Do you know the “home bases” for germs?

It’s International Clean Hands Week, and Laura Zellner RN, BSN, MS, CIC, has some important tips for scrubbing success.

Good hand washing practices prevent illness and save lives. Consider where your hands are picking up potentially illness-causing germs. We touch hundreds of surfaces each day and many of them are “home bases” for germs.

Common sources of germs

Practice smart hygiene when touching …

Your cell phone.  If you touch your face or mouth after handling your phone, you could increase your chances for respiratory infections, like colds and flu. One study found young adults check their phones about 85 times a day, and likely don’t sanitize its surfaces often enough.

Rid your mobile device of dirt, oil and germs by wiping the screen at least once a day with a clean microfiber cloth. The case should also be removed and thoroughly disinfected routinely. It’s also important to wash your hands properly after use.

Money.  Cash is another frequently handled item that can be rich with germs. Money can’t be laundered of germs, but you can clean your hands after handling money. Retail food establishments have workplace practices separating money and food handling tasks for this reason.

Grocery carts.   The handle on that grocery cart at the local market collects the germs of those pushing the carts and everything that they touch. Someone with an illness can leave their germs behind on a cart handle as well as germs from anything that they touch in the store, including the juices of raw meats. Take advantage of the disinfectant wipes provided at the entrance of food stores and thoroughly wipe down the handle before you begin shopping. Pay it forward by wiping the cart down when you’re done as well.

Handwashing 101

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following process for handwashing:

•Use warm or cold water. Wet your hands, then turn off the tap, then apply soap.

•Lather well, washing the backs of your hands, between your fingers and beneath your nails.

•Wash for 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.

•Rinse well under clean, running water.

•Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry.

A word about hand sanitizers

Hand sanitizers do not remove visible soil from your hands. They are used in healthcare between patient and glove use when hands are not visibly soiled. Always select a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Soap and water should always be used before eating and after using the restroom.

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