Breaking the Chain of Infection

breaking the chain of infection

With Fall fast approaching and school back in session, I feel it necessary to discuss the eminent cold and flu season sure to effect 1 out of 4 households in America. I was recently made aware of an incident regarding a birthday sleepover a friend hosted for her 11-year-old daughter, at which my daughter attended. The mother of one of the little girls invited gave permission for her daughter to attend but warned that her daughter had a rather violent cough due to allergies and the changing of pollen in the air. The mother promised that this cough was not a cold or infectious condition and that no other child attending the sleepover would be affected, as allergies are, for the most part, non-communicable.

When the child arrived at my friend’s house, she announced that she needed her Robitussin dose every 4-6 hours. The person with limited medicinal knowledge knows that Robitussin is a cough suppressant used for those with cold symptoms. My friend was caught between sending the sick child home disappointed and embarrassed or treating the child with her cold medicine and praying that no one else would become exposed. My friend opted for the latter. She gave the ill child her doses of cold medicine, made her wash her hands before every activity, and isolated her to her own sleeping bag for the wellness of the other guests. Unfortunately, none of these preventative measures was enough to keep four out of the seven girls in attendance from becoming ill 2 days later- my daughter included!

Rather than blame the parent that allowed her daughter’s cold to spread to the other party goers, my friend spoke to me about educating via my blog about the chain and spread of infection. As a Nurse educator, it is my responsibility to share my knowledge with non-healthcare workers because infection, colds, disease and wellness affects us all. The chart below dictates the common spread of germs and colds in our society:

  • A foreign germ or allergen is introduced to the host.
  • The first cold symptoms: fatigue, sneezing, and a sore throat. During the first day or two, you may start to feel as if you have an itch or something stuck in your throat.
  • Sneeze and nasal irritation more than normal. During this point, it is important to rest as much as possible to minimize your fatigue and avoid making your cold worse.
  • Cold symptoms will progress. Nasal symptoms, including both a runny nose and congestion, are often the next common cold symptoms to develop, peaking during the third and fourth days. You may experience a runny nose with a discharge that becomes thicker, yellow, or green during the progression of your common cold. Keep your sinuses as clear as possible by using a sinus rinse or neti pot to minimize the risk of developing a sinus infection.
  • A cough may develop because of postnasal drip or a sore throat, and that cough may linger after congestion and other cold symptoms fade.

Ways to avoid the spread of infection are:

Keep your germs to yourself:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose.
  • Discard used tissues in the trash as soon as you can.
  • Always wash your hands after sneezing, blowing your nose, or coughing, or after touching used tissues or handkerchiefs.
  • Use warm water and soap to wash your hands. If you do not have soap and water, use alcohol-base hand gel or disposable wipes.
  • Try to stay home if you have a cough and fever.
  • See your doctor as soon as you can if you have a cough and fever, and follow their instructions. Take medicine as prescribed and get lots of rest.
  • If asked, use facemasks provided in your doctor’s office or clinic’s waiting room. Follow office or clinic staff instructions to help stop the spread of germs.

Keep the germs away:

  • Wash your hands before eating, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash your hands after touching anyone who is sneezing, coughing or blowing their nose.
  • Do not share things like towels, lipstick, toys, or anything else that might be contaminated with respiratory germs.
  • Do not share food, utensils or beverage containers with others.

Let us all do our part as germ fighters to ensure the health and well-being of one another.

To Help Kids with Battling Germs, check out children’s books & DVD at the Nursing Success College!

Nurse Nicole M. Brown, RN, MSN

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