Protecting Yourself Against Viruses

Protecting Yourself Against Viruses

germsOne of my very first jobs as a nurse was to work in Pediatrics at Lutheran General Hospital. The unit I worked in was the Pediatric Specialties Unit where I worked with an Immunovirologist caring for AID's patients. Now at the time back in the 80's.  It was not even called AIDS yet, it was called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The doctors I worked with really did not know too much about it yet as it was so very new. So they were trying various methods to help the patients.  I do remember though how incredibly careful we needed to be when caring for a patient.  We had tight protocol we had to follow.   With the Ebola crisis at hand, the Norovirus and now possibly Polio returning,  I thought I would share some wisdom.

First off, we truly need to care for ourselves and our families by being extra careful in our everyday surroundings. Even if someone is put under quarantine for a virus, we are learning that they may be breaking protocol and heading out into public places including planes and air travel. If they have animals, and their animal is contaminated, that means the urine and feces are also contaminated. If you happen to step in that and come home with it on your shoes, you have now just introduced the virus into your home.  Therefore, if we cannot count on the public to do the right thing to help keep this virus at bay.  We must learn to protect ourselves.

1.  The best way to keep a virus away is to stay healthy with good healthy foods, regular exercise, fresh air and lower stress. They have found that those who are at risk for getting the virus' are those who already have weakened immune systems due to secondary diseases.

2. Wash your hands!   Your hands contain 400,000 germs.  Yep, you read that right, 400,000 germs. So next time someone wants to shake your hand just think, could one of those germs cause me harm?  Think of all the places you touch outside your home on a daily basis and of those places, think of how many other people have touched them.  From gas pumps, to grocery carts and elevator buttons.  The places a virus can live or be passed to you are endless.  We know for a fact that Ebola can live for 4 days on a surface, same goes for most viruses.  I would suggest carrying a liquid hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you cannot get to a place where you can wash your hands with soap and water.

3.  Hand Sanitizer VS Good old Fashioned soap and water.  A study was done last year  with ABC News' Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, along with six graduate students from the University of Maryland who tested liquid hand sanitizer vs hand washing.  They started by deliberately coating their hands with a lab liquid with thousands of E. coli bacteria -- a harmless strain. They then pressed their hands to petri dishes before and after each trial, and then putting the dishes in an incubator for two days to watch the bacteria grow.

Hand sanitizers were up first on the test. The trick with a hand sanitizer is to make sure you  use enough of it. Coat the front and back of your hands, getting them wet enough that they take at least 15 seconds to dry.

A hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol and one labeled "natural," containing no alcohol were used. The results were dramatic: the alcohol-based sanitizer showed dramatically fewer bacteria colonies in the petri dishes than the samples taken before the sanitizer was used.

The non-alcohol sanitizer's results were not as good. Alcohol-based sanitizers work because alcohol breaks up bacterial proteins, and kills them.

Next they tried plain old soap? They tried both regular and antibacterial soap. We found they were about equally effective, and the CDC says they're about the same at preventing illness. But though the soaps might be about the same, It's how you use them that's crucial.

Studies show most of us only spend five seconds at the sink -- and that's not enough. When we tested a five-second wash, the petri dish samples from before and after washing looked virtually the same. You have to wash your hands for a full 20 seconds to really get the bugs off (to make sure you're washing for 20 seconds, sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself twice).

When it comes to fighting bacteria, hand sanitizers work well if you can't get to a sink. Look for one with at least 60 percent alcohol. But washing with any kind of soap is your best option. Soap not only does as well on bacteria as sanitizer, it gets more viruses too -- as long as you wash for long enough.

4.  Air Travel:  If you absolutely have to travel, there are precautions you should take to protect yourself.

  • As you go through security, your first step is to wipe off your license after you hand it to the TSA agent.  Remember he or she has touched hundreds of  license/passports during his or her shift.
  • Wash hands after touching the storage bins while going through security.
  • Unless it is a true emergency do not use the airplane bathroom.  Remember they do not clean the bathrooms after each flight, only after the end of the day.
  • Do not reach your hand into the pocket in the back of the plane seat in front of you.
  • Do wipe off with an antibacterial wipe, the fold out tray, seat belt and armrests.
  • Do bring along your own head sets to plug in for on flight movies.
  • Do carry with you a surgical mask if you indeed find yourself sitting next to someone who is coughing, sneezing or looks to be ill.
  • We need to not worry about vanity but our health during this crisis.
  • If you are renting a car, take care to wipe down the steering wheel and dash.
  • If you are staying in a hotel, wipe down the phone, the remote control and door handles.

Hopefully if we take these precautions and share them with our family members, we can keep the viruses away.  Wishing you a healthy day!

Jill Lindberg, Owner, Destination Fitness

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