Spreading the Flu, Colds and Germs
It's all in your hands.
Do you know that approximately one out of three people do not wash their hands after using the restroom? (US Center for Disease Control, 2005) And, do you know that spreading germs is as easy as touching a door knob, shopping cart or an elevator button that has been infected by someone who hasn't washed their hands? The fact is; your hands can easily pick-up bacteria and viruses that cause common and some uncommon medical conditions. Read more about bacterial infections on www.skincareguide.ca/conditions/bacterial_infections.html.
According to Health Canada, 10-25% of us will get the flu this year, and 500-1500 will die from the flu or flu complications. With the flu season upon us and the newspapers full of stories of pandemics, more and more attention is being put on the simple act of washing your hands.
Washing your hands is one of the most important things you can do to stop the spread of germs. Recently, the World Health Organization set out a draft guideline for hand washing for healthcare professionals; "the WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care", as infections like SARS, Avian Flu and others can be spread by the touch of an unsanitized hand.
How to wash your hands properly
Washing your hands may be a simple task for all of us, but did you know there is a correct way to do it? Here are the instructions:
- Wash your hands in warm water for at least 15 seconds - most people don't wash long enough
- Use soap (any kind)
- It is important to rub your hands vigorously together, as it is the friction between your hands that helps eliminate the germs
- Pay attention to cleaning between your fingers and under your finger nails
- Use a clean, dry towel and hang the towel up properly to dry
- If you are in a public restroom, use a paper towel to turn off the taps and open the door.
These products were introduced in the 1960's and have been used by many people since. For persons in occupations, which demand extra precautions, these products have been helpful. However, these products are very drying to the skin, and they can often contribute to hand and body eczema. See Patient portal for Eczema for more information if you have eczema.
What to do when there's no water?
In our busy lives we often have barely enough time to get everything done. So how do you protect yourself when you can't wash your hands? There are many new products on the market from hand wipes to alcohol based hand sanitizers which seem to be popping up everywhere. You should know that these products, although they help, do not kill all types of germs, nor do they prevent you from picking up something after you've sanitized. Some people also have reactions to the drying sensation of the alcohol in hand sanitizers.
But, Is Hand Washing Enough?
You wash your hands regularly, are careful what you touch in public; so are you safe from catching and spreading germs? The answer is no. Although washing your hands is the #1 defense in getting rid of the germs; it doesn't prevent you from picking up another germ 10 minutes later when you hold the hand rail on the escalator. There is also a limit to how many times you or a healthcare worker or an employee can (and will) stop and wash or sanitize their hands in a day.
A new kind of product has been developed to assist; creams and lotions with antimicrobial protection that lasts through hand washing, scrubbing and daily chores. In Canada, Safe4Hours™ is available for the food and health services industries and for the general public in the new year. Safe4Hours™ is a hand lotion which is made with Triclosan which kills the germs, and a bonding ingredient called Invisicare®, which keeps the germ-killing product on your skin for four hours, greatly decreasing the amount of times you need to reapply and gives you protection even after hand washing. See also www.invisicare.com.
Remember, the flu and cold viruses are here until at least April, so protect yourself and your family by washing your hands often and properly. To learn more about cleansers, click on www.MildCleanser.ca.
The SkinCareGuide.ca Network of dermatology-related websites was founded by a prestigious group of international dermatologists. It provides comprehensive information for patients and physicians about the skin, its care and various skin conditions and treatments. Content is reviewed by an independent Board of Medical Advisors to ensure that the information is accurate, unbiased and up-to-date. This information is not intended to replace a consultation with your own physician.