Flu Season is Here - Now, Wash Your Hands! - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 16, 2015

Flu Season is Here - Now, Wash Your Hands! 

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important things you can do to avoid getting sick.

Keeping your hands clean is one of the
most important things you can do to
avoid getting sick.

You constantly hear doctors reminding us to wash our hands in the winter when the flu and cold are going around like wildfire. While washing your hands is one of the best ways to stop the spread of these notorious wintertime illnesses, the reality is that washing your hands is important all year round.

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important things we can do to avoid getting sick and spreading our germs to others. Many diseases and health conditions are spread simply by people not washing their hands with soap and clean water.

Feces are a source of germs such as Salmonella, E. coli and norovirus, which cause some very unpleasant symptoms, in addition to spreading some respiratory infections. These germs can get on hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, but they can also get onto hands in less apparent ways such as handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal feces on them.

Germs can also get onto your hands if you touch any object that has germs on it from someone coughing or sneezing on it. When these germs get onto your hands and aren’t washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.

Washing your hands helps prevent illnesses for many reasons. People are always touching their eyes, nose and mouth – this is how germs get into your body and make you sick. Germs on unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks during preparation and consumption. And germs on unwashed hands can get transferred onto objects like handrails and door knobs. These germs then get transferred to another person’s hands when they touch that object.

To avoid getting yourself and others sick, you should wash your hands:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after taking care of someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper and cleaning up a child who has gone to the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal food or animal waste
  • After touching trash

Washing your hands is important, but washing your hands properly is the key to not spreading germs. First, wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Rub your hands together to get a good lather – don’t forget to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails. You should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you sing “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice while scrubbing your hands that will be 20 seconds (Pro Tip: you don’t need to do this out loud). Then rinse your hands off under clean water and dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry.

If you need to wash your hands but soap and water aren’t readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. While alcohol-based sanitizers can reduce the number of microbes on your hands quickly in certain situations, they don’t eliminate all types of germs – washing hands with soap and water is best.

If you don’t have a choice and have to use a hand sanitizer, apply it to the palm of one hand and rub your hands together, making sure it gets over all of the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

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