NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 18 As the holiday spirit kicks in, most of us will hit the stores for holiday sales and gift ideas, but Ochsner infectious disease experts warn the influenza virus can live on hard surfaces for 2-8 hours; therefore, your favorite stores could be an H1N1 harvest. Ochsner offers some common sense advice for shoppers.
"Simply walking into a store can be a hazard as the door handle contains germs from everyone who has touched it in the past 8 hours," explains Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, Medical Director of Infection Control. "Obviously, it's impossible to shop 'germ-free,' but if you're conscious of the ways in which germs travel from person to person, it's much easier to protect yourself," she adds.
Consider these common, shopping actions that put you in contact with viruses, such as H1N1:
The solution! "You've heard it before, but the single best way to protect yourself is through hand washing or hand sanitizers," advises Dr. Baumgarten. She cites some germ-reducing tips to help keep holiday shoppers healthy:
Constant handwashing and alcohol-based hand sanitizers can dry out your hands, so it can be tempting to enjoy sample lotions at the stores, but beware! Simply pushing the pumps on lotions or perfumes can add germs to a clean hand. Instead, ask the store clerk to spray the perfume and use hand sanitizing "lotions" that sanitize as well as moisturize.
"Finally, remember, it's the season to spend time with others, so go out and enjoy yourself but heed these simple, unobtrusive suggestions to stay healthy for the holidays," says Dr. Baumgarten.
-- Opening doors -- Picking up merchandise -- Touching elevator buttons and escalator handles -- Pulling out a chair -- Exchanging money or credit cards -- Eating with your fingers (French fries, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, etc..) -- Rubbing your eyes (due to dry store air conditioning, heaters, allergies) -- Sampling hand lotions and perfumes
SOURCE Ochsner Medical Center