St. Luke’s Hospital offers ways to prevent infection in the New Year

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A new year has rolled around and everyone has set their resolutions, but did you think about resolving to stay healthy and germ free? Let St. Luke’s Hospital help you prevent infections before they get to you.

“There are some very practical ways to stay infection free,” said Lori Rothell, RN and infection preventionist at St. Luke’s Hospital. “The obvious is staying away from anyone with a runny nose or a nasty cough, but there are other things you can do to keep the infections at bay.”

Wash your hands frequently. “Germs can live on any surface anywhere from a few minutes to several months,” said Rothell. “Just think about these germs living on a computer keyboard, a light switch or the door handle.”

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Don’t share personal items like a toothbrush, towel, razor or nail clippers. All of these can hold bacteria and viruses.

Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, even if you are not sick. “For most infections, the disease-causing germ has already started growing long before any symptoms begin to show,” explained Rothell. “Coughing or sneezing can spread these germs through tiny droplets in the air. The current recommendation is to cover your mouth with your arm, sleeve, or crook of the elbow, rather than using your hands.”

Get vaccinated. “I can’t stress this one enough,” said Rothell. “Your immune system is designed to have a ‘memory’ of previous infections. By getting vaccinated, you ‘trick’ your body into thinking that it has been infected by a particular germ, enhancing its own defenses against subsequent infection. Of course, consult your clinician about receiving vaccinations, especially the annual influenza vaccination.”

Use safe cooking practices. Germs live on many food items, and more so on foods left at room temperature. Refrigeration slows or stops the growth of most germs, so refrigerate foods within two hours of preparation. Always use separate cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables, keep clean countertops, and wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.