Healthy Living in the North

Achoo! Flu season is near

Hands under running water

Proper hand washing is an important step that you can take to prevent the spread of the flu virus! Do you know how to properly wash your hands?

The cold weather is fast approaching and we are again reminded that influenza (the flu) season is near. For many Canadians, catching the flu can be a miserable experience. Symptoms include fever, body aches, headache, dry cough, and fatigue. For some, the flu can lead to bacterial infection such as ear infection, sinus infection, or pneumonia. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

For the best protection against influenza, I recommend getting your flu shot.

There are also some additional ways you can prevent the spread of flu. At one time or another, all of us have endured the experience of someone sharing their germs. It isn’t a pleasant experience! So be kind to your friends and neighbours; practice coughing and sneezing etiquette! Influenza is easily spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or having face-to-face contact. It is also spread through touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus.

This video by ImmunizeBC shows how influenza spreads:

You can reduce the risk of getting and spreading the flu virus by:

  • Washing your hands regularly (especially after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose)
  • Coughing and sneezing into your shirt sleeve rather than your hands
  • Putting your used tissue in the waste basket
  • Staying home when you are ill
  • Getting an influenza vaccine. Visit ImmunizeBC to find a clinic near you!

To properly wash your hands, follow these steps:

  1. Remove rings or other jewelry on the hands and wrists.
  2. Wet your hands with warm water.
  3. Wash all parts of your hands with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds, rubbing hands together to create lather. To help children learn the timing to wash their hands, sing the ABC song.
  4. Rinse hands well under warm running water.
  5. Dry hands with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  6. Use the towel to turn off the tap and open the door when you leave if you are in a public restroom.

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. After applying the gel or foam, rub your hands together until they are dry. This is an easy way to clean your hands as long as they are not visibly dirty.

More information

Kathryn Germuth

About Kathryn Germuth

From northern B.C., Kathryn worked as a public health nurse in the communities of Terrace and Kitimat before filling in as the Public Health Communications Liaison Nurse. Kathryn has a passion for healthy community work and health promotion. She loves living in the north and experiencing all it has to offer including going for a jog amongst our beautiful scenery. This Christmas, she is expecting a new addition to her family and excited for all the new experiences and joy that will bring.


Your most important health habit

hands; washing; hand washing

Taking a few seconds to focus on those “trouble spots”

As a Health Promotions and Communications Officer, my job is to find (trusted and true) information to share about health. As you can imagine, this impacts my personal habits every single day. A few weeks ago, we were preparing information about the flu. I am eligible for the free flu shot but I also want to know what I can do to prevent getting the flu in my every day actions.

A quick glance on the web will try and convince me to take any number of supplements to support healthy immune functions, but the one that sticks with me the best is more widely available to all of us than any supplement. The most important habit to keep you healthy is to wash your hands.

If you think about it, washing your hands supports your health every single day. Unlike keeping track of physical activity or servings of vegetables, I can do this multiple times a day and know that I am supporting my health.

To provide the public with health information, I work with a variety of experts. In this exercise, I worked with Kim Garrison, Public Health Communications Liaison Nurse, and I learned some interesting tidbits about hand hygiene and I think they are worth sharing with you:

  • Did you know that viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to two days, and on hands for up to five minutes? I think about this when using elevators and opening doors. It motivates me to clean my hands more regularly!
  • There are commonly some parts of your hands that you will miss when washing them. These include the backs of your hands, around your finger nails, and especially the back of the thumb area. Next time you wash your hands, think about where you spend your time scrubbing.
  • While washing your hands with warm running water and soap is ideal, we don’t always have access to soap and water. In this case, alcohol based hand sanitizers are useful in keeping the germs at bay. Just make sure to rub your hands together until they are dry!

Finally, what good would an article on hand washing be if I didn’t give you those seven cardinal rules to do it properly? To ensure you are germs from all parts of your hands, it is important to follow these steps:

  1. Remove jewelry from hands and wrists
  2. Get hands wet with warm water
  3. Wash all parts of hands with soap and water, and rub together to create a lather
  4. Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds
  5. Rinse hands well under warm running water for at least 10 seconds
  6. Dry hands with a clean cloth or paper towel
  7. Use the towel to turn off the tap and open the door when you leave if in a public restroom

A good idea to help children wash their hands long enough is to sing the ABC song with them.

When you think of your health habits, what things do you think of? How far up that list is washing your hands?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.