Hand Washing and Cold & Flu Season Basics

 Hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of easily spread (communicable) diseases like the common cold and flu. Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it can keep us all from getting sick, especially during flu season. Hand sanitizers are not a replacement for regular hand washing and should only be used if soap and water are not available. If you are sick, the best thing you can do is stay home. If your symptoms are severe, make an appointment at Stamps Health Services or your doctor at home.

Hand Washing Basics

When to wash your hands:
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage 

Proper Hand Washing Technique

  1. Wet your hands with running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.  
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to later the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them 
  6. Turn off faucet using a towel.

Hand Sanitizer Basics

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can. Do NOT use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy: for example, after gardening, playing outdoors, or after fishing or camping (unless a hand washing station is not available). Wash your hands with soap and water instead. 

Proper hand washing steps:

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount). 
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. 

Cold & Flu Season Basics

  1. Stay home if you are sick. It’s not just about you!
    • Staying home when you are sick helps to protect others from getting sick, especially those who are more vulnerable to serious illness like babies and the elderly and those who care for them.
    • Going to work/school when you are sick actually makes your recovery longer.
    • There are ways to avoid coming in when you are sick:
      •  If missing class, ask a friend to share their notes and email your professor promptly for transparent communication.
      • Employees can ask to work remotely or flex time in order to make up hours if possible.
  2. Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, especially in enclosed spaces
  3. Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the bathroom and before and after eating.
  4. Don’t share cups, water bottles, or eating utensils.
  5. Get your flu shot!
    • Stamps Health Services offers flu shots for both students and employees all season long! 

Is it the Cold or Flu?

student sick in bed
Signs & Symptom Influenza (Flu) Common Cold
Symptom onset Abrupt Gradual
Fever Usual Rare
Aches Usual Slight
Chills Fairly Common Uncommon
Fatigue, weakness Usual Sometimes
Sneezing Sometimes Common
Stuffy nose Sometimes Common
Sore throat Sometimes Common
Chest discomfort, cough Common Mild to moderate
Headache Common Rare

*Source: CDC