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Elbow tap if you agree

My hands have become very chapped from washing them so often over the last few weeks. Fifteen to 20 seconds of lathered hand-washing is the single most effective way to deter the onset of an irritating cold.

With a focus on not getting a cold and not giving anyone else one, I will continue my hands-under-warm-water ritual, but I think I may enhance its overall effectiveness by replacing 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 suggestion without the need of further examination. 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. But I think it’s entirely about angles. If we can get them right, we should all be just fine.

Some readers might say, “What about fist-bumping?” That seems a little pugilistic to me. The elbow tap is so much more civilized. It’s perhaps imperfect, but it’s definitely preferred to sneezing and coughing your way to and through the holidays. I like this idea. But maybe I should promote it by dwelling on the pointy part of the elbow more? Use the word “tap” instead of “bump.” 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.

I have always been responsible about hand-washing, but since becoming a “vulnerable older adult” and more susceptible to any virus, I’m super-vigilant. It’s something I do regularly, perhaps just a little obsessively. I may have told you that before — maybe not so much about the obsessive part. Hand-washing is best done using lots of friction and warm running water. Do you know of any other health action that’s easier, costs less and has a bigger return on investment?

We should put hand-washing stations on street corners as part of the government’s next health care plan. Or at least vending machines full of hand sanitizing liquid and anti-bacterial wipes.

Have I made my point? I really want you to wash your hands often and well. Be a model for your grandchildren and age peers. And I would like you to get your high-dose flu and pneumonia vaccinations.

I say all this a bit selfishly because I’m very busy and I just do not have time to be sick. You too? I thought so. (Elbow tap — twice)

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharon@rbtrv.org.