by Katelyn Knockel, Patent Access Clerk and Infection Preventionist/Risk Manager, Angela Pagenkopf, RN
Feeling tired? Have a fever, headache, chills or aching muscles? You could have the influenza virus, also known as the flu.
Or maybe your nose is so stuffed that you can barely breath, or possibly worse yet, your nose just won’t stop running. Whatever your illness or ailment might be, getting sick at least once each cold and flu season seems as inevitable as the snow.
As winter approaches, we should take extra steps to reduce illness and the spread of germs.
Did you know shaking hands spreads more germs than kissing? Research shows proper hand hygiene can cut the rate of acute respiratory infections (like ear infections, colds, influenza, and pneumonia) by more than 20% and diarrheal illnesses by nearly 50%!
To wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly, follow these five easy steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water.
- Apply soap to all surfaces including wrists and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for 20-30 seconds. If you need a timer, sing or hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel and turn off the water with another clean towel.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water isn’t available, you could also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol (read the label for the %).
Sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations but do not get rid of all types of germs. If your hands are visibly dirty you should use soap and water. Be careful when using hand sanitizers around children — if they swallow more than a couple mouthfuls, it can cause alcohol poisoning. If you are using hand sanitizer, follow these steps:
- Apply the gel to the palm of one hand.
- Rub hands together.
- Continue rubbing all surfaces of your hands and fingers until dry—usually around 20 seconds.
Wear a mask
Another way we spread germs is through coughing and sneezing. A single drop of liquid can contain up to 50 million bacteria! That makes putting a mask on when coming to see your primary doctor sound like a good idea doesn’t it? Wearing a mask protects both the wearer and others around them. They are a good thing to wear in confined spaces like elevators, airplanes, buses and waiting rooms. You can buy a simple mask at most pharmacies.
Germs are happiest in areas where people gather in small places, as we tend to do during colder months. Make it your goal this influenza season to stay healthy. Do your best by eating healthy, getting plenty of exercise, drinking at least eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day, and reducing stressors in your life.
Another important step is to protect yourself and those you love by getting the influenza vaccine as soon as possible.