How to Protect Yourself Against Superbugs (Slideshow)
Superbugs are not a pending threat. They’ve arrived. Until new antibiotics come along, here are five key ways to reduce the odds of picking up a superbug.
1. Use Antibiotics Judiciously
Many illnesses, such as colds and the flu, result from viruses, not bacteria. So don’t press your physician for antibiotics if she thinks you have a virus. If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics for a bacterial infection, like strep throat, take them for the entire course — cutting it short leaves more stragglers to learn how to resist the drug next time around.
2. Vote With Your Dollars
Recently a strain of antibiotic-resistant E. coli found in conventionally raised chicken breasts was linked to an increase in antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infections in women. Buy meat labeled “raised without antibiotics” or “organic.” Beware of the fine print.
3. Shore Up Your Immune System
Prioritize restorative sleep, regular exercise and nutrient-dense foods. Eat at least one serving of a probiotic-rich food every day, such as kimchi, yogurt or kombucha. The bulk of the immune system is housed in the gut, and good bacteria keep it humming.
4. Wash Your Hands for 20 Seconds With Soap And Running Water Before Eating and After Using the Bathroom
Plain soap and water are best, especially for visibly dirty hands. Avoid commercial antibacterial hand soaps that contain triclosan. If you don’t have soap and water, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
5. Practice Safe Food Hygiene
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, even those with thick rinds, like watermelon and cantaloupe. Do not wash raw meat or poultry. Doing so can spread bacteria into the sink and onto countertops. Keep at least two cutting boards handy: one for meat and one for fruit and veggies.
Many experts view antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria as one of the biggest threats to human existence. Grave words to be sure, but one of the first steps in fighting superbugs is being aware of how ubiquitous — and potentially deadly — they are. For a more in-depth look at protecting yourself against superbugs, and what they are, see “Invasion of the Superbugs.”