The weather is not freezing but that doesn’t mean the flu isn’t around. It’s easy to be misled about influenza or the cold (or the difference between them) with so many “wisdom gems” out there. There is a good chance some of the information you have heard may be wrong.
The cold is called “common” for a reason. Approximately 22 million school days are lost each year in the U.S. due to the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and about 100 different viruses can cause it.
Both cold and flu are contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract that make you cough and give you headache. But congestion, sore throat, and sneezing are associated with colds, while the flu brings high fever for days, tiredness, and causes your body to feel weak. A cold is milder than the flu and one can’t turn into the other because they are caused by different viruses.
What they have in common is where they “reside” before they enter your body. People touch dozens of objects, sometimes a lot more, in an hour. Desk, keyboard, phone, water fountain, restroom, doorknobs – all of them are real estate for bad viruses. You’re not even completely safe at home where the kitchen, and the remote control, get the most traffic.
Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November, according to the CDC. It’s already time to get ready.
Where a lot of people touch the same computer
This will usually be your work place or a public library. People who have the virus are likely to spread loaded moisture droplets all over the keyboards. The same applies for the mouse. A British research concluded that the computer mice and keyboards are, in fact, full of germs. The average computer mouse is three times dirtier than a toilet seat.
Where lots of kids are around
Playdates, schools, kindergartens, daycare centers… If there is one sick child around, more will be coming down with the cold or the flu soon. Children are gathered in close proximity, usually in a closed classroom, and practicing healthy habits is probably not higher on their list of things to do than playing.
Public transportation hubs
Airports can be a place where the virus spreads but they are cleaned often, especially bathrooms. The same cannot be said for subways, buses or even train stations. Germs and flu causing bacteria thrive there. Try not to touch with bare hands door handles, luggage carts, chairs, seats, and poles.
People are told to stay home when they are sick, and rightfully so. However, they won’t stay in their rooms all day. The kitchen is easily one of the dirtiest places in a home because it gets the most traffic. When you touch the cabinets, the fridge, the sink, or the remote control, do you clean them afterwards? If not, the germs are still there.
How many people do you think use a single ATM machine in half an hour near a popular location? What are the chances that at least one of the few dozen touching the buttons is sick and freely spreading the virus without realizing it? It can be passed for days even after someone no longer exhibits symptoms. The flu, for example, can live up to two days on an inanimate object.
You are in a crowded, small place that doesn’t get cleaned very often. When someone sneezes or coughs, it’ll be only a matter of time before the germs get to you. They may land somewhere on your seat, which you’ll inevitably touch with bare hands. After all, why would you wear gloves inside?
Restaurants and fast food joints
The problem there is the menu and condiment dispensers. When do you think was the last time they were washed, especially with bleach? If an infected person was using them before you, this significantly increases the chance of the cold-causing bacteria to be now in your fries. Cold and flu viruses can survive for about 24 – 48 hours on hard surfaces.
Unless you are at an airport, chances are the public restroom you’re using doesn’t get cleaned every half an hour. The door handles are the worst. Soap dispensers don’t fare that much better. Research has shown that about 25 percent of public restroom dispensers are contaminated with fecal bacteria.