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Are you washing your hands correctly? You might be surprised.

This week is National Handwashing Week, which is the perfect reminder to wash your hands frequently during the busy holiday season. In fact, handwashing with soap can prevent one in three diarrhea-related sicknesses and one in five respiratory infections, including a cold or the flu.

If you have kids, it’s also a great time to go over proper handwashing technique. Studies have shown that many people don’t wash their hands correctly, or for long enough.

How to wash

  1. Wet your hands with warm or cold water and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. You can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure that you or your children are washing for long enough.
  4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.

When to wash

Washing your hands with soap and water at key times throughout the day is one of the most important things you can do to get rid of germs. Most of us know the basics of when to wash our hands, but there are some times when it’s is most important.

  • Before and after both preparing and eating food.
  • Before and after giving medical care of any kind.
  • After using the bathroom, changing diapers, or cleaning up after a child or pet who has used the bathroom.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • After touching garbage, or when your hands are visibly dirty.

Other tips

  • If you don’t have water or soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make sure that it’s at least 60 percent alcohol, and only let children use it under adult supervision.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas at home, work or school.
  • If possible, use a paper towel to open doors, turn faucets or even touch elevator buttons.

Next steps:

flu season

4 reasons you need a flu shot

Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Although flu season is not yet in full swing, cases could begin to pick up at any time. Flu shots can take two weeks to be effective, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, make plans to do so soon.

Here are four reasons everyone needs a flu shot.

1. Vaccines are necessary every year.

Getting a flu shot every year is the single most effective way to prevent the flu. It’s safe and recommended for anyone 6 months or older.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, which is why it’s important to get a shot every flu season. This year’s vaccine is updated to better protect against the flu viruses experts expect to circulate this season.

Be aware, just like last flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging everyone to avoid using spray vaccine options such as FluMist. Studies have shown these options are not as effective in protecting against the flu as injectable flu vaccines.

2. Flu shots don’t give you the flu; they protect you from it.

Flu vaccines are either made with flu viruses that have been inactivated and are not infectious or are made without flu viruses altogether.

In either case, a vaccine will not cause you to develop the flu. Some people may experience soreness, redness or tenderness at the site of the shot, but that usually subsides after a day or two.

3. It protects those around you.

Receiving a flu vaccination helps keep those around you protected, too. If you live or care for infants too young to receive a vaccination, getting a flu shot will help protect them from the virus.

Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated, and be conscious of those in your life who are more susceptible to the virus. They include people older than 65, those with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes, and pregnant women.

4. If you do get sick, the vaccine can make your symptoms milder

Flu vaccines are not 100-percent effective, but they do significantly lower your risk of getting the virus. And if you do get a shot, but end up getting sick, you’re less like to experience the most severe outcomes related to influenza, including hospitalization and death.

That’s why it’s so important for at-risk populations – such as children, older adults and people with serious illnesses – to get a vaccination every year, no matter what.


Next steps:

Flu season in Kentucky

Flu season in Kentucky has started. Here’s what you need to know.

Several cases of influenza have already been confirmed across the Commonwealth, marking the early arrival of flu season in Kentucky.

Here’s what you need to know about the flu this year.

Vaccines are necessary every year

Getting a flu shot every year is the single most effective way to prevent the flu. It’s safe and recommended for anyone 6 months or older.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, which is why it’s important to get a shot at the start of every flu season. This year’s vaccine is updated to better protect against the flu viruses experts expect to circulate this season.

FluMist is no longer an option

Studies showed the nasal spray flu vaccine, or FluMist, was not effective in protecting against the flu last year, and it is no longer being produced. Although FluMist was often the preferred choice for children or those averse to needles, all individuals who can receive a flu shot should do so.

Help protect those around you

Receiving a flu vaccination helps keep those around you protected, too. If you live or care for infants too young to receive a vaccination, getting a flu shot will help protect them from the virus.

Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated, and be conscious of those in your life who are more susceptible to the virus. They include people older than 65, those with chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes, and pregnant women.


Next steps:

  • Shots are available from primary care doctors and many pharmacies. Check out the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Finder to find a flu vaccine clinic near you.
  • Members of the UK community can get a flu shot as part of University Health Service’s Big Flu Madness. See the student and campus employee flu shot schedule here and the UK HealthCare employee schedule here.

It’s not too late for a flu shot

Although flu season is usually on its way out by spring, it’s peaking late this year. Cases are up nationwide, and right now Kentucky is seeing some of the highest rates of the flu in the nation.

On the bright side, the CDC reports this season’s flu vaccine is very effective against the virus. If you haven’t yet gotten a flu shot this year, it is still worth getting one.

If you are a UK employee, you can still get a flu shot through University Health Service. Call 323-APPT (2778) for an appointment.

If you are not a UK employee, check with your primary care doctor or your preferred pharmacy to see if they still have shots available. If they don’t, you can visit to find out where you can get one.

Getting your flu shot every year is the single most effective step you can take, not just to avoid getting sick yourself, but to help protect those around you, particularly the very young, the very old and anyone who cannot take a flu shot.

To keep the flu and other illnesses from spreading you should also:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15-20 seconds or using alcohol-based disposable wipes or gel sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as much as possible.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and if you are sick, keep your distance from others.
  • Stay home from work or keep your kids home from school when sick.
  • Remind your children to wash their hands.

NEXT STEPS:

Learn more about the flu, including how the virus is transmitted.

Is it a cold or the flu? While it sometimes seems hard to tell, knowing the difference is the first step to knowing how to feel better.