Can you prevent getting a bout of flu? Well, not really, but here’s a hell of a lot you can do to minimise your chances of getting this very common, debilitating and sometimes fatal condition.
Firstly, realise that you can’t prevent others from walking around and happily sharing their germs with everyone else including you, it’s your actions that make the difference not theirs.
On returning home, wash your hands before going about your normal business.
Now, a few facts for you.
The toilet seat is not the most germ infested place in the house
The bathroom door handle is worse
The telephone handset is worse still
The computer keyboard is even worse
The TV remote has more germs on it than any other item in a home cleaned to a reasonable standard BUT, the very worst thing is…..I’ll tell you in a minute.
By giving these items a quite once over with a baby wipe every day, or more often if someone in the house already has a cold, you cut your chances of not only catching a cold or flu but of getting many of the gastrointestinal viruses that do the rounds at this time of year.
When you’re out and about, there are some quite obvious germ hotspots you can easily avoid. In public washrooms if you have to open a door after washing your hands, go right down to the bottom of the bar handle, most people grab the middle and if they have a cold, or worse haven’t washed their hands after using the facilities, God knows what you are getting onto your nice clean hands. For regular handles keep a tissue in your pocket and use that as a barrier between your hand and the handle.
In lifts, push the button with your knuckle and avoid holding onto the rails or grab bars if possible. If you are in an elevator with someone who has a cold, turn away from them, if the germs don’t get into you, you don’t get a cold. Simple.
Likewise on public transport, if you can keep you head tilted slightly downwards you are less likely to get a million germs sneezed into your face. A scarf, even a very lightweight one in front of your nose and mouth can also act as an effective barrier.
As I said, if the germs don’t get into you, you don’t get sick and other than getting directly coughed and sneezed on its your hands that transfer most germs from the outside to the inside of your body. WASH THEM OFTEN. That single action, if employed routinely by everyone would massively diminish the amount of germs that are passed from person to person.
Cold and flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours and on soft surfaces for up to 24 hours, that’s a long time, and at any point during that time you get those germs onto your hands, and then touch your nose or mouth you are effectively giving these unwanted passengers a lift right to your respiratory system.
Okay, I said I’d tell you what the dirtiest thing is…it’s money, paper money. Paper money has millions more germs on it than its nearest rival the TV remote. Every person that has touched that money has either taken some germs off it, added some germs to it or both. The shop assistant with a streaming cold, the woman he handed it to with an upset stomach, the person whose culture says left hand for toilet and money right hand for everything else, little nephew Tommy who you sent it to in a birthday card, remnants of decayed food, dog faeces and cat pee when Tommy dropped it on the floor showing his friends in the street. Everywhere that note has been is represented on its surface. Of course some bugs will die, but some will be inside your purse and wallet, in your jeans pocket, and on your skin way before they die, and all of them have the possibility of causing illness. Some even like the nice cosy sometimes damp paper and will breed on it quite happily. Others are spores that can live for 70 days on almost any surface. These can cause many illnesses including Clostridium difficile, a very nasty and sometimes life threatening condition causing chronic diarrhoea. Now obviously there is no avoiding this issue, especially for those of us that prefer cash to plastic. What you can do however is minimise your risk. Don’t touch your face with your bare hands after touching paper money, wash your hands or use sanitizer. In winter, wear your gloves, have a couple of pairs and wash them frequently. Wipe the inside of your money purse at least once a week.
The problem with paper money is far worse abroad and warning about this is part of the welcoming chat on arriving at many resorts. Most people traveling in the Middle East don’t contract stomach upsets from the food or water, it’s from the money.
Hand hygiene. It’s cheap, simple and prevents the spread if germs. Get into the habit of regularly washing your hands and spare yourself some of the misery winter has to offer.