Being left out of the family dinner, opening presents and other Christmas activities is not a lot of fun, but the state’s top doctor says it’s important to stay away if you are sick. State medical director, Patricia Quinlisk, says it’s better to be safe instead of spreading something that will make everyone ill. “Think about your family, don’t go to Christmas dinner if you are really sick,” Quinlisk says. “Tell them that your Christmas gift to them is that you are going to stay home and keep your viruses to yourself.”
Dr. Quinlisk says you may spread your illness to some of the people who are least equipped to handle it. “Especially grandma, grandpa, or even that new baby that your sister has — or something like that — because babies actually are most likely to be hospitalized with the flu out of all the groups we have in our population,” Quinlisk explains.
Keeping away from others is one of the three C’s that Quinlisk advises when dealing with illness. “Contain your viruses — so if you get sick stay home. Clean your hands…and when you do cough, cover that cough with your elbow or a Kleenex so you are not coughing the virus out into the air for someone else to pick up and get sick,” she says.
A recent report raised concerns that antibacterial soaps and sanitizers may be doing more harm than good in preventing disease. Quinlisk says her instructions have always been about the amount of time you use to be sure you are washing away germs. “And that’s really the answer, is you need that friction, you need rubbing, you need the warm water, running water to wash those germs off,” Quinlisk says. “They type of soap you use is really not as important as the fact that you actually do it with warm water and soap.”
She always advises that you should spend the amount of time washing that it takes to sing the song “Happy Birthday” twice before you finish. “If there’s not warm water and soap available — you can use the hand gels — just be aware that those hand gels do not work very well. In fact, may not work at all against some of the viruses that do spread around — including norovirus — which is the number one cause of diarrhea in Iowa,” Quinlisk says.
Family gatherings can have people confined into small areas, especially if it’s cold outside, and Quinlisk says that makes it easier to spread viruses.