About hygiene in flu season: talk

16 March, 2020

Precautions for avoiding infection with coronavirus or the flu may feel awkward in practice. Talking with friends and carers can help keep you healthy.

Every time you cough, cough into a fresh tissue and then dispose of it in a rubbish bin - and then wash your hands with soap and water, dry them on a paper towel, and dispose of the towel.

The Department of Health and Human Services Victoria recommends this in a poster that AQA has circulated to clients, staff and volunteers. The advice, which was designed to slow the spread of colds and flu, can help protect us from the new coronavirus.

Since colds and flu hit many members of the AQA community pretty hard, it makes sense that we take these precautions seriously – and especially now with the possibility of coronavirus infection.

But protective measures like this do get in people’s way, and can hamper the people who help us. For example, if I am a disability support worker, can I justify suspending service for a trip to the bathroom every time I clear my throat with a cough?

The best answer for anyone is Yes – you can justify that. The advice is given because that’s what works.

But if you’re not quite comfortable insisting on it, or if you think a carer or friend might feel uncomfortable following it, it could help to start a conversation about how you experience a cold or the flu.

Speaking for myself, with complete T4 paraplegia I can cough a bit, but I can’t really clear my lungs properly.

While I don’t have issues from being on a ventilator, like people with quadriplegia I suffer from greatly impaired respiratory function, due to the paralysis of the accessory muscles of respiration. That diminishes my capacity to clear secretions.

So I am very vigilant about getting an annual flu injection. I am also very vigilant about avoiding infection.

If anybody I’m in contact with wants to raise a question about how often they should wash their hands when they’re near me, or how careful they should be with a cough or a sneeze, I want to hear from them.

If someone I spend time with can’t buy tissues because other people have cleaned out their supermarket, I’ll talk about that too. Between us, we can come up with a workaround.

I’ve also started thinking about what I might say to someone who I feel is getting a bit too close on the train or in another public place, if I have to be out and about.

Official advice on avoiding colds and flu, and avoiding coronavirus, is good grounding for any conversation like this.

There is even a new poster on precautions against coronavirus specifically.

If you have a spinal cord injury and would like support with avoiding infection, consider contacting AQA Spire’s Peer Health Coaching service.

Photo: Sebastian Smita, FreeImages

“If anybody I’m in contact with wants to raise a question about how often they should wash their hands when they’re near me, I want to hear from them.”

Wayne Bradshaw is an information officer with AQA.

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