Fighting germs with your elbow

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - This is the season for sneezing with the cotton harvest and a common bug called rhinovirus on the rise right now.

That's according to allergist Dr James Tarbox, a Texas Tech Physician, who sets the record straight on some advice that has passed down through the generations.

In ancient times, people thought a sneeze was so powerful, it could blow out your soul.

That's why we say "bless you" after a sneeze, to bring it back.

And did your grandma ever tell you that your heart stops when you sneeze?

A sneeze won't stop your heart, just like it won't blow out your soul. But it is impossible to sneeze without closing your eyes. You see, a sneeze is even more powerful than a cough.

Dr. Tarbox explains, "A sneeze is actually much more forceful. When you sneeze, the mucous comes out of your nose close to 200 miles an hour as opposed to a cough, close to 50."

Those fast flying germs are why the Department of Health and Human Services has signed up Elmo and his friends to change the world with an animated video encouraging kids and adults to catch a cough by directing the blast into the elbow instead of the open air.

But often, a sneeze will come without warning. Dr. Tarbox says, "A sneeze will travel about 25 feet where a cough about 20." He adds that not every sneeze or cough is a germ blast as illuminated by MIT researchers. But to be safe, it's best to avoid the cloud.

So let's say you're shopping on one aisle and about to turn onto the next one when you hear a slobbering sneeze from that aisle.  What do you do? You turn away and show somewhere else for quite a while. Dr. Tarbox explains why, "Particles from a sneeze or a cough can actually float for up to 10 minutes in the air.  So if you see someone sneeze, you want to be careful and not walk into that area that they were just in."

And if vitamin c is on your shopping list, he says don't count on that to fight off your cold. That's a myth.

Dr. Tarbox says, "Vitamin C, when you take these 10 to 100 times the amount, there's really no benefit to that."

But another supplement, he says, is proving to be worth the money. "Zinc is actually good. If you take zinc at the first 24 hours of a cold, it actually reduces your symptoms by one day."

By the way, chicken soup for a cold is not a myth. Dr. Tarbox says Chicken soup is actually good medicine because it can help reduce inflammation. Also, it provides two things you really need to fight a cold: fluid and nutrition.

And one more 'achoo trivia'…It's impossible to sneeze while you're sleeping, because your sneeze nerves are snoozing too.

So remember this as families gather for the holidays: When you put a lot of people into small spaces, it's even easier for germs to spread... which is why a lot of folks end up sick after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Tarbox says your best protection is always frequent handwashing and always remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow.

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