom and took a bubble bath to help my stress levels. Other things you can do is take time to meditate, go for a walk, visit a friend (one who doesn’t stress you out with his/her problems), get out in nature, go to a movie, or sit down with a good book, a quilt, and a cup of hot cocoa. You now have a reason to pamper yourself —it will keep you healthy!
    2. Wash your hands after touching any object and before touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers to clean your hands if water is not available.
    3. Get enough sleep. If you are sleep deprived your body’s level of stress hormones is thrown out of whack.
    4. Don’t take up bad coping devices like smoking or drinking. Those actually put you at more risk for illness.
    5. Have your Vitamin D level checked. According to a study discussed in Science News, researcher found that Vitamin D supplements were significantly linked to a decrease in Japanese children getting the flu. The article goes on to say that most people in the developed world do not have enough Vitamin D in their system to stay healthy and fight off common viruses.
    6. Get the flu vaccine. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find out whether you fall into a risk category.

What Do I Do, If I Get The Flu?

The CDC has a number of recommendations including:

  • Talk to your doctor about taking anti-viral drugs, as they can shorten the length of the illness.
  • Stay home and call in sick.
  • Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Wash your hands to avoid contaminating others.
  • Your mother was right – chicken soup is good for you when you have the flu. According to the Mayo Clinic, chicken soup actually helps in the body’s immune response when you get the flu or a cold. Actually, hot liquids work better than cold when one is ill. This is a great article to read on other tips to help yourself if you do come down with a flu or cold.

We all want to stay as healthy and stress-free as we can, and I hope the suggestions in this blog are helpful in giving tips on remaining that way. Stay Healthy!

What tips to you have? Please share below.

About the author:

Annita Stansbury was the director of the Holistic Health program at Front Range Community College's Larimer Campus and an Advanced Practice Nurse - CNS and NP.

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