Good healthy habits to practice daily

My husband and celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary last week, on Dec. 21. We usually mark the occasion by having dinner with our oldest friends, Dick and Kay, a couple who stood up with us on that afternoon all those years ago. Although Dick passed away 6 years ago from pancreatic cancer, we still have dinner every year on Dec. 21 with Kay. Except for this year.   
We couldn’t make reservations at our favorite restaurant to eat, but that wasn’t the only reason. Kay is in the hospital, fighting COVID. 
Bombarded with reminders to “Mask Up," practice Social Distancing by staying 6 feet from each other, and avoid gatherings, it has been a lonelier holiday season for most of us. 
Although these 3 habits have been proved to reduce the spread of COVID in communities, there are two OTHER habits that can make a difference in reducing the risk of transmitting COVID to our loved ones. 
One of the best ways to stay healthy is to develop 2 habits that I call Healthy Habits: Wash or sanitize your hands frequently and thoroughly, and extinguish face touching behavior, particularly avoiding your eyes, nose, and mouth. 
When I teach about antibiotics and infections with my pharmacy and physician assistant students, I always emphasize how they will be on the front lines of medical care. Whether as pharmacists or physician assistants, they’ll be exposed to more infections than if they worked in other settings because their customers or patients will be coughing and sneezing near them. 
These two habits have been shown to help reduce infection long before COVID showed up and will continue to be significant even when COVID is finally vanquished.
Long before COVID, face touching has been associated with the spread of respiratory illnesses such as common colds, influenza, and flulike infections. The area most important to avoid touching is the “T-Zone” of your face: your eyes, nose, and mouth. 
Touching our face with our hands is an unconscious habit for most people. One study done in 2008 observing behavior in the office work setting showed that workers touched their faces nearly 16 times every hour in that environment.
A group of 26 medical students in New South Wales, Australia, in 2015 was observed to touch their faces an average of 23 times per hour. They handled the "T-Zone" of eyes, nose, or mouth 45% of the time.
Earlier this year, a group of 131 clinical staff working in a pediatric specialty clinic in San Francisco was surveyed on whether they thought wearing a mask would change face-touching behavior. Most participants believed that masks would change face-touching but were divided in whether they thought it would increase or decrease it. When clinic clinicians and staff were observed during their workday at the clinic, in situations where they were masked, they touched their face 5.4 times per hour, compared to 20 times an hour when not masked. 
Dr. Will Sawyer is a family medicine physician with a passion for preventing infection. He is the founder of the Henry the Hand Foundation, which focuses on teaching school-age children good hand hygiene: washing their hands when dirty and before eating, avoiding coughing or sneezing into their hands, and not putting their fingers into their eyes, nose, or mouth. 
Dr. Sawyer also has studied face-touching behavior in a clinical environment, observing nursing staff, and clinicians working in a family medicine office. Published in 2011, long before COVID and regular use of wearing a mask, the study showed staff and clinicians touched their eyes, nose, or mouth nearly 20 times in two hours. 
Social distancing, wearing a mask, and avoiding gatherings effectively reduce COVID transmission and are TEMPORARY inconveniences. If we all do our best to practice them, we can preserve lives and access to medical care during the pandemic. Thankfully, the vaccines developed against COVID will eventually bring the COVID pandemic under control.
The first week of December is National Handwashing Awareness Week. This year I felt that handwashing was overshadowed by the controversy over mandatory masking and limiting social interactions. 
To Reduce Your Risk of Infection Both Now and in the Future, Practice These Healthy Habits:
1.Wash or sanitize your hands frequently and thoroughly. 
Sing a song while you rub soap or sanitizer over every surface of your hands, including fingernails and between your fingers. 
2.Avoid touching your face.
Do your best to extinguish face touching, especially in the”T-Zone”: your eyes, your nose, and your mouth.
Have a happy and healthy 2021!
Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, is a 40-year veteran of pharmacology and author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Check out her NEW website for daily tips on how to take your medicine safely.®2020 Louise Achey


User menu

NCW Media Newspapers