Help prevent the spread of germs - wash your gloves, scarves

This time of year it’s common to see runny noses, coughs, sore throats, and respiratory infections such as the flu. Here are some things to think about during the cold and flu season.

Have you ever used your gloves to wipe your runny nose when a tissue wasn’t available? Did you then touch a steering wheel, doorknob, or shopping cart with your gloves? Those are easy ways to spread germs to others without even thinking about it.

Have you ever used your scarf to cover a sneeze or cough, and then offer the scarf to your child because he or she was cold? Or did you then hang it up in the office next to your co-workers’ belongings? That’s how cross-contamination occurs.

Do you take your gloves off with your teeth? If you do, the germs from your gloves are going right into your mouth.

Think about this - if you don’t wash your hands when appropriate, like after using the bathroom, and then put your gloves on, the inside of the gloves is now contaminated.

Not only should you always wash your hands, but you should also remember to wash your gloves and scarves on a regular basis. Think about how many germs are present on them after you cough, sneeze and wipe your nose with them.

Most germs will survive for two or three days on inanimate objects - sometimes longer. A good thing to remember is that they don’t have to look dirty or smell bad to be loaded with germs.

Tips to help you stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands often. It’s the best way you can help prevent the spread of infections.
  • Carry tissues and hand sanitizer with you at all times.
  • Keep your hands away from your face. When you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, germs can get into your body and make you sick.
  • Remove gloves when using or touching objects that other people use or touch (ATM, shopping carts, etc.). Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) immediately after use. It’s easier to clean your hands than your gloves.
  • When taking off your gloves, carefully loosen them at the fingertips, and pull them off with your opposite hand. Don’t use your teeth or mouth.
  • Don’t stuff dirty or wet gloves and scarves in your pocket. The items need to dry thoroughly to kill the germs.
  • Wash your gloves and scarves often, preferably once a week or when dirty.
  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Avoid people who are sick with a respiratory or stomach virus
  • Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not into your gloves or scarf.

Reference: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology; www.apic.org/patientsafety