Lindsay Guthrie: Reduce bugs by washing hands

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As the temperature drops and the wind whips up cold air, winter has definitely well and truly
 arrived.

Along with weather changes and dark nights comes common winter infections such as colds, flu and vomiting bugs. It’s easy to forget in our high-technology world that there are still simple steps we can take to help prevent the spread of infections.

The germs that cause these common illnesses are easily picked up and spread on people’s hands. One of the easiest ways to help keep yourself and your family well this winter is to wash your hands properly with soap and warm water. It only takes about 15 seconds to wash your hands correctly, about the same time it takes to sing Happy Birthday To You through twice!

By encouraging our children to wash their hands at the right times, we can help them develop a good habit which can last throughout their lives. With our help, they will know to wash hands before eating or preparing food; after using the toilet, and after coughing or sneezing.

Hand washing is also the most important measure in preventing healthcare associated infections (HAI) in hospitals and other care settings such as care homes, schools and nurseries. Children, the elderly and the ill are most at risk of becoming unwell with common infections.

By taking time to follow simple hand washing when visiting friends and family, you could help protect the most vulnerable people from avoidable harm.

So to “Get Ready this Winter”, we need to make good hand hygiene a frequent part of our daily routine. Then we’ll be prepared this winter, hopefully helping to make it a happy and healthier one and able to face the long, cold winter days and nights.

You can find out more by visiting NHS Lothian’s website at www.nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk/HealthInformation/YourHealthThisWinter or visit www.washyourhandsofthem.com/

Lindsay Guthrie is lead infection prevention and control nurse at NHS Lothian