Photo: Bob Gubbins/iStock
We're not gaining any ground in the battle against food-borne illnesses. A CDC report released this spring found that for the third year in a row, the number of cases held steady—roughly 76 million Americans fall ill each year. And a common source of transmission is dirty hands. Keeping your mitts clean can also protect against colds, the flu, staph and many other types of infections. So after the part we get right—wet your hands under warm running water and lather up with soap—the next steps are:
1. Scrub the backs of your hands and wrists, which carry germs, too. Pay as much attention to these areas as you do your palms, fingers, and fingernails.
2. Wash vigorously for 20 seconds and then rinse well.
3. Dry off with a paper towel (this helps remove germs), and use the towel to turn off the faucet and open the door on your way out, to avoid reinfecting your hands. (Just be sure that towel ends up in the trash.)
When abroad, you may have to take measures to avoid sickness—40 to 60 percent of people who travel through developing countries get traveler's diarrhea. In addition to drinking only bottled water and following the "boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it" guidelines for food, consider chewing two tablets of Pepto-Bismol four times a day. This can prevent up to 60 percent of cases, research shows. If you want to take stronger measures, talk to your doctor about the antibiotic rifaximin. One study found it 72 percent effective in warding off traveler's diarrhea, and because the body doesn't absorb the drug, there are fewer side effects and less risk of bacterial resistance than with other antibiotics.
From the July 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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