Book Review

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

Allison Janse with Charles Gerba, Ph. D.
Health Communications, Inc., 2005

Enjoyable, light reading this book will make you laugh while making you aware of how to protect yourself from catching a bug this flu season.

This short witty book offers some practical suggestions to avoid contact with unwanted “germs”. The book has a sense of humor and discusses the author’s childhood days when Heidi the family pet vomited on the carpet and years later the hard spot would remain on the carpet without a second thought. Allison Janse discusses how the birth of her premature twins took her down the path of becoming a “germ freak.” In an effort to maintain a clean environment for her twins she became aware of germs everywhere. In a bold and outspoken style she does not hesitate to give offenders (coughers, obviously sick people) hygiene advice. The co-author, Charles Gerba, Ph.D. offers technical advice and facts, which enhance our understanding of the subject matter.

In our daily lives, we encounter social graces and expectations, which require us to shake hands, or come within inches of obviously sick people who may be spewing viruses and bacteria all over their surroundings. The author advocates tough love by giving us permission to avoid contact with them.

Connecticut Politician Mark Cooper held a press conference stating that he would not shake anyone’s hand during flu season instead he offered people a pamphlet, “Don’t Do The Flu.” He explained that in a day, hundreds of people shake his hand and that perhaps you may be the one who does not want to shake his hand.

I don’t know if the world is ready for such a changes. I find it difficult to envision Queen Elizabeth during her diplomatic duties avoiding an outstretched handshake and instead placing in it a leaflet discussing Rhinovirus and symptoms of the common cold.

Perhaps this book will lend strength to those who are too polite to turn away any contaminated contact that may be offered to them.

Some interesting points are made but the lack of specific referencing sites makes it difficult to investigate the topics further.

There are chapters on commonsense things to do if someone in the household is sick and hand washing. Discussed also are specific areas of concern at home, work, hospitals, airports, hotels and other public places.

This book says that bacterial counts are found to be higher in a kitchen than a bathroom. When you finish reading this book you will find yourself washing your hands more often, and observing others for subtle as well as obvious signs of infection

Reviewed By:  Betty Jo Grajeda, MD
In:  Jan 2006