Today I read with interest the Jan/Feb 2007 issue of WebMD magazine that was sent as a “Complimentary Waiting Room Copy” to my office. I find these “journals” of particular interest because it is what our patients peruse as sources of higher medical knowledge.
In this issue, I was particularly struck by the sensationalist article under the “Wellness” section entitled “Germ Warefare” by Heather Hatfield, a WebMD health contributing writer and edited by Michael W. Smith, MD, Chief Medical Editor for WebMD. Insurers love the concept of “wellness.” No doubt they give funds to WebMD so our patients can understand this better.
As a former US Navy guy, in response to the title “Germ Warefare” I anticipated a cool article on anthrax or smallpox, but instead I found an invaluable article on how to avoid a cold or the flu this winter and how “innocent objects could be your greatest health threat!” The article offers a sobering look at what the media are teaching our patients. Here’s what they recommend to avoid the flu and a cold this winter (my comments are in italics):
Sternutation (sneezing): cover your mouth when you “achoo” – very reasonable – please make every effort to do this in my waiting room.
Grocery carts: Don’t use them. It seems “half of American children put their mouths on the handle!” Oh, and don’t put your veggies in the grocery cart seat! Diaper-aged kids sit in them! Yikes! So go without those infected carts and stuff your groceries in your pockets.
Elevator buttons: avoid the first floor elevator button – it’s loaded with germs (since everyone pushes it). Solution? Take the stairs.
Do not use the sponge, dishcloths, kitchen sink, cutting boards, toilet seat, bathroom counter, or bathroom floor – they're loaded with contagion! “This is where fecal bacteria hide, and when we find fecal bacteria, we usually find viruses that cause colds and flu.” Solution: grill outdoors all year and don’t cut the chicken up on the toilet seat.
Do not touch the escalator rail at the mall – “we find mucous, saliva, blood – they tend to be pretty grody.” Solution: fall down the escalators instead, then sue the Mall of America and get rich – at least you won’t get the flu.
Don’t work at a desk: it has “400 times more bacteria on it than a toilet seat” and “don’t use the computer keyboard or the phone – they’re the germiest,” Solution: don’t work, get fired and stay home so you can join the masses without health insurance.
Stay away from the middle toilet in public restrooms – it’s used the most often and a great place to catch the flu – “go for the first stall.” Solution: Better yet, just hold it.
“Kissing can prevent cavities; it stimulates the flow of saliva, but it can also make you sick” Solution: total abstinence.
Don’t shake hands with colleagues – you’ll catch something! Solution: be a jerk and look away when they say “hi” – at least you’ll be safe!
“Don’t use airplanes: if someone is sick on the plane, everyone within three feet is at risk!” Here's what it'll get you. Solution: drive to your destination in complete isolation, irrespective of location.
Tell your doctor to not wear a tie because “half of the neckties worn by doctors were swarming with disease-causing germs” and “doctor’s ties were found to be eight times as likely to harbor germs as those of security personnel, who apparently have an undeserved reputation for being slovenly.” Solution: have security personnel round on patients.
Is this really “wellness” or idiocy?