Columbia Nursing Offers Three Tips to Fight Germs During Your Holiday Travels

Released: 12/2/2013 2:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Columbia University School of Nursing
Expert Available
Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

Newswise — [NEW YORK, Dec. 2, 2013] – As you travel to visit friends and family this holiday season, don’t leave home without the hand sanitizer. During cold and flu season, that’s one of three things you can do to protect yourself from getting sick you’re on the go. Here’s what Elaine Larson, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate dean for research at Columbia University School of Nursing, says works best:

1. Take 15 seconds to sanitize

“The best, fastest and most effective way to clean hands when you’re on the go is to carry a small container of alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” Larson said. “A 15 second application of alcohol-based sanitizer is more effective at killing germs than a 5 minute hand wash. Plus, you don’t need to hunt for a sink and clean towels.”

Look for sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol, and be sure to use enough to keep your hands moist for at least 10 seconds – the minimum time needed to kill bacteria. “Alcohol sanitizers work only when they’re wet,” Larson said.

2. Steer clear of air dryers

If you do wash your hands in a public restroom, try to steer clear of the air dryers, Larson said. “They disperse water particles and probably some germs into the air,” she said. “It’s preferable to use a paper towel since the friction of the drying also helps to remove germs. Or, just let your hands air dry naturally.”

3. Wash every surface on the hands:

“The number one mistake people make is just rubbing their palms together, and missing the dirtiest part of their hands,” Larson said. “You can’t stop viruses from spreading unless you cover every single surface on the hands – including between the fingers and under and around the finger nails. Soap is also crucial because it acts as an emulsifier to slip the germs off the hands.”

Larson offers guidelines on hand hygiene as part of National Hand Washing Awareness Week, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 7. Larson is a fellow in the Institute of Medicine and has advised the World Health Organization on best practices for hand washing. She has been editor of the American Journal of Infection Control since 1995 and has published more than 250 journal articles, four books and a number of book chapters in the areas of infection prevention, epidemiology and clinical research.

Columbia University School of Nursing is part of the Columbia University Medical Center, which also includes the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Dental Medicine. With close to 100 full-time faculty and 600 students, the School of Nursing is dedicated to educating the next generation of nurse leaders in education, research, and clinical care. The School has pioneered advanced practice nursing curricula and continues to define the role of nursing and nursing research through its PhD program which prepares nurse scientists, and its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the first clinical practice doctorate in the nation. Among the clinical practice areas shaped by the School’s research are the reduction of infectious disease and the use of health care informatics to improve health and health care. For more information, please visit: