Keep the Germs Away

Whether we like it or not, flu season is here. Most of the time, flu season doesn’t stop people from doing the things they enjoy. Take a moment to think about your usual winter activities: maybe it’s holiday shopping, going to the movie theater, or supporting your favorite high school’s sporting or fine arts event. By now it’s getting colder outside so indoor activities become more appealing.

Now imagine doing your favorite indoor winter activities with people coughing and sneezing into their hands all around you. One of these people may even walk up to you and nicely introduce themselves with their hand stretched out to shake. Yikes! This isn’t too hard to imagine because it happens all the time. We have all seen or been a part of this exact same situation.

It’s true, colder weather draws crowds of people inside to avoid the cold and snow. Spending more time inside also means many people are closer than normal to others. This makes germs easier to spread. Influenza (flu) and other serious respiratory illnesses are spread by coughing, sneezing, or touching things with dirty hands. A single sneeze can travel at about 100 mph. It also can project small drops of body fluid with thousands of germs up to 10 feet away. Even a single cough can project germs at speeds of 50 mph.

So what happens to all these germs that get sent into the air? Some are heavy enough that they fall to the floor. Most of them, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, are left hanging in the air. These germs can survive for hours, or even days. They are so tiny that they cannot be seen by the human eye.

So it makes us wonder, how can we avoid getting sick? How can we keep from spreading germs to others if we are already sick?

Washing your hands can be one of the best ways to stop the spread of germs that can make you sick. But it must be done the right way to remove those illness causing germs. Below are the steps to best wash away any germs on your hands.

Wet hands with warm water and apply soap to hands.

Rub hands together firmly for at least 20 seconds, covering all parts of the hands and giving added attention to finger nails and areas where jewelry is worn.

Rinse hands with water.

Dry well with a paper towel.

Use towel to turn off faucet.

Good hand washing is vital! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you and your family a trip to the doctor's office. Handwashing is key to having less germs on your hands. Follow these other steps to further lessen your chances of getting sick or making others sick.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into the upper sleeve of your arm.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Practice other good health habits. Clean frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.

By following this last point, you are helping your body stay well and provide your immune system the support it needs to fight off those germs. When you are sick or have flu symptoms, stay home, get plenty of rest, and check with your doctor as needed. Remember, keeping your distance from others may protect them from getting sick as well. Common symptoms of the flu include:

Fever (usually high)

Headache

Extreme tiredness

Cough

Sore throat

Runny or stuffy nose

Muscle aches

Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, (much more common among children than adults).

 For more information on preventing illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/flu. Or call Four Corners Health Department at (402) 362-2621 or toll free 877-337-3573. Or send email to info@fourcorners.ne.gov.