Save self from crud

Published 12:52 am Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The creepy crud and flu are going around. My kids had a touch of it, as have others in my office. I will confess I haven’t had a flu shot – this year or ever.

Bobbie Meyer, the laboratory and infection prevention official at Andalusia Regional Hospital, sent out common sense approaches to preventing the spread of the virus du jour that were too good not to share.

Meyer said people should look beyond the obvious of steering clear of runny noses and hacking coughs and follow this simple advice:

• Wash your hands frequently. (That one should be a no brainer, I thought.)

“Did you know that microbes can live on inert surfaces anywhere from a few minutes to several months?” she said. “Imagine these disease-causing microorganisms living on your computer keyboard, your light switch, or even on the elevator button! Surprisingly, most people don’t know the best way to effectively wash their hands! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing thoroughly and vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, followed by hand-drying with a paper towel.

• Don’t share personal items. Toothbrushes, towels, razors, handkerchiefs and even nail clippers can all be sources of infectious agents.

“In kindergarten, you were taught to share your toys, but keep your hands to yourself,” she said. “Now try to remember to keep personal items to yourself as well! Remind children often about the types of items they should not share with others.”

• Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

“Why is this important if you aren’t sick? For most infections, the disease-causing microbe has already started growing and dividing long before any symptoms begin to show,” she said. “Coughing or sneezing can spread these germs through microscopic droplets in the air. The current recommendation is to cover your mouth with your arm, sleeve, or crook of the elbow, rather than using your hands.”

• Get vaccinated. Your immune system is designed to have a “memory” of previous infections, Meyer said.

“When your body encounters a microbe that has previously caused an infection, it enhances its production of white blood cells and antibodies to prevent infection a second time,” she said. “However, by getting vaccinated, you ‘trick’ your body into thinking that it has been infected by a particular microbe, hence enhancing its own defenses against subsequent infection. Of course consult your clinician about receiving vaccinations, especially the annual influenza vaccination.”

Excuse me now while I head out to attempt to get a flu shot.