How is the flu spread? Most people know that the flu is usually caused by a virus that can be transmitted from person to person. However, misconceptions about spreading the flu are abundant, and it may be surprising to learn where cold and flu germs can actually hide. So, how is the flu spread?
Check out this list of hiding places for the flu:
- Friends can share more than friendship. The best way to spread germs is through personal contact, like handshaking or kissing. Sneezing is dangerous, too, because sneezes cause small particles to fly from the nose at over one hundred miles per hour, covering a three-foot radius. If you are sick, it is best to avoid close contact, and sneeze into the bend of your elbow if no handkerchief or tissue is available. This reduces the germs that fly through the air, and keeps germs off your hands.
- The kitchen can be a breeding ground for germs. Would it surprise you to know that the kitchen is the germiest place in the house? Bacteria thrive on wet sponges or dishcloths that sit with food particles on their surfaces. Your best bet for avoiding the flu is to throw out the sponges and wash dishcloths frequently.
- Public bathrooms are disgusting. Well, now, that is not a surprise, is it? Of course, you know that toilet seats and bathroom floors are germy, but so are the countertops, door handles, and faucet knobs. Research has shown that germs from toilet water become airborne when you flush, settling all over the bathroom. In addition, people who are already infected with cold and flu viruses touch the toilet handle, doorknobs, and faucet hardware, contaminating those surfaces. To stay healthy, always shut toilet lids before flushing, both at home and away. Wash your hands carefully after using a public restroom, and touch knobs and handles only with your foot, elbow, or a hand protected with a paper towel.
- Opening a door can be dangerous. Germs can live on doorknobs for two or three hours. The best bet for avoiding the flu is to use a tissue or the end of your sleeve covering a hand to open a door. If people in your house are sick, consider taping latches open so that you can just push the door with your arm and walk through.
- Beware the drinking fountain. A recent study by NSF International , a not-for-profit organization, found that drinking fountain spigots can have millions of bacterial cells per square inch. Try to avoid drinking fountains, but if you have no other option, let the water run for fifteen seconds before you drink.
- Wipe the shopping cart. Grocery stores have caught on to the fact that shopping carts are covered in bacteria, and that is why most retailers now offer antiseptic wipes beside the cart stations. Consider the hands, diapered bottoms, and drooling mouths that have touched the shopping cart, and wipe it thoroughly.
- Keep your finger off the button. Elevator buttons are pressed by hundreds of people each day, so it makes sense to press them with your knuckle or elbow, to avoid picking up germs. Escalator handles are germy as well, so consider taking the stairs when possible.
- The workplace breeds contagion. The average office has so many people, crowded together, talking, typing, eating, sneezing, and breathing, that it is not surprising how quickly illness can spread. Disinfect your workspace, particularly if you share it with others.
- Gas pumps and keypads are germy. Since it is impossible to avoid touching these things, it is a good practice to keep a small bottle of antibacterial gel in your car, so that you can disinfect your hands.
- Planes, trains and buses can make you sick. Airplanes re-circulate about 50 percent of the air in the cabin, and viruses are too small to be trapped by a filter. Subways, trains, and buses are also dangerous during cold and flu season, because of so many people using them, and coming into contact with each other. Try not to travel when you are sick, and whenever you travel, wear gloves so that your hands do not touch any bacteria laden surface.
Avoiding the flu can be tricky, but with some common sense, you can protect yourself from most sources of the viruses and bacteria. Remember to get your flu shot, as well. If you do get sick, First Choice Emergency Room offers an alternative to traditional emergency rooms, and can handle both adults and children. Visit the website to learn more, or join the online community on Facebook and Twitter.