With all the news about swine flu, few people are talking about prevention, other than taking the controversial flu shot.
Is it real prevention? Have dozens of people really become sick or died from the shot? Is is more of a danger than a precaution? There are more questions than answers.
Each of us needs to make our own decision about taking the shot, but whether we do or do not, we should be taking some basic precautions to prevent this, or any other flu.
The first step, of course, is to keep our hands clean. Wash often with anti-bacterial soap, and use hand wipes or gel when soap and water are not available. This is especially important when visiting public places, where we may touch items that have been touched by sick people.
Think of the grocery store as a prime example. Those shopping cart handles feel hundreds of hands up them every day. Some stores offer wipes at the entry door, so use them. But do be careful using them on your own hands if you have any chemical allergies. I gave myself a pounding head one day by being too diligent cleaning my hands with one of them.
Next, also of course, is to try to keep your hands away from your mouth and nose. This is probably the most difficult – most of us are constantly touching our own faces.
Possibly even more important than these preclusions is what we should do when we get home after being out in public.
According to one doctor's column I read, the "Swine flu bug" lives in the throat and nasal passes for a couple of days before it begins to do its dirty work. So we need to take steps to kill it before it gets a chance to make us sick.
That doctor recommended gargling nightly with salt water. Then, either using a netti pot to clean our noses, or doing a swab with a q-tip soaked in salt water.
One last precaution works by washing the bugs into your digestive tract, where they can do no harm. It's also the easiest to do: drink hot liquids. Choose coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even hot water with a bit of lemon and honey.
Such simple solutions to carry such strong prevention.
What about kids?
Children can learn to gargle – but it may take a few tries before they "get it." I recommend teaching them with plain water.