The flu has recently made the news, as the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, has spread from Mexico to the United States. Doctors recommend vaccination as a way to prevent getting the flu, but the vaccine cannot protect you against every strain and mutation of the virus. Good health habits can help you stay healthy. The Centers For Disease Control recommends that you take the following steps to prevent the spread of germs.
Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands frequently will protect you from the spread of germs. This sounds simple, but most people don’t wash their hands properly. Although most people say that they wash their hands after using the restroom, many do not. In a study conducted by the American Society of Microbiologists, 10% of women do not wash their hands after using a public restroom, and 25% of men did not wash their hands after using a public restroom. You should also wash your hands after changing a baby’s diaper, handling money, handling food, sneezing, or touching a pet.
Even those that do wash their hands don’t know how to wash their hands properly. Rather than just running your hands under water for a couple of seconds, you should use soap, lather well, and rub your hands well under the faucet for at least 15 to 20 seconds to be effective. This is about the length of time that it takes to sing the alphabet once, or “Happy Birthday” twice. Be sure to scrub the back of your hands, underneath your fingernails, and between your fingers. You can reinfect yourself by turning off the faucet with your hands, so use a towel or your elbow to turn it off.
Avoid Contact with Sick People
If you get the flu, stay home from work or school. Postpone unnecessary errands. This will keep other people from getting sick as well. If you are well, avoid being in close contact with people that are sick.
Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Mouth, and Nose
Your skin acts as a protective barrier against many viruses, but your immune system is particularly vulnerable around your eyes, mouth, and nose. Protect yourself by not touching these areas. This is one of the reasons why you should wash your hands before you eat.
Keep Your Mouth and Nose Covered
If you have to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose. You can “catch your cough” in the crook of your arm, to avoid getting germs on your hands. If you sneeze into your hands, wash your hands afterwards to wash the germs that you might have sneezed onto them.
Strengthen Your Immune System
A good, strong immune system is a great defense from getting sick. Getting enough sleep, managing stress, exercising, and drinking plenty of fluids will help boost your immune system. Also, eat a good diet with nutritious food.
Practicing these healthy habits will help you avoid getting sick, and if you do get sick, it will help you avoid infecting others, and will help you get better faster.
Bakalar, Nicholas. “Many Don’t Wash Hands After Using the Bathroom.” New York Times.com, September 27, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/27/health/27wash.html?_r=1
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Hand Washing: An Easy Way to Prevent Infection.” Mayo Clinic.com, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hand-washing/HQ00407
“Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs.” Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm