The best way to prevent germ spread is to live in a bubble. But that wouldn’t be very fun, would it?
Instead, we’ve gotten used to taking other measures.
Indeed, preventing the spread of germs is something people have become more attuned to in recent years. Just look at the ubiquity of hand sanitizers in airports, schools and other public places. And we have global epidemics such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) to thank, so to speak, for bringing personal hygiene back to the forefront.
There are a few basic strategies to prevent germ spread. With that in mind, here are a few ideas:
Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as much as possible. People should cover their noses and mouths when they cough and sneeze. Washing one’s hands often is also one of the main ways to prevent the spread of germs. We’ll go into more detail on this below.
Colds and flu spread from person to person through the respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. When someone coughs or sneezes, droplets sometimes move through the air and deposit themselves on the mouths or noses of people nearby. You can also pick up respiratory droplets if you touch a desk or a counter that’s infected with them and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose before you can wash your hands.
We often touch parts of our face such as our mouths unconsciously. But it’s something to avoid because germs often spread when a person touches something that’s contaminated with germs and then touches his eyes, nose or mouth.
Cover your mouth when you cough, etc.
It’s something your mom always told you to do, but be honest, do you really cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze? Well, if you don’t want to spread germs, that’s exactly what you should do.
You should also cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough. Discard the used tissue in a waste basket after use. If you don’t have a tissue, don’t cough or sneeze into your hands. Instead use your upper sleeve or your elbow.
Why hand washing helps prevent germs from spreading
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, washing one’s hands helps prevent the spread of colds, the flu and other infections. Indeed, it’s the single-most effective way to ward off germs and to keep from spreading them. The role of hands in the transmission of hospital infections is well-documented. And germs gather in so many of the places we touch: doorknobs, computer keyboards, ATMs.
When, how and where to wash your hands
There are certain occasions that must be followed by a good hand scrub. Everyone needs to wash their hands before they eat, after they use the bathroom and when they’ve been in contact with animals or animal habitats. They also should wash their hands after handling uncooked meat, poultry and eggs, after changing diapers and after coughing, sneezing or blowing one’s nose.
Washing one’s hands is critical in public places such as schools, hospitals, daycare facilities and offices.
To be sure you’re scrubbing away unwanted germs, wet your hands with clean running water and then cover them with soap. If possible, use warm water to wash your hands.
Rub your hands together so you work up a good lather and be sure to cover the whole surface of your hands, front and back, and in between your fingers. Rub your hands together for about 15 to 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
When you’ve finished lathering, rinse your hands well under running water. You can use a dryer or a paper towel to dry your hands, and if possible, turn off the faucet with a paper towel rather than your hands. The World Health Organization recommends that hospitals have facilities where the faucets are hands-free. That’s something that’s becoming more prevalent in restaurant bathrooms and other places as well.
When you need to wash your hands but soap and water are not available, you can use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.
When you encounter someone with a cold or a cough or some other illness, avoid close contact. It’s not personal; you’re just trying to contain the illness.
Also stay home from work, school or from running errands when you’re sick. You may think you’re indispensable or that you must complete a particular chore before going out, but you risk spreading the infection to someone else.
For more information on how to prevent germ spread, read these articles: