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Avoiding Winter Woos

Have a wonderful and healthy trip. Bon voyage.

Adele and I recently returned from a 10-day Caribbean cruise. And besides overeating—which is certainly a long term health issue, we exposed and were exposed to hundreds of coughing, sneezing and sniffling people.

I would say that we were on a "ship of germs" but to its credit, these cruise ships realize the problem and go out of their way to minimize the risk.

Coming to any meal—or in-between snack, the entranceway sported a hand washing station or a hand sanitizing station, maybe both.

More often than not, there's a staff person who's sole job is to make sure you are reminded to wash. This gets old in a hurry, but is a good idea. I don't remember anyone doing anything about sneezing.

And that's what got me to thinking about this whole area of preventing the spread of germs by washing and sanitizing. So here goes.

First—Bio 101—what's a germ Well, it's something small that may make you sick. It basically comes in two flavors—the ones you can see under a microscope - bacteria and the ones you cannot see under a microscope - viruses.

Next, always remember that antibiotics can only work on bacteria, NEVER VIRUSES. Those who take antibiotics for viral diseases are only asking for side effects and adding to the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. Many of the old school antibiotics no longer are effective, AND for some diseases, there are fewer and fewer antibiotics that are effective —sometimes none.

But let's get back to avoiding winter woos. First, let's take a gander at hand cleanliness. Basically, there are two approaches: hand washing and hand sanitizing.

How effective is hand washing? Here's something interesting—hand washing is only effective on bacteria, not on viruses.

Next, let's look at a study of washing your hands after using the potty, or touching door handles and railings in public spaces.

On average:

  • Washing hands for 15 seconds with water alone removes about 77% of the bacteria.
  • Washing hands for 15 seconds with water and soap removes 92% of the bacteria.
  • Soap and water wash bacteria away, they do not kill bacteria.
  • Washing with water and anti-bacterial soap works about the same as with soap and water.
  • Neither water, soap or anti-bacterial soap has much effect on viruses.








Hand sanitizers

  • can't remove grime as does soap and water.
  • Hand sanitizers with 62% alcohol will kill some bacteria and even some viruses—only if they are used in large amounts—enough to cover the entire hand, nails, etc.
  • Hand sanitizers are not recommended to be used at home.

Cracked skin
Too much hand cleaning can cause your skin to crack—letting the germs into your blood system.

So what about colds? After all this hand cleaning, does this help prevent colds? Basically, No. Colds and flu are caused by viruses—and most hand cleaning is not all that effective on viruses.

So, how are colds spread? By sneezing and touching another person. The worse habit out there is putting your hand in front of your mouth when you chew or sneeze—and then touching someone.

Instead, use a tissue, the inside of your elbow, or sneeze into a vacant outside area. Viruses can live on surfaces for hours.

Unfortunately, washing your hands and then using a shared towel is a common path to spread disease.

Oh yeah—the flu shot. As in a previous article, the flu shot is said to reduce your chance of getting the flu from about 2% to about 1%—probably too small to measure.

I actually got the flu shot this year—in anticipation of going on the trip. I got sick pretty soon after and six weeks later, I was well enough to go on the cruise.

Adele got the flu shot and wasn't sick until after the cruise.

So, what is the advice of the health pros?
Be careful who you kiss, sleep with, hug, talk to, and visit, Be careful what you breathe, touch, drink, eat, eat on, etc, etc.

Oh yeah, and avoid children—especially those who attend day care.

So, these are my suggestions. Hope you have a wonderful and healthy trip. Bon voyage.

~ Al Zagofsky









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