Nurses With Heart - Bacteria & Viruses

5 Myths About Health Habits

Working in home health care means you meet a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds. Everyone has a different routine, from the many ways clients take their coffee to their bedtime rituals, and along with those routines come different thought processes behind every action. Some are done simply out of habit, as in the way one client preferred drinking her coffee only after breakfast was finished, and others are born out of tradition, as in the case of a client who always needed to go for a Sunday drive, as that is always what he did with his wife, and before that, with his family as a child.

Some things though, are old wive’s tales or superstitions or belief fads, that are untrue, but prevalent in common thought processes purely due to the repetition of the idea. It is important to identify these myths that are often seen as advice and understand why they are most definitely the opposite.

Here are 5 myths about health habits and why they are untrue:

  1. Cold weather makes you sick – Bundle up or you’ll catch a cold! While you may be more likely to become ill in those chilly winter months, it is not because you are cold. In warmer temperatures, the body creates less mucus to lubricate our tissues, therefore when we sneeze or cough, less fluids are expelled from our bodies. Viruses survive better in cold climates, and any type of mucus transfer (read: sneezing, coughing) provides a great environment for the incubation and spreading of virus particles if they are present. In addition, colder weather means staying inside more often, and in closer contact with more people than usual (and their icky germs). The key to wintertime health is to sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm (do the vampire!), stay hydrated, and wash, wash, WASH your hands!
  2. Green mucus = infection – Speaking of mucus…many people are still under the misconception that if you sneeze green you must need an antibiotic for some sort of infection. To start off with, our bodies will always have mucus, as it goes hand in hand with being a healthy human being. Mucus helps to lubricate and moisturize tissues, traps dust and bacteria from further entering our bodies, and acts as an initial buffer for the immune system. Mucus thickens and becomes discolored in a variety of situations that do not indicate infection or the need for an antibiotic. Simply sitting in your nose as you sleep overnight leads to a concentration in both mucus thickness and color. Discolored mucus can also occur when it is working to keeping out dust, pollen, and other invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. Green mucus may also signify a fight with those irritants that was already won, like a residual first place trophy for your awesome immune system. Situations that call for a physician’s attention are when you have a high fever that does not improve, if your symptoms get worse after a week, or if the mucus is extremely thick and looks like pus. Otherwise, keep on monitoring and love your mucus, because it loves you!
  3. You should poop daily – Building on our discussion of bodily functions, as humans, we really like to obsess about the color of our mucus and how much we poop. Regular bowel movements indicate a healthy digestive system, with an effective movement of waste out of the body and an increase in comfort for the individual. Routine bowel movements differ by individual, as some may only have a bowel movement three times per week, with other norms of twice per day. If you have a regular BM routine, do not worry about comparing your fecal habits with others. However, do seek attention if your stool suddenly changes in frequency, urgency, or color (and you have not just spent the weekend sampling serranos at your local chili-fest).
  4. Sugar makes people (and kids) hyper – Studies upon studies upon studies have been completed on this idea that is commonly believed by many people. The findings are all the same – sugar does not impact energy levels or behaviors. What does impact theses things though, are the surrounding environment (i.e. correlation DOES NOT EQUAL causation). Did your child have a piece of cake at a birthday party surrounded by ten other kids who were all trying to get each other’s and their parent’s attention? Did you binge on fun-size chocolate bars while watching a marathon of Halloween movies? It appears that the conditions of consumption and the expectations of consumption are what cause changes in behavior, not the sugar itself. So while it is beneficial to your health to limit sucrose intake, do not avoid a little sugar in your herbal tea in the evening just because you are afraid it will keep you up all night.
  5. The “Five Second” rule – And the fifth myth about health habits is (appropriately) the “Five Second” rule. The idea that if you drop something on the floor and pick it up within five seconds is gross at best, and harmful at worst. Several studies have found that you will always pick up bacteria no matter how fast you grab that Cheeto from the floor. It is not always going to be coated in the Ebola virus, but depending on the type of surface it is dropped on (whether it is your wood kitchen floors or the linoleum at your local hospital), there will always be some level of contamination. With surface contamination being the sixth most common contributing factor for outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, it is always best to play it safe and get another (cleaner) serving.

So appreciate your mucus (and stay away from other people’s) and bowel habits, do not be afraid of sugar, and try not to be a human vacuum for floor fallen food!