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PMH HealthBeat

Fight off flu germs with these tips

It seems that everyone knows someone who has had the flu this winter. This year has seen a very busy flu season.

Flu activity usually peaks between December and March, although activity can last as late as May. Therefore, we must continue to take precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy.

How many of us have ever used our scarf or gloves to wipe our nose or cover a sneeze/cough when a tissue wasn’t available? What did we touch afterwards with a runny nose-contaminated glove – a steering wheel, doorknob, stair railing or seat? Have you ever loaned a scarf or gloves to your child or hung your clothing up in the office next to co-workers? This is called cross contamination.

Lori Riggsby, Infection Control Nurse at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, reminds us of the importance of washing our gloves and scarves on a regular basis, preferably once per week or when soiled. It stands to reason that gloves and scarves are just as germy as other fabrics that haven’t been cleaned—maybe more so because they are less likely to be cleaned on a routine basis. Leather and suede gloves would most likely need to be dry cleaned, and knit gloves would probably not fare too well in the washing machine. But think about how germy they are after people cough, sneeze and wipe their noses with their gloves and scarves!

Most germs will survive for two or three days on inanimate objects—some longer. They don’t have to look soiled or smell bad to be loaded with germs.

Here are some tips to help you stay healthy this winter:

* Clean your hands often. It’s the most important way to prevent the spread of infections.

* Carry tissues and hand sanitizer with you at all times.

* Keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes.

* Take your gloves off when using or touching objects that other people use or touch. This includes the ATM, shopping carts, and door knobs. Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) immediately after you use such items. It’s easier to clean your hands than the gloves.

* When taking your gloves off, carefully loosen them at the fingertips, and pull them off with your opposite hand. Don’t use your teeth or mouth.

* Don’t stuff your dirty or wet gloves and scarves in your pocket. They need to dry thoroughly to kill the germs.

* Wash your gloves and scarves often—preferably once per week or when soiled.

* Get a flu shot every year.

* Avoid people who are sick with a respiratory or stomach virus. Stay home from work or school if you are sick.

* Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not into your gloves or scarf.

If you have the flu, you are actually contagious one day before you experience any signs or symptoms and can actually be contagious for up to seven days. If you become ill and suspect the flu you should see your primary care provider. Your provider may have you begin antiviral treatment. The flu is spread by droplets and can spread within three-to-six feet in the air as well as on surfaces such as door knobs, handles, telephones, etc. Hard surfaces should be cleaned frequently with antiviral antiseptic cleaners.

It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine. If you would like to make an appointment with the Rural Health Clinic to receive a vaccine or because you suspect you have the flu, please call 304-799-7200.

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