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Tag: hand-washing

5 Things To Keep Clean to Avoid or Recover From the Flu

Sometimes a little hygiene goes a long way, especially when it comes to prevention of viral infection.

1. Wash your hands with soap any time you come into contact with others, and any time you walk in your house. Antibacterial gels are not a substitute for a good hand washing. Hand washing standards call for at least 30 seconds of washing with soap under water, or, as they teach the preschoolers, while singing the ABC’s twice through.

air duct needs cleaning
The view inside an air duct in my house before it was cleaned recently. Eeewww!

Oh, and you do not need to use antibacterial soap; regular old soap is plenty fine. Antibacterial soaps, gels, and other products are likely contributing to the emergence of super antibiotic-resistant bugs in our hospitals and water supplies.

2. Clean all sheets and towels often, and especially after any illness. Don’t re-use washclothes between washings. Some virus germs, like the norovirus that causes “winter vomiting bug,” can live on fabrics for as long as twelve days! Remember the infamous story of early American colonists delivering smallpox-infected blankets to a Native American village? The entire village was shortly wiped out from smallpox.

3. Replace your toothbrush regularly, and especially after any illness.

4. Get the air ducts cleaned and sanitized in your house, particularly if it has been longer than five years since this has been done. Virus germs, mold spores, and other types of filth can live in your air ducts and be re-circulated through your indoor air every time you turn on heat or air conditioning.

5. Wipe down your phone and keyboard with cleaners. Do this on a regular basis with other objects that you touch constantly after you’ve been out and about as well, like your steering wheel, tablet, television remote control, etc.

Money Can Carry the Flu Virus

The December, 2009, issue of Consumer Reports offers a couple tips for prevention of flu and swine flu. In their poll a few months ago, CR learned that only 34% of respondents intended to get the swine flu vaccine, so it behooves us all to practice good hygiene during this flu season.

N95 surgical mask to prevent swine flu

While they recommended frequent hand washing and a N95 surgical mask for caregivers of flu patients, the most interesting thing I learned was that “some evidence suggests a virus can survive for three days on paper money.”

Wow: a virus can live for 3 days on a piece of paper! I always knew money was dirty, though I think I had assumed it was more coins than bills.

I remember a biologist friend shuddering as she recounted her willful preschooler licking a penny just to spite her informed mother. “I’ve seen what’s on coins underneath the microscope,” my friend cried. “They are swarming with germs.”

Luckily, her little girl didn’t pick anything nasty up that day, but the Consumer Reports article is a good reminder to always wash our hands after handling money. It’s probably a good habit to get into, even when we’re not facing a flu outbreak!

CR also recommends using disinfectant wipes on phones and computer keyboards, another good practice to remember since they can hang onto germs we bring in on our hands from the outside. Their final piece of advice is that if you have a cough and fever, STAY HOME! To this I’ll add, “and take Oscillococcum immediately!”

Prevent Swine Flu Naturally

Are you feeling the pressure to get the untested H1N1 vaccine in order to prevent swine flu? Any time a vaccine is rushed to market the way this one was there is a greater risk to the general population, besides having little proof of its efficacy.

We are holding firm in our family and are determined not to get this dangerous vaccine, or the regular flu shot, either. Instead, we are opting for preventing the flu and swine flu with natural remedies and common sense hygiene practices.

Dr. Vinay Goyal is an MBBS,DRM,DNB (Intensivist and Thyroid specialist) with more than 20 years of clinical experience. He has worked in institutions like Hinduja Hospital, Bombay Hospital, Saifee Hospital, Tata Memoria, etc. Presently, he heads the Nuclear Medicine Department and Thyroid clinic at Riddhivinayak Cardiac and Critical Centre in Malad, India.

Dr. Goyal notes that the only portals of entry for the virus are the nostrils and mouth/throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it’s almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions. Contact with H1N1 is not so much of a problem as the proliferation of the virus in your body can be.

In order to prevent proliferation of the virus, aggravation of symptoms, and development of secondary infections, you can take some very simple steps while you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection. Instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu, consider these preventative measures and avoid the whole shebang.

1. Frequent hand-washing (this practice is well highlighted in all official communications from the medical community). In our house, washing your hands comes immediately after removing your shoes in the entryway. Just as shoes track germs from the outside world in through your house, your hands will bring in anything you’ve touched and deposit it on your doorknobs, fridge handle, computer keyboard, etc. Wash your hands before you touch anything or anybody.

2. “Hands-off-the-face” approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap), recommends Dr. Goyal. Slap? Slapping may be more common in other cultures than our own, but we have a rule against that, too, in our house. Not touching your face is a good habit to get into anyway since your fingers can deposit dirt and grime along with bacteria and viruses, all of which can give you some pretty nasty breakouts. So no hands on the face.

3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don’t trust salt). H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don’t underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.

4. Similar to 3 above, clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. Not everybody may be good at Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (very good Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population. Personally, I’m a fan of Sinus Rinse and use it all the time to stay healthy.

5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C. Some good ones are kiwis, strawberries, citrus fruits, acai berries, and rosehips. If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it is a full-spectrum C (not just ascorbic acid) and also has Zinc to boost absorption.

6. Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm. Since it has decided to snow here already, this is not a problem for me!  🙂

To Dr. Goyal’s list let me add a few more disease prevention remedies I have found work well to stay healthy during flu season:

7. Take probiotics regularly. When I start my kids off with a shot of Good Belly probiotic drink every day I notice they miss fewer days of school and are generally healthier.

8. Don’t skimp on sleep. A run-down body is more susceptable to colonization by detrimental agents like viruses.

9. Wash towels and sheets regularly in unscented detergent. Artificial fragrances can irritate sinus cavities and make them more hospitable environments for germs to thrive.

10. If you start feeling sick, drink some garlic tea as soon as possible. Repeat as often as necessary until symptoms subside. Feel free to add some fresh ginger to the mix for an added anti-viral/antibacterial boost. Garlic tea has never failed me.

Now, let’s get out there and stay healthy!