LYME SCI: Six steps to protect yourself from viruses
My daughter had been fighting undiagnosed infections for years, and during each episode, she presented with very low white blood cell (WBC) counts.
Slowly, we came to the realization that her immune system was compromised in some way not yet identified.
At one point, her WBC count was so low, they thought she had AIDS— we were relieved that she didn’t.
As a physical therapist with hospital experience, I took what I knew about working with immunocompromised patients and applied it to our home. Every year during the flu season we ramp up the old protocol as a precaution.
With Covid-19–the novel coronavirus that originated in China–now detected in our state, we are being extra cautious.
If you or your child are immunocompromised, or you simply want to protect yourself from the common cold and flu, you may want to adopt a few of my flu season protection tips.
- The first thing my family and I do during flu season is get the flu vaccine. When my daughter was immunocompromised, she was not eligible for vaccination. So, her pediatrician recommended we implement “herd immunity.” This is where everyone around her gets vaccinated against flu and follows a strict protocol to protect her from infection. (These are essentially the same measures you would implement for a newborn baby or a cancer patient during the flu season.)
- The second thing I do is go through the house and clean every surface: floors, door knobs, faucets, home phone, flush handle on toilet, all the drawer knobs in the kitchen, microwave, handle on refrigerator, TV remote, computer keyboard…everything that we touch with our hands. Basically, you want to start with a clean slate.
- Next, I pull out a small table (a TV table works well) and put it just outside the front door. On the table, I place a can of spray disinfectant, a tub of disinfecting wipes, a bottle of hand sanitizer. Above the table, I place a sign that reads:
It’s Flu Season. Please:
Spray bottom of shoes.
Wipe your cell phone.
Clean your hands.
When out in the public, you’ll want to protect yourself. Some common sense advice:
- Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse/pocket/backpack and car.
- Keep a pack of disinfecting wipes in your purse/backpack and car.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Do not touch your face or rub your eyes until you have washed your hands.
- Use hand sanitizer after pumping gas or touching anything the public touches (door knobs, hand rails, pens, credit card terminal, etc.)
- At the beginning of every work day you will want to clean everything you touch in order to reduce or eliminate as many of the microbes as you can:
- Wipe door knobs,
- Wipe phone receiver and number pad,
- Wipe keyboard and mouse,
- Wipe light switches,
- Wipe every surface in the bathroom (faucet & toilet handles),
- Wipe pens, pencils, calculators, credit card terminal, etc.
- The person who is immunocompromised will want to take extra precautions:
- Carry hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes everywhere you go.
- Carry disposable gloves and face masks if going to a crowded place.
- Enforce a very strict “no visitors” rule for anyone who has a fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose or has been exposed to someone else who is sick. You want all visitors to be symptom free and fever free for at least 24 hours without using cold/flu or fever reducing medications.
- Follow all of the steps I outlined above.
A few more tips
Prior to my daughter riding in my car, I would wipe down the door handles, seat belt buckle, radio dials, etc just in case the previous passenger left germs.
If you have to go to the hospital, the doctor’s office or a crowded place where you are likely to encounter sick people, you will want to take extra precautions. For instance, after a trip to the hospital, I wipe my purse, my keys and anything else I touched while there, You want to stop the spread of germs before they enter your body and your home.
In addition, I change out my kitchen dish towels and place the sink sponge in the microwave for one minute to kill all the germs daily.
Note: Proper hand washing involves scrubbing with soap for a full 20 seconds, and turning off the faucet with a paper towel. A simple way to time yourself is to sing happy birthday twice. (But sing it silently to keep from getting awkward stares from others!) And remember, hand sanitizer works most effectively if you rub your hands together until completely air dry.
These measures may sound excessive, but they work.
LymeSci is written by Lonnie Marcum, a Licensed Physical Therapist and mother of a daughter with Lyme. Follow her on Twitter: @ Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org .