Protect Yourself and Others From the Spread of Disease
Catherine Nelson, LMT, CST, CKTS
We can catch a but any time of the year, but we are most susceptible during the colder months.
However, getting sick this winter is not inevitable! There are useful, real things you can do to help prevent yourself (and your family) from getting sick this season.
Here are best practices for protecting yourself and others from the spread of disease. These habits will protect you and others from Coronavirus, influenza, the common cold, and all other infectious (communicable) diseases.
1. Wash your hands
Hand washing is the most effective method of preventing the spread of germs, and it is the first, most strident recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Approximately 80% of communicable diseases are transferred through touch. Good, regular hand washing will stop most of what's going around during cold and flu season, and the rest of the year, for that matter.
To properly wash your hands, the key is duration. Rub the soap vigorously over all parts of the hands, cuticles, and nails for a minimum of thirty seconds. (Be sure to get under your nails, especially if you've got false nails.)
To make sure you get in the full thirty seconds, sing yourself the A-B-Cs. We always teach kids this trick to make sure they scrub for long enough, but it works for grown-ups too. And bonus: You can use this trick with your kids to make sure they wash for the full length of time.
2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
If hand washing is the number one thing you can do to avoid the spread of germs, the second is to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth throughout the day. Women are far more prone to this than men, but it is a surefire way of introducing germs into your system.
Unless you've thoroughly washed your hands, avoid putting on make up, lipstick, or chapstick, don't touch or adjust your contacts, don't itch or pick your nose. Avoid playing with or adjusting your hair, especially bangs that hang near the eyes, or shorter pieces of hair that hang near the mouth. Always wash your hands before you prepare or consume food.
This one can be a tough habit to break. Once I started working in the ER, I had to get real serious real fast about not touching my face, and it's hard! Once you start paying attention, you'll be amazed at how often you touch your face. But if you can avoid doing so, you will significantly improve your ability to stay health all year long.
3. Irrigate your sinuses
Many of the allergens, bacteria, and other germs you've inhaled throughout the day remain in your sinuses. Many of the germs that turn into colds, infections, and the flu begin in your sinuses, incubating there until symptoms present themselves. Yuck.
Irrigating your sinuses daily flushes out the allergens, bacteria, and other infections germs, preventing the bacteria or virus from getting a toehold into your system. As an added benefit, it helps to lessen or even stop post-nasal drip, and moisten the tissues lining your sinus passages. In the winter, especially at higher elevations like here in Colorado, these sensitive tissues can dry out, sometimes causing nosebleeds.
Saline rinses are relatively inexpensive and incredibly simple. There are many products on the market for this purpose and the best one for you will come down to preference. Something to note here: ALWAYS use saline to irrigate. NEVER irrigate with just water. And use distilled or boiled water.
Irrigating your sinuses sounds like a big, labor-intensive, delicate procedure. I'm telling you, it's not. It takes about thirty seconds, is not painful, and there is almost no way to mess it up.
4. Change hand towels or use paper towels
The hand towels in your home, especially in your bathroom, are the breading ground for germs. Most of us don't change these often enough. A good habit would be to change these once a week, at a minimum, depending on how many people are using the same towel.
If someone is sick, change the towels daily. Also, designate a separate towel for sick people to use. Or simply switch to paper towels until everyone is healthy again.
Bonus: Another thing to change more often is your pillowcase, especially if you struggle with acne. Pimples are just tiny infections in the pores. Your pillowcase becomes layered and saturated with your beauty care products, dead skin cells, oil from your skin, and whatever bacteria you've picked up in your hair or anywhere else during the day. A good rule of thumb is to change your pillowcase at least once a week. Sometimes I have to change mine every three or four days.
Second bonus: Wash your sheets and pillowcases after you or anyone else has been sick. Germs can live in fabrics and spread from there.
5. Get a new toothbrush
After you've been ill, throw your toothbrush away and start over. In general, we use each toothbrush far too long, anyway. If others in your house are sick, keep your toothbrush separate and covered, and once everyone is healthy, get new toothbrushes for everyone.
6. Use doTERRA's On Guard
You all know how much I love doTERRA essential oils. And I love the On Guard blend. This stuff is just amazing!
On Guard is doTERRA's immune support blend. It's good for both preventing and fighting infections-both bacterial and viral. And fungal, actually.
