No-one likes getting sick. Especially when it could have been prevented. Infectious diseases are caused by microscopic organisms such as viruses, bacteria, or parasites entering the body and wreaking havoc with the body’s normal functions. Certain people are more vulnerable to infection – particularly the elderly and those with comorbidities or underlying illnesses, whose immune systems are low.

The number one defence against infectious disease is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Having a strong immune system (link to immune system blog) can help protect you, so maintaining a nutritious diet, regular exercise, getting enough sleep and managing stress levels are all steps to boosting the immune system. However, these nasty pathogens (or disease-carrying microorganisms) are stubborn and can enter even the healthiest of bodies. Fortunately, there are a number of healthy habits you can adopt on a daily basis to prevent the spread of disease. 

 

PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE

Your mom was right. Good hygiene is the key to the prevention of spreading and contracting disease.

  1. Wash hands thoroughly.

You’ve heard it over and over again, washing hands is the number one way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds regularly throughout the day, but especially before and after preparing and eating meals, after using the toilet, after handling pets and animals, and after blowing your nose or sneezing. No soap? Use hand sanitizer instead. 

  1. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. 

Or sneeze into your elbow. Respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and COVID-19, are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.

  1. Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces in the home and workplace, such as door handles, computer keyboards, and other high-traffic areas.

  2. Avoid those who are sick.

It goes without saying, steer clear of others who are sick, which leads us to the next point.

  1. Stay home when you are sick.

No-one wants your germs, and your germs can’t be spread if you are at home.

  1. Be particularly careful when traveling and catching public transport.

Don’t touch handrails, wear a mask, sanitize, open the window if possible, and stand or sit at least a metre away from the next person. 

 

 

PREPARE FOOD PROPERLY

Bacteria and viruses in food can cause food-borne infections. It is important to handle and prepare food safely to kill any germs present, as well as to curb cross-contamination. 

 

  1. Wash hands before and after touching raw meat.
  2. Wash fruits and vegetables.
  3. Don’t use the same utensils or cutting boards for cutting raw meat and cooked meat. Make sure you wash them between.
  4. Defrost food only in the refrigerator or the microwave.
  5. Cook meat thoroughly before consuming it.
  6. Never store cooked food at room temperature. It must be stored in the refrigerator.
  7. Keep all cooking surfaces clean.

Protect yourself and others from diseases carried by animals, rodents and bugs

Ticks, mosquitos, rodents and wild animals are all potential carriers of disease. 

  1. Use insect repellent, especially in summer, to keep the mosquitos at bay.
  2. When walking in areas where ticks are common, stay in the centre of the path, and check for ticks when you get home. (Especially on your dogs)
  3. Store all food in secure containers and seal any cracks or holes where rodents could enter.
  4. If you have a severe insect or rodent infestation, contact pest control.
  5. Stay away from wild animals. (Obvious, we know) Wild animals such as baboons, monkeys and bats can carry rabies which can be spread through biting.
  6. If you live in an area where monkeys and baboons are common, keep windows closed and all food out of sight.

Practice safe sex

Another way to spread infection is through sexual intercourse. The prevention of sexually transmitted diseases is only really possible by abstinence but there are ways to practice safer sex:

  1. Have sexual intercourse with only one partner. And you should be their only partner too.
  2. Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases before engaging in intercourse with a new partner. And they should as well.
  3. The male should always wear a condom.

Get vaccinated

Vaccines can prevent the spread of many infectious diseases.

  1. Children should get their age-appropriate vaccinations, adults too. Make sure to keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date, and if you are planning on traveling out of the area, check which vaccines are required for the area you are travelling to.

While many of the above are common sense, we know how life often gets in the way; you’re too busy, too hungry, too excited, too distracted etc and common sense goes out the window. But take a moment to think how these habits could prevent the spread of infection to yourself or your loved ones, saving you, and others, from falling ill, and potentially saving lives in the process.