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Prairie Fare: Please Stay Home When You Are Sick

Some reports say that cold virus droplets can spread at least five feet and up to 30 feet.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I didn’t see it coming until it was too late. The cashier blasted a sneeze right in my face as I began to place my groceries on the counter at the store. I stepped back quickly, but even if I had jumped back, I would not have been protected from those flying droplets.

Some reports say that cold virus droplets can spread at least five feet and up to 30 feet. I nearly had to get a towel to dry myself. You get the picture.

“Excuse me,” the cashier said with a stuffed-up sounding voice punctuated by coughing. Her red, watery eyes looked apologetic.

She obviously wasn’t feeling well, but for the sake of all of us customers, she should have been home sleeping and drinking lots of fluids.

However, from another perspective, the store probably was short on staff during the busy holiday season, so she came to work despite obviously feeling miserable. Maybe she was paid only if she came to work.

Unfortunately, she potentially shared her illness with dozens of people who received change, touched other surfaces she touched or were the recipient of her projectile sneezing. The cashier who replaced her using the same cash register was exposed to the virus, too.

“I’m cooked,” I thought to myself.

Which one of the 200 viruses that cause a common cold was going to attack me and make me miserable for a week or more? Or did she have the flu, which is more serious?

I quickly swiped my credit card and darted out of the store to get fresh air. If I had purchased disinfectant, I would have been tempted to spray myself with it. No, that would not be a good thing to do, either.

I hoped my immune system was in reasonably good shape, and I went to bed early and drank lots of fluid as a precaution. If she actually had the flu, I hoped my flu shot would protect me. However, flu shots do not cover every strain of flu.

You can help yourself avoid becoming sick by staying away from people who are sick. Colds and the flu are two different things. If you have the flu, you will have a fever, aches, extreme tiredness and an intense cough. Cold symptoms are milder and usually not life-threatening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are some strategies to keep yourself and people around you from becoming ill.

  • Wash your hands often with plenty of soapy water. You can use a hand sanitizer if hand washing facilities are not readily available, but be sure to use enough hand sanitizer and rub your hands until the alcohol evaporates. The sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Be sure to cover your coughs or sneezes. Use a tissue or you can sneeze or cough into your elbow, instead of your hands. Toss the tissue and then wash your hands as a precaution.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.

I decided I needed some soup, too. I like soup, so I was not making a sacrifice for the sake of good health.

According to a study, chicken soup can help clear mucus from nasal passages and relieve congestion better than other hot liquids. Actually, any hot liquid helps clear stuffy heads more than cold liquid, but chicken soup “worked better” than hot water. The researchers suggested that possibly the protein, vitamins, minerals or some unknown factor in chicken soup made it a cold fighter.

Here’s a spicy rendition of chicken soup that features several healthful ingredients. This soup is sure to warm a wintry day and perhaps, chase away a cold. This recipe is courtesy of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach “Spend Smart Eat Smart” program.

Mexican Chicken Soup

2 (15-ounce) cans Mexican-style diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 c. frozen corn (or drained, rinsed canned corn)

1 (14.5-ounce) can sodium-reduced chicken broth (or substitute homemade chicken broth)

2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin (optional)

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast

Optional garnishes (chopped cilantro, light sour cream, shredded cheese, baked tortilla chips)

Add tomatoes, beans, corn, broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin (if desired) and pepper in a large saucepan. Remove and discard any visible fat from chicken. Cut chicken into large chunks and add to the saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and place on a plate; use forks to shred the chicken. Return the shredded chicken to the soup.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, 20 g of carbohydrate, 5 g of fiber, 16 g of protein and 280 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Dec. 24, 2014

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu


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