Fitness Facts: Cold/flu treatment, proper handwashing

September 19, 2017 / by / 0 Comment
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Connie Colbert

By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

As we approach the cold and flu season, here are a few facts to evaluate your symptoms:

Symptoms

Fever

Chills

Headache

Body aches, pains

Fatigue, weakness

Runny/stuffy note

Sneezing

Sore throat

Chest discomfort

Cough

Cold

Rare

Mild

Uncommon

Slight

Fairly mild

Common

Yes

Common

Mild to moderate

Hacking, mucus

Flu

Usually higher than 100.0 F

Moderate to severe

Common

Usual, often severe

Moderate to severe

Sometimes

No

Common

Often severe

No mucus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treatment for a cold: Antihistamines, decongestants, pain reliever

Treatment for flu: Antiviral medications (need to be prescribed by your doctor)

Prevention is the key! Wash your hands often with soap and water and avoid close contact with anyone with a cold or flu. Get your flu shot!

According to the CDC and many other scientific studies,  keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. CDC recommends cleaning hands in a specific way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The guidance for effective handwashing and use of hand sanitizer was developed based on data from a number of studies:

● Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap. 

Why? Because hands could become recontaminated if placed in a basin of standing water that has been contaminated through previous use, clean running water should be used 1. However, washing with non-potable water when necessary may still improve health 2, 3. The temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal; however, warmer water may cause more skin irritation and is more environmentally costly 4-6.

Turning off the faucet after wetting hands saves water, and there are few data to prove whether significant numbers of germs are transferred between hands and the faucet.

Using soap to wash hands is more effective than using water alone because the surfactants in soap lift soil and microbes from skin, and people tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further removes germs 2,3,7,8.

To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the health care setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap 2, 9, 10. As a result, FDA released a proposed rule in December 2013 to require manufacturers to submit data supporting the efficacy and safety of antibacterial soaps and body washes. View the related press release and consumer updates on antibacterial soap and the common ingredient triclosan . This proposed rule does not affect hand sanitizers, wipes or antibacterial products used in health care settings.

References

● Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. 

Why? Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease and microbes from skin.  Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails, so the entire hand should be scrubbed 1-5.

References

● Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. 

Why? Determining the optimal length of time for handwashing is difficult because few studies about the health impacts of altering handwashing times have been done. Of those that exist, nearly all have measured reductions in overall numbers of microbes, only a small proportion of which can cause illness, and have not measured impacts on health. Solely reducing numbers of microbes on hands is not necessarily linked to better health 1. The optimal length of time for handwashing is also likely to depend on many factors, including the type and amount of soil on the hands and the setting of the person washing hands.  For example, surgeons are likely to come into contact with disease-causing germs and risk spreading serious infections to vulnerable patients, so they may need to wash hands longer than a woman before she prepares her own lunch at home. Nonetheless, evidence suggests that washing hands for about 15-30 seconds removes more germs from hands than washing for shorter periods 2-4.

Accordingly, many countries and global organizations have adopted recommendations to wash hands for about 20 seconds (some recommend an additional 20-30 seconds for drying):

References

● Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. 

Why? Soap and friction help lift dirt, grease, and microbes — including disease-causing germs — from skin so they can then be rinsed off of hands. Rinsing the soap away also minimizes skin irritation 1. Because hands could become recontaminated if rinsed in a basin of standing water that has been contaminated through previous use, clean running water should be used 2,3  While some recommendations include using a paper towel to turn off the faucet after hands have been rinsed, this practice leads to increased use of water and paper towels, and there are no studies to show that it improves health.

References

● Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them

 https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html

This is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment.


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