Your Flu Season Toolkit
Hands spread an estimated 80 percent of common infectious diseases like the common cold and flu. For example, when you touch a doorknob that has the flu virus on it and then touch your mouth, you can get sick. But these disease-causing germs slide off easily with good handwashing technique.
Handwashing is easy to learn, cheap and incredibly effective at stopping the spread of disease-causing germs.
Wash your hands several times a day with soap and warm water, especially:
The word germs is a general term for different types of tiny organisms. Bacteria and viruses are examples of two different types of germs. Bacteria are virtually everywhere in our environment and make up 60 per cent of the living matter on earth. Of the billions of types of bacteria only about 50 are known to cause infection.
Viruses cause far more illnesses than bad bacteria because they spread more easily. If more than one person in your family has the same sickness, odds are it is a viral infection. Cold and flu viruses invade our cells and rapidly grow in number causing symptoms like runny nose, cough, aches and sore throats.
If you had to pick the place in your house with the most disease-causing germs, what would you choose? Many of us automatically think of the bathroom toilet seat or bathroom floor. But you may be surprised to learn that the kitchen is the biggest hot-zone for disease-causing germs. Top prize goes to the kitchen sink, followed by the dishrag or sponge.
Germs can live for a surprisingly long time on hard surfaces like desks, doorknobs and tables. Most people get sick when they touch something that is contaminated with germs and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. The easiest way to reduce your chance of getting sick is to wash your hands often with regular soap and water and avoid touching your face.
Antibacterial soaps and cleaners are readily available - there are hundreds of brands on the market. Yet, antibacterial soaps offer no benefit over regular, plain soaps in preventing common illnesses.
Plain, ordinary soap has ingredients that help to remove dirt and grease from your skin. The mechanical action of handwashing - rubbing your hands together with soap and water - breaks down the tiny bits of grease, fat and dirt on your hands that bad germs cling to. Soap doesn't actually kill the bad germs, instead, it's the combination of soap, rubbing, rinsing and drying that helps these bugs slide off your hands.
The bottom line: plain soap and good handwashing technique are the best way to remove the dirt and grease that attract bad bacteria.
Both alcohol-based hand sanitizers and soap and water have a place in prevention of infections. You should use an alcohol sanitizer when you are out and not able to wash your hands—for example, at the mall or after riding public transit. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers don't contain antibiotics. But the alcohol kills both good and bad bacteria on your skin so use it sparingly. And keep in mind that they don't work well if you have a lot of dirt and grease on your hands.