Thursday, 15 January 2009

Getting bugged by bugs

I have been desperately trying to avoid getting an infection this winter but at this time of year when bugs are rife, simply leaving the front door feels like a health hazard.

Obviously, everyone is keen to avoid sickness bugs, coughs, ‘flus and colds, but for your average ‘loopy’ this time of year is a nightmare. Not only are we more prone to catching things anyway due to the abnormalities in our immune systems, the drugs many of us take open us up even further to infection (recently my drugs went into overdrive and virtually cancelled out my white blood cells entirely). And, if and when we do catch something nasty, it can lead to a lupus flare. All in all, it’s not great!

After bad experiences in the past and a better spell of health recently, I have been really determined to try and avoid catching anything, but this is easier said than done.

I tried putting myself in a kind of ‘quarantine’ by staying at home but could only keep this up so long: there were things to be done, places to be and people to be seen. Even when I did manage to ‘hide’ at home problems arose. My husband came home from work reporting stories of a whole host of unpleasant bugs flying around his office. One ‘loopy’ friend, who took part in the research, told me she was having a similar problem. In fact when her husband developed a cold she took to wearing a mask (usually used by decorators to avoid toxic fumes) to protect herself, and last I heard she was contemplating goggles too- she wasn’t sure what the postman thought when she forgot and answered the door in her protective wear!

When I did leave the house it was virtually impossible to find anyone who didn’t think they were infectious in some way and public transport felt like a death trap.

So far I haven’t got off scot free, but lighter than usual, but who’s to say for the rest of the winter. Fingers crossed. The only advice I can offer is obvious: where possible try to avoid infectious people and densely crowded places and be scrupulous about hygiene. Make sure friends and family know of your vulnerability to infection so they make sure not to come near when they have anything catching. Sleep separately from your partner when they have the ‘lurgy’. I have been using Cuticura Antibacterial Hand Hygiene Wipes to wipe anything and everything I suspect may be of potential danger including my hands, toilet seats, phones in the work place, hand rails in buses / trains (I have tried to be subtle so as not to offend others!), I have used anti-bac soaps and hand gels and also been giving Vicks ‘First Defence’ a go, in spite of my cynicism. So far, so good!

Apparently in Japan it is the norm to be highly conscientious about personal hygiene and you will often see people wearing face masks when they have a cold to prevent the spread of germs. Still, I can’t help but feel like I’m a bit of a prissy wimp. To get over this, perhaps we could try and start a fashion trend for the surgical mask like those worn in Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic as in the picture above ... mine’s the flowery one!