With the start of November comes the onset of cold and flu season. The cold and the flu, or influenza (from the Italian “to influence”) are two viruses that are highly contagious. They both produce upper respiratory infections with symptoms like coughing, sneezing, fever, chills and aches. They both spread through contact with mucous membranes, especially in the eyes and nose. By following the guidelines below, you and your family can take steps to avoid becoming sick from a cold or flu virus this season.
Viruses spread from one person to another through a chain of events. Person A, who has the flu, wipes his nose with his hand, and picks up some flu virus on that hand. He pushes the elevator button. In doing so, he transfers some flu virus to the elevator button. Person B comes along and pushes the elevator button, picking up some flu virus on his hand. His eye itches, so he rubs it with the same hand that he used to push the elevator button. He has just passed flu virus to the mucous membranes of his eye. This is the open portal through which Person B has just caught the flu. Person B is in for a week or two of pure misery.
So take some steps to stay healthy. First and foremost, wash your hands. You cannot wash your hands too much or too often. Turn the water on and wet your hands. Use warm to hot water. Add hand soap and rub for at least 30 seconds, washing all surfaces of your hands, fingers and wrists. Allow the running water to run over your hands to rinse the soap from them. Dry your hands with a fresh towel and use that towel to turn off the water. Washing your hands removes most if not all viruses that you may have picked up. It will help to keep you well, and will also help to prevent you from spreading viruses to your family.
Use antibacterial wipes to clean every commonly touched surface in your home. I usually do this twice every day; once in the morning, and once in the evening after dinner. Clean all of the countertops. Clean the microwave and refrigerator door handles. Clean all of the door knobs, both inside and out. Wipe every phone in the house. Wipe off the remote controls to all the TV’s. Wipe light switches, drawer pulls, and cabinet knobs. Wipe the computer keyboards and mouses. As a rule, if anyone in the house has touched it in the last 24 hours, wipe it off. You can also use an antibacterial spray on surfaces like door knobs and light switches to save time.
Try not to touch your eyes or your nose, especially if you are in public. This is because you have probably touched contaminated surfaces, whether you know it or not. This is one of the hardest things to do, because many of us do it out of habit, or without thinking. It helps to carry antimicrobial alcohol gel with you. Use it after you touch every publicly used surface. This includes, but is not limited to, door handles, elevator buttons, hand rails, shopping carts, even public bathroom light switches. Especially public bathroom light switches. Just remember, alcohol gel is great, but it is not a substitute for hand washing.
The cold and flu are two very contagious viruses. This time of year, they seem to spread through the public population like wildfire. Follow the basic suggestions outlined above. Wash your hands, keep your household surfaces clean, and don’t touch your eyes or nose. Do these easy things consistently, and you and your family will have an edge on staying healthy during this year’s cold and flu season.