Stop the spread of illness this Christmas.
If you were told that doing one simple (and free) thing could save you, your family and friends from getting sick this Christmas wouldn’t you jump at the chance? Well you can – the simplest way to help stop the spread of bugs that cause diarrhoea, vomiting, coughs, colds, and even superbugs is to clean your hands PROPERLY.
At home we can do that using soap and water and in hospitals and clinics we also have alcohol gel. There are lot of gel dispensers around in hospital and clinics.
To have good hand hygiene we want to follow simple steps every time we clean our hands to make sure that all parts of the hands are clean. You might think you are cleaning your hands very well but most people do not clean as well as they think and miss the tips of the fingers so that the bugs are still there after they finish.
Professor Martin Cormican, HSE National Lead for Antibiotic Resistance says, “Things that look clean often have billions of bacteria and viruses so you can pick them up from touching most surfaces. Studies show that bugs from faeces (poo bugs) are found on lots of surfaces such as money, bar snacks, shopping bags, computer keyboards, mobile phones, wrist bands, ice cubes, kitchen taps, cleaning cloths and surfaces in your kitchen.So you can see why it is really important that you clean your hands well with soap and water and then dry them on a paper (or clean) towel. We often think we have washed our hands well but have a look at this short experiment and you will be surprised.”
Dr Nuala O Connor, GP says “Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick with vomiting, diarrhoea, coughs, colds, sore throat, flu, in fact almost all infections. No-one would want to touch or eat faeces but millions of us across the world do that every day by not cleaning our hands properly. Every surface we touch has bacteria and viruses on it, door handles, phones, computer keyboards, supermarket trolleys and we can infect ourselves by allowing these bugs get inside us from our hand through our mouth or nose with our fingers or contaminating something we out in our mouths with our hands e.g. food or chewing a pen. The other way we pick up infections is if someone coughs within three feet of us and the fine spray of tiny drops that they make lands in our mouth, nose or eyes.”
We should all try to make a habit of cleaning our hands often during the day. The goal is to find a good balance between keeping your hands clean when it’s most important without taking the fun out of life. It is very important to clean your hands at these times:
· When you have been in contact with a person or an animal with an infection
· When you get back to your home from being out and about or at work, especially if your work involves a lot of contact with people or animals
· Before starting to prepare or handle food
· After touching raw meat including poultry
· Before eating food
· After using the toilet and after changing nappies
· When visiting a hospital or health care service.
It is very important to be very careful about cleaning your hands if you are being treated in hospital or visiting someone in hospital over Christmas. There are things you can do to protect yourself and to protect the person you are visiting from picking up an infection or superbug in hospital:
- Clean your hands often. You can use the hand sanitiser gel. Always do this after you go to the toilet and before you eat
- Do not share your personal things with other patients – for example, your phone, your earphones, and so on
- Keep away from other patients’ bed space
- Do not let anyone sit on your bed, and don’t sit on another patient’s bed
- It’s OK to remind staff to clean their hands
- It’s OK to tell a staff member if you see anything that is not clean
All you need to help stop the spread of infection is running water, plain soap and a clean towel. You don’t need fancy soaps and you should avoid “antibacterial” soaps as they don’t offer any benefit and may increase the risk of resistant germs. It’s important to wash towels often at home. Outside of home it is best not to use a cloth towel unless you know it is clean. Alcohol gel is as good as or better than washing your hands most of the time if your hands look clean. If you can see dirt on your hands you do need soap and water and there are some other times when your doctor or nurse may tell you that soap and water are better.
See hse.ie/handhygiene for more information and helpful videos about good hand hygiene. Visit www.undertheweather.ie for tips from GPs and pharmacists on managing simple illnesses such as tummy bugs, colds and flus at home.