Employee & Community Health

Break the chain of Infection

12/22/2016 by Dr. Luke Hafdahl

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'Tis the season for families to gather in their homes and celebrate the holidays. Unfortunately, we're not the only ones celebrating - germs, such as cold viruses, stomach bugs and influenza, are equally thrilled to have us huddled together indoors, shaking hands and sharing towels and door handles. It just makes their job of spreading disease all the easier. 

Thankfully, our best weapon against them isn't a doctor's prescription but wisdom from your mother! Wash your hands, wash them well, and wash them often. Here are a few tips to make sure you're doing it right. 

When to wash

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for someone sick
  • After changing a diaper, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, using the toilet or touching garbage. 
  • After touching an animal, animal food or animal waste

How to wash

  1. Wet. Clean, running water (no standing water). Any temperature is fine!
  2. Lather. Any soap will work. There's no evidence that soaps with special "antibacterial" ingredients are any better at preventing disease. 
  3. Scrub. Studies show that about 20 seconds seems to be the right amount for most situations. Don't forget the back of your hands and under your nails!
  4. Rinse. Wet hands transfer germs easier. Dry them on a clean towel or air dry. 
  5. No soap & water? No problem! Hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol will do. 

Make sure you follow these hand washing tips to keep you and your family healthy during this holiday season!

Dr. Luke Hafdahl is a senior associate consultant and Instructor of Internal Medicine in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine.