UGA Extension experts say hand-washing is key to fighting the flu

By for CAES News

Hand-washing is critical to protecting yourself and loved ones from catching the flu this season, according to Roxie Price, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent for Tift County.

“It’s so important to keep your hands clean throughout the day,” said Price. “Kids’ hands touch everything possible, so it’s really important that they practice good hygiene habits early.”

Each winter, Price teaches Tift County first-graders the importance of washing their hands throughout the day. Through her lesson, children become aware of the germs they spread.

“We put lotion on the children’s hands that can only be seen under a black light. Then we tell them to wash their hands like normal,” Price said. “If they come back with the lotion still on their hands, they know they didn’t wash properly, so we teach them to really scrub for at least 20 seconds.”

Children and adults should wash their hands with soap and warm water, while being sure to scrub around fingers and under fingernails, for at least 20 seconds.

“I’ve also been told that kids drag their hands down the wall as they walk, so teachers should definitely make sure the children wash their hands after they have traveled somewhere other than the classroom,” Price said.

Price stresses that, if possible, hands should not come into contact with the mouth and eyes, and that sick adults and children should stay at home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot. There are other ways to keep yourself and your loved ones safe this season as well.

A healthy diet can also protect against the flu, according to Alison Berg, UGA Extension nutrition and family health specialist.

“It’s important to maintain a healthy diet that includes vitamin-C-rich foods like oranges, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries,” Berg said. “You should also exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. All of these are factors in maintaining good health this time of year.”

According to the CDC, the flu season typically lasts 20 weeks. Influenza symptoms include a fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headaches, fatigue, and runny or stuffy nose.

For more information about the flu, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm.

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