Promoting National Handwashing Awareness Week | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Loyola Medicine Recognizes National Handwashing Awareness Week

Medical professional washing hands at sink.

MAYWOOD, IL – With cold and flu season picking up, Loyola Medicine's Ellen Parker, MD, says an easy but crucial step to staying healthy this winter is something we already do: handwashing.

"Proper hand hygiene is so important, especially during the winter and holiday season," said Dr. Parker, internist and pediatrician at the Loyola Center for Health at Oak Park North. "Some colds and respiratory infections could be prevented with handwashing, so I encourage adults to brush up on best practices and show children the right way to wash their hands."   

To mark the start of National Handwashing Awareness Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer these key times to thoroughly wash your hands:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

Dr. Parker recommends washing with soap and warm water as the best way to clean hands in most situations. "You want to get a good lather going. Wet the hands thoroughly and apply soap all over the hands – front, back and fingertips," Dr. Parker said. "The friction from rubbing the soap and water is what helps rid the hands of germs."

If soap and water are not available to you, the next best thing to use is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Dr. Parker suggests looking for one composed of at least 60 percent alcohol as studies have shown that hand sanitizers with lower amounts of alcohol are not as effective in killing germs.  

When using hand sanitizer, the CDC suggests applying enough hand sanitizer to cover all the surfaces of the hands (palms, fingertips, tops of the hand) and to rub all exposed areas together until dry.

Like a lot of Americans, you may commute to school and work via public transit. Dr. Parker suggests keeping available a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. "The rails on public transit are a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses," said Dr. Parker.

If sick, Dr. Parker suggests handwashing after coughing and blowing your nose. "Covering your mouth is important but we often forget to wash our hands afterwards." For children however, remembering to cover your mouth can be difficult. "I often tell my younger patients to cough into the fold of their arm – we call it the chicken wing."

Arming yourself and your family with these simple handwashing tips can help keep you healthy this winter season. 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.