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Hand hygiene

Winter months see the spread of colds, flu and norovirus (sickness and diarrhea) through touching surfaces as we go about our daily business and then touching our mouths or food that we eat.

Adopting good hand hygiene reduces the risk of spread which is particularly important when we’re visiting friends or relatives in hospital; the elderly at their home or when we’re around very young children.

The best way to wash hands is with soap and warm water, paying attention to fingers, thumbs, under nails and wrists. Drying hands properly is just as important, as damp hands can harbor germs.

Each year, tens of thousands of people are hospitalised because of flu. Flu is highly contagious and those in hospital are much more vulnerable to the severe effects of flu. Once flu is circulating, apart from vaccination, good hygiene is the main way to prevent it spreading.

Parents are being reminded to make sure little ones are taught how to wash their hands properly, particularly if they’re around grandparents or friends and relatives that are ill. 

Good hygiene means:

  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the bin straight away – don’t save it to re-use later. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow rather than your hands.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water. This will remove the majority of germs, preventing spread to other people. Studies show that hand-washing techniques are often poor and the most commonly neglected areas are the tips of the fingers, palm of the hand, and the thumb.
  • Use alcohol hand rub if you are visiting someone in hospital. This should be rubbed into all areas of the hands, again paying attention to the thumbs, fingertips, between the fingers and the backs of the hands until the hands feel dry. But it’s important to know this won’t help with norovirus – soap and water is best. 

Following these simple steps makes a huge difference in preventing the spread of the flu virus, colds and norovirus  to patients and the public. It’s an easy thing to do but it will ensure that people stay well this winter. For more information about winter illness visit www.nhs.uk/staywell

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