Fall is such a beautiful time of year with the vibrant colors and crisp air. Unfortunately, we are about to embark on a much less anticipated season--cold and flu season. Picture it: There you are, browsing the autumn decorations at Target during a rare free moment without your children, perhaps trying to decipher which of the pumpkin-spiced candles you like better. The aisle is crowded with shoppers squeezing by you to pick through what’s left of the orange and yellow wreaths, when the person next to you coughs.
And no, it’s not just your typical cough. There’s no spring pollen tickling their throat. This is the dreaded, wet, “someone-spray-me-with-Lysol” cough. You say “Bless you” automatically, but your mind is screaming, “Cover your mouth! I don’t want your sickness!” It seems many adults need a refresher course in preventing the spread of germs. You learn to cough into the inside of your elbow in preschool, folks. They sometimes call it the chicken wing. You should try it. Now I have a craving for chicken wings, but that’s another blog. Studies show the flu virus has been found to survive on a hard surface for at least 24 hours and can even survive on a porous surface for 8-12 hours. That means clothing and toys, for example. Combine that with the fact that a sneeze travels 8 meters and gross little droplets are suspended in the air for 10 minutes, just waiting for their next victim. It creates a lovely mental image, I know, but it’s very real. So keep the following tips in mind as the weather cools down and we dredge through the winter months. Hopefully you’ll be able to keep those wet-coughers from sharing their cooties with you.
Wash your hands.
This first rule is so simple it shouldn’t have to be mentioned, but wash your hands. Not just after using the restroom, but often, throughout the day. And if you’re reading this and don’t wash after the restroom... On behalf of the other people reading this, please start!
Sanitize your cell phone.
Numerous viruses could be collecting on the back of your phone when you lay it down on a desk or countertop while paying at a store. And you don’t even want to imagine what germs may be lurking on the screen, since that is the area smooshed against your face anytime you make a phone call. “Siri, use speaker phone from now on.”
Credit cards and debit cards are pretty disgusting, considering they are swiped several times a day to pay for groceries, dinners, gas, etc. Even worse, sometimes they need to be passed over to a cashier inside a window and swiped by hand. You don’t know where those hands have been, let alone the owners of every other card they’ve swiped that day. That is a perfect example of how germs spread like wildfire.
Use hand sanitizer.
As mentioned above, the majority of people pay for gas with a card. No one particularly likes to get out at the gas station and go inside. We are all in a rush. But you’re holding the same gas pump that someone with a sinus infection was holding 15 minutes before you, someone with a sick child at home was holding before that, and let’s not get into the people who blow their nose in the car. Okay, I’m sure you get the picture, so I’ll stop there. Keep a pump bottle of hand sanitizer in your car. You can pick them up at the dollar store, and they fit perfectly in the inside of your door or console.
Watch your children when they’re at a checkout with you. Impulse-buy items are strategically placed there so people waiting will spend time rummaging through them. That also means several toddlers got bored with their short attention spans and spent time touching them and even putting some of the items in their mouths. Now you realize why the lower shelves are the ones so disorganized.
Watch out in the waiting room.
Lastly, sometimes we go to the doctor for a simple reason and pick up a stomach bug or something much worse in the process. Most of us have done it. My daughter went in with an ear infection and picked up strep throat the only time she’s ever had it. And believe me, this germaphobe was being careful. One of the main areas in need of caution is the waiting room. Do you really need to read that magazine in the waiting room? Is that holiday pecan pie recipe worth the risk? And I would think twice before letting your little one wander over to the toys and hands-on gadgets always set up to keep them occupied.
Unless they’re already pretty sick, maybe bring something from home with you instead for them to color. We all try to limit screen time, but this is one of those occasions to make an exception with that game on your phone. You’ll be glad you did. Candy crush or Cookie Swirl C could be save you.
We can’t prevent contact with all germs, of course. Sometimes we get sick, and that’s a natural part of life. We build immunity against certain viruses that way. However, simple habits such as the ones above, as well as remembering to wipe down keyboards and doorknobs on a regular basis, should drastically cut down your chances of contracting a cold or the dreaded flu virus. So be careful out there, make sure you are taking vitamins, teach your children about the spread of germs, and of course, the famous chicken wing cough. I taught 3-year-olds for years. Trust me, if they can do it, so can you.