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How to keep people plus your family healthy this flu and cold season and maybe even help save lives.

Updated on October 10, 2011

You can help control the germs that cause flu and colds

The flu and cold viruses are rapidly increasing each year, both in intensity and resistance. The increasing various strains seem to hit some people harder than others, our most vulnerable elderly neighbors and family members, and those with already compromised health issues maybe unable to handle the intensity of these new viruses. This makes flu and cold prevention and controlling germs in a household, business or an office environment a real potential life and death matter.

Despite the current medical knowledge, many misconceptions and myths still remain among the general population. Most people have an overall apathy or some may call it ignorance towards flu and cold prevention. They will just shrug their shoulders saying it just happens and go about their day to day activities. If they become sick they either don’t care or don’t realize the impact they have on other lives. You know these people, they are the ones standing at the front of the line touching everything that you will need to use when you reach the front, hacking sneezing and going on and on about how awful sick they are.

If you have a family member or co-worker who could be severely compromised by catching the flu, or just want to protect others around you daily, you can make a real impact by educating people on the importance of controlling germs and having an action plan whenever a family member or fellow worker shows potential signs of having a cold or flu.

You don’t need to become a germ freak that everyone begins to make fun of, but a good round table meeting to discuss this very important public health matter is a good start.

Frequent hand washing and disinfectants is your first line of defense

Just good old soap and washing the hands frequently should be priority #1. This in itself is a major public health issue considering the number of men and women who don’t even wash their hands after using the bathroom. Most people don’t realize the mucus and droplets excreted from the nasal area is the highest concentration of germs presented when a person has a cold or flu. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that a person should turn and sneeze into their upper arm and shoulder instead of sneezing into their hands. If everyone could realize this one element of prevention we could drastically reduce the transmission of hands spreading the influenza (the "flu" virus) and rhinovirus (one of the causes of the common cold) as well as other germs. The handling of ones used Kleenex’s and using hand disinfectant should be obviously encouraged.

There is a growing concern about the use of anti-bacterial hand soaps, as these may be even contributing the anti-resistance of newer viruses. Most health care professionals are now recommending just old fashioned hand soap and frequent hand washing. This isn't just a quick run of the fingers under the running water, but a real lather up, and rubbing the hands for at least 20 seconds according to the CDC. Having adequate supplies of soap and towels at every hand sink in the home or office is a great start.

During the cold and flu season disinfecting items that come into frequent daily contact such as door knobs, computer key boards, telephones, remote controls, counter tops, hand rails etc, should be on a routine daily cleaning list with a disinfectant cleaner capable of killing the germs that spread cold and flu viruses. If you are not sure if your disinfecting kills all the germs, you can use regular Clorox Bleach. Use 1 tablespoon of Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water, and wipe down nonporous surfaces. As with all disinfectants it should stand 2 minutes and air dry. Most people will wipe off the disinfectant and not allow it the time it needs to kill the germs. This bleach solution will kill a variety of germs including bacteria like Staph, Salmonella and E. coli, the viruses such as influenza and rhinovirus. Many grocery chains have made the move to offer disinfecting wipes at the entry to the store to wipe down the handles of shopping carts. This should also be done after handling raw meats.

Most all healthcare settings now offer hand sanitizer dispensers at the front entrance and throughout the hallways. Other stores, offices and businesses should be encouraged to follow the same precautions in protecting the public health. At least offer a bottle of hand sanitizer at the bank service counter, store checkout and other customer areas, where people use common touch code, or writing instruments. In the home hand sanitizers or wipes should also be considered for computer keyboards remote controls, light switches, toilet flush handles and other high traffic, high touch areas.

People who understand and want to protect themselves appreciate the attention to detail and will use those items made available to them, maybe even choose only those stores and businesses that have their customers health in the best interest of the business. Perhaps this may change the attitudes towards this growing health issue.

Proper nutrition, a good night’s sleep, exercise, and drinking plenty of fluids during the season are a “win-win” for everyone. Immunizations, is still highly recommended, have you had your flu shot yet?

If a co-worker or family member should become ill and present a fever, they should be encouraged to go home, go to a bedroom and just try to not make contact with people until their fever is gone, as this is when a person is the most contagious.

We have a standing rule in our home that if you are sick you are banned from the kitchen, and using other family areas, including the family computer where your germs could come into contact with another family member.

You simply don’t need someone sick in the home or the office break room rummaging through the silverware drawers, grabbing the fridge door handle and everything else to contaminate. We will go to the extreme of placing the TV remote in a zip lock bag if the sick family member wants to watch TV, and we will dish up their meals for them to eat, even use paper plates and disposable silverware.

Kids are the most difficult to control, but a good sit down to talk about Mr. Yucky Germ might just be one of the best talks you can have with your kids, at least to take precautions and wash their hands at school. Who knows where the super bugs will be when they become adults. There is already some pretty scary stuff out there right now where no antibiotics will even touch.

For all those who don’t care about who they infect, all this may sound way to the extreme and just my level of paranoid thinking. For those who do understand the importance it is just common sense. Bottom line as other families are dealing with the cold or flu going through the household many times each season, we generally are able to contain it to the only one family member. That is important to me because I do have a compromised immune system.

Just think all the public surfaces those infected people touch will likely also be touched by 100s or maybe even 1000s of other people. Any one of those people may have a compromised immune system themselves or be on their way to visit an elderly family member in a nursing home who just won't survive a severe flu, or cold this season.

Depending on the temperature,humidity and amount of the deposit, viruses such as influenza and rhinovirus can last from a few minutes to 48 hours on hard surfaces. Influenza can even outlast the rhinovirus.

Let's all stay safe and keep our family and co-workers healthy this flu and cold season.

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    • profile image

      Mark S 

      6 years ago

      Very Good sugguestions

    • Angelladywriter profile image

      Claudette Coleman Carter 

      6 years ago from Media, Pennsylvania

      Nice article. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions.

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