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Prairie Fare: Steps to Avoid Getting Sick this Season
By: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension - 12/02/2019

"I'm kind of a germophobe," the woman said. "Do you want a sanitizing wipe?"

We were passengers on a plane settling into our spots. I was in the middle seat and she was in the window seat.

I never had wiped down my entire passenger area. However, I followed her lead and wiped the tray, seat back and armrests. I think she wiped the window, too.

I was happy to get the sanitizing wipe. I had just passed a woman vomiting into the wastebasket by the boarding area of the plane.

I buckled my seat belt to settle in place. Then I noticed someone walking toward me who looked kind of familiar. She sat down next to me. She was the woman I had seen vomiting.

The flight attendant handed her a half-dozen "barf bags."

"I hope you feel better," she said.

Another attendant came by with another fistful of bags.

This can't be happening, I thought to myself.

My germophobic neighbor looked over at our seat companion. I think she was glad I was her human buffer.

I had a 3 1/2-hour flight ahead of me. I plugged in my earbuds and turned the video screen speaker fairly high. I was wishing I had a curtain to pull between us.

As I watched the safety video, I wondered if they could go ahead and drop the oxygen mask on me without a flight emergency. I didn't want to breathe recycled air.

My ill neighbor said, between bags, "I bet I'm the nastiest thing you have ever sat next to on a plane."

How do you respond to that?

I wanted a parachute.

She used all the bags during the flight. I escaped getting sick, but I felt kind of ill leaving the plane.

We are in the midst of the flu season, and I had gotten a flu shot a few weeks prior to the airplane trip. Getting vaccinated to help prevent flu is important for all of us, regardless of age.

I also had taken another step due to the courtesy of my healthy seatmate on the plane: I had disinfected common surfaces. Surprisingly, viruses can survive on surfaces for three days.

My ill neighbor had handed me a cup of water from the flight attendant. I thought about that the entire trip and avoided touching my face, eyes and mouth.

Staying well-hydrated also is a key to helping prevent the flu.

As soon as I left the plane, I made a beeline to the bathroom to wash my hands. I washed my hands three times. Washing our hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water is one of the most important ways to help prevent colds and the flu.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, antibacterial soaps are part of the category known as "antiseptic wash products." They are used with water and washed off after use. "Rubs" are leave-on products (also known as "hand sanitizers"). The "rub" category also includes antiseptic wipes.

In a pinch, such as when you are in the middle seat in a plane, a hand sanitizer can be used. Be sure the sanitizer is at least 60% ethanol alcohol. Use the amount recommended on the label, cover all surfaces of your hands and rub your hands until the sanitizer is dry.

However, proper handwashing is considered the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections. According to a study conducted in Japan, hand sanitizers would have to be in contact with viruses on hands for four minutes to kill the germs.

By the way, when you are purchasing soap, remember that antibacterial soap is not more effective than regular soap. As a budget bonus, regular soap often is less expensive than antibacterial soap. Regular soap also does not kill healthy bacteria on the surface of skin.

Stay well with healthful food choices, too. Chicken, vegetables, lentils and broth are a comforting blend of ingredients. See and check out the variety of soup recipes to enjoy this winter.

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