Maybe you hear someone in the grocery store cough or see someone in your office sneeze and reach for the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer. Or, maybe you cut yourself doing house work and find you ran out of Neosporin. You might be concerned about infection in these situations, but Texarkana Emergency Center doesn’t want you to worry.
Infections, no matter if they take the form of the flu, digestive issues, or a swollen cut, can be treated and prevented in many cases. In honor of Infection Prevention Week, we want to talk about easy ways to help you and your family prevent infections.
How do we get infections?
One of the most important parts of preventing infections is knowing where they come from. If you keep your home neat and wash your hands regularly, then you’re safe, right? Not necessarily. Infections come in different forms, and containing your sneezes are only one piece to the infection prevention puzzle.
Infections are any condition resulting from bacteria or viruses getting into our bloodstream. It can be something as mild as a cold or something as severe as gangrene. This means that we can contract infections in different ways, but there are a few general types of infections that are most common:
- Air-born illness
- Touch-spread illness
- Injury infections
- Contaminated food
These four kinds of infection are the most common forms that we encounter every day. Whether you are infected with bacteria or a virus, all of these infections can be treated and prevented. It is just a matter of knowing how to keep you and your family healthy and safe.
When we’re trying to keep ourselves flu-free, we all know the rules. Cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands, and don’t share food or drink. These pieces of advice can feel generic and repetitive sometimes, given how many times kids and adults hear them every autumn. But there is valuable truth in these methods of clean hygiene.
Keeping your hands clean when you are cooking, eating, and doing any personal grooming is a simple and effective way to prevent infection. This is why washing your hands with antimicrobial soap is so important, especially after you use the restroom and before you eat. When you do this, you clean and kill off many bacteria that we come into contact with everyday without even realizing it. Clean hands can reduce touch-spread illnesses and help to keep your food from being contaminated.
When you are sick, making sure your sneezes and coughs are covered helps to minimize the spreading of any germs. You can keep your friends and family safe from infection if you use tissues or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, to keep any air-born illnesses stifled.
Sharing food and drink might seem a bit overly cautious, but for kids who are sharing snacks at lunch time, this can be one of the fastest ways to share a fever or the flu. We always want to encourage our kids to share and get along with their friends but sharing food and drinks can contribute to food contamination (especially for kids with food allergies) and touch-spread illnesses. So teach your kids when it is and isn’t appropriate to share juice or water with their bestie on the playground.
Accidents happen, and when they do, the key to keeping infections at bay is to keep any wounds clean. For adults and kids alike, knowing how to clean cuts and scrapes is important to making sure wounds heal properly. Follow these tips to keeping wounds clean:
- Wash all wounds with warm water and soap before dressing with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
- When a wound is bleeding, apply antibacterial ointment, like Neosporin, to the wound before putting a bandage over it.
- Never pick at or scratch wounds. It is important to let them scab and heal naturally.
When wounds aren’t properly cleaned and bandaged, they run the risk of getting infected. Signs of an infected wound are inflammation, unusual pain and itchiness, and any pus or discoloration. If you notice these signs in an injury, then you should see a doctor for medical treatment.
When it comes to food poisoning, a common kind of stomach infection, the only ways to prevent it are to ensure that you are cooking and eating safe ingredients.
Safe eating means cooking with fresh, washed ingredients, paying attention to expiration dates, avoiding cross-contamination, and cooking all of your raw meats and proteins to the right internal temperature. These steps ensure that your food isn’t rotting or moldy when you eat it and prevents the growth of any bacteria which might cause a stomach infection. The easiest way to avoid cross-contamination is to make sure your raw meats never touch your vegetables. Once your proteins are properly cooked, they can be put over rice, vegetables, and with any other side dishes you have planned for dinner.
To make sure your meats are reaching the right temperature to kill off all bacteria, refer to our Outdoor Grilling blog from this summer, which discusses how to cook proteins in more detail.
Autumn marks the beginning of cold and flu season, and while we can all do our best to cover our coughs, the flu can still infect our families. Since the flu is such a contagious virus, it has a high rate of infection. The best way to stay flu-free this year is to get your annual flu vaccine.
Flu shots give your immune system a crash-course in flu fighting, and since every year the flu virus adapts into a new kind of illness, getting the updated flu shots every year is the most effective way to keep away any flu infections. The vaccine will not make you immune to the flu, but it will make it significantly harder for you to contract the virus. Even patients who get the flu, after getting a flu shot, find that they can recover faster when they have had a flu shot. With an immune system ready to fight the virus, your body’s best flu defense is an up-to-date vaccine.
Infections come in a wide variety of contagions, but whether you are worried about stomach troubles, the flu, or the common cold, these simple methods can help you to fight them off. Many families already practice these healthy habits without even realizing it, so by knowing why it is important to wash your hands before you eat and cook your meat correctly, we can be even better prepared to keep away infections. In the event that you do get a severe infection, though, Texarkana Emergency Center is here to provide 24/7 concierge-level emergency care. Our staff of board-certified doctors and nurses are ready to help your whole family, from kids to grandparents, with any emergency medical need.
This blog is written by Maggie Berardo, content writer at Nutex Health.
Nutex Health, Inc. supports you and your family’s health. Come visit Texarkana Emergency Center or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.