Handling Flu Season: Proper Sanitization is Key

Photo courtesy of Dave, Flickr Creative Commons

As the seasons change, bringing inconsistent weather and colder, drier air, students are already dealing with the common cold. And as winter approaches, those nuisance colds can be a precursor to the flu.

But there are ways to prevent getting sick over the next few months—or at least give you a better chance of staying healthy.

A crucial part of any wellness program is washing your hands to stop the spread of any germs that may cause you, or those around you to be ill. To many peoples' surprise, however, it has become a lot more common for students to not wash their hands properly, or at all.

Research has shown that just five percent of people wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom and 10 percent of people don’t even bother to wash their hands after using the restroom.

Junior Alexander Acosta makes sure to always clean his hands before, after and in between meals.

“Before I eat, I always need to wash or sanitize my hands. You should always wash your hands, especially when coming out of the bathroom. I know how important it is to wash your hands for someone’s well being and health, apart from just being sanitary,” said Acosta.

Just a few years ago, Acosta was hospitalized after being affected by a foodborne illness that could have easily been avoided had he taken the proper precautions by thoroughly washing his hands.

After taking a survey with a group of 12 students on campus, the results showed that three out of the six men and two out of the six women admitted to not fully washing their hands either before and after meals or using the restroom.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends frequent hand washing, which, according to them, means washing your hands with a soapy lather for at least 20 seconds, rinsing under warm water and drying with a towel or by air.

According to a study by Michigan State University, “…researchers camped out in public restrooms and found that only five percent of people properly washed their hands long enough to kill infection-causing germs and bacteria.”

The undercover team spread out amongst various restaurants in a popular college town. The team observed more than 3,700 people using public restrooms and found 95 percent of them were cutting corners: 33 percent of people didn't use soap, while 10 percent skipped washing their hands entirely. The average hand-washing time was six seconds, far below the CDC's recommended duration.

One way Ramapo tries to help its students stay healthy is by providing numerous amounts of hand sanitizing stations conveniently located around campus.

“Since I’m always on the go, I like to make sure I have my hand sanitizer with me whenever I leave the house," said junior Francesca Hoffer. "They’re cheap, cute, and really small. It’s super convenient because I can just keep it in my purse or even my pocket if needed. I don’t have the time to be getting sick. Taking extra precautions such as having your own sanitizer might help you out in the future."

Should you ever need tips on how to stay healthy and improve your overall well-being, feel free to stop by the Health Awareness Team or any of the other Health and Counseling Center services available on campus.