Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flu Patrol

We have heard all about the flu on the news, and depending on your area, the H1N1 or swine flu is either at its peak or just past it.

My concern, and the concern of many health care professionals is that another wave of flu is on its way. I just want to give a gentle reminder that you need to take the regular flu shot as soon as possible. Even if you have had the H1N1 virus already, you could still be hit by the second wave.

I do think it is time to get aggressive and be very careful to avoid the spread of germs. One of the best ways to do this is simply to wash your hands -- and do it often. I have read that hand washing is a lost art and I can believe it. Many feel that washing hands could significantly cut the spread of colds and flu. Also, consistently carrying wipes and using them before eating, touching others or your own eyes, nose or mouth would greatly reduce the spread of the germs that cause colds and flu.

A problem with using most commercial wipes is they really don't have what it takes to kill the spread of a virus. Wipes must contain at least 70 percent alcohol to kill these germs, so putting a little Purell on our hands might not be enough. (Most products don't contain that much alcohol.) Also, some products don't have any alcohol at all.

I recently heard a scientist speak on public radio about his flu studies. He said that according to his research, wiping alone, with nothing, was as effective as using a store-bought product, like Purell. So, just wiping can remove germs -- still hand washing is the best protection against disease. He also said that staying out of public bathrooms is a good idea. When that can't be avoided, use a towel or wipe to open/close the bathroom door and turn off the faucet.

I have a formula for making alcohol wipes you may want to try. I purchased some dry facial wipes in the cosmetic department at the drug store and a bottle of alcohol. I put the wipes in a baggie and poured alcohol over them. I then added a couple drops of orange essential oil just to pretty up the smell. I then double-bagged the wipes because I didn't want the alcohol to leak out. I carry this around to wipe my hands when washing is not an option. Read here about the CDC's hand washing suggestions.

Another thing I personally think is helpful is using a nasal rinse at least twice a day and whenever I feel I have been exposed to sneezes and coughs. I have blogged about this before. I like to use a pre-packaged rinse and, during flu season, I also add one (and only one) drop of grapefruit seed extract to the rinse. More than one drop could burn your sinues. This is strong stuff, but I think it is helpful for me. Your doctor may disagree, so please ask him before adding anything to your nasal rinse. Grapefruit seed is a compound that will work on mold, bacteria, virus germs and even candida. Many with sinus problems swear by it, but is potent so proceed with caution when using it. I have a theory that the warm water you use with a nasal rinse can kill germs. Germs don't really hang around in warm places, if they did, we would get the flu all year long.

So my suggestions for aggressively avoiding and preventing the spread of the flu?

1. Get a flu shot.

2. Wash hands often using guidelines of the CDC.

3. Sneeze into your sleeve, like Elmo.

4. Use alcohol wipes and wipe vigorously.

5. Avoid public bathrooms when possible and avoid touching door handles in public places.

6. Go to your doctor if you think you may be getting the flu. If you take Tamiful within the first 48 hours, the flu can be shortened significantly.

7. Stay at home if you have the flu or flu symptoms.

8. Wear a mask when around an infected person and, again, wash your hands after coming in contact with them.

9. I like to use Lysol wipes (see top photo) in my work area to keep germs at bay. Don't forget your phone.

10. Use wipes on shopping cart handles, and on anything people have handled.

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