“’Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).
We may not like it but getting sick is a part of life and Thoreau may have been onto something. After all, being sick usually means we can stay home from work or school, lie in bed or on the sofa in our pajamas, and maybe even get taken care of for a couple of days. But for professional caregivers and individuals caring for a loved one in the home, coming down with cold or flu can be a huge inconvenience and stressor – and you don’t want to spread illness to anyone, especially your patient. Newborns, the disabled and elderly, and those with chronic diseases are most at risk for contracting illness.
At Heart ‘n Home, we encourage good health and well-being for our patients and their families, employees, and Volunteers through proper diet, regular exercise (if able), staying hydrated, “me time,” and getting plenty of sleep.
Taking some precautions during cold and flu season is important, especially for caregivers so as not to spread germs to already vulnerable patients. Here are some ways to protect yourself and those around at home and work:
- Stay away if you have symptoms! Don’t go to work, school, or to see your patient. Instead, see your doctor.
- Wash your hands frequently, scrubbing for at least 15-20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself to be sure you’re taking enough time).
- Carry hand sanitizer at all times and use it frequently.
- When in public places, avoid touching door handles, stair and escalator rails, countertops, magazines, even pens. Best is to have a paper towel in your hand but if that’s not practical, wash your hands after contact.
- Planning a trip? Remember that the close quarters of an airplane, train, or bus can harbor germs. Build up your immune system ahead of time with an over-the-counter supplement or preventative vitamin.
- Feel a sneeze or cough coming on? Grab a tissue! According to ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, the safest way to sneeze is into a tissue because 100% of the germs expelled during a sneeze (which can travel up to 10 or more feet away) are trapped in the tissue. No tissues handy? The next best thing is to sneeze or cough into the interior of your elbow. Watch
Finally, take a few extra precautions. Wear gloves when handling contaminated waste (diapers, dressings, sanitary products) or even ordinary household trash. When doing laundry, wear gloves if linens are soiled. Hold linens away from your body, don’t shake, and wash separately from household laundry. Change bathroom towels and washcloths daily. Store food properly and dispose of anything questionable or past the expiration date. Don’t let anyone with a weakened immune system handle or change fish tank water, bird droppings, or cat litter. Wear a mask or gloves if changing these things for a patient. Whenever possible, let fresh air circulate throughout the home. It may be “healthy to be sick sometimes,” but it sure is more fun to be healthy!