By: Renee Watson, R.N.C., B.S.N., C.P.H.Q., C.I.C., Infection Prevention Manager
If being a germaphobe is wrong, I don’t want to be right. OK, sure, I’m exaggerating. My home with my son, two dogs and two cats is far from Martha Stewart standards. However, as I am out in the community—going to the store, gas station or stopping by a park—I am keenly aware of the germs that surround us. You should know that most infections are spread through hand contact and the airborne route.
I can accept germs in my home and community that I would NOT tolerate at our hospitals where patients are fighting off illness and recovering from injury. Our hospitals are no place for anything but the most strict standards, policies and practices—and our outcomes prove our dedication. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.
So, as you enjoy life outside our hospital walls, how should you handle “ick” and protect yourself and others?
Here are some of my tips to keep your home and community clean and safe:
- Clean your hands. Before every meal and after touching anything that is picked up often, scrub with soap and water for 15-20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice). I like to recommend a typical child wash their hands at least every 3-4 hours. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are often more effective than soap and water. Exceptions include following a bathroom visit or if your hands are visibly dirty.
- Do the “Dracula”or “Chicken Wing”. Cough and sneeze into your elbow not your hands. Ask others to do the same…seriously, ask them.
- Seal off those scrapes. Make sure to keep your child’s cuts covered. Open wounds ooze—cover them with the right size bandage, and replace it often.
- Stay home when sick. Kids are just not good at containing their snot. Have you ever known them to keep it to themselves?
- Go with your gut. Are there guidelines at a pool about swim diapers? Is the person preparing your sandwich wearing gloves? Do they handle your money and then prepare your food without cleaning their hands? Observe and speak up.
- Cook carefully. Go through a mental checklist as you prepare food—consider things such as careful prep, temperature, etc.
- Get vaccinated. Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist. If we don’t vaccinate, there will be outbreaks. Vaccines are tested to be safe.