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Nurse's Corner

Be A Germ-Buster
Wash Your Hands

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Minnesota Department of Health Fact Sheet July 2006

Make handwashing a healthy habit

Thorough Handwashing  Can Help Prevent Disease

Handwashing plays a major role in preventing the spread of diseases. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water can protect you from many illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria. Washing removes germs you pick up when you touch people, animals, or surfaces. If not removed, these germs may get into your eyes, nose, or mouth and cause illness. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) strongly encourages everyone to develop good handwashing habits.

Can't See Germs

Germs hide on remote controls, door handles, keyboards, faucet handles and any surface people touch. Since we can never be sure what germs are on our hands, washing them regularly and thoroughly with soap and water is a very important safeguard against infectious disease.

When to Wash

Overall, wash your hands as frequently as you can; it is essential to wash your hands at these special times:

Before touching any food or eating
After using the bathroom
After handling animals or animal wastes

How to Wash

The following procedure will remove up to 99.9 percent of the germs that get on your hands during the course of daily activities:

  •   Wet your hands with clean water

  •   Apply soap

  •   Rub your hands together vigorously and

    scrub all surfaces

  •   Scrub for 20 seconds (sing Happy

    Birthday twice)

  •   Rinse with clean water

  •   Dry hands briskly

    Note: If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based handrub (wipes or gel).

    Food handlers in restaurants, schools, delis and grocery stores must wash their hands with soap and water before applying hand sanitizers. [Minn Rules Chap. 4626.0070 - 4626.0085]

    Want to know more?

    More information on hand hygiene can be found on the MDH Web site at .

There are 1,500 germs each centimeter.

"Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infections."

-- U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)








Holiday Health and Safety Tips

The holidays are a great opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends, celebrate life, to be grateful, and reflect on what's important. They are also a time to appreciate the gift of health. Here are some holiday tips to support your efforts for health and safety this season.
Wash your hands often.
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water, and rub them together for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
Cold temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially in infants and older adults. Stay dry, and dress warmly in several layers.
Manage stress.
The holidays don't need to take a toll on your health and pocketbook. Keep your commitments and spending in check. Balance work, home, and play. Get support from family and friends. Keep a relaxed and positive outlook. Make sure to get proper sleep.
Travel safely.
Whether you're traveling across town or around the world, help ensure your trip is safe. Don't drink and drive, and don't let someone else drink and drive. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt appropriate for his/her height, weight, and age.
Be smoke-free.
Avoid smoking and breathing other people's smoke. If you smoke, quit today! Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or talk to your health care provider for help.
Get check-ups and vaccinations.
Exams and screenings can help find potential problems early, when the chances for treatment and cure are often better. Vaccinations help prevent diseases and save lives. Schedule a visit with your health care provider for needed exams and screenings. Ask what vaccinations and tests you should get based on your age, lifestyle, travel plans, medical history, and family health history. Get health insurance through if needed.
Watch the kids.
Children are at high risk for injuries. Keep a watchful eye on your kids when they're eating and playing. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, choking hazards (like coins and hard candy), and other objects out of kids' reach. Learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking. Make sure toys are used properly. Develop rules about acceptable and safe behaviors, including using electronic media.
Prevent injuries.
Injuries can happen anywhere, and some often occur around the holidays. Use step stools instead of climbing on furniture when hanging decorations. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or skateboarding to help prevent head injuries. Keep vaccinations up to date.
Most residential fires occur during the winter months. Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains. Never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended. Don't use generators, grills, or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test them once a month, and replace batteries twice a year.
Handle and prepare food safely.
As you prepare holiday meals, keep yourself and your family safe from food-related illness. Wash hands and surfaces often. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat foods and eating surfaces. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Refrigerate promptly. Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours.
Eat healthy, and be active.
With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose fresh fruit as a festive and sweet substitute for candy. Limit fats, salt, and sugary foods. Find fun ways to stay active, such as dancing to your favorite holiday music. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.