The flu season — which got off to an early start this year — continues to get worse. “All regions of the country are seeing elevated levels of flu-like illness,” the CDC says in its latest update.They reported increasing activity overall in its most recent report for the week ending Dec.14. It is widespread in 30 states and Puerto Rico.”It’s difficult to predict the flu season, but CDC flu forecasts suggest flu activity will continue to increase in the next few weeks with a 40% chance that activity will peak in December, which would be relatively early compared to most seasons,” said CDC spokesman Scott Pauley.When does flu season begin and end? Although you can get the flu anytime, flu season starts in October and can go as late as March and even April. But it usually peaks in the U.S. in February, Schaffner says.
In addition to getting the flu shot, avoiding the the flu can be aided by eating health meals, daily exercise and something as simple as washing your hands. According to the Mayo Clinic, hand-washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut your risk of getting sick and spreading illness. Here are the do’s and don’t of hand washing to keep you healthy this winter:
One of the most important reasons for hand washing is all the germs our hands come in contact with when we touch surfaces around us. Studies show that the average adult touches their face with their hands about 16 times per hour and 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch. Frequent hand washing can cut your risk of colds by up to 50%.
Here are the latest tips from the Mayo Clinic:
Always wash your hands before:
- Preparing food or eating
- Treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person
- Inserting or removing contact lenses
Always wash your hands after:
- Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
- Using the toilet or changing a diaper
- Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes, or waste
- Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
- Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
- Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes
In addition, wash your hands whenever they look dirty (of course!).
How to wash your hands
It’s generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:
- Wet your hands with running water.
- Apply liquid, bar or powder soap. ( Here at Alabu we prefer bar soap which is the most gentle for your skin)
- Lather well.
- Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Rinse well.
- Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
- If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
How to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
It is always better to wash the contaminant off your hands than trying to kill them. Flu viruses seem to be more resistant to hand sanitizers than bacteria. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which don’t require water, are an acceptable alternative when soap and water aren’t available. If you choose to use a hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Then follow these simple steps:
- Apply enough of the product to the palm of your hand to wet your hands completely.
- Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, until your hands are dry.
Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another effective option. Again, look for a product that contains a high percentage of alcohol. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash with soap and water.
Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product’s antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.
Help children stay healthy by encouraging them to wash their hands properly and frequently. Wash your hands with your child to show him or her how it’s done. To prevent rushing, suggest washing hands for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. You might place hand-washing reminders at your child’s eye level, such as a chart by the bathroom sink that can be marked every time your child washes his or her hands. If your child can’t reach the sink on his or her own, keep a step stool handy.
Hand-washing is especially important for children in child care settings. Young children cared for in groups outside the home are at greater risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, which can easily spread to family members and other contacts. Be sure your child care provider promotes frequent hand-washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Ask whether the children are required to wash their hands several times a day — not just before meals. Note, too, whether diapering areas are cleaned after each use and whether eating and diapering areas are well separated.
A simple way to stay healthy
Hand-washing doesn’t take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness. Adopting this simple habit can play a major role in protecting your health.