During the height of cold and flu season, using warm soap and water to clean your hands is important to reduce the risk of infection. A seemingly mindless task, washing your hands actually requires a bit of attention to effectively avert contraction.
According to Dr. Sheila Nolan, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), the key is to make sure you create a good lather with the soap, wash all surfaces of the hands and then thoroughly rinse.
“I tell kids to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice before they rinse," she said. "To keep germs from spreading in your house, it’s also a good idea to wipe frequently touched surfaces, such as door knobs, handles and faucets.”
Hand sanitizer or hand soap?
Have you wondered if you should be using hand soap or hand sanitizer? According to Kimberly Powell, the infection control coordinator for MidHudson Regional Hospital, it depends on the situation. “If hands are visibly soiled, soap is the appropriate method, but when on the go, hand sanitizer provides a quick and effective solution," she said. Nolan agrees that visibly dirty hands call for soap; however, when it comes to fighting germs, sanitizer is best. “It’s more effective simply because most of us don’t wash our hands as well as we should,” she said.
Should I wash my hands after using my cell phone?
Despite the constant barrage of news stories about cell phones being as germ-infested as a toilet, Nolan said we don’t necessarily have to live in fear of our phones. “Bacteria and viruses don’t make us sick by getting on our hands, as long as there are no open cuts or wounds," she said. "It’s when our hands transfer the germs to our eyes, nose or mouth that we can become infected. Washing hands before we eat and keeping our hands away from our faces is the best way to avoid getting sick.”
For more information about MidHudson Regional Hospital, click here.