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Get fit in a year: Defend yourself against germs

April 05, 2010|By KATHY MORRISEY / Special to The Herald-Mail

What's the best defense against germs? Soap and water. It sounds simple, but washing your hands thoroughly and frequently is the single best way to protect your body from germs that cause infection. Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or using the rest room, and before preparing or eating food at a minimum. When soap and water aren't readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

In addition to keeping your hands clean, there are other important steps you can take to protect your body from infections.

o Get your vitamins. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from diseases. A recommended daily amount of fruits and veggies varies by age and gender, but a general guideline is to make fruits and vegetables about half of what you eat, every time you eat.

o Take care of your immune system. A combination of eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep can help keep your immune system in tip top shape. The CDC recommends being active for at least two and a half hours a week, including activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and strengthen your muscles. Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and kids should get more, based on their age.

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o Care for cuts. Injuries happen but taking care of cuts and wounds can help reduce your risk of a skin or soft tissue infection. First, wash your hands before treating a cut or wound. Next, rinse the area with cool water before washing the area around the cut gently with soap. Remove embedded dirt or debris with a pair of tweezers that have been cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Once the cut is clean, cover the area with a clean, dry bandage. If you see redness, swelling or a pus-like discharge, see your physician as these are signs of infection.

o Brush your teeth. Regular brushing and flossing can prevent against oral cavity infections. According to the CDC, nearly one-third of all adults in the United States have untreated tooth decay, and tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Brush a minimum of twice a day, and floss once a day to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

o Drink water. The human body needs water continuously to stay healthy. Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. An adult should drink about two liters of water each day (that's about eight, 8-ounce glasses) to stay hydrated. Adequate fluids can also stave off infections such as urinary tract infections.

o Get vaccinated. Vaccinations can prevent you from getting certain diseases. Many are given during childhood, but adults still need to be routinely vaccinated for things such as influenza and tetanus. There are also vaccines that are only for adults older than a certain age including pneumonia vaccine and the shingles vaccine.

Kathy Morrisey, BSN, MA, CIC, is director of infection control at Washington County Hospital. She has been certified in infection control by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology since 1991.

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