Germs: The gift that keeps on giving. If someone so much as sneezes in your general direction, it’s game over. Sniffles and coughs for week.
With cold and flu season fully under way, it’s the perfect time to discuss how NOT to get sick this winter.
Good news: You don’t have to avoid going in public for the next three months or skip out on any fun holiday parties.
The best thing you can do to avoid sickness and limit the spread of germs is to wash your hands. All it takes is a little soap and water, a few seconds scrubbing, and a quick rinse.
It couldn’t be easier!
Surprisingly, viruses that cause colds and the flu are most often transmitted on hands. Sick people rub their eyes or itch their nose, then touch things like door handles and handrails, and leave a trail of germs wherever they go. And studies show that contamination from just one germy door handle can infect an entire building within hours!
By washing your hands, you help rid yourself of germs you may have picked up from other people – and you also help make sure you’re not spreading your own germs around.
Here’s what you need to know:
When should you wash your hands?
Short answer: As often as possible.
Slightly longer answer: As you touch surfaces and objects through the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. This is especially true if you go out in public! While it’s impossible to keep your hands totally germ-free, frequent washing will make a big difference.
Always wash your hands:
- Before preparing food
- After using the toilet, changing a diaper, or cleaning up after a child who has used the toilet
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Before treating wounds
- Before AND after caring for a sick person
- After handling garbage
- After coming home from a public place, such as a supermarket or restaurant
- Whenever your hands are visibly dirty
How to wash your hands
It’s simple, right? Just turn on the water, use a little soap, rinse, and you’re done! Well, while those things are true, hand washing does require a bit more finesse.
Follow these steps every time:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (either hot or cold)
- Apply soap and lather well
- Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds
- Remember to scrub all areas, including backs of hands, between fingers, and above the wrists
- Rinse well
- Dry your hands with either a clean towel or an air dryer
It’s also worth noting that over-the-counter antibacterial soap isn’t any more effective than regular hand soap – so whatever you have on hand (both figuratively and literally) will do!
Don’t have time to wash? Use hand sanitizer instead!
We understand that sometimes you just don’t have time to wash, or maybe you don’t have access to a sink and soap. In those instances, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the trick.
Follow these steps:
- Make sure you choose a sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol
- Check the expiration date: All sanitizers have an expiration date on the dispenser after which time they start to lose their effectiveness
- Apply the gel to the palm of one hand
- Rub your hands together
- Rub the gel all over the surface of your hands, fingers, and wrists until they are completely dry
It’s important to note that sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs (such as norovirus and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea), and they likely won’t be effective if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
Washing your hands is a quick and easy way to stay healthy this winter. There are no excuses NOT to do it!