Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

'Tis the season to break the chain of infection

12/16/2021 by Luke Hafdahl, M.D.


'Tis the season for families to gather in their homes and celebrate the holidays. While the COVID-19 pandemic is top of mind, other bugs and germs, such as cold viruses, stomach bugs and the flu, are still looking to spread illness. These germs thrive when people huddle together indoors, shake hands, or share towels and door handles. 

The past few months have been a reminder that the simplest things — masking and social distancing, for example — are the best weapons against infection. Also, another simple thing breaks the chain of infection, and it isn't a doctor's prescription. Rather, it's wisdom from your mother. Wash your hands. 

In addition to getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and influenza, you should wash your hands at these times:

  • 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. 

Here are the steps to follow to ensure you're washing your hands correctly:

  1. Wet. 
    Use clean, running water at any temperature. Do not wash hands in standing water. 
  2. Lather. 
    Any soap will work. There's no evidence that soaps with special antibacterial ingredients are better at preventing disease. 
  3. Scrub. 
    Studies show that about 20 seconds is right for most situations. Sing the "Happy Birthday" song to get the timing right. Don't forget the back of your hands and under your nails. 
  4. Rinse. 
    Use clean, running water. Do not rinse hands in standing water, as doing so could recontaminate your hands. 
  5. Dry. 
    Wet hands transfer germs easier. Dry them using a clean towel or let them air dry. 

If you don't have access to soap and water, hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol will do. 

COVID-19 is still here and influenza is coming back, so be safe and thoughtful this holiday season. In addition to getting vaccinated, wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow these hand-washing tips to keep you and your family healthy during this holiday season. 

Luke Hafdahl, M.D., is a physician in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Community Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative Care, where he practices in the Baldwin Building in Rochester.