As you know, germs live everywhere… In the air, on food, plants and animals, in water, and even on your own body! They can cause colds, the flu, stomach aches, food-borne illnesses, and skin infections. But no need to fear! We have some simple tips that will help you understand and prevent the spread of germs, to keep you and your loved ones healthy this winter.
How do germs spread?
Germs actually spread in many different ways. The most common way is through the air. Ever hear, “cover your cough”? Sneezing and coughing into a tissue is one way to protect everyone around you, including yourself!
They also spread through touching hands, touching contaminated surfaces, and kissing. They are passed along when someone touches food and the food is eaten, or when someone touches raw food and then another surface.
Another not-so-surprisingly common way we spread germs is with our phones. Huffington Post published an article earlier this year letting us know that our phones contain almost quadruple the number of different bacteria than on toilets. Another blog, posted by Pharmacist Andy Stergachis, tells us that one in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with fecal matter. Ick. It’s really not hard to believe – we take our phones everywhere and we use them everywhere (including on the toilet).
Shopping centers are germ centers, too. Think of the number of people (and the number of germs each of those people have touched) who go shopping. One of the germiest places in a shopping center is the bathroom sink. Shopping carts are another major germ-magnet.
Children are amazing, lovable and adorable but, let’s face it – they attract germs as much as they attract attention (if not more). About one-fourth of children under five years old go to a daycare center, nursery or preschool. Teach your children the importance of hand washing and the proper way to wash their hands, so they can protect themselves, too.
We love our furry friends like we love our kids, but they carry germs as well. Touching pets, their waste, their food and their supplies can spread germs and diseases. Make sure your animals are washed and groomed regularly, toys are disinfected, and you are frequently washing your hands.
How can you protect yourself?
Wash Your Hands!
One of the best ways to defend yourself against germs is to wash your hands, often and well. Make sure to use soap and warm water, and wash for at least 20 seconds, rubbing your hands briskly. Singing a verse of “Happy Birthday” is a good estimate for the time it should take, according to public health workers. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Washing your hands after they become dirty isn’t enough. Of course, it is something you should absolutely do, but make sure you wash your hands before many activities, too! For example, you should wash your hands before preparing and eating food, caring for another person, treating a cut or wound, handling contact lenses or anything coming in contact with your face… the list could go on and on.
An extra tip: Keep a small bottle of lotion in your bag, at your desk, or available somewhere, to avoid dry hands.
Maintain basic hygiene, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing (but not with your hands!), throw away used tissues, don’t share personal items (utensils, razors, towels, etc.), disinfect commonly used surfaces and objects, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth…
Prevent the spread of germs and illness by staying home when you are sick.
Get vaccinated! Protect yourself and those around you from spreading infections by staying up-to-date with recommended vaccinations. This includes the flu shot. The less people vaccinated, the greater chance we have of spreading illnesses that could have been avoided. If you are able to, getting vaccinated can help prevent the spread of illnesses to those extra vulnerable people who cannot, like some pregnant women or people undergoing cancer treatments. The benefits really do outweigh any risks connected with vaccines.