Germs Are Stronger Than We Thought

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Not that you needed any reminding, but cold and flu season is here! That's bad enough. But it gets worse.

According to a new study, germs stick to an object longer and can be transferred more easily than previously thought.

CBN News Medical Reporter talks about how to play it safe this holiday season. Click play for more insight.

For instance, scientists at the University of Virginia, long known for its virology research say that if a sick person's virus lands on a household surface, anyone who touches that surface within an hour has an 89 percent chance of getting sick.

Within 24 hours, they have a 69 percent chance of becoming ill. And after a full 48 hours the virus is still hanging on, and anyone who touches it has a 53 percent chance of catching it.

The most contaminated areas in the house are computer keyboards, doorknobs, refrigerator door handles, TV remotes, bathroom faucets and telephones.

Household germicides are a great way to disinfect household surfaces. However, hand washing remains the best way to protect yourself from getting sick.

The Art of Handwashing

But believe it or not, there's a right and a wrong way to wash your hands.

For instance, rinsing your hands doesn't cut it. You must use soap.

That's because water molecules cling tightly to each other, creating surface tension. Soap breaks that surface tension, clings to the germs and takes the impurities down the drain. So the secret is in the scrubbing.

Make sure to cover all surfaces, front, back, between the fingers and the nails. Also, make sure to lather-up for at least 20 seconds: about the time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.

The Best Type of Soap

What kind of soap should you use? Well, regular soap is just as good as antibacterial soap, perhaps even better.

The Food and Drug Administration is looking into whether antibacterial soaps may create resistant bacteria.

Plus, antibacterial soaps kill all bacteria, which could pose a problem, because some "good" bacteria is necessary to develop a healthy immue system and carry-on other natural functions.

In the absence of soap and water, hand sanitizer is an adequate substitution. However, it must contain 60 percent alcohol to do the job. Also, rub it into your hands until it's completely absorbed: your hands will feel dry.

Make sure your hands are clean when you touch any "opening" of your body. That's hard to do, because of the many subconscious things we do like putting pens in our mouths, rubbing our eyes or scratching an itch inside our nose.

When to Pay the Doc a Visit

If you do succumb to a sick germ, how do you know whether to go to the doctor?

Physicans say a general rule-of-thumb is to make an appointment is you have a fever, which is a temperature of 99.5 degrees farenheit, taken orally.

That's because a fever often indicates a bacterial infection, like strep throat or an ear infection. Antibiotics kill bacterial infections, and you need a doctor's prescription for an antibiotic.

However, that's not the case if you have a viral infection. Viral infections, like the common cold, do not respond to antibiotics. They generally need to "run their course," which means you're going to be sick for about six days or so.

In the past, doctors have prescribed antibiotics for viral infections, which, unfortunately, created drug-resistant bacteria - a serious health concern.

Now, most doctors - but not all - resist the temptation to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections.

Doctors often feel pressured by patients to prescribe something because patients often express disappointment if they leave the doctor's office empty-handed.

Although antibiotics will not help a viral infection, if you get one, just treat the symptoms until the virus runs its course.

For instance, drink lots of liquids and get plenty of sleep.

If you feel achy, acetaminophen or ibuprofen often help. A humidifier alleviates respiratory congestion and a saline spray or Neti Pot help with a stuffy nose.

Avoid Multi-symptom Cold Medicines

Doctors say steer clear of those multi-symptom cold and cough remedies, because the drug interactions have caused problems.

Even if you don't have a fever, go to the doctor anyway if your cold gets progressively worse or if you don't get better after six days.

*Original broadcast November 15, 2008.

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Lorie Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News

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