Its cold and flu season and did you know that your hands are the main instrument for spreading these diseases? So it makes sense that the best way to prevent the spread of colds and flu is by using good hand washing techniques. Microbes, which include bacteria, fungi and viruses that are too small to see, are carried from one person to another (or from host to host) on people’s hands. Studies done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that using an antibacterial hand cleanser is not necessary. In fact, the use of antibacterial hand cleansers can lead to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria – something that makes treatment of disease much more difficult. Read this article about these products that may do more harm than good.
Good hand washing is critical to destroying the disease causing bacteria and virus that get spread by hand to hand contact. Hand washing should be done throughout the day; before and during preparing food preparation, before eating, before and after coming in contact with someone who is sick, before and after treating a wound, after using the toilet or changing diapers, after blowing your nose, after touching an animal, or after touching garbage.
There are five steps to hand washing; Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry.
Use a soap, or hand/body cleanser after wetting your hands to develop a lather. Soaps and cleansers are wonderful products in that they have the ability to help solubilize a number of both water soluble and oil soluble dirt particles. Something an alcohol based antibacterial product cannot do. Soaps and cleansers are then readily soluble in water and easily washed away along with the microbes.
Give enough time to scrubbing. The CDC recommends humming the ‘Happy Birthday Song’ to give yourself a good 20 seconds. I recommend humming ‘Ring Around the Rosey’ while scrubbing. This child’s song is actually said to be about the plague, so a good reminder as to the importance of scrubbing. Here’s a link that explains the song‘s lyrics.
Drying your hands is an important step too and you should be sure to use a towel that is clean. I do not want to promote using disposable towels, so make sure that the cloth towel in your bathroom is washed regularly. You don’t want to be putting microbes and dirt back on your hands after washing.
In addition to good hand washing technique this winter, remember to wipe down light switches and other commonly touched items in the house. If you do get sick and want more information about natural treatments for colds/flu, a book I wrote, The Antibiotic Alternative may be useful. The book addresses the immune system, the history of infectious disease, how stress affects health as well as when to use antibiotics and when to use safe, at home, herbal remedies for infections.