| Mon, Dec 02, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

Keep Your Hands to Yourself. It’s Cold and Flu Season

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

hand washingHow many times have you said or heard someone else say to a child, “Keep your hands to yourself”? Turns out this is good advice, and not just for kids.

One of the most common ways people catch colds or flu is by rubbing their eyes or nose after a virus has gotten onto their hands. Viruses and bacteria are easily transferred from one person to another by shaking hands or through touching objects such as door knobs.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution—wash your hands! Frequent hand washing helps protect you from getting sick and helps prevent you from passing germs to others. Clean hands are especially important for people with chronic illnesses, the disabled, the frail and others whose immune systems may be compromised. Caregivers also need to be extra vigilant about washing their hands regularly.

With the holidays coming up, this is a timely reminder. We often come into contact with more people than normal at this time of year. Children with runny noses don’t stop to worry about the germs they may be spreading to each other or to adults. And holiday travel may put you or your visitors in close quarters with hundreds of people, increasing the risk of infection. It’s easy to imagine how many opportunities there are to pick up a virus during the holiday season.

National Handwashing Awareness Week is December 1-7. During the week, communities around the country host campaigns and events to raise awareness and remind people of the difference a little soap and water can make.

To help you stay healthy and avoid spreading germs, always wash your hands before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom. The temperature of the water is less important than the time you spend scrubbing with soap. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. That’s about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Get a flu shot. It’s not too late!
  • Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands. Use a tissue or the inside crook of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This T-zone is the area where most germs enter your body.
  • After washing up in public restrooms, use a paper towel to shut off faucets and open the door.

Don’t be shy about discussing proper hand hygiene with others during National Handwashing Awareness Week and all through the year.

Spread the word, not the germs!

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Medicare Made Clear: Learn about Medicare.

Find Flu Shots: Enter your zip code to locate a flu shot clinic near you.

National Hand Washing Awareness Week: Meet Henry the Hand and learn more about hand hygiene.

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