Proper Hand Washing - Preventing the Spread of Germs

By Stephanie Breault, FNP-C and Tom Foraker FNP-C, Firelands Regional Medical Center – Clyde Urgent Care

Having good hand washing hygiene is always important, especially this time of year. At this point, the flu, cold and stomach viruses are in full swing! So how can we protect ourselves, and our kids, from these bugs? Unfortunately, we are going to occasionally get sick, but there are things you, and the little ones, can do to fight back against these germs. 

Add Hand Washing in Your Day-to-Day Routine to Avoid Getting Sick

First, let’s focus on adults. There are several things you can do in your day-to-day routine to prevent getting sick, as well as prevent sharing your illness. If you go the gym, instead of sitting directly on exercise mats, benches, or equipment, wipe everything down first with an antibacterial wipe and then give it time to dry. When you are at work, it is important to sanitize your work area as well. Think about all the items in your work space that are touched by you, and your co-workers, such as door handles, printers, phones, and microwaves/coffee maker. Viruses that cause the common cold can live on these surfaces for up to 2 days. Some bacteria that causes strep throat can live even longer on surfaces like these. Using hand sanitizers and proper hand washing is important, especially after using public areas such as elevator buttons, stair railing and water fountains. Also, it is important to keep in mind that with the extra hand cleaning/washing, it is important to keep your hands moisturized. Breaks and cracks in skin can cause a risk of infection. 

Sing While You Wash!

Now let’s move onto the real germ holders, kids! It’s no surprise that children aren’t the best at maintaining good hygiene. They have no problem wiping their runny nose with their hands, and then touching everything in sight. However, there are a few things we have witnessed over the years that seems to work. To start, coughing and sneezing into your elbow is great because it stops viruses from being spread through the air, and others around you. Next, hand washing is fundamental. It’s important to start them young and make it fun by using colored soap, and singing songs like the ABC’s. My daughter had a teacher in the first grade that put glitter in hand sanitizer. Granted there was a little touch of glitter on everything - but all the kids looked forward to using it! Also, using tissues to blow their noses is important. Many companies make character themed tissue boxes so they are more visible to kids. And finally, it is important for us to help kids understand that not all sharing is caring. Sharing straws, sippy cups, food, and utensils can spread germs and make people sick. 

Proper Hand Washing Technique

According to the CDC, the best and most effective way to wash your hands is as follows:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

These tips can help prevent people from getting sick, but they are not guaranteed, unfortunately, When you find yourself with a cold, flu or stomach virus this year remember you can follow up with your primary care provider to help with symptom relief or visit our Urgent Care in Clyde or Sandusky, and we will help make you feel better!