Flu season is in full swing − the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting increases in influenza activity over the past few weeks. The flu can affect individuals of any age, but is particularly dangerous for children and the elderly. It’s important to take the proper precautions against spreading the flu. Keeping good hand hygiene is the first step in avoiding the influenza virus this year.
Linus Nienstadt, R.N., M.P.H., C.I.C., infection preventionist at Northern Arizona Healthcare provides some tips on proper hand hygiene during the flu season.
Use appropriate hand-washing technique
A simple rinse of your hands under a stream of water isn’t enough to cleanse them of viruses and bacteria. Instead, follow this scientifically-tested method of ensuring hand hygiene:
- Wet your hands with water − the water can be hot or cold, as temperature does not affect the ability of hand washing to destroy germs.
- Turn off the tap and apply a small amount of soap to hands.
- Rub your hands briskly together for at least 20 seconds − focus on lathering the back of hands, palms, under the nails and between the fingers. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice in a row to ensure you scrub for sufficient time.
- Rinse your hands under a stream of water and dry them with a towel or air dryer.
Learn to cough and sneeze correctly
Coughing and sneezing are prime ways for the influenza virus to be transmitted between people. Learn to control the transmission of these diseases by changing the way you cough. Rather than coughing or sneezing into open hands, tuck your nose and mouth into the crook of your arm − this captures pathogen-laden droplets, which prevents spreading. Also, remember to wash hands after coughing or sneezing. This is a simple way to maximize infection prevention.
Beware of contaminated surfaces
We touch hundreds of surfaces throughout the day. Many of these are contaminated with bacteria or viruses. For optimal hand hygiene, be careful about touching potentially contaminated surfaces, this may include keyboards, computer mice, doorknobs, drinking fountain handles and other shared objects. Frequent cleaning of everyday objects can help keep hands clean.
Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable
When you don’t have soap and water available to wash your hands, hand sanitizer makes an effective alternative. Make sure you use antibacterial hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
Stay home when sick
If you do contract the flu, stay home. Running errands or going to work spreads the virus further, which endangering others of getting the flu.