ROY ERASMUS: Outsmart the cold and flu


I decided to research and write this article on cold and flu because I had a cold and my wife caught it from me. Eschia!

Most of us worry about catching a cold on an airplane or in an elevator with sniffling and sneezing people. In reality, germs hide in many places just waiting for us to touch them so they can infect us.

Cold and flu viruses get passed to us through the air when a sick person exhales, talks, laughs, coughs, or sneezes and droplets of moisture land on us.

Indeed, we usually catch a cold or flu from close contact with a friend or family member through those virus-filled droplets of moisture. Whoa!

The Mayo Clinic states that flu and cold viruses can live for several hours on stainless steel, plastic and similar hard surfaces. Other sources say they last at least an hour on our hands and for up to 45 minutes on soft surfaces such as clothes and towels.

That means we should avoid close contact with people who have a cold or flu – and, yes, that includes not shaking hands with friends or kissing, holding hands or snuggling with our honey. Sniff.

In fact, when someone in our home has a cold or flu, the whole household can be contaminated. Sad, but true.

But we also get sick when we touch things infected people have touched and transfer the germs to our mouth, nose, or eyes. Not cool.

Cold and flu germs hide on things we touch, but don’t clean very often like door and cupboard handles and light switches. When someone at home is sick, we should wipe high-touch surfaces with disinfectant wipes or soap and water every day to lower our chances of getting sick.

To be safe, I assume that sick people put germs on everything they touch.

We know we shouldn’t drink out of the same cup as a sick person, but does everybody wash their hands after tidying up and taking their cup to the sink? Probably not, but we should because many people get sick that way. Say what?! Yup.

Germs on household things

As I’ve said common places to get the cold and flu virus are door and cupboard handles, light switches and cup handles or drinking glasses. But, those germs also seem to love faucet handles.

Did you know that most people don’t wash their hands after they cough, sneeze, or blow their nose? And those that do often touch things on their way to the sink, such as water-faucet handles, doorknobs, and light switches.

Jean and I now have disinfectant wipes next to the sink to frequently clean the faucet handle.

Do you clean your remote control after a sick person uses it? I didn’t either, but we’re starting to now. And, it’s good to clean it once a week with a disinfectant wipe and to use a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to get into the small spaces.

We’ve stopped sharing towels and washcloths too. Remember, viruses die fairly quickly on surfaces like cloth or tissue, but they can live longer on damp fabric.

We also transfer viruses to our toothbrush, which can get onto the toothbrush holder and then onto another toothbrush in the holder.

Jean and I are going to keep our toothbrushes separately and you should too, especially when someone in the house is sick. And we are getting dishwasher-safe holders to disinfect them regularly. Yay.

And don’t forget that pens, markers and pencils are often shared and become a viral hotbed during cold and flu season.

Preventing cold and flu

Experts say the best way to avoid getting a cold or flu virus is to wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based sanitizer.

A former MLA told me the most important thing he learned as Minister of Health was to wash his hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to get rid of germs. So, I religiously do that … and my wife often tells me that my hands are too dry. Mwahahaha.

I don’t run to wash my hands every time I touch a shared object, but I try not to touch my face until I can wash my hands because cold and flu viruses infect us through our eyes, nose, and mouth.

Other things to do are to quickly throw used tissues in the waste basket or garbage; cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm, not into your hand; stay home when you’re sick; get a flu shot; and clean and disinfect things and surfaces that people touch.

Following the tips in this article can help you outsmart the cold and flu, but it is not 100 per cent foolproof.

Nothing is.