• Elbow bump your way to health

    H1N1 gives us a whole new reason to keep those hands to ourselves
  • My hands have become very chapped from washing them so often over the last few weeks, which is why I'm suggesting we replace handshaking with elbow bumping.
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  • My hands have become very chapped from washing them so often over the last few weeks, which is why I'm suggesting we replace handshaking with elbow bumping.
    Really ... think about it. Instead of reaching out your hand to greet an acquaintance, simply raise your elbow and tap it lightly against the elbow of the other person. Maybe even twice — that way you promote an extra-friendly exchange. I tried it recently in a meet-and-greet moment and it actually worked well. It offered a bit of aerobic exercise for both of us and we were pleased with ourselves. In a way, it was sort of dance-like.
    I know. I am completely aware this is not a perfect suggestion. After all, you could be using the same elbow into which you just sneezed. The whole "sneeze or cough into your elbow pit, instead of your hand" recommendation complicates my idea just a bit. However, I think it is entirely about angles. If we can get them right, we should all be just fine.
    Maybe I should promote this idea by dwelling on the pointy part of the elbow more? Do you think?
    Do you even care? For that matter, have you even thought about your elbows lately? They are an utterly ignored body part; but that's an entirely different column — which I may begin working on very soon.
    Back to the topic at hand. I have always been responsible about handwashing, but since H1N1 became a headline, I'm super-vigilant. (I do have one request: please do not refer to this flu as the "Swine Flu." I showed a Blue-ribbon 4-H hog in the Brown County Fair in Minnesota in 1959 and I really do not want him forever defamed. Birds are involved, too, you know.)
    Oh yes "¦ we were discussing handwashing. It's something I've always done regularly, perhaps just a little obsessively. I may have told you that before — maybe not so much about the obsessive part. It takes 15 to 20 seconds using loads of friction and warm running water; I scrub between my fingers and on the tips, under the nails. Do you know of any other health action that is easier, costs less and has a bigger return on investment? Ah, I thought so. We should put hand-washing stations on street corners as part of the government's new health care plan. (I'm serious; yet another good idea — I am just full of ... them.)
    Public radio had a fascinating piece on handwashing recently that spoke to the importance of singing a song to assure you spend enough time washing your hands. The definitive selection is "Happy Birthday to You" (sung twice), but those Public Radio folks chose Bohemian Rhapsody. There's no audio with this column, but if there were, you'd be smiling right now (www.npr.org).
    I do not intend to make light of what's occurring with this flu virus. What I really want is to have you wash often and well. And, there's this "¦ I'm very busy and I just do not have time to be sick.
    You too? I thought so (Elbow bump — twice).
    Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.
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