With the winter season upon us, the prevalence of incidences of sickness will be skyrocketing. People spent more time in close quarters and there’s more runny noses and sneezing, which transfers any germs from person to person much more quickly. And while vaccinations for the yearly flu can be useful, perhaps one of the best ways to prevent illness is to wash your hands.
Most illnesses in the winter months are due to viral infections, although bacterial infections can occur as well. Both bacteria and viruses can survive outside of their host, particularly if the area is warm, damp, and porous. These surfaces make it likely that the virus or bacteria can survive longer outside the host, and it will allow bacteria to multiply. When the amount of time a virus or bacteria can survive without infecting someone new, it makes it more likely that more people will be exposed. For many of the common winter illnesses, infection occurs when you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. It can also happen when you are in contact with another individual who is already sick.
Cleanliness is an easy way to prevent yourself from getting sick. Proper handwashing can prevent the transfer of germs from one person to another. Infection prevention specialist Dr. Will Sawyer provides three easy steps to decrease your chances of picking up or transmitting a germ to someone else. He suggests the following:
1. Wash your hands whenever they are dirty and ALWAYS BEFORE you eat
2. Never cough or sneeze into your hand. Use the curve of your elbow instead.
3. Avoid touching the T-zone (eyes, nose, mouth)
Proper handwashing is important to prevent getting sick or transferring germs to others. The best way to wash your hands to prevent illness is by following these steps:
1. Turn the water on and adjust it to as hot as you can comfortably stand.
2. Put approximately a dime’s size of soap in your palm. Avoid using antibacterial soaps as they do not have any value in cleaning your hands, but they can impact antibacterial resistance.
3. Wet your hands and scrub the soap along your palms, backs of your hands, between your fingers and beneath your nails. A proper washing time is approximately 30 seconds, or the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.
4. Starting with your wrists, rinse your hands so that the soap runs down your hands and into the sink.
5. Dry your hands with a paper towel and use the towel to turn off the water.
To prevent the spread of germs on surfaces, clean surfaces using an appropriate cleaner such as cleansing wipes or sprays and disposable towels.
For more information on how handwashing can reduce the instances of infection, visit Dr. Sawyer’s website at http://www.henrythehand.org.