Staying Away From Colds, Flu

Katie Young
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Wednesday - November 26, 2008

Simon washes his hands every time he touches a door-knob, a computer keyboard or a shopping cart. He applies soap liberally and scrubs his hands together for a good minute before rinsing with hot water. If he’s in a public restroom, he shakes his hands dry if the towel dispenser isn’t automatic.

Simon considers himself to be “germ conscious,” not “germ phobic” - the difference being that he isn’t fearful of germs as much as he is conscious of their existence on many of the surfaces he must come in contact with daily. This awareness of germs, he says, is just good sense.

“There’s nothing wrong with good hygiene!” Simon says. “I haven’t had a cold in over a year!”

I have to admit that the older I get, the more “germ conscious” I’ve become as well. I never really thought to wash my hands often until I got pregnant. No wonder I was constantly sick at work!

If you think you’re immune to germs just because you sit at a desk all day, think again. While some professions are obvious germ breeding grounds, some of the germiest professions in America might surprise you.


Recently, Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona (whose nickname is “Dr. Germ”) spoke to ABC News about the top 10 germiest professions out there.

Teacher/daycare worker Cashier, bank employee Tech support/computer repair Doctor or nurse Lab scientist Police officer Animal control officer Janitor or plumber Sanitation worker Meat packer I already figured teachers have it pretty bad when I watched a friend’s child dig his nose and wipe his booger on another boy’s shoulder the other day. It’s certainly something to think about - if you haven’t already - whenever you reach into your wallet or get money from the bank.

So how do you avoid these germs that run rampant around the workplace? If you have a weak immune system, maybe you’re just out of luck. But according to an article on, it’s more than likely your colleagues have a few bad habits that make the spread of germs and viruses more likely in your office.

The articles notes that there’s a good chance you’ll run into infected people in your office because taking a sick day isn’t an option for everyone.

And if you typically try to avoid a sniffling, sneezing, coughing colleague, you’re doing so for a good reason, according to Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chair of the Vanderbilt Department of Preventive Medicine and vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. He told Forbes that if you had X-ray vision, you would see a cloud of germs around a person infected with a respiratory virus that extended out in a three-foot cloud every time that person exhaled.

The article also notes, however, that research from the University of Virginia Health System showed that “people infected with rhinovirus (the cause of half of all colds) can contaminate common objects such as light switches, which can infect others. To make matters worse, the day before you actually come down with a cold, you’re already excreting virus.”

In addition, a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Virginia found that cold sufferers often leave their germs around the house in places everyone in the family uses regularly including the TV remote, bathroom faucet and refrigerator door handle.

Like my friend Simon says, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently is a great way to ward off those germs.

Also try to avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

Forbes also suggests using a paper towel to open door handles or keep a bottle of hand sanitizer such as Purell on your desk.

You might not be able to avoid every bug that passes through the halls, but you’ll greatly increase your chances of staying healthy in a very germy world.

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