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Handwashing: A Key Element in Flu Prevention and Infection Control
With flu season at its peak in the months of December and February, it’s essential to initiate proactive measures for flu prevention and infection control. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand hygiene is one of the most crucial steps in preventing sickness and stopping the spread of disease. The CDC goes on to note, “Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.”
Are your hand hygiene techniques meeting infection control guidelines? Below are proper handwashing guidelines from the CDC:
1. Wet: Run your hands through clean water.
2. Lather: Rub your hands together with soap making sure the back of your hands, between fingers, and fingernails are cleansed.
3. Scrub: Sing “Happy Birthday” or wash hands for at least 20 seconds.
4. Rinse: Remove soap with clean running water
5. Dry: Your hands with paper towels or air dry.
Under which circumstances should I wash my hands?
Mayo Clinic recommends washing your hands when preparing or eating foods, when treating wounds or someone who is sick, after using the restroom or when changing diapers, after blowing your nose, after handling trash or chemicals, when shaking hands, and whenever you’re hands visibly soiled.
Are antimicrobial soaps more effective in killing germs, and do alcohol-based hand sanitizers work as good as soaps?
Contrary to popular belief antibacterial soaps are no better than regular soaps. The Mayo Clinic shares how antibacterial soaps can lead to bacterial resistance, making it harder to fight these germs in the long run. Nevertheless, antibacterial or regular soaps are preferred methods of handwashing over alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers kill most, but not all microorganisms.
CDC comments on the effectiveness of hand sanitizers stating:
Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried. Furthermore, soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile.
What do statistics reveal on handwashing?
CDC documents the following statistics on the importance of handwashing:
1. Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%
2. Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
3. Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 21%
4. Handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost 1 out of 6 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.
Handwashing is a simple strategy in preventing the flu and other infections, yet surprisingly many fail to follow proper hand hygiene recommendations. Give the gift of health this holiday season by following proper handwashing techniques. Helping stop the spread of the flu virus and other infectious diseases is something we can all share with others. For more tips on handwashing and flu prevention click here.
* All information shared in this article should be discussed with your healthcare provider prior to incorporating any suggestions. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide advice or direct client decisions.