Cold and flu season is upon us. And as moms, dads and anyone who wants to avoid seasonal viruses prepare for the germ battle, they often reach for the same weapon of choice: the trusty ole’ hand sanitizer.
The small gel bottles are inexpensive, easy to throw in a purse and convenient in a pinch. But despite its brilliance, it may not always be the best solution. Gina Carnduff, Memorial Medical Center’s Infection Prevention system director weighs in on what you need to know:
It needs to be at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective. To find the concentration, turn the bottle over and check for the alcohol percentage under the active ingredient. “Apply a dime-sized amount of sanitizer to the palm of one hand and rub hands together making sure to cover both hands, fingers and spaces in between the fingers,” Carnduff says. “Then rub until the hand sanitizer has been absorbed.”
It doesn’t work for all viruses, and it works best on dry hands. If your hands are visibly soiled, you’ll still need to hit the sink for soap and water. And it’s the same after using the restroom. The gel also has limited effectiveness against certain bacteria and the norovirus (the stomach bug nobody wants). “In those circumstances, you should wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds,” says Carnduff.
It alone won’t keep you from getting sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth during flu season. Get your flu shot. And disinfect common surfaces regularly. “A number of factors go into keeping you and your family healthy this season,” Carnduff says. “A little prevention goes a long way.”
Bottom line: germs are impossible to avoid. And in cooler weather, they become easier to pick up since you spend more time inside. Take the necessary steps to keep you and your family safe. And in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to stock up on some hand sanitizer.Enjoy LiveWell Online Magazine? Stay up-to-date with a free email subscription!