When we speak of avoiding or spreading germs, it’s important to be clear. “Germs” are microscopic organisms (also known as microbes) that are capable of causing disease. Germs — disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and viruses — are also called pathogens. It is definitely worthwhile to avoid contacting or spreading pathogens. To that end, we have assembled some suggestions for minimizing your exposure.
Of course, not all microbes are to be avoided. In fact, microbes are integral to our daily lives. It is neither desirable — nor even possible — to be truly free of microbes. They’re literally everywhere. For example, trillions of “friendly” bacteria live in our digestive tracts. These gut microbes are actually an integral component of our bodies.
They also live on our skin, and in other locations where our bodies interface with the external environment. They’re even in our food. For instance, the probiotic cultures in fermented foods, such as yogurt, are actually beneficial. A healthy community of gut microbes (the microbiome) is essential for maintaining excellent health. Emerging research indicates that a healthy gut microbiome can affect body weight, boost immunity, and even influence mood.
Common hygiene practices, such as good hand washing, or avoiding cross contamination of foods in the kitchen, are effective ways to reduce the chances of contacting or spreading potentially dangerous germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are now common and their use may help cut down on disease transmission, too.
Good hand washing hygiene does not rely on extremely hot water, painful scrubbing, or the use of special anti-bacterial soaps. Research has shown that good old-fashioned, conscientious hand washing under running tap water with ordinary soap is sufficient to cut down on the transmission of germs by hand.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks hand washing down into five easy steps: wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry. They recommend scrubbing for at least 20 seconds for best results. While 20 seconds may not sound like much, try timing yourself the next time you wash. You may be surprised to discover that 20 seconds is somewhat longer than you think.
And make no mistake: Hands are a primary means of transmitting infection among humans. It makes sense, then, to always wash your hands thoroughly, immediately after using the bathroom, handling raw foods, changing diapers, or touching surfaces such as door knobs or railings out in public. Not surprisingly, children are frequent sources of infection. Schools are breeding grounds for diseases and children often fail to wash hands properly, if at all. Take a moment to review good hygiene practices with your child to help cut down on illnesses.
Using effective cleaners is also an important aspect of minimizing exposure to pathogens in daily life. Kitchens and bathrooms are two places in most homes where potential pathogens may be found. Accordingly, it is especially important to use effective cleaners regularly in these areas to avoid spreading germs.
Of course, many cases of food borne illness occur every year in the United States. In most instances, these are eventually linked to seemingly innocent foods, such as leafy greens or other produce items, which may have been contaminated before ever reaching store shelves. Unfortunately, there is little consumers can do to prevent exposure to pathogens in these instances. Washing whole fruits and vegetables before use may help, but some foods, such as lettuce or spinach, may have taken up pathogens in the water used to grow them. There is no way to wash away these germs. If you have concerns, check with CDC’s website for any alerts
Safe Personal Habits
In addition to frequent hand washing, it is helpful to avoid rubbing your eyes or touching your mouth or nose if you have been around someone who is sick. Upper respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold, are primarily spread through touch. Droplets containing viruses capable of infecting you are typically projected through the air when a sick person sneezes or coughs. These viruses can live for a time on nearby surfaces.
If you touch a contaminated surface, and then rub your eyes, for example, you may infect yourself. By the same token, if you are sick, try to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, so you don’t spread your illness to others.
- Always wash hands thoroughly after handling raw foods, touching surfaces in public places, or spending time with people who are ill.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes or touching you mouth when others around you show signs of illness.
Good General Health Hygiene
Other easy-to-overlook practices include getting adequate sleep, eating a healthful diet that includes plenty of whole foods, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, and getting recommended vaccines. All of these practices help the immune system remain strong, so it can work to protect you against infection with pathogens.
Despite our best efforts to ward off germs, even the healthiest among us get sick. Whether it’s a cold, the flu, a twisted ankle, or a troubling fever, PhysicianOne Urgent Care is here 7 days per week for high-quality urgent care, at a fraction of the cost of the Emergency Room. Contact us at 1.855.349.2828, or stop in today for a convenient, walk-in visit. If you’re looking to save time, find a location near you and check in online today!