Preventing colds and flu

5 hygiene tips for the colder months

Woman sneezing

The number of people falling ill rises sharply at this time of the year. As the days grow shorter and colder, our immune systems seem to give up the fight against bacteria and viruses. However, there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself. Read more about simple tips and tricks for warding off colds and the flu.

Infections spread quickly

It’s a scenario familiar to all of us: one colleague comes into the office on Monday with a sniffle and by Friday half the team has been struck down. How do germs manage to spread so quickly? The answer to the riddle is quite literally at your fingertips: viruses and bacteria are passed on from hand to hand, when shaking hands and via door handles and other surfaces touched hundreds of times a day. Below you can find five simple tips for staying healthy over the cold months to come.

Tip 1: Avoid colds and flu by washing your hands 

Händewaschen

Proper hand care is easily the most well-known, simple and, at the same time, underestimated means of preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Handwashing is the key aspect. It is a quick and easy measure for reducing the risk of infecting colleagues, family members and other people with whom you come into contact. 

As a rule, water at normal temperature, soap and a clean towel are all you need to clean your hands sufficiently.

A step-by-step guide to washing your hands properly

  1. Moisten your hands under running water
  2. Lather them thoroughly
  3. Don’t forget to use soap on the backs of your hands, your wrists and between your fingers
  4. Rinse off well under running water
  5. Dry carefully (including between the fingers) When doing so, always use a clean section of towel or sheet of paper
How to wash your hands properly

Some more tips:

  • It is important to wash and dry the whole hand, including the spaces between your fingers and your thumbs.

  • In order to remove as many germs as possible, you should wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. It may help to sing “Happy Birthday” twice as a guideline for how long the process should take.

  • Rinsing your hands briefly under the water and then patting them dry quickly on your trouser leg? That doesn’t achieve much. It doesn’t leave your hands much cleaner and pathogens could still be left on them!

  • Make handwashing part of your routine: After using the toilet, before eating, upon returning home and arriving at work, after contact with animals, after blowing your nose, before and after preparing food – taking just 20 seconds could help you make it through the cold and flu season unscathed.

It’s worth it: The WHO estimates that regular handwashing can avoid 80% of infectious diseases.

 

Tip 2: Keep your hands off your face!

Your mouth, nose and eyes are like gateways to the inside of your body for germs and so you should avoid touching them with unwashed hands. Children learn to cough and sneeze into the crook of their arm instead of their hands so as to prevent the germs from reaching their face and other areas via their hands.

 

Tip 3: Avoid crowds and work from home

As logical as it sounds, it’s not always possible to avoid groups of people. Commuters in particular are forced to brave the masses every day in crowded public transport. Once again, it is important to wash your hands afterwards and, if possible, get off a stop early and walk the last stretch, as a little exercise in the fresh air is good for your immune system.

Crowd of people

In case of pandemics, many companies offer the opportunity to work from home where possible. This also has the benefits for companies of fewer absences and more productive employees.

 

Tip 4: Prevent infections by disinfecting your hands

With infections which spread quickly, soap alone seldom offers sufficient protection. In such cases, it is a good idea to provide additional disinfectant dispensers in heavily frequented locations and large buildings. Corresponding dispensers along with recommendations for use should be positioned in entrance areas, corridors, cafeterias and, of course, washrooms.

A step-by-step guide to disinfecting your hands

  1. Use the right amount of disinfectant (check packaging or dispenser)

  2. Rub your left palm over the back of your right hand and vice versa.

  3. Disinfect the spaces between your spread fingers.

  4. Rub the outsides of your fingers with the palm of your other hand.

  5. Rub your thumbs.

  6. Rub your fingertips into the palm of your other hand.

How to disinfect your hands properly

Tip 5: Keep you skin supple

As the largest human organ, the skin has to withstand the elements – quite literally – and tends to become dry and cracked in the winter months. These tiny wounds offer pathogens easy access to the inside of our bodies. Caring for your hands with suitable, compatible creams and lotions can also help to prevent colds and flu. The same rule applies here: wash your hands first and then apply the care products.

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