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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 shot heart

A flu shot may protect your heart, says Gill Director Dr. Susan Smyth

Dr. Susan Smyth

Dr. Susan Smyth

Written by Dr. Susan Smyth, the medical director of the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

Flu season is here, which means it’s time to get your flu shot.

It’s common knowledge that the flu vaccine prevents the misery of influenza and helps protect vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, young children and the chronically ill.

But did you know that getting a flu shot might also prevent a heart attack or stroke?

The flu can be dangerous, even deadly

Influenza, or the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory viral infection easily spread from person to person when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu can cause high – sometimes dangerous – fevers as well as chills, sore throat, cough, congestion, muscle or body aches, and headaches. Some people, commonly children, may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

And flu can be dangerous: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 49,000 flu-related deaths occur each year.

How a flu shot might help those with heart problems

While anyone can have complications from the flu, people with cardiovascular problems are at higher risk to develop them, which can lead to respiratory failure, pneumonia, heart attack and/or stroke, and can also worsen pre-existing conditions like heart failure, diabetes or lung disease, including asthma.

A study published in the prestigious medical journal JAMA found that getting a flu vaccine reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure or other major cardiac events – including death – by about a third over the following year.

It’s possible, although not yet proven, that flu increases the risk of a clot forming in blood vessels and/or that flu virus can provoke inflammatory changes in the blood vessels that contribute to heart attacks.

Help prevent the spread of flu

The best way to prevent influenza is to get vaccinated every year. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every fall. While most people have no side effects from the vaccine, some people might develop a mild fever, muscle aches or mild arm soreness.

Although some people claim that the flu vaccine actually causes the flu, this is simply not true.

Everyday preventive actions, such as avoiding close contact with infected people, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and frequent handwashing are also recommended to help reduce the spread of germs that cause the flu.

It is important to remember that the more people who get vaccinated against the flu, the fewer people who are likely to have it. By lowering your own risk you are also lowering the risk for those around us – your children, your grandchildren, your coworkers and friends.

And finally, if you have a higher risk for heart attack or stroke, talk to your doctor about whether a flu vaccine is a wise choice for additional, potentially life-saving protection.


Next steps:

This year's CCTS conference acknowledges the significant challenges of translating knowledge into new interventions for individual and community health.

UK HealthCare modifies visitation policy for flu season

To help protect the health and well-being of patients and healthcare workers during this flu season, UK HealthCare has temporarily amended the inpatient hospital visitation policy. The temporary restriction on visitations goes into effect on Thursday, Feb. 16 and includes:

  • No visitors under the age of 12 (except in Bone Marrow Transplant, where no visitors under the age of 18).
  • No visitors with any symptoms of flu-like illness.
  • Only two visitors will be permitted in a patient’s room at one time.
  • Visitors may be issued masks or other protective clothing for use when visiting.
  • Additional restrictions may be in place in special care units such as women’s and children’s units, critical care and oncology units.
  • Compassionate visitation exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

This will continue for an undetermined amount of time as we monitor the presence of influenza in our communities.

We apologize for any disruption this may cause to your family time, but assure you that all of us at UK HealthCare are working to provide the very best care for your loved one in the safest environment possible. Please join with us in our effort to keep your loved one’s risk of exposure to a minimum.

If you have not already received a flu shot, we highly recommend that you and everyone in your household receive one. Please get one at your local pharmacy or primary care physician’s office.

Please remember that thorough and frequent handwashing is the best defense against the spread of disease.

Thank you for your understanding and please let us know if you have any questions.


Next steps:

Cold or flu? It’s a question that comes up every winter. Knowing the subtle and not-so-subtle difference between the two illnesses, though, is important.

Is it a cold or the flu?

Cold or flu? Knowing the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the two is important, since seeking early treatment when you have the flu can shorten its duration and severity.

Key differences

Colds and flu have many of the same symptoms, but here are some differences:

  • Body aches. With flu, they are much more severe.
  • Stuffy/runny nose usually signals a cold. The same is true for sneezing.
  • With a cold, a cough usually creates yellow or green mucus. The flu tends to appear with a dry, unproductive cough.
  • Sore throat. Could be either cold or flu.
  • Nausea. A cold does not produce nausea (unless in cases of severe nasal drainage that upsets the stomach).
  • Fever. Usually signals the flu, particularly if it’s 100° or higher.
  • Chills and sweats. It’s the flu.
  • Onset of symptoms. A cold comes on over time. The flu makes a much more sudden appearance.

If you’re still unsure whether you have the flu or a cold, consider seeing your healthcare provider for a definitive diagnosis. Anti-viral medications are available to reduce the longevity and severity of the flu, if it’s caught early. Most colds can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Check with your pharmacist to choose the medications right for your specific symptoms.


Next steps:

Handwashing and the flu

The 20-second flu fighter

Flu season is in full swing, but there a few simple ways to keep the virus at bay.

The best way is to get your flu shot and make sure those around you have gotten theirs, too. Check out our recent blog about what’s new with this year’s flu vaccine.

In addition to getting vaccinated, an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of the flu is to wash your hands.

When you wash your hands regularly and correctly, you reduce your risk of getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to other people around you.

Washing your hands the right way means more than running them under the faucet for a few seconds. Here’s how to do it:

  • Wet your hands with clean water (warm or cold), turn off the faucet and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from beginning to end or recite the ABCs in your head.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them, and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and then throw it away.

Make sure to wash your hands:

  • Before you eat. Also wash them before, during and after preparing food.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or caring for someone who is ill.
  • After taking out the trash.
  • After petting animals.
  • When visiting someone who is sick.
  • Whenever your hands look or feel dirty.

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.