New York Family Medicine Physician, Steven Ventrudo, MD of Orangetown Family Practice, a member of Highland Medical, PC, discusses hand washing as a most effective way to prevent infection.

With cold and flu season upon us, hand washing is especially important. It is one of the most effective ways to prevent spreading many kinds of germs. Yet many people don’t wash their hands enough, or don’t do it the right way. During National Handwashing Awareness Week, December 1-7, make a pledge to wash your hands thoroughly and often.

To prevent the spread of infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

To wash your hands correctly, start by wetting them with clean running water (warm or cold), and applying soap. Rub your hands together so the soap lathers, and scrub them well, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Rub your hands for at least 20 seconds (try humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice). Then rinse your hands well under running water, and dry them using a clean towel or air dry them.

If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. While these sanitizers can reduce germs, they don’t eliminate all types. Apply the sanitizer to the palm of one hand (the label will tell you how much to use). Rub your hands together, and then rub the sanitizer all over your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Other tips to reduce your chance of getting sick this winter or of spreading infection if you’re sick:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you’re sick, do others a favor and stay away from them.
  • Don’t go to work when you’re sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces at home and work.
  • Practice good health habits, such as getting enough sleep, staying physically active, and eating a nutritionally balanced diet.

Of course, the best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get a flu shot—it’s not too late to protect yourself this season!
Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, NY. Founded in 1895, it is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and has partnered with Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine providing clinical rotations to third-year medical students. Its mission is to provide competent, innovative and accessible emergency and acute care services to the residents of Rockland County and surrounding areas.