Handwashing Your Way to a Healthier Winter

December 17, 2013

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infections and illnesses in all settings—from your home and workplace to child care facilities and hospitals. Having clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community. With cold and flu season in full effect, it’s a good time to brush up on proper handwashing techniques.  Below are handwashing tips provided by the CDC—following them can increase your chances of warding off winter colds or the flu.


When should you wash your hands?

You should wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food –especially if you are handling any raw meats.
  • Before eating food
  • 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 garbage


What is the right way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather, and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air-dry them.


Hand Sanitizers

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.


Fighting back against dry skin

The combination of frequent handwashing and the cold winter winds may dry out the skin on your hands, leaving them cracked. These tips can help you keep your hands clean and your skin healthy this winter.

  • Protect your hands outdoors. A pair of winter gloves will protect your hands from exposure to cold temperatures when you’re outside.
  • Wash wisely. If you have dry skin, wash your hands gently with warm (not hot) water. Excessive scrubbing and hot water can strip the skin of its natural, protecting oils.
  • Use a gentle soap. Avoid using deodorant, antibacterial, foaming, or heavily scented soaps, all of which may contain additives that strip fats from your skin. These fats help hold in much-needed water.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Moisturizing is a vital part of relieving dry skin. Establish a moisturizing routine for after each time you wash your hands, or anytime your hands feel itchy or dry. Oil-based, instead of water-based, moisturizers tend to help lock in moisture better. Look for a moisturizer with at least one of the following:
    • Petroleum jelly (petrolatum), mineral oil, and lanolin, all of which trap water in the skin
    • Lactic acid and urea, which can help soothe severely dry skin
    • Glycerin and dimethicone, which draw water to the skin
    • Hyaluronic acid, which can help skin retain moisture

Source: The Mayo Clinic

Remember, washing your hands doesn’t just help protect you from germs, but it also protects the people around you from getting germs. Be sure to wash your hands to help keep yourself and those around you healthier this winter.


Fall Fun with the Family: Get Moving Together!

December 3, 2013

Fall is a great time to create healthy routines and get active with your family! Healthy habits start in the home, and exercising as a family can be a fun way to spend time together and create special memories. Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

  • Start your morning with a brisk walk or run. Not only does this rev up your metabolism for the rest of the day, it also gives you time to clear your mind and focus on the day ahead.
  • It’s apple season! Take the family to a local orchard for a day of apple picking, or hit up your local farmers’ market as a family. This can also be a great way to learn about new fruits and vegetables. Click here to learn more about what’s in season.
  • Happy trails to you…  Go hiking or biking and enjoy the beauty of fall! Use Map My Hike or Map My Ride to find trails near you.  Look for trails that have hills if you want to increase the intensity of your workout.
  • Tidy up outdoors. Rake the leaves in your yard. According to Harvard Health, a 125-pound person can burn 120 calories raking the lawn for just 30 minutes.
  • Take a post-meal walk. Walk with the family after a get-together like a big Thanksgiving or holiday meal.  It gets you out of the house and helps you burn calories, too.
  • Going road tripping? Be sure to park at a few rest stops along the way to stretch and walk around. This is a great way for everyone to release some energy and fit in some exercise.
  • Go play outside! There are many games you can play outdoors in the fall, like flag football and ultimate Frisbee. You could also try a simple game of tag, going geocaching, or organizing a scavenger hunt.
  • Early snowfall? Go out and play in the snow, build a snowman, go sledding, or shovel the driveway.
  • Join a local event. Check your newspaper for run/walk events in your area.  Turkey trots, jingle bell walks, and other themed activities can be enjoyable for the whole family.

There are so many fun activities to do during fall—get outside, get moving, and enjoy the crisp autumn air!  If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the Wellness Coaching program, reach out to your Wellness Coach for more fall fitness ideas.