Courtesy of Cy-Fair Hospital
With flu season now among us, Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital would like to help you fight germs. Germs live everywhere and are spread through the air in sneezes or coughs, or through body fluids such as sweat, saliva or blood. Once these pesky little germs get into your body, they can damage or destroy healthy cells, use your nutrients and energy, and produce waste products, known as toxins, which can cause a variety of illnesses. But rather than leaving out the welcome mat for some not-so-friendly germs, you can take steps to help germ-proof your home.
You can start by learning about the different types of germs. Bacteria are one-celled organisms found throughout nature that can help you, through medicines or vaccines, or hurt you, through cavities or strep throat. Viruses cannot live on their own and need a host to survive. Viruses cause the common cold or hepatitis. Fungi are multi-celled organisms that like to live in damp, warm environments. Examples of fungal infections include athlete’s foot and yeast infections. Protozoa are one-celled organisms that love the water and can cause intestinal infections.
Hand washing is the first line of defense against spreading germs. Wash your hands before eating or cooking, and after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, petting an animal, working in the yard, and visiting someone who is sick. Use soap and warm water to wash hands thoroughly. Remember to wash for 20 seconds and clean under your fingernails. Dry with a clean towel. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cleaning surfaces with soap and water on a routine basis to remove germs usually is enough, but sometimes you may want to use a disinfectant to destroy germs. Areas that should be disinfected include food preparation counters in the kitchen and all surfaces in the bathroom. Remember not to let germs hang around in cleaning cloths or towels. Instead, use sanitizing wipes or paper towels that can be thrown away or wash towels later in hot water.
Stop the spread of germs in the kitchen by washing cutting boards, utensils, dishes and counter tops. Do not cross-contaminate foods. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables under running water. Cook foods to the proper temperature to kill bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. Remember to refrigerate foods promptly and store leftovers properly.
If you have animals in your home, do not let children play in areas where pets go to the bathroom. Litter boxes should be cleaned daily; however, pregnant women should not clean litter boxes. Prevent contact with wild animals, which can carry deadly diseases such as hantavirus and rabies, by keeping garbage cans closed and sealing any entrance holes to your home. Use insect repellant to prevent ticks.
A little prevention can go a long way. Practicing simple habits, such as hand washing, can help protect your health.