Why Hand Hygiene Matters
The flu, like many viruses, can be easily passed between people through contact. One of the most common ways the flu is spread is by touching shared items, shaking hands, or failing to frequently wash hands throughout the day. Oddly enough, simple hand hygiene can do wonders in limiting the spread of flu and other communicable diseases. Find out which hand hygiene acts can help reduce a person’s chances of catching the flu.
Washing hands for 20 seconds
Handwashing sounds like a basic concept that couldn’t possibly curb infections, but the simple act is incredibly powerful. While influenza is passed through respiratory droplets, a common way the infection spreads is when a person touches an item covered in the respiratory droplets and then touches the nose or mouth. Experts agree that thoroughly washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water is important to effectively remove the virus from the surface of the hands. And don’t forget to clean under fingernails. More importantly, during flu season, be sure to wash hands frequently throughout the day.
Most people know that sneezing into bare hands isn’t hygienic. However, sneezing into hands even while using a tissue can still lead to higher transmission rates as opposed to other options. Instead, virologists recommend sneezing into the crook of the arm. Since most people don’t touch other people’s arms in that location, the crook can be a safer place for sneezing that reduces the potential for transmission through dirty hands.
Don’t be handsy
People who are in the habit of frequently touching the eyes, nose, or mouth should try to resist the urge during flu season. Each of the three locations have soft, moist environments that are ideal conditions for viruses such as the flu to enter the body and thrive.
Disinfect shared surfaces frequently
Trying to purposefully avoid touching the nose, mouth or eyes can be challenging. But even more difficult is avoiding touching shared surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops, or appliance handles on microwaves, ovens, and refrigerators. Instead, focus on disinfecting shared surfaces frequently to reduce the risk of live flu virus remaining in common areas.
Stay healthy during flu season
While many people feel that the flu is a common annual annoyance, the virus can be dangerous. In the 2018-2019 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that roughly 35.5 million Americans had the flu, with almost 500,000 people requiring hospitalization. Although most people can recover from the flu without the need for hospitalization, taking a proactive approach by avoiding spending time around people who have the flu, and practicing proper hygiene can help reduce an individual’s risk of coming down with the virus. For more information about hand hygiene and staying well, speak with a healthcare provider.