The symphony of sniffles and sneezes all around confirms: it’s officially cold and flu season. There are several ways you can keep your family healthy this season, including getting a flu shot, staying away from people who are sick and getting enough sleep. But, as Valley Children’s Medical Director of Primary Care Dr. Carmela Sosa notes, the most effective method of keeping germs at bay is also one of the simplest: practicing good hand hygiene.
“Hand hygiene is the act of cleaning your hands for the purpose of removing dirt, grime and microorganisms like viruses and bacteria,” Dr. Sosa says. “It’s not only simple, but it’s one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs.”
You might not think it, but our hands carry a lot of germs. As we go about our day, we touch a lot of surfaces, and our hands pick up germs and can spread them from place to place. There are a few ways to rid hands of germs, including washing them with soap and warm water. Wash your hands with warm water and soap when they are visibly dirty. A nickel to quarter-sized amount of liquid soap works best. Rub your hands together to form a good lather and rub the lather all over your hands, between your fingers and underneath your nails for at least 15 seconds. If at all possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and bathroom door handle. Another option, especially if you’re on the go, is using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers kill the majority of germs and should be rubbed over the entire surface of the hands until completely dry, about 20 seconds.
Dr. Sosa recommends practicing hand hygiene frequently throughout the day, but encourages everyone to always clean your hands at certain times:
- Before touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Before preparing food
- Before eating food
- After using the restroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching any surface that is touched often (such as door knobs and remote controls)
As you enjoy the holiday season, remember to practice good hand hygiene – it will help keep you and your family happy and healthy all season long.