It’s common to have an occasional runny nose, cough, sore throat or upper respiratory infection. Have you ever used your scarf or gloves to wipe your nose or cover a sneeze/cough when a tissue wasn’t available?
How about pulling the glove off with your teeth? If you have done this, the germs your gloves have picked up went straight in your mouth.
Some of these actions are automatic, but there is good reason to be more aware of little things like this because it may help minimize the spread of germs.
And while hand washing is something we may have learned at an early age, how often do you wash your gloves and scarves? The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) recommends washing your gloves and scarves on a regular basis, preferably once per week or when soiled.
Gloves and scarves are just as germy as other fabrics that haven’t been cleaned — maybe more so because they are less likely to be cleaned on a routine basis. Leather and suede gloves would most likely need to be dry cleaned, and knit gloves would probably not fare too well in the washing machine. But think about how germy they are after people cough, sneeze, and wipe their noses with their gloves and scarves.
According to APIC, most germs will survive for two or three days on inanimate objects—some longer. They don’t have to look soiled or smell bad to be loaded with germs either.
Use these tips to stay healthy this winter:
1. Clean your hands often. It’s the most important way to prevent the spread of infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular hand washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.
2. Carry tissues and hand sanitizer with you at all times. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals.
3. 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.
4. Take your gloves off when using or touching objects that other people use or touch. This includes the ATM, shopping carts, and crosswalk buttons. Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) immediately after use. It’s easier to clean your hands than the gloves.
5. When taking your gloves off, carefully loosen them at the fingertips, and pull them off with your opposite hand. Don’t use your teeth or mouth.
6. Don’t stuff your dirty or wet gloves and scarves in your pocket. They need to dry thoroughly to kill the germs.
7. Get a flu shot every year. According to the CDC, everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.
8. Avoid people who are sick with a respiratory or stomach virus. Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
9. Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not into your gloves or scarf.
In conclusion, it is important to wash your hands and your gloves to help minimize the spread of illness and aid you in staying healthy during the winter season.
Tami Binger, BSN, CIC, in an infection preventionist at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. She is certified in infection control.