Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a new weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that will focus on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life.
Achoo! Was that you? It’s official — we are in the middle of the cold and flu season. How can you prevent the spread of infection? The #1 way is to wash your hands.
According to the American Cleaning Institute, only one in three adults wash their hands often and well. Think about it next time you are at a meeting, in school or church and around a group of people. Take a look to your left and then take a look to your right. Now shake hands. Which of the three of you is the good hand-washer? How many germs were spread? Here are some basics to help prevent the spread of infection:
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Washing hands correctly reduces the chances of spreading germs. But how do you properly wash your hands? And how often?
A recent observational study found that only 20 percent of American men and 40 percent of American women wash their hands correctly and for the proper length of time. So what is the main problem? People put soap on their hands and then directly put their hands under the water. Where does all the soap go? Down the drain.
Follow these simple steps: Wet your hands with warm, running water. Add soap and rub your hands together to make a soapy lather. Do this away from the running water so soap is not washed away. Wash the front and backs of hands, between fingers, nails, and wrists. Scrub for 15 to 20 seconds. Try singing the ABC song twice while washing. Rinse hands under warm running water. Turn faucet off with a clean paper towel. (Remember the faucet was turned on with dirty hands.) Dry hands thoroughly with a clean paper towel. When leaving a bathroom with a closed door, use a paper towel to open the door. Then throw away the paper towel.
Hands should be washed whenever they become contaminated.
Wash hands after:
• Coughing or sneezing (Use a clean tissue or clothing sleeve to cough or sneeze into. Do not cough or sneeze into hands.)
• Touching contaminated surfaces
• Using the restroom
• Changing diapers
• Handling garbage
• Handling uncooked foods such as meat
• Touching animals and pets
• Caring for a sick person
Always wash hands before preparing or eating food, and treating a wound or taking care of someone ill.
At the same time, watch your “T-Zone.” The T Zone refers to the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth. By touching these areas with a contaminated finger, disease is able to enter the body. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with fingers.
If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting.
When using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, apply product to palm of one hand and rub hands together, covering all surfaces of hands and fingers, until hands are dry. Alcohol-based hand wipes can also be used.
I wish for you a happy and flu and cold free end of 2018 and beginning of 2019!
Darlene Christensen is an associate professor at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele.