The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu: Guerilla Tactics to Keep Yourself Healthy at Home, at Work and in the World

The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu: Guerilla Tactics to Keep Yourself Healthy at Home, at Work and in the World

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by Charles Gerba, Ph.D. Charles, Allison Janse

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Just in time for cold and flu season comes this fun, funny and imminently practical guide to the fine art of germ avoidance.

Admit it, you either are one or you know one: a person who prefers the scent of Purell to perfume, hates public restroom toilets and pushes elevator buttons with their elbow. In a word (well, two), a "Germ Freak." Well


Just in time for cold and flu season comes this fun, funny and imminently practical guide to the fine art of germ avoidance.

Admit it, you either are one or you know one: a person who prefers the scent of Purell to perfume, hates public restroom toilets and pushes elevator buttons with their elbow. In a word (well, two), a "Germ Freak." Well guess what—they're right!

In the bestselling tradition of the The Paranoid's Pocket Guide and The Worst Case Scenario Handbook, Allison Janse—a committed Germ Freak—gives readers the lowdown on how to avoid the common cold and survive flu season with your health and sanity intact. This is the practical information your doctor won't give you (they always say not to worry and may be giving you the latest bug by not washing their hands when they examine you!), but which you're almost literally dying to know, such as:

  • How clean is my office desk? (In terms of germs, it's better to eat off a toilet seat)

  • Do I have to shake that snotty person's hand? (The new etiquette says no)

  • Are my hygiene products killing me? (No, but some increase your risk of illness)

  • How do I get out of a public restroom without contamination? (Here's a five-step plan)

  • What is the best way to wash my hands? (You have two detailed options)

  • Am I the only germ freak in America? (Don't worry, 48% of women either use the toilet guard or make their own)

  • Why didn't anyone tell me about The New Respiratory Etiquette? (Yes, it's real, and it's specifically designed for Germ Freaks just like you)

Germ Freaks unite! This book will help unenlightened germspreaders get a clue…or at least a HandiWipe…and prove to the world that, in the end, it's far better to be safe than sorry.

Are You a Germfreak? Some Ways to Tell

  • Your exit strategy from a public bathroom rivals an NFL playbook

  • Your family and friends think Purell is your scent

  • You check elevator riders for anyone who is sniffling and opt for the stairs— even though you're going to the Penthouse

  • You turn all public bathroom faucets with a piece of tissue

  • You avoid buffets that don't have 10-foot-high GermGuard barriers

  • You think BYOB means bring your own bathroom hand towels

  • You only go to afternoon (or really bad) movies because they're less crowded

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, you're on your way to becoming a Germ freak.

If you answered yes to two or more, congratulations, you're a full-fledged freak.

Editorial Reviews

Midwest Book Review

If you hate public restrooms, touching elevator buttons or doorknobs, and go through Purell like a house afire, then GERM FREAK'S GUIDE TO OUTWITTING COLDS AND FLU: GUERILLA TACTICS TO KEEP YOURSELF HEALTHY AT HOME, AT WORK AND IN THE WORLD defines you. Humor and practical health-maintaining habits blend in a guide which identifies just where the germs hang out, how they're passed, and how to avoid them.

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Read an Excerpt


I wasn't born a Germ Freak. I ate my requisite "pound of
dirt before I die" when I was two.My mother was hardly a model of
pristine housekeeping.My sisters and I played with dust bunnies the
size of desert tumbleweeds, thought spring cleaning meant opening
the windows, and until my parents moved from our childhood
home, we'd gather in their dining room on holidays and glance at
the two-inch hard spot on the rug, fondly remembering our longdeceased
dog Heidi who threw up there when I was six. We didn't
reap the hygienic benefits of hypoallergenic baby washes; we took
consecutive baths in the same water to save money. We didn't have
HEPA filters, although my father switched to filtered cigarettes once
we were born. And, like most levelheaded mothers, ours preferred
spit shine to sanitizer—and we survived.

In college, I shared communal living space without donning flipflops
in the bathroom or worrying whose toothbrush touched mine;
I drank from community beer pitchers and shared my first apartment
with cockroaches the size of small rats without thinking twice.

Yet two events in my life—two people really—changed my outlook
on germs.

The Birth of Triplets: A Girl, a Boy and a Germ Freak of Nature

My twin daughter and son were born four minutes apart and
seven weeks premature. They spent the first two weeks of life in an
ICU sporting enough tubes and beeping apparatuses to make any
new parent jittery. Upon entering the ICU, Nurse CleanUp
Commando led us to a tub-sized basin sink and gave us the handwashing
drill: "Take off any watches and rings and use the scrub
brush to remove all dirt from under your nails because it could be
dangerous to your newborns' underdeveloped immune system."
(Underdeveloped?) As I unwrapped the brush from its sterile casing,
it occurred to me that I had never given a thought as to what might
possibly be growing under my watch or wedding ring, neither of
which I had taken off since the previous leap year.

Thankfully, our children had no health issues and were discharged
with no dire warnings except to keep them away from
"Obviously Sick People."

Once home, my husband and I adjusted to new parenthood as
best as you can if neither of you have ever held a baby,much less two
at once. Underestimating the number of diapers they'd deplete in a
week (who knew one package wouldn't be enough?!), I went to the
pharmacy to stock up. As I stood in line, I saw the contents of my
fellow shopper's basket through sleep-deprived eyes: NyQuil, Vicks
Cold and Flu, and three boxes of Kleenex. Just as I was about to
move away from this Obviously Sick Person, it happened. I think I
felt it the same time I heard it—a big, wet, warm pellet of sneeze.
And before I really knew what hit me (literally), another sneeze and
a throat clearing that sounded like a seal on steroids. I'd been contaminated!
Grabbing the diapers ("No, I don't need my receipt!"), I
held my breath all the way to the parking lot and then sucked in as
much healthy outside air as I could.

