Hand Sanitizer Prevents Cold and Flu

At this time of year, you can’t avoid them: the co-workers with sniffly noses, fellow commuters with chest coughs or the spouse with a stomach bug. Cold and flu season is here.

Though you can’t avoid sick people, you can avoid catching their cold or flu. You’ve heard that prevention is the best medicine and that regular hand sanitizing plays an important role. But just how effective is hand sanitizing when it comes to virus prevention?

Hand Sanitizer as Flu and Cold Prevention

Better than hand washing alone

There are two ways to catch a virus, through breathing contaminated air or by touching a contaminated surface and then your face. You can’t control what air you breathe, but you can control whether viruses stay on your hands. Hand sanitizer is incredibly effective at eliminating those viruses. For a study in BMC Infectious Diseases, a group of office workers used hand sanitizer at least five times each day. The research shows that these employees were then two-thirds less likely to contract a virus than workers who regularly washed their hands but did not use hand sanitizer.

The most important step for prevention

Hand sanitizer works, but aren’t there other ways to prevent cold and flu? Diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors are important, but nothing stacks up to clean hands. In an article on Real Simple, Dr. Susan Rehm, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says that hand sanitization is “number one, two and three on any list of ways to prevent infection.”

How to use hand sanitizer to prevent cold and flu

The devil’s in the details. To ensure you’re eliminating all of the germs you pick up, follow these steps when using hand sanitizer.

  1. Use enough to saturate your entire hand. A small amount won’t do. Be sure you’ve covered the front and back of your hands, in between your fingers and your nails.
  2. Keep rubbing for 30 seconds to kill all active germs.
  3. Make sure the sanitizer dries completely. Do not remove excess sanitizer from your hands. Instead, keep rubbing until all of the hand sanitizer is absorbed.

How to Prevent a Cold and Stop it from Spreading (Infographic)

As the weather is cooling and winter approaches, we start to see everyone around us catching the common cold and sometimes even the flu. This article describes in detail the precautions we can take and how to handle an illness if we do end up catching one.

Here’s how you can prevent catching any of the illnesses going around:

  • Wash your hands as much as you can
  • Never touch your mouth, nose, or eyes without washing your hands
  • Don’t share food or other things that go in the mouth (ex. Double dipping your chips)
  • Try to have your family cough and sneeze into tissues, if there is no time to grab a tissue have them cough or sneeze into the inside of the elbow instead of the hands
  • Avoid sharing personal items like toiletries, towels, and pillows
  • Get proper rest and good nutrition to improve resistance and boost immunity
  • Use paper towels instead of community towels in bathrooms and the kitchen
  • Avoid contact with objects that an ill person has been in contact with
  • Try not to sleep in the same bed as a sick family member
  • Disinfect hot spots in the home such as phones, remotes, handles, switches, and computer accessories

Make sure to have extra toothbrushes and personal tubes of toothpaste for each family member, plenty of tissues, and medicine such as throat lozenges and cough syrup before an illness strikes. Remember that colds and flu spread fast, so always make sure that you take any actions needed to prevent catching what everyone else has. As well, if you do end up catching an illness, make sure you take the required amount of time off of work, or work from home if it is an available option, so that you don’t spread what you have all around the workplace.

Here is a great infographic on the common cold & how to prevent it: