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THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP FOR INFECTION PREVENTION



The worst part of the year for contagious infections is upon us. We’re huddled indoors and the holiday celebrations bring lots of infectious people together. And I don’t mean the “infectious” smile or laugh type of people. No, the ones that get you really sick, coughing, and bedridden for days.


Part of the problem could be, if you’ve noticed, the majority of people are not wearing masks anymore, or practicing social distancing, or any of that stuff. It’s business as usual. However, we are seeing an uptick in those nasty winter viruses like the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and Covid. So, what can you do to help prevent you from getting sick this winter?


Well, you could go back to wearing a mask and social distancing, but people are really tired of that. You could try vaccination – but that’s a very personal choice, much. All of those techniques could help, but the simplest, cheapest, and by far the most effective prevention strategy is: WASHING YOUR HANDS CORRECTLY!


Really, you ask? Yup. Turns out that cleaning your hands before you touch your face, or make that turkey sandwich, is the most important barrier to catching some nasty bacteria or virus.


One of the first things you learn in nursing school is how to wash your hands. I’m serious. You start by listening to your instructor talk about the importance of properly cleaning your hands. You watch a detailed video on the process. Then you and your classmates go over to a sink and watch each other lather, scrub, and rinse for what seems like a ridiculous amount of time to spend on your hands. It’s not rocket science, but there is a thorough way to wash your hands versus what you might have learned as a kid.


This is not going to be a step-by-step instruction on how to wash your hands. You can find videos on the internet that will take you through it. However, I am going to point out a few key mistakes that people make when washing their hands.


The first thing I see people do wrong is that they don’t lather their hands. They pump one tiny squirt of soap into their palm and they barely even coat the skin before it’s washed away. You really have to spend some time with a good lather over all aspects of the hands, including under those nails. Bacteria just love dirty fingernails.


The critical step of the whole process, and where most people break good technique, is this: when they’re done washing their hands they reach up and grab that dirty faucet handle to turn off the water. Yup. Clean hands back to touching a non-clean surface. That, my friends, is how bugs travel. So, my advice is to use a paper towel, or your elbow to turn off that faucet handle.


Anyway, now you know how important handwashing is. Spend some time improving your technique. Watch some videos. Maybe you don’t get sick this year.


Be safe and stay well,


Nurse Pete


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