Antibiotics are effective because bacteria lives outside the cell and is easily reached. Viruses get inside the cells, and medications can't get to them. This is why you often stay sicker longer when you have a virus. Unlike synthetic medications and some herbal supplements, essential oils are able to penetrate the cell walls and attack viruses.
Bonus: On Guard can be used to clean with. Safe, effective, chemical-free. Perfect.
7. Keep your feet warm
This is Ancient Chinese wisdom passed on to me by my acupuncturist friend. I love how Chinese wisdom is so simple. And it makes sense.
Blood flow to your feet is lower and more problematic than to any other place in your body. Healthy blood flow and circulation contribute to your body's immune health and its ability to fight off infection. Keeping your feet warm will ensure your body is functioning at optimum.
8. Get acupuncture
Endless research studies show that acupuncture boosts immune function. It can be used to help keep from coming down with something, and it can be used to help fight off whatever you do catch. Regular acupuncture treatment will help keep you healthy.
9. Get a massage
Similarly, research shows that massage boosts immune function. It has been proven to significantly increase circulation, increase red and white blood cells (white cells fight infection), increase cellular function, and increase metabolism. Getting massage on a regular basis helps your body-and your immune system-function at its highest level.
Note: My patients who get massage regularly are very rarely sick. Massage alone doesn't account for that, but you better believe it contributes.
10. Clean common surfaces
This one sounds like such a "duh!" but it's one we overlook. A really good habit to get into is to regularly wipe down common surfaces like faucets, doorknobs, light switches, handles, railings, chairs, and other surfaces everyone in the house is touching. There is no need to be fanatical about this, unless someone in the house is sick, but doing this on some kind of regular schedule will help prevent the spread of germs.
Bonus: Disinfect your devices. Ever stop to think about all the places your phone has been? Then you touch it, then touch your face, and boom. Germs. Regularly wipe down your phone, computer, and tablet, as well as the remotes and other devices shared in your home.
11. Remove your shoes
Not only is this better for your carpet and floors, its healthier. If I ask you the most likely place to pick up germs, or the germiest (new word!) thing you can think of, you'll probably tell me the toilet. Maybe you'll say the doorknob, which would actually be much closer. But hands down, the winner by a long margin is your shoes.
Stop and think about all the things you walk on. Parking lots, sidewalks, city streets, store floors, bathroom floors, the floors of high traffic areas like airports, schools, malls. And then you come home and walk right inside. How many of you have babies or kids who practically live on the floor-and put everything in their mouths?
Leave your shoes at the door. Not only will you limit the spread of germs throughout your home, you'll have to clean your floors less often! Now, there's a real bonus.
12. Avoid sugar
Sugar hinders your immune system. It's that simple. Today, by the age of eight, an American has consumed as much sugar as our grandparents consumed in their entire lifetimes. Our bodies were not designed to process such exorbitant amounts of sugar, and eventually is unable to do so. In the meantime, all of that sugar messes with many of our systems, including our immune system.
Limiting sugar is a good practice in general. During winter months, after exposure to someone with a cold or flu, a cough or a runny nose, or if you are already fighting something, cut out sugar. That will give your body every fighting chance to do what it does best.
13. Use magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral your body desperately needs. And if you've come in for an appointment recently, I've more than likely talked to you about magnesium, and recommended it to you. In later posts and videos, I'm going to talk more about magnesium, how to get it, and why you need it. For now, some broad-stroke stuff as it relates to staying healthy and preventing illness.
Studies estimate approximately 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Taking magnesium orally is almost useless because so much of the mineral is destroyed in the digestive process your body actually has access to very little of it. Taking it orally, you'd have to take such incredibly high doses you would cause your body to pull massive amounts of water into your bowels and you'd have diarrhea for days. And days.
It's better to use a magnesium topical spray. The magnesium is absorbed through the skin, and because it doesn't go through the digestive process, it is fully available to your body for use.
Magnesium is used in about a gazillion bodily functions, including immune function. It's one you need, not only to stay healthy, but to sleep better, improved mood and digestion, and on and on and on. Magnesium topical sprays aren't expensive and can be found at your local health food store or online. For more on magnesium, visit our YouTube channel.
