How to Avoid Catching H1N1 – Truth Versus Myth
There is currently a lot of information (and misinformation) out there about the H1N1 influenza strain. It is difficult to know whom to believe with all the media trumpeting the infection (and death) rates, state by state. But, did you know that the best source for up-to-date and accurate information is actually your local hospital! They will have all the local statistics, of course, but also the information that affects you and your own community. Here are a few basic hospital tips about avoiding the H1N1 strain of influenza:
– Wash your hands, OFTEN. It seems so simplistic, but it is paramount to staying well. And how you wash is as important as the frequency. Don’t just rinse your hands under water; that will not be enough to kill bacteria on your skin. You must use an antibacterial soap, lather it up, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to get enough germs off your hands to count.
– If you are in a public restroom, don’t touch anything with your hands after you have washed. We who worked in the hospital field for years learned how to do the restroom shuffle: you use the paper towel to open the door, hold it open with your foot and dispose of the towel WITHOUT TOUCHING THE TRASH CAN, ON THE WAY OUT. If there is no can right beside the door, drop the towel on the floor after you open the door. It is their problem if they don’t know that trash cans need to be right beside doors, for this reason.
– When you go to the grocery store, you should actually use those antibacterial wipes they leave beside the carts. Grocery store carts are notoriously filthy, often having multiple layers of bacteria left from baby’s diapers, children’s noses and mouths, bloody meat, etc. If you think about it, you will want to really wipe down the handle and anything you touch on those things.
– Try to keep a polite distance from people. If you are a hugger (or someone tries to hug you), it is best to keep your distance during flu season. However, a hug is actually better than a handshake (see the hand-washing section above) so try to choose the one that will be least offensive and still offer you the best protection. And not to sound too paranoid, but an enclosed movie theater, airline passenger section or classroom is not the best place to be during flu season. A person who sneezes or coughs while infected and in an enclosed space can actually infect dozens of just one sneeze!
– Eat a good and healthy diet, with an emphasis on fresh greens and fruit. There is controversy about whether or not vitamin C is really helpful, but it certainly won’t hurt, in small doses, and I find it makes me just feel better during the winter months, anyway. But, don’t overdose; not only is that not healthy but you are wasting your money as Vitamin C that you ingest is excreted from the body, anyway.
– Drink LOTS of water, especially if you are in a dry climate AND going to be in an enclosed area (such as an airplane or classroom). Water helps moisten all of your membranes making it harder for germs to take hold and also just helps your body to work more efficiently to combat germs.
– If you use a computer every day, wipe the keyboard (and also your phone) with antibacterial wipes, once a day. This is especially important if you share that computer and phone with anyone else.
In closing, nothing can guarantee your not catching the H1N1, but if you are careful and sensible and follow the simple guidelines above, you will have the best chance of staying healthy and well this flu season.