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Hand Hygiene & Respiratory Etiquette

You may be surprised to learn just how common germs are in our everyday lives. But perhaps equally surprising is how easy it is to keep germs at bay and keep you and your family healthy.

Consider some of these facts:

  • Viruses can live a few hours to several days on surfaces, but some bacteria can live for months outside the human body.
  • Bacteria can double every 20 minutes. Five bacteria in a sandwich at noon can total over 10 million by 7 p.m., if that sandwich was left out and not refrigerated.
  • A person has more bacteria on their body than there are people in the United States.
  • There are 229,000 germs per square inch on frequently used faucet handles.
  • 1,500 germs on each square centimeter of a hand.
  • The "germiest" places? Public bus handrails, followed by playground equipment and grocery cart handles.

Keeping Germs Under Control

Simple hygiene measures can control germs and keep you from getting sick from other people’s germs – and vice versa. Washing your hands regularly or using hand sanitizer are very effective. In fact:

  • In a study, 304 Detroit students washed their hands four times a day while at school. Those children had 24% fewer colds and 51% fewer stomach upsets than other children.
  • A Minnesota daycare started having teachers help children wash their hands upon arrival each morning. The result? 50% fewer illnesses.

It’s especially important to clean your hands before handling food, before touching your face and after using the bathroom. Take advantage of the increasingly available supplies of hand sanitizing gels and wipes at public places, including grocery stores, and here at Marshall.

Respiratory Etiquette

Another important factor in staying healthy is practicing what we know as "respiratory etiquette." It’s simple: when you cough or sneeze and use your hands as a shield, you’re getting those germs on your hands. Before doing anything else, wash those hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner. To improve your germ-fighting etiquette, always use a tissue. If you don’t have one on hand, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not hands. Don’t leave that tissue lying around either – throw it away!