Q. I’m not really a “germophobe,” but I had the flu last year and it was awful enough to make me not want to touch a single thing in public this winter. Am I being ridiculous?
A. You’re not being ridiculous, just unrealistic.
We reported this weekend that local hospitals are seeing a small rise in the number of flu cases they’re treating. So now is as good a time as any to take precautions, but you still have to live your life.
As you know, the flu can really knock you off your feet. It’s particularly dangerous for those older than 65 and younger than 6. Sadly, four people have already died from the flu virus in South Carolina this year.
The flu virus is thought to be spread through the droplets that come out of people’s mouths when they cough, sneeze or talk ... from up to six feet away.
Gross, right? It’s enough to make you want to scream “Give me my personal space” and accessorize with latex gloves and face masks for the rest of the winter or, as you suggest, never touch a single thing in public again.
Protecting yourself from the flu virus doesn’t have to be that dramatic and isolating, though. We received a press release Tuesday from American Family Care, which is an urgent care clinic that has a location in Beaufort, and they have very helpfully narrowed down the worst places for flu germs.
Here are the “Top 5 Germiest Places to Avoid During Flu Season,” according to American Family Care physicians:
1. Debit card machine. Get into the habit of punching in your debit card pin with a knuckle instead of a fingertip. This way if you rub your eye or mouth with your fingertip, you’re not transferring germs.
2. Community pens. Whether at work or signing a credit card receipt at a store, never pick up a public pen because they’re covered with other people’s germs. Keep a pen handy for any situation that could pop up.
3. Shaking hands. People are more germ-conscious these days so avoiding a handshake is not as rude as once thought, especially during flu season. If you must do it, wash or sanitize your hands immediately.
4. Cell phones, tablets. We are constantly using our phones or computer tablets to show friends and co-workers pictures or videos. This means other people are putting their germs on something you are constantly touching. Get into the habit of wiping your phone down with a disinfecting wipe to cut down on spreading germs.
5. Gas pump. Drivers must get gas no matter what, sick or not. Protect yourself at the pump, grab a paper towel by the pump before picking up the gas nozzle. You can also use the paper towel as a barrier when punching in your debit/credit card info.
Do you have a question you’d like to have answered by a Lowcountry professional? Email Liz Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.