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Simple Tricks to Avoid What's Going Around!

When one member of the family gets sick, it seems as if all the members of the family get sick. It doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Some easy to follow guidelines can help you to avoid all the dreaded coughs and sniffles everyone seems to have. 

In this segment,  Anna Marciniak & Nikki Mueller, infection preventionists with Aspirus Wausau Hospital, discuss how we can protect ourselves from illnesses that are going around with a few simple healthy habits.
Featured Speaker:
Anna Marciniak & Nikki Mueller
Anna Marciniak & Nikki Mueller are infection preventionists with Aspirus Wausau Hospital.

Melanie Cole (Host): With the cold and flu season in full swing, it doesn’t mean the whole family has to be sick, with days or weeks of sniffling, coughing, and achy misery, the keys to staying healthy might be easier than you think. My guests today are Anna Marciniak and Nikki Mueller. They’re both infection preventionists with Aspirus Wassaugh Hospital. Welcome to the show ladies. Anna, I’m going to start with you. When somebody comes to you and says “Oh, there’s so much stuff going around, I don’t want to get sick,” what is the most important thing you tell them about not getting sick?

Anna Marciniak (Guest): Keeping their hands clean. Hand hygiene is extremely important. There’s a couple different ways people can keep their hands clean. They can use the alcohol-based hand disinfectants that are so, very convenient now. We can carry them with us. They’re available in public settings, at grocery stores, at banks. And then also cleaning your hands with soap and water.

Melanie: So Anna, do you have a preference between soap and water or hand sanitizers as far as cleanliness?

Anna: I prefer to use, on a daily basis, just out and about, the alcohol-based sanitizers because they’re so convenient, but there are a couple indications when you would want to use soap and water to clean your hands. Those indications would be after you use the restroom, you want to use soap and water to clean your hands, before you eat, or if your hands would ever look dirty, appear dirty, they’d be visibly soiled, and you would want to wash those germs down the drain. Also, there are some gastrointestinal-type infections where it’s recommended to use hand hygiene like soap and water instead of the alcohol-based hand gels.

Melanie: So Nikki, what if a family member is sick? What do you tell people about hoping that it doesn’t go around the whole family because you don’t want to get ridiculous in spraying Lysol everywhere, all over the house, but what do you do if somebody is sick and you maybe even have to take care of somebody with one of those gastrointestinal viruses going around?

Nikki Mueller: You’re going to want to avoid as much close contact as you can with the people that are sick, and if it’s respiratory you want to have them cover their cough and sneezes and make sure you always wash your hands after any contact with them or their coughs and sneezes. You also do want to clean frequently touched surfaces and objects and just be prepared to clean everything.

Melanie: Now, you mentioned, Nikki, coughing and sneezing – is there a particular way you just don’t want people sneezing out into the open air -- we hear forearm, we hear don’t cough into your hand. Is that a myth?

Nikki: No, we prefer to have people cough – usually they say into your elbow or cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw that tissue away and then wash your hands afterward.

Melanie: That’s a good lesson for kids, especially in the germ rooms that they go to school and have so many things going on there. Now, Anna, I’d like to ask you about some other ways besides just washing your hands. How important is sleep to building our immune system and helping us get not all these illnesses?

Anna: Just overall, general healthiness definitely will help your body fight any of these pathogens that are out and about, getting good sleep, eating properly and just following the basic infection prevention practices like getting your vaccines, keeping your hands clean, all of those play a part in staying healthy.

Melanie: And Nikki, what about dietary? Is there anything you’ve heard over your years as an infection preventionist, in dietary help for immune system building?

Nikki: You just want to make sure you eat a variety of healthy foods. You don’t want to fill up on the sugars, and fats, and red meats. You want to make sure you get in your fruits and vegetables and just eat healthy overall.

Melanie: And Anna, what about exercise? Do you feel, personally, that it helps to build up that immune system and get your blood pumping so you can fight some of this stuff?

Anna: I would say so, and again, just going with that overall, healthy lifestyle, exercise is definitely a part of that.

Melanie: So really, Nikki, if you had to tell somebody – okay, so you’re the infection preventionist. When you go to the grocery store, do you grab one of those hand sanitizing cloths and wipe down the cart?

Nikki: I do.

Melanie: Are we overdoing that, or does that really help?

Nikki: It’s more about personal preference and personal safety, so if you feel that it helps, definitely use it. There’s really no recommendation whether to do it or not, so it’s more a personal preference.

Melanie: Yes, I know some people like to do it, and some people just walk on by, but you do never know what’s on that cart handle. Anna, with our kids in school, we’re trying to teach them to cough into their elbow and wash their hands on a regular basis, but they’re not always doing that. What do you tell parents that they really should be telling their kids is so important, because there are some nasty things going around?

Anna: As a parent, I would definitely recommend that all the kids are up on their vaccines, whatever would be recommended for their age. Vaccines are a really great way to prevent infection. It’s important to be a good role model at home, so lead by example, cover your cough, clean your hands because your kids will see that.

Melanie: Anna, I’m going to stick with you for a second here. What about the dreaded toilet? As mothers, I have to clean that thing all the time, but Rotavirus and gastroenteritis and all of these things can lend themselves to being in the bathroom. What do you tell kids and parents about keeping that clean, or not lifting the seat, lowering the seat because there could be icky stuff on there?

Anna: First of all, go back to hand hygiene and the importance of that, so if your hands would become contaminated when you are in the bathroom, you’re always going to clean your hands with soap and water after you use the restroom. But then, also, just general household cleanliness, keeping the bathroom areas clean, keeping those high-touch surfaces clean with a household disinfectant, wiping down that toilet handle, the flush handle – all those areas in the bathroom especially are good to focus on.

Melanie: Nikki, last word to you, wrap it up. Give us your best advice for people that want to avoid some of these illnesses and really using healthy habits, both dietary and exercise, maybe getting some fresh air and washing their hands. Wrap it all up for us.

Nikki: Okay, so we suggest that if you’re sick, you want to stay home and protect your coworkers and friends and family. You’re going to want to cover your coughs and sneezes, definitely wash your hands as much as possible, get enough sleep, eat as healthy as possible, work on getting exercise, just living an overall healthy life to help prevent this.

Melanie: Well, it’s certainly important information ladies, and thank you so much for being with us today. You’re listening to Aspirus Health Talk, and for more information, you can go to, that’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.