How to Lower Your Infection Risk When You Have Arthritis

Find out how you can keep germs at bay and reduce your risk of infection.

Wash Your Hands Thoroughly
One of the most important things you can do to avoid infections is also one of the easiest (not to mention something you should already be doing). Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before you eat and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds, making sure to lather the backs of your hands, in between your fingers and under your nails. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.
 
Use Hand Sanitizer
Washing your hands is your best defense against the spread of germs and getting sick. But when handwashing is not an option, hand sanitizer can help. Always keep a small bottle with you especially during flu and cold season. Be sure to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Apply the product to the palm of one hand and rub it over all surfaces of your hands until they are dry. This should also take about 20 seconds.
 
Find Handshake Alternatives
It’s common to shake hands when we meet someone, but when the risk for spreading infection is high, a handshake isn’t the best idea. Many people understand and are happy to opt for a slight wave, nod, fist bump or even elbow tap instead of handshake. If a formal handshake is required or it would be impolite to turn a handshake down, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as you can, and avoid touching your face.  
 
Steer Clear of Sick People
Many people with arthritis, especially inflammatory types of arthritis, live with a compromised immune system that puts them at increased risk of catching whatever is floating around. To protect yourself, do your best to avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you do come into contact with someone who is sick, try to keep a safe distance, avoid touching your face and wash your hands thoroughly.
 
Lower Your Risk of Infection
People with arthritis often fall into high-risk categories for various infections and illnesses, be it due to their age, having weakened immune systems or other health conditions. Use these tips to help protect yourself and stay as healthy as possible.
 
Keep Your Hands Away from Your Face
This advice is effective, yet deceptively challenging. You’d be amazed at how many times in a day (even in an hour) that you touch some part of your face. But to prevent the spread of infection, try your best and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth until you wash your hands. This is especially important to remember when you are in public.
 
Stay Home When You Are Sick
It’s common sense: If you are feeling sick, stay home. Do your part to protect yourself and protect others.
 
Cover Your Cough or Sneeze
Follow the same advice you give to children in schools: When you must cough or sneeze, do it into your elbow. Even better, when you are sick, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then toss the tissue in the trash. And, as always, follow up by washing your hands.
 
Avoid Crowds
During peak flu and cold season, or the COVID-19 virus outbreak, social distancing may be advised, particularly for people most at risk, like those with weakened immune systems. Social distancing means avoiding large crowded places, avoiding nonessential travel and working from home if possible. Use your best judgment and stay up to date on travel alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Clean Frequently Touched Objects
Germs and bacteria can live on everyday surfaces for days, even weeks. Think about the surfaces you and others touch frequently in your home, such as doorknobs, appliances, remotes and faucets, not to mention your phone and electronic devices. Clean your frequently touched objects and surfaces daily with a common household cleaning spray or wipe.
 
Find Handshake Alternatives
It’s common to shake hands when we meet someone, but when the risk for spreading infection is high, a handshake isn’t the best idea. Many people understand and are happy to opt for a slight wave, nod, fist bump or even elbow tap instead of handshake. If a formal handshake is required or it would be impolite to turn a handshake down, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as you can, and avoid touching your face.  
 
Take an Extra Step in Hotel Rooms
Read reviews of hotels before booking. You can learn a lot about the cleanliness of a hotel if you read the user recommendations of hotels on travel sites. Bring travel size cans of disinfecting spray and wipes with you and tackle all the surfaces you may come into contact with (e.g., remote, counters, safe, etc.). Wash glasses and mugs with soap and hot water before using.
 
Protect Your Immune System
One of the best ways to protect yourself against the spread of infection is to boost your immune system. You can take care of your body and your health by following a regular exercise routine that keeps your body moving and active and by eating a healthful diet rich in whole foods like vegetables, fruits and lean proteins. Practice good sleep habits and staying hydrated.
 
Be Extra Careful in Public Places
Although isolation may seem like the only way to guard your immune system, it’s not the most practical solution. At some point, you’ll need to leave the confines of you home, but you can take measures to protect yourself. Clean shopping cart handles with sanitizing wipes. Use paper towels when using public bathroom faucets and your elbows to open doors.
 
Travel Smart, Travel Safe
When you do travel, there are certain precautions you can take to minimize your risk of picking up any germs. Don’t leave home without disinfecting wipes. You can use these wipes to clean handles, armrests, tray tables and any other surfaces you may come into contact with. Avoid crowded subway cars if possible. Be sure to wash your hands frequently and change out of your travel clothes once you reach your destination.
 
Respect Personal Space
When you are in public, in line at the grocery store or the bank, give yourself and others a little extra respectful space. The added distance can help in case someone needs to cough or sneezes suddenly. And as always, don’t forget to wash your hands.
 
Learn More
Reach out to others in the arthritis community to share your stories, ask questions and learn more about your arthritis. Joint the LiveYes! Arthritis Network today. Learn more here. For more information about protecting yourself from infection, visit cdc.gov.
 
Wash Your Hands Thoroughly
One of the most important things you can do to avoid infections is also one of the easiest (not to mention something you should already be doing). Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before you eat and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds, making sure to lather the backs of your hands, in between your fingers and under your nails. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.
 
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