An infectious disease is a disorder caused by organisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites entering the body, and then multiplying. Some of these diseases can be passed from person to person, and are also known as respiratory diseases.
Infectious respiratory diseases are caused by germs entering the respiratory system (lungs, throat and airways) through mucus or saliva. Activities such as coughing, sneezing, talking or laughing can create droplets of these secretions that are small enough to remain in the air, travel long distances, and be inhaled by others. However, the most common form of respiratory disease transmission comes from direct contact with larger quantities of the mucus or saliva, such as through shaking hands, touching contaminated surfaces, eating or drinking after others, or other close contact with infected individuals.
Limit your exposure to infectious respiratory diseases though the following precautions:
- Minimize contact with the most common contaminated sources – You’d be surprised at which surfaces contain the most germs. For instance, everyone is cautious about germs and bacteria within public restrooms, but did you know that gas pump handles, mailboxes, ATM buttons, public door handles, and escalator rails are among some of the most virus-ridden public surfaces?
- Frequently wash your hands – You can’t avoid all contaminated surfaces or individuals, and you can’t control the personal hygiene of others. You can however, frequently wash your hands. Washing your hands with water and soap is one of the most effective ways you can reduce the spread of illness. Can’t make it to the restroom for frequent hand washing? Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective at killing germs, and will suffice. Try to keep your hands germ free as much as possible.
- Get immunized – Many infectious respiratory diseases are vaccine-preventable, such as: flu, measles and whooping cough.
- Keep your distance when you are ill – Staying home when you are sick is the preferable option, as you are not exposing others to your illness, and you won’t be as susceptible to catch another illness while your immune system is down. However, when staying home isn’t an option, there are other methods of keeping your distance:
- Allow a few more feet of talking distance between you and others.
- Cover all sneezes and coughs with a tissue or even your elbow, but never with your hands.
- Do not share food or drink with others – Eating from the same plate, off of the same utensils or sharing a drinking container is not a good idea. Germs are spread through the sharing of mucus and saliva, and sharing food and drinks is a very direct avenue of this sharing.