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Dr. Denis Grillo, Ear, Nose & Throat, 01/01/13

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January germs

By Dr. Denis Grillo

January brings in the New Year, playoff game parties, bowl games, and of course the Super Bowl. That means lots of people interacting, lots of people touching things, and lots of germs spreading, especially if there are not good hand washing techniques being implemented.

We know from previous articles I have written that cold weather brings on a spike in viruses that can live on surfaces that we come in contact with every day.

Hand washing is a good way to cut down the transmission of viruses and bacteria that can make us quite sick. In some instances, the transmission of bacteria and viruses can be deadly, and this includes methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, which is a type of staph bacteria that is becoming increasingly more resistant. It used to be thought of as a bacteria that was only found in places like hospitals and nursing homes. Now it’s more common in the general community.

Hand washing seems to have gotten to be a little bit more routine because of these bugs out there. Look at the spike in the use of alcohol-based hand gels, which are a good choice when water is not available. However they certainly do not do as well as plain old soap and water. In some instances people think antibacterial soap is better than plain soap, but the downside is that it may promote drug resistant bacteria in the future.

Men tend to be more resistant in taking up regular good hand cleaning techniques. It seems sometimes that men are offended, at the idea but they sometimes take the attitude that there are germs everywhere, and that their bodies are not particularly dirty when they use the bathroom, so why bother? The difference is, if you wash your hands, you are less likely to have gastrointestinal or respiratory illnesses. Studies have been done for years, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been warning us about the connection between hand washing and reduction of infection.

It is true: germs are everywhere. You may not have them, but you will certainly pick them up when you flush the toilet, or touch door handles. We will never be able to escape germs — they are in the environment — but better hand washing techniques, and the invention of ‘no touch’ motion sensing faucets, soap dispensers, and towel dispensers have made it very convenient to wash away the germs.

We could all do a better job washing our hands and reducing health care costs, as well as sparing people the agony of being sick. Millions, if not billions of dollars, could be saved with good hand washing techniques. Think about that the next time you are at a bowl-game party, with a bunch of friends, and you put your hand in a bowl of chips. You certainly would appreciate the person before you if he had just washed his hands.

Denis Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.