Kick the flu or common cold with some good handwashing

The best way to avoid a cold or the flu this winter is practicing good handwashing.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The colder weather can bring coughing, sneezing and even some aches and pains as people spread viruses more often. Avoiding sickness starts with spending more time at the sink with soap and water.

It’s the season to give, but there are some gifts no one is trying to receive. A cold.

Doctors Hospital Director of Infection Control, Erik Stuckart, explained how passing germs works when our hands are not clean.

“Say somebody sneezes into their hand and then they touch a door knob, going into a store or to a room, and then you come right behind them and touch it too. All that stuff that they just sneezed into their hands is going to be on the door knob and you’re going to come right behind them and grab it too.”

Gross, right?  We pass along germs easily. The virus lives on pretty much everything that we touch from door handles to cell phones. Your sickness from those germs can range too from a common cold to the flu.

Dr. Havon Knight, an Internal Medicine Physician at Augusta Primary Care, said, “It’s not too late to obtain the flu vaccine. Flu season generally peaks between December through March.”

Additionally, Dr. Knight told us the best prevention isn’t putting a hat on your head or wearing extra layers. It’s handwashing.

Stuckart agreed.

He used an example to show us what germs look like on our hands.

“We’re going to use this lotion. It has a fluorescent property,” he said.

After I rubbed the lotion in my hands, a black light revealed just how many germs can exist on our hands.

“You can see how it’s kind of glowing around all the cracks in our hands,” he said pointing to the speckled dots. He mentioned that cleaning around finger nails and knuckles is important.

So, maybe you’ve just used the restroom or you’re about to get something to eat. Many of us wash our hands quickly. Of course, you grab some soap and wash it off.  After drying your hands with a hand dryer or some paper towels, you’re done. That all too common practice is wrong though.

“What we recommend is 15 to 20 seconds with warm water,” Stuckart said. “You don’t want to use hot [water] because that could irritate your skin. Obviously, you don’t want to put your hands in cold water. What we tell people to do is sing the Happy Birthday song.”

And so I gave it a try, singing Happy Birthday to my hands.

“Alright, so let’s see how we did. Good job. Nothing is glowing,” Stuckart responded to the handwashing.

“Good! I’m clean! Would you shake my hand now?” I replied.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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