hand washing to prevent flu and cold

Hand Washing to Get You Through Flu Season

The dreaded flu season is here, but this year it presents itself during a pandemic. If you feel that you are easily sick in the winter months and are worried about the added stress of COVID-19, it may be time to reevaluate your health routine. Take this the time to recommit and change your hand washing best practices. Be sure to schedule your annual flu shot at a convenient location. Fortunately the preventative measures for COVID-19, such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene, are just as effective at preventing the flu! 

Community Health Network is here to provide you with some easy tips.

When to Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands after going out in public or interacting with others. Wash your hands before preparing, cooking or eating food. You should be washing your hands more frequently during cold and flu season and due to COVID-19, and be sure to do so after grocery shopping, touching public surfaces or contact with other shared surfaces.

Always cover your cough. When you do cough, try to cough into a tissue or use your inner elbow. Even when you are waring a mask, it's still important to cover your cough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that you avoid coughing into your hand, as you are likely to then touch other surfaces, spreading germs to others.

Pick a Soap

If you're worried about which soap will be the most effective, worry no longer. Until recently, the market had various soaps claiming to offer antibacterial properties that did a better job at staving off illness. In 2016, the FDA banned these soaps after finding that they offered no additional benefit over regular soap.

In short, any soap you buy will help you avoid the flu. One consideration you may want to keep in mind is that washing with hot water can dry out your hands. There are moisturizing soaps available that will help lock in moisture during the cold, dry months of the year.

Supplement with Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is a handy tool to use when soap and water is not available. We recommend keeping a few mini bottles around in various places, like your vehicle. Unlike soap there is one rule to keep in mind when purchasing:  CDC suggests purchasing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Remember, using hand sanitizer is not a substitute for washing your hands. Soap and water are your best tools to fight off germs, so use sanitizer only when getting to a sink isn’t an option. Keeping a bottle in your car or in your purse can help in the short term, but don’t forget to wash your hands as soon as you can.

Teach Your Kids to Wash Properly

Teaching your children to wash their hands the right way can mean the difference between a school day and a two week quarantine. Don’t forget to lather in between their fingers! Review the infographic below with your kids. You can even print it out to hang on the fridge!

Handwashing Tips for Kids

When in doubt on how best to battle the flu and other respiratory illnesses, contact your primary care provider or access MyChart to send questions to your physician. For additional information on the flu, visit our Flu Services webpage.