Trapped on a Flying Petri Dish

I felt the guy sneeze two rows behind me.

I sat in a cramped Delta flight heading home from a relaxing week at a health and wellness retreat held at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. I was trying my best to hold onto that last bit of meditative stillness.

But this fellow passenger obviously lacked any basic public health awareness (or manners, for that matter).

He sneezed once, twice... then several more times, and never covered his nose and mouth. That meant he was spreading whatever germs he had all over the plane.

Here's a refresher. Sneezing sends fluid into the air in the form of a sort of moist cloud. In that cloud are aerosol droplets. These droplets contain bacteria and viruses. A study from the University of Bristol found that about 100,000 germs release every time you cough or sneeze.

And a group from MIT found that larger droplets can spread about two meters, or six and a half feet (about two rows on an airplane). Smaller droplets travel as far as eight meters, or 26 feet. That's a good nine to 10 rows on a plane. No wonder I felt like I was trapped on a flying petri dish...

What's even worse, as Science Insider explains, is that the germ-filled "cloud" you send out of your mouth and nose is less dense than air. That means it rises... and can get into the air circulation system. (I highly recommend watching their video, here.)

These germs stay in the air for at least 10 minutes, which is plenty of time to infect everyone around you.

So, for the last time, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. Catching it in a tissue is best, but sneeze into your elbow if you don't have one. Or do what I do and sneeze into the inside of your shirt to avoid spreading germs. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face at all when out in public. Another good tip: Change your clothes after traveling. Get rid of that feeling of airport "grime" as soon as you can.

Now for this week's Q&A...

Q: Thank you for the article on emergency preparedness. Do we need to buy bottled water even though we normally drink tap water? – R.S.

A: Tap water is fine to store, but there are a few things to remember...

First, the water needs to be stored in a food-safe container. This can be glass, plastic, or even steel, so long as it hasn't ever been used to store non-food items. Second, ensure the container has a tight seal. If not, you could end up with algae or bacteria.

As I mentioned with food, when in doubt, throw it out... especially if the color looks strange or if the smell is off.

And remember, no matter if it's tap water or pre-bottled, store it in a cool, dark place.

Q: I stopped over stirring after I reread your lesson. How long do you leave your tea bag in the hot water? – R.C.

A: Steeping times for tea bags varies depending on the type of tea and the temperature of the water. In terms of flavor, white teas don't need as much steeping as black teas. If you're looking to get the most antioxidants out of your tea, several studies show steeping your tea from between about a minute and a half to five minutes gives you the most benefit.

Some evidence suggests that the amount of antioxidants continues to increase slightly after five minutes, but it's likely not enough to benefit you.

If you're really looking to pack in the antioxidants, go for green tea over black. Green tea does have higher levels of catechins specifically (tea contains dozens of types of antioxidants, but catechins are one of the most studied). I prefer the Bigelow brand.

Q: Last week you showed an example of stop losses on covered calls. Can you give a put example? Thanks, Doc! – J.L.

A: Calculating stop losses for puts is a bit different than for calls.

Say you sell December $25 puts on stock XYZ and you collect a premium of $1. Selling a put option for $1 with a $25 strike means your capital at risk is $2,400 (recall each option contract represents 100 shares). Capital at risk is the amount of money you'd owe if you had to buy shares of XYZ.

Here's where things change from covered calls... Let's say we use a 25% stop loss. This time, we want to look at the maximum we'd be willing to lose per option. In this case, that would be $6 ($2,400 x 25% divided by 100).

But remember, when you first sold the put, you received $1 per option. That's your money to keep, and it raises your stop to $7.

To ensure you incur a net loss of no more than $6 per option, you would buy back the puts if the option price increases to $7.

Please keep sending your questions, comments, and suggestions to us... [email protected].

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 6, 2020