The Back Story: Several Decembers ago, three out of the five members of my family became very ill. Walking pneumonia/bronchitis and other ailments struck our home. One of my kids missed a month of school and was almost hospitalized. It was during that period when SARs was big in the news and my mom suspected that we may have had a taste of that bug.
In my case, an all-night marathon of work clearly weakened my immune system. But my sons and I became ill after going to the movies. I think we must have picked up germs from the handrail or other contact with a contaminated surface. I was always a big hand washer, but I must have fallen down on the job during that movie visit. Going forward, I've been even stricter about washing hands. Here are my rules:
1. Don't eat while shaking hands: Either socialize or eat. But don't eat after you've shaken hands with anyone. Here are the options at cocktail parties, holiday gatherings and other events: 1) Network & starve or 2) Wash hands, eat & be a hermit. Don't try to do both options at the same time. But if you must eat while networking: Feed yourself with the (clean) hand that no one has touched.
2. Don't eat after touching money: When buying snacks at a mall or movie, don't touch your food until you've washed your hands, especially if you've handled money. And never, never accept food from a vendor who touches money and then touches the (unwrapped) food that you will eat.
3. Don't touch any surface in a public restroom: Take a paper towel to touch door handles, faucet handles, dryers, etc.
4. Use handle railings with care. If possible, I try to avoid holding onto the handrails on stairs and escalators in stores, malls and movie theaters. If I worry about falling, I lean on the railing with an elbow or I'll use a tissue as a barrier.
Likewise, these health guidelines from the Dec. 24 issue of First for Women magazine are great, especially for the high-contact holiday season.
1. Don't use other people's cell phones.
2. Avoid makeup testers at stores ("germ hot spots")
3. Don't use public pens at banks, stores or the Post Office. Nearly 3,000 people may hit the checkout counter during a typical shopping day in major stores.
4. Clip your nails. The list of potential germs under long nails sounds really awful, according to one study cited in the magazine article.
5. Zip then flush in public toilets. I don't know how to say this politely, but get fully clothed before flushing in public bathrooms. Hint: Beware of spraying toilets.
6. Avoid putting personal possessions on public bathroom sinks. I try to avoid public surfaces altogether.
7. Carry handwipes.
8. DIY cleaning service: Use wipes on airline trays, even before you put down your laptop. Even before you touch the little "release knob." Consider this factoid: "Research presented at this year's meeting of the American Society for Microbiology found that 60 percent of airplane tray tables harbored the antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA."--Dec. 24 issue of First for Women
9. Avoid the mini-fridge in your hotel room. Not only are the prices expensive, but so many people may have touched that mini-fridge and handled the food/beverage items.
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