When you have a virus like influenza or a cold, it’s easy to think
that an antibiotic is the solution to your illness. This is when many
turn to healthcare providers to request a prescription. However, there
are many times an antibiotic is not only ineffective, but could actually
be harmful. This is where antibiotic stewardship comes in.
Antibiotic stewardship is the practice of using antibiotics only when they
are needed, using the correct antibiotic for the infection being treated,
and using antibiotics only as long as they are needed to effectively treat
There are also things you can do to make sure antibiotics are not being
overused. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the best things you can do
to prevent the spread of germs, infections and viruses, is to wash your hands.
Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family
from getting sick. It seems simple enough, but ask yourself, how often
do you properly wash your hands before coming into contact with surfaces,
your face, other people or items around you?
Upon reflection, there may be a few steps you can take to sharpen your
handwashing techniques. You can help yourself and your loved ones stay
healthy by washing your hands often, especially during those times when
you are likely to get, and spread, germs.
Be sure to wash your hands:
- before, during and after preparing food
- before eating food
- before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- before and after treating a cut or wound
- after using the bathroom
- after changing a diaper or cleaning up after a child in the bathroom
- after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- after touching an animal or animal waste
- after handling pet food/treats
- after touching garbage
Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another, and
throughout an entire community. Whether it’s at home, work, school,
or out and about, washing your hands is extremely important for everyone’s
Five steps to proper handwashing
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap
and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Lather the backs
of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Hum Happy Birthday or Row, Row,
Row Your Boat twice to get an idea of what 20 seconds feels like.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air dry them.
Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs
in most situations. However, if soap and water are not available, you
can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Handwashing can prevent about 30 percent of diarrhea-related sicknesses
and about 20 percent of respiratory infections. Reducing the number of
these infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse
of antibiotics, which is the mission of antibiotic stewardship. Handwashing
can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are resistant
to antibiotics and can be difficult to treat.
Washing your hands frequently is a great step in stopping the spread of
infections. Other things you can do to stay healthy include eating right,
drinking plenty of appropriate fluids, getting enough rest, staying up-to-date
with age-appropriate vaccines, and avoiding others who are sick.
If you have questions about treating an infection, or would like to learn
how to further prevent infection with other recommendations and vaccines,
see your primary care provider. To learn more about antibiotic stewardship
and the importance of handwashing, visit