14. Manage and mitigate stress
Stress is more than just an emotional reaction; it is also a physical process that happens within your body. During this process, many of your body's systems are muted, hindered, or outright inhibited. Your immune system is one that suffers.
Developing good, healthy coping mechanisms that allow us to roll with the stress that is inevitable in our lives is critical to our overall health, our quality of life, and our longevity. Our lives are so busy, and we have so many pressures today, coming from every direction. It is vital for us to stop and examine our lives, and sometimes make difficult choices about what to keep and what to give up.
Bottom line: Managing stress is not a pretty idea for new-agey types who like to meditate and sing Kumbaya. It's mandatory, right now, today. You've got to figure this one out, and put some things in place that you truly enjoy doing, that you can make time for, that fill you up and renew you. This one is not optional. The sooner we all figure that out, the happier and healthier we'll all be.
15. Get adequate amounts of sleep
This one is critical. Sleep is vital. For everything. And there is hope for those of you, who like me, are poor sleepers.
The thing to know is that your immune system cannot function properly if you're sleep deprived. Specialists and researchers agree the minimum amount of sleep needed daily is six hours. However, six hours a night is rarely sustainable, and rarely yields genuine health over time.
During the winter months, when it's darker, we're meant to sleep more. And we should make every effort to sleep more if we're trying to avoid getting sick, or trying to recover from being sick. After all, there's a reason all you want to do when you're sick is sleep.
Sleep isn't for the weak, folks. It's for the health, the happy, the productive.
For more information, check out Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.
16. Bundle up outside
You can hear your mother now, can't you? "You'll catch your death out there!" Well, probably not death, but certainly a cold or the flu or a sinus infection or anything else that might be going around.
When you're out in inclement weather, keep yourself warm. Cover your head, ears, neck, and hands. Exposure to colder weather itself doesn't make you sick, of course, but it can weaken your immune system.
Bonus: Especially take care to protect your face, mouth, neck, and chest from the wind. Particularly in Chinese Medicine, the wind is considered injurious to the lungs. Our breathing and our lungs are one thing we do need to take extra care to protect, because we are particularly vulnerable to illness there.
It may seem silly or extreme to cover your face, mouth, and neck when you're out in the wind, or to avoid going out in the wind at all if possible, but it is a measure worth taking.
17. Get enough protein
Research indicates lower immune function for people with diets low in protein. There is so much debate back and forth about how much protein a person should eat, how much you really need, and if it's possible to eat too much. If you have questions about this and would like personalized advice, we'd invite you to schedule an appointment with our registered dietitian.
If you're ill, or trying not to become ill have an exposure, consider your current diet plan and how much protein you're getting. You might do well to up your protein and give your immune system a boost.
Regular exercise boosts immune function. This one's pretty basic and won't come as much of a surprise to anyone. We all need activity of some kind every day.
Walking in one of the most incredibly healthy things we can all do for our bodies. It helps with everything, all of our bodily systems. Just walking. So how easy would it be to park farther away from the door at work, at the store, at the restaurant, and walk? Take a quick stroll around the block. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
19. Cold & Flu Nutritional Supplement Protocol for Prevention and Treatment of Symptoms
We can catch a bug anytime of the year, but the colder months are more problematic. It is possible to boost your immune system at any time to ensure you have a quick, thorough, robust immune response anytime you might come into contact with any kind of pathogen.
Use this link to visit our online dispensary to view a complete protocol of nutritional supplements you can take regularly to help your body function at its peak. Keep these items on hand to begin immediately if you do begin to show symptoms. Starting right away will yield the best outcome.
If you are symptomatic, refer to this protocol.
To purchase these items, source them individually from local stores or purchase our ready-made protocol kit available in our online dispensary.
Our walk-in clinic is open every Saturday. Our nurse is on site to help treat cold and flu, and we also have IV hydration and medications available to help with nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. Learn more about the walk-in clinic. (LINK: https://delsolcommunitywellness.com/clinic)
Catherine Nelson, LMT, CST, CKTS, is a long-time massage therapist with a long and varied background in Western medicine. She specializes CranioSacral Therapy for PTSD and anxiety, medical massage therapy for injury rehabilitation, and sports massage therapy for all phases of training and competition. She can be reached directly at Catherine@DelSolCommunityWellness.com.