According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of flu cases continues to rise and the death toll along with it. In other reports, predictions are saying that the flu season has not peaked and could extend into May this year. Other reports also point out that the supply of antiviral medications, which can lessen the symptoms of the flu, are in short supply.
What are we to do?
As a nurse, I regularly give advice to families on how to avoid contracting colds and the flu. For my entire career, the advice has always been the same, get the flu shot, wash your hands regularly, and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
This is what the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends and this has remained standard practice for most of the 20th century.
But, to understand how to prevent contracting the flu, we need to understand how the virus spreads. How the flu is spread applies to the transmission of other pathogens; it all starts with the hands. The CDC reports that 80 percent of the germs that make us sick, are spread by our hands. The other 20 percent is from foods, sharing drinks, and sometimes even through the air.
It is unnerving to realize how often we are intimately interacting with all kinds of germs. Just think about all the things we touch within a day, they are covered with germs – some germs are ours, some shared by others.
Our hands pick up germs and then we inadvertently touch our face, rub our eyes, etc. Via our hands, we have transported germs into the warm hospitable environment that allows them to thrive. On average, we touch our faces 16 times an hour. This is how germs get into your body.
There are two aspects to germ transmission via hands: obviously, when we touch something we are picking up germs. However, most people are not aware that at the same time they are picking up germs, they are also depositing them. We are unwittingly contributing to the spread of germs as well as exposing ourselves to them all the time.
Hand washing and use of traditional hand sanitizer may be effective but are only temporary solutions. The hygiene achieved by either of these methods lasts only until we touch the next thing. If that thing has germs on it, they are now on our hands and the process of recontamination resumes.
Tips to Reduce Germ Exposure:
- Avoid bars of soap and use liquid
- Use hand sanitizer following hand washing as an insurance policy – proper hand washing takes at least 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.)
- How thoroughly we wash hands is also important – that is why it is good to also use hand sanitizer to get rid of germs we may not have gotten with hand washing alone)
- Don’t share towels for hand washing or bathing
The bottom line is: proper hand hygiene is the single best way to prevent contracting and the spread of illness.
The primary objective of any infection control program is to break the cycle of infection (i.e. stop the transmission pathways between a sick person and a healthy one).
Realistically, how often can we wash our hands in a day or apply hand sanitizer? Take it from me, I am required to do this sometimes 100 times a day before and after I see each patient. This is often not a practical option for most of us, nor is it good for the skin on our hands.
I have been reading with great enthusiasm about a recent innovation that makes certain hand sanitizers last a long time – some up to 24 hours! This is remarkable because hand washing and the use of traditional sanitizers are only temporary. At most we can expect a few minutes of truly germ-free hands.
What is needed is a hand hygiene protocol that provides continuous antimicrobial action for 24 hours. This not only would help to keep hands germ-free longer but would also mean less damage to the skin. If hands are consistently protected, that means hands are neither picking up nor depositing germs.
Doing this would mean I am doing a more effective job at protecting myself with a single application of such a product than I would with 100 applications per day of traditional sanitizers. Moreover, a hand treated this way does not pick up or deposit germs, making this is a significant step toward breaking the cycle of infection, protecting me as well as limiting the spread of germs to others.
While this is interesting to me as an adult and a care giver, what this means to me as a mother takes this to a completely new level. I do my very best to protect my family from the hostile world of germs but once they leave my side, I cannot be sure they are adhering to proper hand hygiene – in fact I am sure they aren’t.
This means not only are they exposing themselves to germs that can make them sick, they also unknowingly bring those germs home and expose the entire family. With a hand sanitizer that works for up to 24 hours, I have the confidence that my exposure to these germs is significantly lessened.
The good news I want to share is that there is a product I am particularly well acquainted with that offers this kind of continuous protection. It is called ULTRA GermFree24 by Zoono. I have seen the data in support of how this product works and a recent study that indicates it is highly effective on Human Norovirus conducted by Norocore, a lab associated with North Carolina. State University. ULTRA GermFree24 is the only product of its kind that I know of that is FDA compliant and is manufactured according to the exacting standards of a Drug product. (Did you know a hand sanitizer is considered a drug and is regulated like one?)
I believe, as a growing number of leading experts do, that this kind of long-lasting antimicrobial technology is the future of infection control and it will change the way we in healthcare think about and deal with germs.
Consequently, I highly recommend that anyone looking to elevate the level of protection for themselves and their families look for a long-lasting hand sanitizer, like ULTRA GermFree24 available online at www.zoonousa.com/shop.
It is safe to use, and I consider this the best option for parents to add to their hygiene regimens, especially for those who have school-age children to ensure their hands remain protected all day while they are in school.
Thank you for allowing me to share my findings and perspective. I hope this information empowers you to act to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Be proactive and get out in front of the flu. Wash your hands regularly and use a long-lasting hand sanitizer.
Meghan Clemente, ANP-C is a nurse practitioner in Middletown, NJ. She specializes in nursing and adult health nursing (nurse practitioner).
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