Friday, December 11, 2009

Lessons from Great Uncle Milton

According to Great Uncle Milton, this child is a "carrier monkey."

December is a time for holiday cheer: family get-togethers, office parties, decorations, general merriment, and Great Uncle Milton* refusing to eat at a table with “carrier monkey” younger relatives.

Now, my niece and nephew are constantly exposed to germs at daycare, and because of this, they get sick. It’s not their fault and it certainly isn’t fun for them, but by getting sick their immune system builds up antibodies (proteins in body that attack diseases), so they can STOP being carrier monkeys.

However, my ear-hair-sprouting great uncle doesn’t really seem interested in that argument. So this year – just for him – we’re starting our holiday celebrations at New Voices (and maybe with the family?) with a lesson on hand washing.

There's an excess of research proving just how effective hand washing is at keeping illness away. We also know that throughout the day, we touch all kinds of things that hold unknown germs. In the past thirty seconds, I’ve taken a sip of water from my mug on my desk, typed on my keyboard, used my mouse, and in a moment of thought, rested my head on my hand. How many germs did I just transfer from all of those surfaces to my face?

An even scarier thought: money changes hands on a daily basis. Have you ever considered where that five dollar bill that the lunch lady just returned with your change (after you washed your hands) has been?

Oh gosh, I’m turning into Great Uncle Milton. Back to the lesson.

Hands should be washed anytime you’ve increased your exposure to germs: after you’ve touched raw food or used the bathroom, and before eating – for starters.

At this point, you’re thinking that this is ridiculous. You’re an adult and you know how to wash your hands. But if you were totally honest with yourself, you’d have to admit to maybe just running your hands under the faucet for a quick rinse from time to time?

Here’s what you should be doing:
  1. Remove any jewelry and wet your hands with warm water
  2. Rub your hands together with soap for 20-30 seconds (many suggest singing “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”)
  3. Be sure to wash between your fingers and under your nails and you're rubbing.
  4. Rinse you hands with warm water
  5. Dry thoroughly with a towel

The above routine removes 99% of germs. The soap is the most important factor, breaking the bonds that hold germs to your skin. Water alone just isn’t going to do it.

Remember, germs are on every surface (not just on the shorter members of the family), so keeping your oft-used electronics (think cell phone or laptop) and other surfaces clean can help decrease your daily exposure to illness.

We all want to stay healthy over the holidays; if for no other reason than eggnog doesn’t taste as good when you’re all stuffed up. And trust me, you’re going to need that eggnog if Great Uncle Milton is coming.

*No one here at New Voices has any family member named Milton, and we feel awfully bad for anyone named Milton, since they are always getting picked on in fictional stories about great-uncles.

Images of "Great Uncle Milton" (not his real name) are courtesy of hiro008.

No comments:

Post a Comment