Don't Give the Gift of Germs this Holiday Season

Author: McLaren Flint

With holiday gatherings underway and both Covid and influenza (flu) cases on the rise, proper handwashing is more important than ever. Hand hygiene helps stop the spread of germs that can cause antibiotic-resistant infections. Proper handwashing is the single best way to stop the spread of viruses that are responsible for illnesses.

“Hand hygiene is now regarded as one of the most important elements of infection control activities,” said Dr. Shagufta Ali, an infectious disease specialist at McLaren Flint. “For proper handwashing, remove jewelry and rinse hands under running water (preferably warm). Lather with soap using friction and cover all surfaces of your hands and fingers. Wash your hands thoroughly under running water for 20 seconds and turn off the faucet with your wrist or elbow.”

When using soap, it doesn’t have to be antibacterial, any soap will suffice. Dry hands with a single-use towel or by using forced air drying. Pat skin rather than rubbing to avoid cracking. If disposable towels are used, throw them in the trash immediately.

“We should wash our hands with soap and water when visibly dirty or contaminated with proteinaceous material (which includes things like vomit or discharge from a wound), blood, or other body fluids,” said Dr. Ali. “You should use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if your hands are not grossly soiled. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer requires less time, is microbiologically more effective, and is less irritating to the skin than traditional hand washing with soap and water.”

According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Recommended times to clean hands include:

Before eating Before, during, and after preparing food After using the restroom After coughing, sneezing, or caring for someone who is ill After taking out the garbage After petting animals When it comes to handwashing, showing your child how to properly wash their hands and when to do so will make it a habit for them.

“We need to be the role model when it comes to teaching our kids about handwashing,” said Dr. Ali.

Aside from handwashing, masking is still a very important factor in preventing the spread of illnesses.

“Masking is a critical public health tool, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask,” said Dr. Ali. “It can protect us from transmitting the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID among friends and family members. Getting a COVID vaccination and flu shot are other very important preventive strategies.”