October 21, 2015

Recently published in the Dallas Morning NewsSpecial Needs Blog.

handwashingEach October, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)—an organization whose mission is to create a safer world through infection prevention—spearheads International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW) the third week of the month. The tradition has caught on around the world, including in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East.

This year, IIPW lasts from Oct. 18-24, and the theme for 2015 is “promoting engagement between patients, visitors, and health care professionals around infection prevention.” The APIC has culled a wealth of resources—ranging from online infection prevention pledges to quizzes that reveal what germ matches your personality—designed to spur conversations between patients and health care professionals and inform consumers on how they can best ward off infection.

Below are some of the takeaways gleaned from APIC’s research.

  1. Clean your hands often. This age-old adage still rings true and remains the easiest way to prevent the spread of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a right way to do this simple action: Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and then apply soap. Be sure to lather between your fingers and under your nails, and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds—the equivalent of the “Happy Birthday” song twice. After rinsing, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet, and then either air-dry or use a clean towel to dry your hands.
  2. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Soap and water not available? That’s okay—always carry with you an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Keep in mind, though, that sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs in some situations, but they will not eliminate all types of germs. Apply to the palm of one hand and rub your hands together until they’re dry.
  3. Take antibiotics exactly as they’re prescribed. While it may be tempting to quit taking your antibiotics once you begin feeling better, it’s important to finish the prescribed dose to prevent harmful superbugs from growing. A few other reminders: Don’t share or use leftover antibiotics, and don’t save them for the next illness. Antibiotics treat specific types of infections, and taking the wrong ones may allow bacteria to multiply. Also, don’t push for antibiotics if your health care provider doesn’t think you need them. Antibiotics work for bacterial infections, not viral infections, and are often unnecessary in treating the common cold, flu, ear infections, sore throats, and sinus infections.

Visit APIC’s website for more tips and materials. They’ve even designated specific activities for each day of the week, including a Twitter chat on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 11 a.m. CST. Search for and use #IIPWChat to participate.

As parents, we always want what’s best for our kids, and by understanding how to prevent them from getting sick or spreading infection, we’re ensuring their well-being remains top of mind.