Author: Amy Adams, Clinical Pharmacist
As cold and flu season begins, many people begin to look for ways to avoid getting sick. While there are many tips and tricks, one of the most effective ways to stay healthy is to practice good hand washing technique. Washing your hands well and often can help keep you and your loved ones healthy this year. Keep reading for important reminders about hand washing.
Clean Hands Can Stop the Spread of Germs
Clean hands prevent the spread of illness and help keep you healthy. Good hygiene can help you avoid common illnesses such as diarrhea, intestinal problems, eye infections, respiratory infections and other cold and flu illnesses. However, proper hand washing technique is not just about keeping yourself healthy; it’s also about stopping the spread of germs to other people. Certain medications and medical conditions can lead to a weak immune system. People with weak immune systems can easily become sick from germs spread by dirty hands. It’s important to wash your hands well before visiting someone who may have a weak immune system, so you don’t accidentally transfer bacteria. The World Health Organization (WHO) offers detailed instructions on the proper way to wash your hands.
Hand Washing vs. Hand Sanitizer
Remember that hand sanitizer is not the same as washing your hands with soap and water. Soap and water is a more effective way to clean your hands, especially if they’re covered in oil or dirt. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good option if soap and water are not available. However, sanitizer doesn’t kill germs that can cause diarrhea or certain stomach bugs. If you do use hand sanitizer, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reminds you to rub your hands with sanitizer for 20 seconds and allow them to air dry.
Germs and the Importance of Drying Your Hands
If you have a weakened immune system, you may want to avoid the hand dryers in public restrooms. Studies show that hand driers may spread germs and that paper towels are more hygienic. Dishrags and cloth towels can also hold germs. Try to replace your hand towels every day or every other day. Be sure to wash your towels in hot water with something stronger than regular detergent. Regular detergent may not kill the bacteria. If someone in your house is sick, you may want to dry your hands with paper towels for a couple of days.
However you dry your hands, make sure to dry them thoroughly. Your hands should be completely dry after you wash them. Some bacteria stay on your hands after washing. Wet hands can easily transfer this bacteria.
Hand Washing Keeps Your Cell Phone Clean
Washing your hands regularly can help keep your phone clean. Think about how often your phone is in your hands. Cell phones carry a lot of germs, including natural bacteria and oils from your hands. Most of these germs won’t make you sick. However, your phone may have other organisms that transfer strep throat, influenza or other illnesses. To prevent getting sick from the germs on your phone, clean your hands often. Don’t touch your phone after washing your hands while you’re preparing food or administering medication. In addition to cleaning your hands, you should also clean your phone regularly. Don’t carry your phone into the bathroom, and don’t share a cell phone with someone who is sick.
Other Health Tips for Cold and Flu Season
Other general health tips include keeping your hands away from your face, especially around your eyes and mouth. It’s very easy for germs to enter your system through these areas. Germs can be transferred to foods or other objects like door handles and other common surfaces. Don’t touch these areas unnecessarily. Keep common areas clean with disinfecting wipes. Wash your hands before handling food and eat a healthy diet. The CDC recommends that everyone who is able get a flu shot.
For more information about staying healthy this year, talk to your Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions (HPS) pharmacist. Ask your HPS pharmacist about your medication side effects to know if you may have a weakened immune system. HPS can help you manage your condition this cold and flu season and make your life easier, happier and healthier.