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September 17, 2005

Practicing Hygiene with Avian Flu on the Mind


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Early this summer I had the sniffles, and had to spend five hours in a car with a dear and close 92 year old, driving to a celebration. It was then, trying not to expose her to my germs, that I realized just how difficult it can be to practice good hygiene. I was able to be conscious about disposing my dirty kleenex, sneezing properly and washing alot, but I simply could not remember not to touch the car door handles with my snotty hands. (They weren't really snotty, they were germy, but snotty is soooo much more graphic, and inspires handwashing)

Since then, I have been thinking and gathering little tips here and there that might be helpful, should a small, very small, mutating virus enter our lives unexpectedly.

A short list of good habits I'm trying to develop - in the hygiene area, that is

Note: Some of these are published on the school policy/peanut allergy sites, since anaphylatic shock can be a lethal result of poor peanut hygiene. Peanut butter is stickier and more visible than a virus, but that's probably obvious. I just read an account of an allergic basketball player who almost died when his teammate didn't wash his hands after a midgame peanut butter snack, which left peanut butter detrius on the ball in play. Because of the severity of the peanut problem, many teachers and school children are already well trained to be scrupulous about hygiene - truly a blessing.

Making the unconscious conscious is the task at hand. A dear and close personal dentist told me that the hardest hygiene habit he had to break, personally, was learning not to blow away the dust from the area he had just drilled. Don't think too hard about it, if you didn't get it the first time.

So I am practicing washing my hands- alot - with plain bar soap -- increasing both the frequency and intensity of said a activity. I try to do it ...
* Before, during, and after preparing food
* Before eating food
* After using the restroom (studies show that 33% of the population don't, yuck)
* After coughing or sneezing (no mean feat for the allergic)
* After changing diapers (not that I have much occasion)
* After handling money (or credit cards)
* After visiting a public place
* After handling trash or taking out garbage (not my job, fortunately)
* After petting an animal (which, sadly, I do infrequently in an attempt to avoid sneezing and coughing)
* After work or play (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, these days)
* Whenever my hands come in contact with bodily fluids (i.e. runny nose, watery eyes, saliva)
* More frequently when someone is sick
* When my hands are dirty

Here's how I'm doing it - I am certain that you are eager to know. I moisten my hands and wash vigorously with warm, soapy water while counting to 20, remembering to rub the tips of my fingers along the soapy palm of my other hand or use a nail brush (disinfected regularly, well, maybe, not yet) to get the germs that inhabit the nether regions of my fingernails. Then I rinse thoroughly, because I don't want to be soapy all day. I try not to touch the water taps, or any door handles, with my clean hands after I finish. I turn off the water with my elbow, the back of my hand or the paper towel I use to dry them.

I'm planning to keep a spray bottle of dilute bleach solution next to all sinks and use it to disinfect the handles of the water spigots and the sink area each and every time I use the sink.

I'm training myself to sneeze into my elbow.

I'm trying never to touch my face. Those of you who wear heavy makeup or false eyelashes are way ahead of the game, since you have already learned not to touch your face for fear of smudging. I think I will wear a mask just to remind me not to, should avian flu visit. Nanomasks supposedly protect you from viruses, but plain old paper masks obstruct enough to make nose scratching inconvenient.

I am learning to say "No" to the question, "May I have a sip of your latte?"

Photo note: This is the window of a shop called London Lace, which is always arranged so metaphorophotogenically. Thank you.

preparedness list with ordering information
Fluwiki - the ultimate source for avian flu information

Posted by Dakota at September 17, 2005 07:25 AM