Most infections are spread by picking up germs on our hands from contact with other people or by touching contaminated surfaces. Clean, healthy, intact skin is the best barrier against infection. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to wash or decontaminate your hands. "Hand hygiene" describes either hand washing or decontaminating hands. Washing hands removes the germs from your hands. Decontaminating kills the germs on your hands with the use of alcohol-based hand rubs. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash away the dirt. Otherwise, decontamination is a convenient way to kill the germs.
When should I perform hand hygiene?
- Before you eat
- Before and during food preparation, especially when handling meat, eggs or poultry
- Before applying makeup
- Before handling contact lenses
- Before treating a cut or wound
- Before and after caring for someone who is ill
- After using the restroom
- After changing diapers
- After you sneeze or cough
- After touching animals and pets
- And anytime your hands are visibly dirty.
How do I wash my hands well?
- Wet hands with water that is a comfortable temperature
- Apply soap and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds
- Be sure to cover all surfaces, especially under nails, around rings, your thumbs and around your wrists
- Rinse hands well
- Dry your hands with a paper towel or clean cloth towel
- Use the towel to turn off the faucets.
How do I use alcohol-based hand rubs?
- Apply a quarter-sized amount to one hand
- Rub your hands together until they are dry, making sure that you cover all surfaces of your hands (do not rinse your hands).
Cover your cough
Many respiratory diseases can be spread person-to-person by respiratory droplets.
How do I prevent spreading a respiratory infection to others?
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing
- If a tissue is not available, sneeze or cough into your sleeve to contain the droplets (don't sneeze or cough into your hands)
- Clean hands with soap and water or decontaminate hands with an alcohol-based hand rub
- Stay home if you are ill.
Keep your immunizations up-to-date
Vaccines are not just for children! Adults need to be vaccinated against infectious diseases too. Each year, over 40,000 adults die in the United States from a vaccine-preventable disease.
What vaccines do I need?
- Get your flu shot every year. Flu viruses change slightly each year so it is important to get vaccinated every year, beginning in October and through the season, which lasts until May
- Visit the Immunization Section for information on vaccines for children and adults.
Take antibiotics correctly and only when necessary
- Antibiotics work for bacterial infections but do not work for viral infections
- Don't insist that your healthcare provider give you antibiotics if you don't need them
- If you need an antibiotic, take them as exactly as your healthcare provider prescribed them and finish all of the medicine
- Don't take someone else's antibiotics or give yours to someone else.