Georgia-Pacific HealthSmart
Proper Hand Washing Prevents the Spread of Infection

Preventing cold & flu

Hand washing 101

Proper hand washing and drying is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you don’t wash your hands correctly, you won’t remove the bacteria, particularly around the fingers, fingertips and nail folds. And it’s precisely these areas that most need cleaning.

Here’s how it’s done.

Hand Washing

Wet and Lather

  • 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.
Hand Rinsing

Scrub & Rinse

  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse well in clean, running water at an adequate flow rate.
Hand Drying

Hand drying

  • Thorough and sanitary hand drying will remove most remaining microbial organisms.
  • Single-use paper towels have been proven above all other methods to effectively remove most unwanted germs and loose skin cells.
  • Dry hands thoroughly, since wet hands can pick up and transfer more contamination than dry hands.
  • Avoid contact with contaminated surfaces such as sink, faucet handles, towel dispenser cranks or levers that can result in cross-contamination.
  • If the tap or faucet is not hands-free, then leave the water running while drying hands and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet after drying hands.

When and how often should you wash and dry your hands?

Hands should always be washed and dried:

  • Upon entry to the work area.
  • As often as needed to remove soil and prevent product contamination.
  • Before and after eating and drinking, and after smoking or completing the handling of money.
  • After using the toilet.
  • After sneezing, coughing onto hands, or touching the face, hair or clothing.
  • After touching any dirty surface, soiled equipment or utensils.
  • Between glove changes.
  • When switching from raw food handling to cooked or ready-to-eat food preparation.

Towels or dryers?

A University of Westminster study found that high-speed dryers increase bacteria count on hands by up to 42 percent, and warm-air dryers increase bacteria by up to 254 percent. Paper towels actually reduce bacteria on hands by up to 77 percent after washing and drying hands.(1)

Paper towels also get the job done faster—drying hands in as few as five seconds, while air dryers require as many as 15 to 18 seconds. Air dryers also produce considerable noise, with decibel levels of 95 and higher—the same as a subway train at 200 yards. Touchless paper towel dispensers like enMotion® are only as noisy as a normal conversation. Paper towel dispensing can even save money over time, compared to air dryers.

Hand sanitizer

Sanitizing your hands is the next best thing when running water isn’t available. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contains at least 60% alcohol can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

How do you use hand sanitizers?

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Other GP HealthSmart® tips

Proper hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid the spread of germs and to avoid cold and flu viruses. Below are some additional common-sense precautions that can help reduce the spread of germs and keep you healthy.(2, 3, 4)

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with other people who are sick.
  • Don’t share drinking glasses or utensils with other people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Sneeze and cough into tissues, or into the bend of your elbow if tissues are not available.
  • Get an annual flu vaccine.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.

Who is at higher risk for flu?(5)

At Risk for Cold and Flu: Children and Infants At Risk for Cold and Flu: Pregnant Women At Risk for Cold and Flu: Seniors and People with Disabilities

Children and infants

Children are more likely to get the flu because their immune systems are not fully developed.

Pregnant women

Pregnant women are can be more prone to severe illness from flu because of changes to their immune system during pregnancy.

Seniors

Human immune systems weaken with age, making adults 65 and older more susceptible to the flu.

People with disabilities

Not all disabled people are at higher risk for getting the flu. Those who are more susceptible are those who have limited mobility, those who can’t limit their contact with others who may be infected, and those who have trouble understanding or practicing preventive measures.

People with health conditions

Certain health conditions can either increase your risk of getting the flu due to a weakened immune system, or make you more at risk for complications related to the flu. As such, special steps should be considered for people suffering from arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease or HIV/AIDS.

Visit flu.gov for precautions and treatment advice for people who belong to these higher-risk groups.

Is it a cold, or is it the flu?

Because they are both respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether you have a cold or the flu. Typically, the flu is more intense than the common cold, and symptoms like fever, body aches, fatigue and cough are more common and more severe. Colds are usually milder, and are accompanied by a runny or stuffy nose.

Cold symptoms(6)

  • Mild fatigue and weakness
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Mild to moderate chest discomfort
  • Complications include congestion or ear-ache

Flu symptoms(6)

  • Sudden onset of fever (100.4°F) and lasts 3-4 days
  • Headaches (can be severe)
  • Aches and pains (can be severe)
  • Fatigue and weakness (can last 2-3 weeks after the illness)
  • Debilitating fatigue, early onset (can be severe)
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and watering of the eyes in children under 5 years of age
  • Sore throat
  • Chest discomfort (can be severe)
  • Complications include respiratory failure; can be life threatening

Treating cold & flu

Because they are both respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether you have a cold or the flu. Typically, the flu is more intense than the common cold, and symptoms like fever, body aches, fatigue and cough are more common and more severe. Colds are usually milder, and are accompanied by a runny or stuffy nose.

Treating a cold(7)

There's no cure for the common cold, and once you catch it, you can expect to be under the weather for a week or two.

You can help yourself by:

  • Drinking water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey
  • Using a humidifier to make breathing easier
  • Gargling salt water to soothe a sore throat
  • Eating chicken soup
  • Using nonprescription decongestants and pain relievers as directed

Treating the flu(8)

Flu symptoms can be treated with and without medication. Over-the-counter medications may relieve some flu symptoms, and your doctor can prescribe antiviral medications, or antibiotics if your flu has escalated to a bacterial infection.

You can help yourself by:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Drinking clear fluids
  • Using a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead, arms and legs to reduce discomfort associated with a fever
  • Using a humidifier to make breathing easier
  • Gargling salt water to soothe a sore throat
  • Covering up with a warm blanket to fight chills

Credits:

  1. University of Westminster, Feb. 2009 - a comparative study of different hand drying methods
  2. Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/stopgerms.htm
  3. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/basics/prevention/con-20019062
  4. Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm
  5. Flu.gov. http://www.flu.gov/at-risk/index.html
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  7. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403
  8. Flu.gov. http://www.flu.gov/symptoms-treatment/treatment/index.html