Getting sick of this

Trent Ernst, Editor


Last year, in a fit of bravado and ill-advised cocksureness, I wrote an editorial about how I hadn’t got sick at all in the heart of flu season, because I was practicing good hygiene and avoiding doing simple things (like licking my finger and then touching my eyeball, the poorest guarded access point that germs have into your body.)

As a result, every single cough, flu or gastro-intestinal disorder making the rounds this year has decided to make a stop at my place and curb stomp me for my presumptuousness and arrogance.

I still believe what modern science tells us about how germs travel from one person to another.

Science used to think that many common illnesses were airborne. Turns out they’re not. People just touch surfaces where the virus is, then pick their nose or touch their eye. Same entry point, vastly different delivery method.

I’ve become pretty good at not touching my eyes, no matter how itchy they get. When I need to do something to stop the itching, I use a sleeve or other piece of (hopefully) clean fabric.

However, I’m learning that, while the eyes are the easiest access point for germs, they’re not the only one.

While the mouth is well guarded by saliva and that pit of acid at the bottom, I’ve discovered that the nose is not as grand a guard as one might expect.

At least, not in winter, as that sticky mucus that is supposed to trap the mucus becomes hard little pellets that serve no purpose other than to flick at people you don’t like when they’re not looking.

But that means that poking, prodding or picking your nose is nearly as bad as rubbing your finger in a sick person’s snot and then rubbing your eye.

(It is nowhere near as disgusting, though. Ewww.)

I’ve been hammered with both the flu and the stomach flu (which, as we all know is not a flu at all, but gastroenteritis, because we recently discussed this).

Over the last little while, I’ve noticed these nasal tea-pots that are becoming more popular. While I have moral objections to dumping liquid into my nose, the idea of keeping the nose moist will help block germs from using that opening as an entrance into the body.

A suggestion that I’ve come across is hot lemon tea with honey. The warm steam will loosen things up and help enliven the cilia, which is the carpet of tiny sweepers that push the disease-laden mucus down towards the gut.

Even better, honey is an anti-bacterial and lemon helps thin the mucus, allowing it to do a better job.

Now if I just, you know, liked tea.

What happens if, despite your best efforts, you manage to contract a disease?

Your mission should be to keep it to yourself. Don’t share it with everyone. Stay home for a day or two. I know, it means not getting paid. It means not getting everything done that you need to get done.

But we all know that nobody ever does that. Or they might stay at home during the worst of it, but will (as I am doing currently) return to work while still hacking and coughing.

A bottle of hand sanitizer goes a long way towards keeping your disease to yourself. But my favourite little trick is simply not to sneeze or cough into my hands.

Instead, I choose to sneeze into my sleeve. While our nose and eyes are our weak spots for getting sick, our hands are the number one culprit for spreading disease. How many people lick door handles? Outside of my youngest, that is. But sneezing into your hand, then opening the door? Everybody does that.

With a few months left before the end of cold and flu season: be healthy and be smart.