family meal

As we all know, the holiday season is upon us. Along with family, food and fun comes millions of germs that can make us very sick. Have you ever been served a piece of cake or a scoop of ice cream only to have the server push the food from the serving spoon and then lick their fingers? You may even be guilty of this yourself. While it may not seem like a big deal at the time, would you spit into someone's food before serving them? I certainly hope not, but it is essentially the same thing, just a difference of severity. I urge you to make this holiday season as sanitary and germ-free as possible for you and your guests, especially the kids that are always running around as they may not know the difference.

With the outbreak, in recent years, of illnesses like H1N1 and with the rise in cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, this year, I think we could all do a little more to protect our loved ones. Did you know that whooping cough and the flu can be deadly to babies, the elderly and anyone else with a compromised immune system? I know many people think that as long as they don't have a fever or a runny nose that they can't make someone else sick, but that is simply not true. We carry millions of germs on our clothing, in our hair and especially on our hands and never get sick ourselves, but can still put others in danger. If you could do something as small as washing your hands to save someone's health, or even life, would you do it?

Some simple things I feel that all people can implement into their daily routines to protect themselves and their families are as follows:

-Wash your hands!!! I know it seems like common sense, but so many people don't do it - especially children. As parents, it is our duty to protect our kids from unseen dangers and this is one that shouldn't be forgotten! We all know that kids are not the cleanest people in the world, especially in the bathroom, so we need to make sure that they wash thoroughly each time they use the facilities. If you start them young, it just becomes a habit that they will carry through the rest of their lives. Have your entire family wash before coming to the dinner table. This was something that I did as a child, but as I got older, it just didn't happen any more, but it is a wonderful and much needed practice. As we sit in the living room watching TV, we may pet the dog (and just THINK of the germs there!), rub our eyes, blow our noses or use the computer and while these seem like simple things, we pick up unimaginable amounts of germs from these everyday activities. If we get up and head to the dinner table without washing, we spread those germs to the food and utensils we touch and ingest them ourselves! Always remember to wash when preparing food. Not only before beginning, but several times during. When you are working with any kind of raw meat, you need to wash with warm water and soap each time you go to touch anything else because these types of food contain extremely dangerous germs like e. coli and salmonella. If germs were visible to the human eye, we would all be washing at least 10 times more than we do now. ALWAYS wash before, during and after food preparation, after helping a child go to the bathroom or changing a diaper, after blowing your nose or touching your nose or mouth and before serving food to anyone else. Also make sure to use soap or you will just have wet germs rather than clean hands!

-Sanitize surfaces in your home. I am a huge proponent of products like Clorox wipes because they make life clean and simple. I can't count the number of times that I see someone take a damp rag that has been sitting on the side of the kitchen sink and use it to wipe down the table. It would have been better if they hadn't done it at all! That damp washcloth sat there and acted as a petri dish, growing bacteria and germs and then when used to wipe down another surface, the washcloth just served to increase the contamination that was already there. If you use some sort of wipe, you can be sure that the germs are being killed and you don't have to mess with a stinky washrag!! They are also great for door handles, light switches and the telephone!

-Get your vaccinations! I know this is a pretty hot topic, and I think that it should be up to each person to decide whether or not they want to get a vaccine, but I believe that they do work and that they also save lives!! So many people think that vaccines are dangerous and that people can get sick and die from them, but I can guarantee that more people die from illnesses that they could have prevented than from the vaccines themselves. So just make sure you are making a truly informed decision before deciding not to get vaccinated, especially when making this decision for your children!

-Take sanitizer with you! There are places that we all must venture into, especially during this time of year, that are basically hot houses for germs! Places like Wal-Mart or McDonalds where thousands of people go through every single day and leave their germs behind when they go. We never think of it when we're there because we're usually pretty focused on what we're doing, but they can be dangerous places. Especially those shopping carts! Just imagine the last little kid that sat in there and had a runny nose and drooled all over and then touched that cart everywhere! If you plan on putting your child in a shopping cart, please use the sanitizer wipes before hand , or better yet, purchase a cart cover that you can take with you everywhere. I have one that works on shopping carts and restaurant high chairs, it's a life saver and I feel better knowing that my little one is protected. Finally, when leaving any place like this, sanitize before you even get into your car. Your vehicle and your home should be clean zones so that you don't have to worry about all of this stuff, but it won't stay that way if you bring the germs home with you!

-Finally, STAY HOME! If you are sick or think you may be coming down with something, don't expose the rest of the world to your germs! It's one thing to be out and about with a cold, we all have to do that and if we stayed home each time we had a runny nose, we'd be hermits! But, if you wake up with a sore throat or a bout of the runs, why take the chance of passing that on to someone else? Not only do you need to stay home to avoid giving your sickness to others, you need to rest your body in order to better heal because nothing heals faster and better than rest! So take it easy and stay in bed, your body and the rest of the world will be thank you for it!

The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year to spend with family and friends and have a great time, but nobody is going to be having fun if they're home sick! So please, be a little more vigilant this year and protect your family. As Ben Franklin once said, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." I certainly agree and I hope you will too! At this year's holiday table, please pass the fruitcake, not the flu!