Avoiding Germs with Asthma... Without Going Overboard
Sometime after 2007 (my benchmark for when I met my mildly-a-germophobe grade 11 biology teacher) I bought a book called The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu by Allison Janse and Charles Gerba. This book, outlining germ avoidance tactic for almost every scenario imaginable, I’m sure becomes particularly of interest to bookstore shoppers (although it took me a while to find it in the days before I just bought everything on The Book Depository, I finally tracked it down in the no-longer-existent University of North Dakota Barnes & Noble).
Respiratory infections last longer for asthmatics
For those of us with asthma, not only do colds and flu's suck more because of asthma (get your flu shots, friends!), we’re also a bit more prone to getting these infections thanks to the effects that both oral and inhaled steroids have on the body’s immune system. So, it’s of particular importance for those of us with asthma to be a bit more diligent when it comes to these kinds of germs to stay healthy. But—indifference to the Germ Freak’s Guide… How can we do this without going overboard?
It’s true, in order to build immunity to germs, we have to be exposed to them. The reasons that we need a new flu shot each year, and why we catch colds, is that these germs—viruses or bacteria—mutate themselves so that they can survive the next warfare we put up with antibiotics (which, remember, are only effective for bacterial infections. Part of the reason that we’re so resistant to antibiotics now is that they’ve needlessly been thrown at all kinds of viral infections, in which they do no good but our bodies become less responsive… as does the bacteria that it was meant to kill initially1.
A few strategies to avoid germs
Now, before you go out and find yourself a copy of the Germ Freak’s Guide, you should consider reading this article from the National Institutes of Health. However, given I read this book quite a while ago, I have applied—and stuck with—a few strategies for germ avoidance. I think—at least sort of—they've helped me stay a bit healthier, but, I’m not really a germophobe walking around in a hazmat suit about it. 2 (Some of these may not be directly from the book, but based on things within it.)
- WetOnes or another similar disinfecting/cleaning wipe? You bet. I’ve got a few small packs in various bags, and a larger tube-like tub thing in my backpack for work (where I go hang out with a 2 year old, 5 year old, and 7 year old. Also useful to clean food off the 2-year-old!)
- Also a great move when travelling.
- I use these as well to disinfect my iPhone regularly (not like on a schedule but whenever I remember), as well as my laptop (to make it shiny!), tablet, and Bluetooth keyboard. Also removes fingerprints on all those touch screens and gets the grime out from between those MacBook keys (and the sticky grime spots).
- …I also use them to clean my Fitbit and Pebble’s gunk.
- If I’m apt to need it, I carry my own Kleenex. Unless you’ve got allergies (or are taking nasal sprays) we’re more likely to hit up the Kleenex box if we’re sick. So, I keep my germs to myself and avoid those of others
- I don't touch the magazines in the doctor's office or hospital waiting room. And, if you’re bored enough to, use that Purell they keep near the door.
- Avoid touching your face—which is actually harder than you think.
- Wash your hands regularly. Especially in hospitals, doctors offices, around kids, or anyone visibly (or audibly) sick. I don’t go all crazy to avoid the bathroom door handle in public unless it's particularly grimy, but I do keep an eye out for fake-washers (or non-washers). I do, however, elbow the automatic door button where possible.
Do you get muscle cramps caused by your asthma medicine?