Less than two days later, when I heard the "feed-me" wails times
two, I couldn't lift my head from the pillow. It took all the strength
I had to sit up, and my reflection in the mirror was a far cry from
the glowing moms gracing Pampers ads: I had glands the size of
small golf balls, glassy eyes and a face that looked like . . . an
Obviously Sick Person. Since my husband had gone to work, I tried
to breast-feed my two kids with outstretched arms and inhaled
breath. As soon as the babies fell asleep, I scanned the Yellow Pages
for a walk-in clinic.

As I sat in the reception area filling out forms, I began the Waiting
Room Once-Over: "Sicker than me," "Hypochondriac," "Stay away
from him. . . ." One woman directly downwind of me kept coughing
and sneezing, trying to nonchalantly inhale a stream of nasal discharge
(okay, let's call a snot a snot). She tried to sniff it in to no
avail, and then, lacking the energy or courtesy to walk three steps to
get a tissue, she wiped her nose with her hand and then wiped her
hand on her magazine.

The physician on call prescribed Cipro, a very potent drug notorious
for treating anthrax (I now know his choice of antibiotic was
not only wrong but dangerous: See antibiotic resistance page 35).
He told me it was unlikely that my kids would catch what I had,
although he didn't know what I had. He told me to stop breastfeeding
because Cipro can be passed to infants, and assured me I'd
be better in three to five days. Seven days later I still had Titleist
glands. I went to see a throat specialist who prescribed a different
drug, saying that if I got any worse, my tonsils would need to come
out. Luckily, one week later, I was back to near-normal health. Yet
due to one errant sneeze, I spent three weeks in bed, donning a surgical
mask and gloves whenever I picked up my kids—hardly the
"mother-child" bonding I'd read was so important.While my husband
joked that our children's first view of me would cause them
years of therapy, I wasn't laughing. A Germ Freak was born.

It doesn't matter how or why someone becomes a Germ Freak:
It could be something in your gene pool or the community pool;
it could be innate or something you ate that opened your eyes.
But once it happens, you're forever changed: When others see an
all-you-can-eat buffet and dive in, you see double-dippers helping
themselves to an unrefrigerated seafood salad and order off
the menu; when others spy their potential soul mate at a happy
hour, you notice his pale complexion and move on to Bachelor
Number Two. You don't live in a bubble, but you do live with a
heightened sense of awareness. Like a psychic sees auras, you see
someone's germ potential. Like a dog with acute hearing, your
ears perk up when someone sneezes ten cubicles away.

While you'd think you'd be proud of this "sick-sense," many of us
are in denial. Some Germ Freaks denounce the "Germ Freak" label,
yet freely admit to blatant Germ Freak behavior: "I'm not a Germ
Freak, but I never touch public restroom doorknobs." "I'm not a
Germ Freak, but I bring my own sheets to hotels." Or the clincher,
"I'm not a Germ Freak, but I wash my toothbrush with antibacterial
soap before I brush my teeth." Ding, ding, ding: Germ Freak!
This is your call not to hide your head—or your HandiWipes. By
outing ourselves, we can break the stereotypes that Germ Freaks are
high maintenance or walking around in "haz mat" suits: Among us
are professional athletes who don't flinch when a 250-pound opponent
tries to tackle them, but who cower when someone sneezes
near them (and rightly so); CEOs who value a cohesive team but
excuse themselves from a meeting if someone is coughing; parents
who expose their kids to more experiences than prior generations
but not the pathogens that go with them. In a word (well, two) we
are Germ Freaks. And we should be congratulated, not condoned;
applauded, not made fun of (okay, you can make fun of us a little).
In this book I'll share the practical art of germ avoidance. You
wouldn't step out in front of a car moving at fifty miles an hour, so why
step in front of a sniffling person and be hit with a sneeze at ninetythree
miles an hour? Most of us try to avoid inhaling other people's
smoke, why not avoid inhaling their flu virus? I will show you how.

With the advice of infectious disease experts, you can stop
wasting your time and money on things that supposedly guard
against germs but may be totally useless—and downright harmful.
You'll hear from other Germ Freaks: their pet peeves and guerilla
tactics for staying healthy when everyone around them is hacking.
You'll see what works, what's wasteful and what's just wacked.
In this age of time-crunched doctors, busy schedules and insurance
companies that pay for less, it's in our own best interest to take
control of our health. I hope to help us clean up our collective act
when it comes to illness. To help sick people get a clue . . . or at least
a tissue. If I can save you from even one cold or flu, this book has
paid for itself—and at the very least, you can use it to secretly wipe
your nose.

Meet the Author

Charles Gerba, Ph.D., is an internationally renowned environmental microbiologist who made his reputation a quarter of a century ago by opening scientists' eyes to the dangerous things lurking in our groundwater. His lab created the first test to detect the parasite cryptosporidium in water, changing the way municipalities treat tap water. He is a professor at the University of Arizona where he oversees cutting-edge experiments in the department of Soil, Water & Environmental Science. He has performed thousands of studies on everything from water quality in our homes to urine levels in community pools, from the germs present in airline bathrooms to pathogens in home hot tubs. His quick wit has endeared him to American audiences as Dr. Germ, and he appears regularly on Good Morning America, Dateline, CNN News and 60 Minutes as well as national magazines and newspapers. He lives with his wife in Tuscon, Arizona.

Allison Janse, is a professional book editor and writer who became a Germ Freak soon after the birth of her two children, a hilarious story retold in this book. She lives in Pompano Beach, Florida.

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The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu: Guerilla Tactics to Keep Yourself Healthy at Home, at Work and in the World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good