What did you do this winter season? I bet one of your To-Do List was to fill up the gas tank in your family vehicle and travel places for the holidays. Perhaps like you and I, many people in the American culture cannot wait for winter to arrive.
A few exciting activities have been constructed around this season. Some enjoy skiing in the snow and others enjoy decorating and baking in preparation for a white Christmas. Many are looking forward to the Times Square ball drop. They have to celebrate the previous year and participate in the new year countdown.
However, while this particular season reminds many of us why the savior of the world loved even the unloved, the importance of family, and perhaps prompts others to fall in love, It also brings along some unwanted guests. Meet Mr. Cold and Ms. Flu. They stealthily sneak into our bodies and before you know it, boom: the sudden body weakness and aches, the pounding headaches, the coughing, the sneezing, the runny or stuffy nose, the sore throats, the fevers, chills and sometimes, the loss of appetite. Someone who was asking for seconds and leftovers during the celebrations is now so beaten down by this cold/flu virus. He or she does not want to eat, drink, sit or sleep.
This flu virus which spreads not only by touching with unsanitized hands, coughing and sneezing, but also simply by breathing, seems to be non-fatal compared to other diseases. but yet, it is incurable, very discomforting and can cause the loss of lives due to its negative externalities such as pneumonia. However, many people are not aware that maybe as they pumped gas to go back home and start the new year with their daily hustle and bustle, The gas pump had something to do with their catching a cold and flu virus. I should not have been clueless myself because I know better, but I was too.
We now know that this past winter the flu season was one of the worst in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had predicted that over 48 States would be affected and that in over the last 9 years, this would be the first time it had spread all at once in all these States. California State was most affected and specifically, there were some fatal deaths among the elderly and the very young not only in California but across the entire United States. Hospitals were overflowing with ailing patients and, I must say, I was one of them. The unwanted guests visited me twice. The second time, these members really overstayed their welcome.
There are many ways we invite the virus into our bodies. However, there is this one particular activity I observed this last flu season. I now believe it is a major contributor to the involuntary invitation of Mr. Cold and Ms. Flu into our bodies. It even enables them to stay a little bit longer. It is the way we use the gas pump! After self-evaluation and choosing to change how I pump my gas, I started observing other people at the gas station. First, you have to appreciate that folks are from all walks of life. They include executives, construction workers, plumbers, teenage boys and girls on a rampage, hotel and restaurant chefs, fast food servers, men in suits, pretty young women dressed for a party or a job interview or an executive meeting, and the list is endless. I chose to look at how they pumped their gas and what they did shortly afterwards.
It was all the same routine. Almost 99.9% of those who filled up their tanks held that gas pump with their own bare hands. They did not use any napkins or gloves. I never saw them washing their hands or use any of the disinfectants available at every gas pump station. Or are they? Because I took time to go around to several gas pumps and checked whether those containers were filled up with disinfectants. I did not find any. They were empty. I tried the following day and the results were the same. Maybe you know of a gas station that is fully loaded. It would be interesting to observe if people use what is available to them to reduce the rate of infection.
Moreover, many people did not leave their cars to go inside the gas shop because I would assume they went to wash their hands. But rather, they just opened their cars with the same hands they used to hold the gas pump and then as they touched their driving wheels, I saw them driving away nonchalantly. At that point in time, we do not want to imagine one of those happy drivers using the same unsanitized hands to bite on an apple or snack on a potato chip. When I shared this observation with a doctor friend of mine, he said, "that my friend, is one of the major ways in which most people catch a cold and invite the flu in their bodies. Even when we do our home remedies, we keep getting infected repeatedly and wonder whether these remedies do really work." When I heard that, I was done!
So, all the time, we hear of the usual prescriptive and preventative measures like, "Stay home if you are under the weather," "cover your mouth while coughing," "take your vitamins Cs, your Zink" and "wash your hands with soap please." We also indulge in home remedies like hot tea with ginger and honey, a bowl of hot soup, or my favorite; a concoction of ginger, garlic, raw egg white, cinnamon, lemon, honey and a few milligrams of Vodka or Fireball. But how many times do we pay particular attention to some of our own conscience or un-conscience actions leading to infection? Handwashing with soap matters.
Meanwhile, Healthcare agencies like the CDC encourage people to take their flu shots even starting way back in the Fall season. While many adhere to this practice as a preventative measure, some have a few fears and concerns about the flu shot and its side effects and so they don't take it. Therefore by the time Mr. Cold and Ms. Flu pay us a sneaky visit, some have enhanced their immune system and have developed the ability to thwart the virus while many are weakened by it.
Usually, I would conclude by listing the dos and don'ts of pumping gas. But I know that as adults, we can all go figure and come up with creative ways to fill our vehicles with gas without inviting Mr. Cold and Ms. Flu into our bodies. All I know is that my relationship with the gas pump has totally changed. I either use a napkin or I wash my hands with soap after I pump. Mostly, I do both. I also have a can of those moisturized wipes with disinfectant available in my car and I use them liberally. Keeping hands clean is crucial for everybody but especially for nursing mothers, loving fathers, babysitters and teachers who are in constant touch with children and babies.
I also encourage you to teach our young ones to always wash their hands with soap so they can appreciate and adapt to a healthier lifestyle. Another good friend of mine also in the medical field, advised that when the Fall season starts, it is good practice to double one's intake of vitamin C and Zink. Stay hydrated. This is also the time to avoid pop or sweet drinks. Sugar is the cyber host of Mr. Cold and Ms. Flu in our bodies. Fruits and vegetables are highly recommended as they contain useful antioxidants. Choose the fruits which have less sugar though. Water becomes your best friend, but always...and the warmer the better. The Chinese have taught us that a cup of hot tea goes a long way to warm us inside, cool us down when we are hot and soothe our sore throats. And yeah, when the next cold/flu season comes, I might be the first in line to get that flu shot.
Finally, people who are very active especially those who exercise often, in addition to all the other preventative measures, are more likely to have a stronger immune system against Mr. Cold and Ms. Flu than those who are less active. As a community, we continue to be ready because Mr. Cold and Ms. Flu are relatives and their distant but close cousin called pollen allergies is around the corner too. Another unwanted guest during the beautiful Spring season with similar if not worse symptoms. Totally unrelated to the gas pump.
I wish you all a happy Spring season. As you come up with healthier ways to pump your gas, please also pump your heart on that treadmill or at the park to a stronger immune system as well.