Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Icky Icky Germs!

We are right in the middle of cold and flu season.  And, I am right in the middle of chemo treatment.  This means that germs are on my mind.  Always.  It seems that I notice more and more news stories about germs.  Perhaps it is because we are in the midst of cold/flu season.  Or, perhaps, I am more aware of germs and thus, stories about germs always catch my eye.  I think it is similar to how when you buy a particular new car, which you never really noticed on the streets, then suddenly (after you have purchased the car), you see the same vehicle everywhere!

I think I have eaten at a restaurant just a few times since I began chemotherapy.  The primary reason we avoid restaurants is due to the germs there.  About a month ago, Drew and I watched a news story on ABC about the top ten "germiest" parts of a restaurant.  The ABC reporters tested various places at ten restaurants in three different states to create the list:

I honestly never would have guessed the top location for germs in a restaurant.  But, now I totally believe it!  You will have to watch the video to find out what it is--and it is not the salt/pepper shakes, utensils, glasses, bathroom door, or even toilet or faucet.  Yuck!

We never go out to eat anymore, but when we do start going out to eat again, my restaurant trips probably aren't going to be quite as enjoyable.  The ABC reporter offered 7 great tips to ward off restaurant germs:

  • Since restaurant seats, tables and menus can be contaminated with bacteria, order your food and then head to the restroom to wash up before eating.
  • Lather your hands for a full 20 seconds, then flip the faucet off with your forearm and open the door with your paper towel.
  • Keep in mind that you need to be more careful if you are eating finger food like a hamburger and fries at a restaurant. “Finger food” means just that: Whatever you’ve touched is touching your food.
  • If you need to touch your chair or handle ketchup or other condiments after washing your hands, carry a small bottle of alcohol gel hand sanitizer and use it beforehand. Experts confirm it works well.
  • Our undercover test found that half of the lemon wedges we tested had traces of human waste, making them one of the dirtiest items in a restaurant. If you don’t want to give up the lemon in your drink, ask for it on the side of the glass, then squeeze the juice in and set it aside instead of dunking it.
  • Don’t give up on the pleasure of dining out! Studies show more people contract food-borne illness in their own homes than at restaurants, because restaurant workers are trained in food safety, while the rest of us are not. You can learn more about cooking safely at home here.
  • If you believe you’ve gotten sick from eating at a restaurant, don’t just take it. Report it! You can get in touch with your state’s health department here.

  • On other germ notes....we had recorded the movie, :"Contagion", and finally watched it one night recently.  It was a really good, interesting thriller.  And it had an incredible cast line-up, including Jude Law, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Laurence Fishburne.   I had no idea this film even existed before recording and watching it.  That is what happens when you have two young kids at home--your television is not on very much, and when it is it pretty much stays on PBS, Nick Jr or the Disney channel.  Anyway, what makes this film so compelling is how the director shows how unhygienic human beings are and how easy it is to create a pandemic. In hundreds of various absent minded ways we touch our faces on a regular basis and in doing so, transfer and spread dangerous viruses. The movie really highlights my current state of mind.  The way the director focuses on how people cough and then touch something (which someone else then touches), or people who pick their noses, wipe their mouths and cough, sneeze and splutter their way past you without any attempts to cover their mouths, makes it feel like the movie is filmed from my perspective.  The next time you go to the grocery story, really focus on how people are touching their face, coughing, sneezing, rubbing their noses, etc.  Watch how they are picking up (and putting back) the fruit and vegetables, handling groceries and signing the credit card pad!  Can you believe a recent survey showed that although 95% of people say they wash their hands, only 12% actually do so and consequently 1 in 6 mobile phones have fecal bacterial on them! Now you know how easily a virus pandemic can spread.  If people would just wash their hands more frequently, there would be much fewer cases of viruses.   OK, now I am going to step off of my soapbox.

    Anyway, I am so thankful I have not become ill with a virus during chemo.  But, I attribute it to God helping me be constantly aware of germs and what my hands have touched.  If I touch something that could potentially have germs on it, I wash my hands.  Now I know how, by practicing good hygiene habits, you can really avoid illnesses.  This is extremely important when I do not have a good immune system to fight illnesses.  Although everyone in my immediate family has been ill lately, I have not yet acquired anything from them.  Abbey is recovering from an ear infection, while Drew is now battling a cold.  A week before Christmas, Luke had some strange fever virus for 5 days.  I am well....just really tired and achey from the effects of chemo.   Hopefully Drew will start feeling better soon--poor guy!

    I am actually typing this post from my chemo chair, where I was hoping to receive my treatment today.  However, my neutrophil count is too low at .2 today (needs to be 1.5).  This means I am severely neutropenic and acquiring an illness would be very, very bad.  So, I received my steroid, benadryl and neupogen injection and now we are headed back home.  I'm praying my ANC will be at least 1.5 tomorrow and I will be able to get chemo.  In the meantime, I am trying to avoid germs!

    no chemo today...germs--stay away!


    1. Praying your numbers are where they need to be today and that you are feeling strong!! Thanks for sharing the germ fighting tips! I wondered if you've found anything that keeps your hands from drying out?

    2. Audra, Thanks for your continued prayers. The best thing that I have found to keep the hands from drying out is constantly using lotion between washings. Actually, that is the only thing that works. So, I have found it is important to keep the lotion dispensers clean as well. :-)