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Singing Happy Birthday Can Be Good for Your Health!

Infection Prevention Professionals Recommend Diligent Handwashing, Flu Vaccine

Who knew that singing the Happy Birthday song could be good for your health?  Infection prevention professionals say that singing the song two consecutive times while washing your hands with soap and water can help protect you flu and other infectious disease.

It is one of the most basic steps we can take to protect ourselves and regular hand washing does amazing things to lower the risk of becoming sick, according to Kristen Broughton, an infection prevention and control nurse at CVPH

“Hand hygiene is the single most important thing any one of us can do to prevent many kinds of infections,” she said.  “(Hand washing) is an expectation in health care,” she added. “It’s important for everyone in the organization, not just the health-care workers, to consider the importance of hand hygiene wherever we work (at CVPH).”

The hallways, rooms and entrances to CVPH are filled with hand-washing stations, where employees, patients and visitors can stop for a quick hand wash using the alcohol-based hand-foam sanitizers.

“It is a simple option that (with a few exceptions) is equivalent to soap and water,” Broughton said. “Our staff is trained and educated to use the foam sanitizers at regular intervals. It’s just another part of taking quality care of our patients.”

As a member of the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control Department, Broughton helps ensure that all employees understand the simple but significant necessity of regular hand washing. It just makes sense when thinking about how prevalent germs are all around us.

“I saw a statistic recently where one person, within a 30-minute period, will touch as many as 300 surfaces and come into contact with as many as 890,000 organisms,” Broughton noted. “Think about all the things you touch when you go to the grocery store, starting with the shopping carts.”

Most stores and other public facilities offer hand-sanitizing stations as well, and the seasoned professional suggests that people utilize those services whenever they’re available.

“Most products out there are designed to kill lots of bacterial organisms and viruses on contact,” she said.

With another flu season approaching, the Centers for Disease Control is recommending that people receive a flu shot as a deterrent to the spread of influenza. But the CDC also states that regular hand washing is also important in reducing the spread of infection.

And basic soap and water can act like a “wonder drug” in battling the flu and other infectious diseases.

“When you’re using soap and water, you’re using friction to help remove bacteria and viruses from your skin, “ Broughton pointed out. “If you follow certain guidelines, that should help cut down the occurrence of infection.”

Broughton suggests that people follow the old adage and scrub their hands with soap for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song two times. Also, make sure to scrub from the tips of the fingers to the wrist area and to scrub between each finger where germs typically like to hang out.

“Just pay attention to all surfaces,” she said. “If you’re out and about, wash more frequently.”

In health care, the World Health Organization has identified five critical moments when health-care providers should always wash their hands: before patient contact, before an aseptic task, after any body-fluid exposure risk, after any patient contact and after contact with patient surroundings.

Although health-care providers wear gloves during contact with patients, gloves should not be considered a substitute for hand washing, Broughton advised.

For regular use, bars of soap can do the job in removing organisms from the hands, but if a bar happens to sit around for a period of time or is used by several people, it can actually have organisms living on it. A good antibacterial bottle of liquid hand soap can reduce that potential.

Broughton, who has been a registered nurse for 22 years and has worked for Infection Control for four years, also recommends proper etiquette for coughing and sneezing. People should not cough directly into their hands but should use tissue paper or cough into the sleeve of a shirt.

Obviously, following up that cough by washing hands is a good choice as well.

Flu shots are vital at this time of year, she said, but people should also make sure they are up-to-date with all vaccines, including a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster.

“I think in general people are more educated about hand hygiene and the prevention of infections,” she said. “We especially see this in the health-care setting.”