Coming to Terms With Germs

Remember, your immune system is like a very vigilant border collie -- extremely attentive when put to the task, but if not given a task, it'll find some other trouble to get into.

In your body's case, your immune system can start over-reacting to agents that are not truly harmful -- peanuts, berries, pollen, and other benign environmental agents.

Many scientists believe that the increasing rate of food and other allergens is due to an underworked immune system.

Avoiding Antibacterial Extremism

Although we haven't quite all descended into the sanitation madness of Howard Hughes, we have gone a little overboard in the routine use of antibacterial soaps and cleaners.

Luckily, no "super germs" have yet developed due to their use. But unless you work in health care, take care of an elderly or medically frail individual, or work with young children, routine use of antibacterials is unnecessary.

Dr. Carolyn Eaton is a personal visiting physician for Care Level Management in San Antonio and is the vice chair of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians' Commission on Public Health.

Washing your hands for 15 seconds with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, playing with a pet, or shaking hands with someone who has a cold is very effective in preventing disease. It's also a good idea to wash your hands before eating.

Other things everyone should do include:

Putting leftovers away immediately and reheat thoroughly

Not leaving food or dishes on a counter overnight, as this will attract roaches and other unsavory insects

Being careful not to leave uncovered toothbrushes on counters near a toilet. When it flushes, bacteria come up in the air

Only eating thoroughly cooked meats and pasteurized dairy products

Washing all raw produce in warm water thoroughly before eating

Remember, showing good common sense will help prevent a lot of food-borne illnesses -- without overdoing it.

Dr. Carolyn Eaton is a personal visiting physician for Care Level Management in San Antonio and is the vice chair of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians' Commission on Public Health.

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