Question of the Week

December 22, 2003



"[G]erms are tiny organisms that can cause disease - and they're so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. You even need a microscope to see them. To stay healthy, it's time you gave some thought to germs. The term germs is really just a generic word for four different types of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.

"A certain number of bacteria are good for our bodies - they help keep the digestive system in working order and keep harmful bacteria from moving in. Some bacteria are even used to produce medicines and vaccines. But bacteria can cause trouble, too...

"Viruses can't live outside other living cells. But once they've moved in, viruses spread easily and can make you and other people sick....

"Fungi (pronounced: fun-jee) are multi-celled, plant-like organisms that usually aren't dangerous in a healthy person....Two common fungal infections include athlete's foot and yeast infections....

"Protozoa (pronounced: pro-toe-zo-uh) are one-celled organisms like bacteria. Protozoa love moisture, so intestinal infections and other diseases they cause are often spread through contaminated water...."

While you could get completely creeped out by the idea of having all these germs around all the time, you could also take some preventative measures to help limit the chance of them making your life miserable.

"Washing your hands often is absolutely the best way to stop germs from getting into your body. When should you wash? After using the bathroom, after blowing your nose or coughing, after touching any pets or animals, after gardening, or before and after visiting a sick relative or friend. These are the best times to soap up with warm water, plenty of lather, and a clean towel....Another way to fight infections from germs is to make sure you have the right immunizations, especially if you'll be traveling to countries outside the United States."

Mom was right. Hand washing. It's important all year, but just think about all that's out there now.

"It's cold and flu season, and the germs are out there, just waiting tomake you sick and wreck your plans. Washing your hands frequently is the best way to protect yourself against infection. Hand washing is more than just dibbling your fingers under a dribble of water, though. Soaping up and rinsing for 15 seconds is the way to go."

Fifteen seconds? Check it out on the clock. How long is that? How long do you generally spend washing your hands? Is it enough? Is hand washing alone enough? What else can you do?

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following four vaccines for teenagers and one vaccine for college students.
Vaccines needed for teenagers:

  • Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine  
  • Hepatitis B vaccines  
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine   
  • Tetanus-Diphtheria vaccine 

"Vaccines needed for college students: Meningococcus vaccine"

"Adult Immunization Schedule (Anyone over 18 years old)
Vaccines for adults include  

  • Tetanus-Diphtheria Vaccine (all adults, every 10 years)
  • Influenza (Flu) Vaccine (adults 50 and older)
  • Pneumococcal Vaccine (adults 65 and older)
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine (adults at risk)
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) Vaccine (susceptible adults)
  • Varicella (chickenpox) Vaccine (susceptible adults)"

Vaccine Recommendations for Infants and Children

If you would like vaccine recommendations for those planning international
travel, you can visit:

Wash your hands? Get your shots? What else can you do to stay healthy?

"You can put yourself IN CONDITION to meet this challenge by doing several simple things:

  • Get enough sleep: 7-10 hours each day.
  • Eat at least three well-balanced meals a day.
  • Drink plenty of water and nutritious fluids.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol which dehydrate you.
  • Minimize your exposure to flu.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke and other respiratory irritants.
  • Put humidity in your environment.
  • Wash your hands frequently."

Sleep right. Eat right. Drink right. Avoid smoke. Avoid exposure to flu. Wash hands. Get the vaccinations you need. Anything else?

"Holidays mean gatherings with lots of food. Here are several tips to prevent foodborne illness...."

Is that it?

Questions of the Week:
With all the suggestions for ways to stay healthy, how can you use that information to make healthy choices without getting overwhelmed or paranoid? What information do you need? What information do you want? How do put into practice all of your health education and still manage to enjoy life? What role does common sense play?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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