Avoiding respiratory infections
Mary Ann Yahl, RN, is an Infection Control practitioner at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital.
Question: How can I avoid catching a serious respiratory infections?
Answer: We often find ourselves in crowded spaces, traveling, attending social events and entertaining with lots of friends. There are simple steps that each of us can take to avoid or minimize our chance of getting a serious respiratory illness.
First, develop healthy habits to reduce illness and sick days.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches a contaminated surface then touches or rubs their eyes, nose or mouth.
- Get plenty of sleep, regular exercise, drink water, eat healthy foods and stop smoking. This helps to keep your immune system finely tuned. Washing dishes in the dishwasher, or using hot soapy water, and performing regular general cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in your house helps to keep the number of germs to a minimum.
- Get your influenza vaccine- a sore arm and achy feeling is possible but since it is made from killed virus, it cannot cause the actual disease. Protection from the three most prevalent strains is provided in about two weeks.
- Your doctor may want you to receive a pneumonia vaccine, this helps protect you from some of the worst complications of influenza.
Another sensible step you can take is to minimize your exposure to other ill people.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- When you are sick, as much as possible, stay home to protect others from getting sick from exposure to you.
Lastly, and very simply, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use the waterless sanitizer to prevent germs from entering and multiplying in your body.
If you should develop symptoms of influenza talk with your doctor about antiviral medicines to see if they might help. They are most useful when started within the first two days of illness.