Des Moines University Health Topics: Cold and Flu Prevention

Fight cold and flu season with soap and water

We know to plan for winter’s temperature swings and snowstorms, but we must also prepare for its seasonal cold and flu viruses. While the single best way to fight the flu is to get vaccinated, knowing proper hand washing technique can keep you from getting sick.


wash your hands to prevent cold and flu viruses

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, good health habits like washing your hands can help prevent illnesses such as the flu. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are helpful in a pinch, but cannot rid your hands of all germs. When it comes to fighting viruses, nothing beats soap and water.

Hand washing may seem like a menial task you do several times a day, but proper technique is critical in eliminating germs. Follow these simple steps to wash your hands the right way:

  • Lather up. Use soap and warm water. While soap cannot kill viruses like the flu and cold, it helps loosen them from the skin and allows the water to wash them away. Be sure to wash between fingers and around the nails, areas where germs like to hide.
  • Scrub in. Good scrubbing and friction are what really helps to remove the virus and bacteria from your hands. Soap loosens germs from your hands, and scrubbing hard helps remove them. Scrub toward the sink, working from your wrists to your fingertips, to make sure the germs leave your hands.
  • Sing to yourself. It takes 20 to 30 seconds of good scrubbing to really clean your hands. Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself twice is a good amount of time.
  • Make a clean exit. Bathroom faucets and door handles harvest germs. Use a paper towel to turn off the water and open the door on your way out.

Hand washing is your best weapon in the fight against winter’s many bacteria and viruses. Don’t take it for granted. Wash your hands frequently — and correctly — to avoid catching a bug this year.


Don’t know the difference between cold and flu symptoms? Our expert family medicine clinicians at the Des Moines University Clinic can help. Schedule your appointment by visiting the DMU Clinic website or calling 515-271-1710.

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