Scattered Kleenex and cough drop wrappers littering the house are the ominous marks someone is sick. The situation seems inescapable: Inevitably the sickness spreads, each person’s immune system succumbing to the domino effect of a sick roommate.
Sharing is synonymous with having roommates, whether it’s exchanging clothes, food, money, dishes or kisses. Free, open and amiable sharing are the ingredients to a healthy house, but sharing germs can lead to an unhealthy house.
Disrupting this chain and minimizing the spread of germs involves incorporating several simple rules. Dr. Gregg Lichtenstein, medical director of Student Health Services at San Diego State, offers his advice about the most reliable ways to prevent the spread of germs.
Although he acknowledges there is no vaccination against the common cold, vaccinations for illnesses, such as the highly contagious flu and whooping cough, are the first and best defense against spreading sicknesses. SHS provides influenza vaccinations for $15.
As for minimizing the transfer of germs that cause the common cold, Lichtenstein said frequent and proper hand washing is crucial. For hand washing to be effective, it takes 20 seconds of lathering with soap and water to dissolve germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also work if soap and water are not accessible. Germs, viruses and bacteria are spread through hand-to-hand contact or by touching a germ-infected surface.
As a sick person coughs or sneezes, their contaminated mist is spewed onto nearby surfaces, often toward the mouths and noses of those nearby. When hands then touch the surface where germs have landed and proceed to touch the eyes, nose or mouth, the germs have already spread.
This proves Lichtenstein’s instruction of controlling the spreading of sicknesses by always covering a sneeze or cough with the crotch of one’s arm or tissue, not a hand. Lichtenstein also stressed how lack of sleep and stress often lead to a weakened immune system and make people more susceptible to germs.
Cleaning and disinfecting commonly used surfaces will increase the likelihood of staying healthy when those in close proximity are ill. Cleaning with soap and water will remove germs, while using products labeled “disinfectant” will kill viruses and bacteria that pollute surfaces for days.
The combination of these germ-stopping tactics and limiting contact with those who are sick will help break the perpetuating cycle of toxic germ sharing and spreading.