National Handwashing Awareness Week: Ten Ways to Stop the Spread of Germs This Cold & Flu Season
We've all had to become experts on the spread of germs this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cold and flu season is now underway, serving as a reminder that the most effective methods of preventing viral spread are ones we've all practiced during the fall and winter every year! Read on for a refresher course on how to stop the spread of germs.
1. Stay Home if You're Sick
There can be many obstacles to quarantining and taking care of your health. Workplaces can be demanding, and not everyone has stable employment with adequate time off. But if you have the opportunity to stay home when you're developing symptoms of illness, don't hesitate to do so. By staying home, you're reducing the risk of spreading germs to your co-workers, peers, and other strangers around you.
2. Avoid Close Contact with Sick People
If you know someone who is sick, keep your distance unless absolutely necessary. If you live with that person, practice extremely thorough disinfecting and cleaning practices. Even if no one in your home is sick, it's important right now to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces with an EPA-registered household disinfectant every day. A person may spread a virus or other illness even if they're asymptomatic and seem fine.
3. Get Your Flu Shot
It's still a good time for everyone in your family to get vaccinated! Peak flu season begins in December, so it's best to get your flu shot earlier than that, as it takes around two weeks to build up immunity after receiving the shot. The flu can be a very serious illness, especially to older adults, young children, and immunocompromised people, so it's important that everyone get their flu shot to help stop its spread. People who receive their yearly immunization are up to 60 percent less likely to catch the flu than those who don't, so make sure everyone in your family 6 months old or above gets vaccinated!
4. Cover Your Cough
Always cough or sneeze into a tissue to help prevent the spread of germs. If one isn't available, use the crook of your arm, your inner elbow (which prevents spreading germs through your hands). When using a tissue, then you should immediately throw out the tissue and wash your hands.
Germs can live almost anywhere, but they tend to live on frequently-touched, smooth or flat surfaces, and can survive for long periods of time. Clean surfaces regularly using soap and water, then a recommended disinfectant. Surfaces that you should disinfect include: tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, railings, toilets, faucets, sinks, keyboards, and even your phone. In public? You may even want to carry disinfecting wipes for high-touch surfaces like shopping carts and ATMs.
6. Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands thoroughly is a crucial step of staying healthy. Using warm water and soap, you should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, making sure to fully lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. (Many sources suggest timing yourself by using the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice, but if that's not fun enough, you can find other options online. We're partial to "Jolene.") This is especially important after you've been in a crowded area, or touched surfaces that germs can live on.
When soap and water are not immediately available, consider Mountain Ice Advanced Hand Sanitizer. Our hand sanitizer goes above and beyond the usual formulations, with a potent 72% Ethyl Alcohol makeup for superior germ-killing power, as well as soothing agents that protect the skin barrier, heal wounds quickly, and moisturize as you disinfect.
8. Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose & Mouth
Or, anything on your face, really. Germs can quickly and easily spread this way. This is basic hygiene, but it can be easy to forget. You probably don't notice just how many times you reach for your face during the day to scratch and itch or rub your eyes. This is even more frequent for those of us with glasses! We know people who have put a small sticker on their hand to give them a visual reminder when it comes close to their face -- it may sound silly, but it can be a great announcement of a habit you probably don't even notice you have.
9. Wear a Mask
When out in public, wear your mask! This goes double if you're sick or showing symptoms of illness -- wearing a mask is not just about avoiding infection, but preventing you from spreading germs to other people. Make sure your mask fits snugly and covers both your nose and mouth, and be sure to follow all other guidelines on proper mask use.
10. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Killing germs is crucial, but why not be at your best so you can avoid getting sick altogether? You can strengthen your immune system illness by making healthy choices:
- Eat a well-balanced diet: get the vitamins and nutrients you need for your immune system to function properly.
- Get enough sleep: 8 hours or more per night is recommended.
- Stay active: exercise at moderate intensity for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week.
- Stay hydrated: the 8x8 Rule suggests drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
- Avoid smoking or quit if you already smoke.
- Go outside: It's calming, and the Vitamin D you get from sunlight is vital for your immune system. You may want to try Vitamin D supplements or a UV lamp if your region doesn't get much sun in the winter.
- Manage your stress: techniques like yoga or meditation, as well as regular therapy, can have a powerful effect on your immune health.
As we get through these difficult times, we need to be able to rely on our neighbors to do the right thing. If we want a better world, we have to be better citizens. Use the necessary precautions to ensure your safety, your family's safety, and the safety of others.