Self Defense is Common Sense

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. April Iacopelli
  • 17th Medical Operations Squadron
When it comes to your health, the best defense is common sense. I do not mean self defense in terms of martial arts or weapons. I mean keeping our bodies and immune systems healthy to ward off viral and bacterial invasions. In short, keeping yourself well. 

We live in a somewhat germ-phobic society where people carry hand sanitizer and some folks refuse to touch the handle of a restroom door. I'm not saying those are bad behaviors. What I want to focus on is basic measures we can and should take to keep ourselves healthy and ready to fight off disease and illness. 

We all know the basics. They are taught to us from very early on but somehow, we get away from them. Too many of us think the answer comes from medications. While they can play a vital role, there are many easy steps we can take to prevent the spread of illness. The most simple are those manners we learned before or in kindergarten. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. A twenty-second scrub with soap and warm water before eating, after toileting and frequently throughout the day will go a long way toward keeping invaders from getting through our most basic defense, our skin. Hand sanitizers are also very effective. Be sure to cover your cough or sneeze. The best option is to sneeze or cough into a tissue, discard it immediately and then wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, modern etiquette steers us away from using our hands. Instead, current guidance suggests we cough or sneeze into a forearm or elbow so we are less likely to spread any possible contamination with our hands. We can further reduce the chance of infection by refraining from touching our eyes, noses and mouths. These are common entry points for viruses causing colds and flu. 

Other methods include staying healthy overall. This means getting adequate sleep and hydration. Drinks with caffeine or alcohol are not the best choices to improve hydration. Instead, they contribute to dehydration as they cause the body to lose fluids. 

When I was a little girl, my mother told me to have enough sense to stay out of the rain. I would add to mom's advice and say to you to stay out of the heat and sun when possible. Sometimes duty makes this difficult. Pay attention to the flags on base warning about heat and humidity conditions and heat stress. I would be remiss if I didn't also suggest sunscreen or block to prevent sunburn. Sunburn is not only painful, it can have short-term and long-term consequences. In the short term, sunburn and poisoning can lead to nausea, dehydration, blistering of the skin and even fever. Repeated exposures can lead to skin cancer over the long haul. My many sunburns as a child keep me watchful of moles and other changes in my skin now. 

A balanced diet is another key to maintaining a healthy immune system and body. Diets that eliminate entire food groups are not for everyone. We were made to eat a variety of healthy foods. Be sure to get plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as low-fat sources of protein. 

Keeping ourselves healthy and practicing good hygiene will give us a strong defense against attacks from disease causing viruses and bacteria. Clean, intact skin is our first line of defense. It's a natural barrier denying entry to would-be invading organisms. A strong immune system is important. Maintain common-sense practices and a healthy body. It will not prevent every illness but it will give you basic protection. Using common sense makes for a good self defense!