Germs: Prevention or Paranoia?

When your immune system isn’t what it should be, it’s extra important to avoid germs.  Well, obviously some germs are ok.  Some are even good for you.  But then there are certain viruses and bacteria that we need to avoid.  In the next month I’ll get my flu shot.  I wash my hands a lot.  Beyond there, how much more can I do?

When someone is clearly sick, I try to keep my distance.  I try not to get too close to a sick co-worker or friend.  When people seem to be healthy, I tend to assume that they are.  Sure, they could be carrying something, but I don’t want to be paranoid.

So that takes care of the black and white, but what about the gray?  What if a person was sick, and now they feel ok, but they’re still

coughing?  What if it’s one of those hacking coughs?  Is it ok if they were sick 2 weeks ago?  What if it was 2 days ago?  And then there are still trickier situations.  What if my friend is fine, but her kid is sick?  Obviously I’ll stay away from her kid, but should I still meet her for dinner?  Maybe going out is ok, but we shouldn’t hang out at my place, in case she’s carrying around some germs.  Or maybe that’s being overly cautious.

I don’t know what the answer is.  I know I caught a “cold” a few months ago.  My friend had it for about a week.  She didn’t miss work, just felt lousy.  She was asymptomatic when we had lunch together.  Even though we weren’t that close, didn’t hug, didn’t share food, I caught it.  I was sick for two weeks.  I missed five days of work.  I felt horrible.  My immune system just couldn’t seem to fight it off.  So I know I have to avoid colds.  But I can’t live in a bubble, either.  Where’s the balance?

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