Georgina Guedes

Keep your germs to yourself

2013-06-10 14:27

Georgina Guedes

Some friends who live in Singapore came to South Africa in the summer, and I took them to one of our kid-friendly restaurants. While our children played on jungle gyms and did sand art, my friends commented that in Singapore, places like these are all indoors and air-conditioned, and that children coming in are checked for fever or runny noses so that flu outbreaks don’t spread.

While this might seem like paranoia to those of us in laid-back South Africa, I’m increasingly of the opinion that we should be more concerned about the transmission of colds and flus here.

For instance, last week, I went to someone’s offices for a meeting, and, after cheerfully shaking my hand, he informed me that he was quite sick. Then, for the rest of our meeting, I observed him hacking into his hand – the very same hand he had shaken mine with – and imagined the viral load being spat into his hands, lying in wait for our farewell handshake…

I am sure that had I refused to carry out this basic act of politeness at the end of our session, I would have been considered rude. Never mind the rudeness of sharing a viral infection so enthusiastically with someone who has come to meet with you.

It’s the same with my kids. My daughter gets these dreadful infections from other kids at school, and then brings them back into our house, where her brother picks them up, transmits them to us, and in this merry crucible of snot and germs, we can stew out for the rest of winter.

 While I don’t feel that we should have a health check at every public access point, I do feel that we should be more concerned about the way that we engage with each other. So here are some tips for avoiding catching and passing on colds and flu in winter:

- Cough into your elbow. Your hands interact with the world, touching lift buttons, balustrades and door knobs – never mind actually shaking hands. Coughing into your elbow prevents you from spreading your germs and it limits your hands from coming into contact with your mouth after you’ve touched other surfaces.

- Wash your hands!

- If you’re sick, stay home. If your kids are sick, keep them home. If you have to go into the office for some reason, tell people that you are sick and keep your distance.

- Stay away from sick people. It’s not inevitable that you will get sick if you don’t come into contact with them. Keep your distance, and use all the points described above to prevent transmission.

Flu is not just a mild inconvenience. It’s a very serious illness that puts the lives of the very young, elderly or immune-compromised at risk. Take responsibility for protecting yourself from the germs of others, and keeping your germs to yourself in winter.

Or I’ll get all Singaporean on your ass!

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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