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I haven't had a sniffle all winter

All the increased attention to hand-washing over the last year has some interesting side notes. In addition to not getting COVID-19, I also did not get those aggravating winter sniffles I’ve experienced most of my adult life. I actually have been without cold or flu symptoms in any form. I think I owe it to hand-washing.

My hands at the beginning of the pandemic became chapped from washing them so often. Fifteen to 20 seconds of lathered scrubbing throughout the day is the most effective way to deter the onset of a host of disease conditions, but the application of continuous friction and sometimes harsh anti-bacterial soaps took a toll. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers played their role too. But I got beyond that stage and into a routine that benefited me and those around me.

At my possible peril, I find myself less vigilant of late in performing this simple and extremely effective health practice. Perhaps in the same way as I am a little less observant about the social distancing dictum. There is a fatigue factor tied to this kind of constant vigilance — that’s one reason I suspect. Or maybe with vaccines on the scene, complacency has set in and old habits have resurfaced.

I remain exceptionally good about masking — double-masking even. A side benefit is that with the often-icy winter weather, it means my face is warmer. That said, this morning when I leashed the dog and took her for a walk, I forgot my mask. I pulled the scarf I had looped around my neck over my nose and mouth when I met a man walking his large white poodle — not wearing a mask and not using a leash in a leash-only area. Not using any poop bags either. Not good. Neither was his mood.

Next time I am out walking and encounter the guy with the poodle I think I will offer the extra mask I intend to carry more often in the future. I will give him a few dog disposal bags too. I will be nice about it. It is strange how these things work, but poodle-guy’s behavior reignited my commitment to paying more attention to all the things I have come to know are keeping me healthy during a raging pandemic.

Maybe poodle-guy is not one of them, but I know a lot of people are still resistant about protective prevention practices. And all the isolation and the sense of mandated cooperation attached to this situation has made even the most positive people cranky. I also know you cannot successfully pose a rational argument to convince someone of something they have embraced based on irrational considerations.

The experts implore us to stay vigilant a while longer. With vaccine rollout speeding up and personal protective behaviors not slowing, we can look forward to a healthier summer and fall and a much-better-than-last-year Christmas.

Let’s stay the course on this. I think we owe it to the families of the over 512,000 people who have died from COVID.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.