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Preventing the spread of germs when away from home

(BPT) - Eighty percent of infections are spread by dirty hands, and when you’re at home, limiting your exposure to germs with an active hand cleaning schedule can become a familiar endeavor. But it becomes a different matter when you’re out in public, where hand-washing isn’t as routine and germs are more prevalent due to the number of people carrying different bacteria. Fortunately, avoiding germs while you’re away from home is becoming easier as more businesses and public locations are providing options for employees and visitors to keep their hands clean.

Keep an eye out for these ways during peak cold and flu season and throughout the year to help protect yourself from germs while you’re away from home:

* Hand sanitizer solutions – Many businesses are installing dispensers in entryways and congregating areas. While hand sanitizer solutions don’t literally clean hands because they don't remove organic matter, such as grease, dirt and blood, they do neutralize germs, especially when you’re in a location where a sink and soap aren’t always handy. For maximum effectiveness, make sure to rub your hands until fully dried.

* Educational signs everywhere – During the cold and flu season, and at many other times of the year, you may notice signs posted on entry doors, hanging in bathrooms and even near service desks educating the public on everything from the proper method of washing hands to effectively covering a sneeze and reducing the spread of germs. For a refresher, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians promote The Four Principles of Hand Awareness:

1. Wash and dry your hands when they are dirty and before eating.

2. Do not cough into your hands.

3. Do not sneeze into your hands.

4. Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth.

* Germ-targeting products – Numerous studies show that using paper towels rather than hand dryers is more hygienic. This is usually attributed to the fact that hand dryers, themselves, are often not properly sanitized and in fact don’t thoroughly dry the hands, but instead blow warm, moist, contaminated air around, potentially spreading germs. This year, you may even notice public restrooms stocking enhanced hygiene paper towel products like the distinctly green-colored Cascades Antibacterial paper towels, which releases a safe active ingredient when wet hands contact the dry towels, eliminating over 99 percent of bacteria on hands. Third-party microbiological testing also found that using Cascades’ antibacterial towels after washing hands with soap and water provides a more hygienic result than using alcohol-based gels and other sanitizers.

* Increased availability of flu shots – More and more public settings are offering flu shots for walk-ins at convenient hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people 6 months and older receive the flu shot every year. People who have asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are pregnant or over the age of 65 – or living with or caring for people with these conditions – are highly encouraged to get the flu shot.

Businesses, government locations and other public settings are using these and other methods to help visitors prevent the spread of germs. Of course, when you’re outside the home working at the office, going to school, staying in a hotel or visiting a hospital, keep in mind it’s up to you to take hygiene “into your own hands.”

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