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Illness Prevention and Hygiene

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Erik Stewart
  • 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Public Health Flight
The kids are in school and the weather is getting colder. You know what that means: illness becomes more prevalent. Family members, particularly children, catch a cough, cold or even a "stomach bug" this time of year. For most, common viral infections are a routine part of life, but for those with weaker immune systems this can be an especially difficult time of year. Often individuals under 2 years old or over the age of 65 are more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill as a result of a common viral infection. Please take the time to educate yourselves on four simple ways to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses in your family.

First, good personal hygiene is the most critical line of defense against becoming sick. Washing your hands is the most essential hygiene practice. Hand-washing is most effective when using warm, running water and soap. (If there is no place to wash your hands, hand sanitizer can be useful, but it should not be used as a substitute for proper hand-washing when facilities are available.) Please follow these steps to ensure you are washing your hands properly:

Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.

Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.

Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.

-Rinse hands well under running water.
-Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

When to wash your hands:

Before, during, and after preparing food.

Before eating.

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 or animal waste.

After touching garbage.

Second, another good practice for containing the spread of germs is good cough etiquette. Anytime there is onset of coughing, please try to cover your mouth with either the collar of your shirt or the inner elbow crease of your arm. If the cough is persistent, you may need to make an appointment with your primary care manager. Also, germs are often spread by sharing toys and other items. Parents should ensure that toys are kept clean and sanitary as most children will share them and the germs that accompany the toys. Ensure children never share their toothbrushes, hairbrushes, or any other grooming items.

Our third recommendation is to keep all vaccinations current for yourself and your family members. This includes getting your annual flu immunization. Please see the Centers for Disease Control's vaccine website for a list of age-recommended vaccines and discuss them with your PCM. Immunizations help the immune system operate at its peak.

Lastly, in addition to the above measures, be sure to sustain a healthy diet and to get plenty of exercise and the proper amount of rest. This will keep your body "running on all cylinders" and ensure a healthy school year.

As we go into the cold and flu season, it is important for you to do what you can to stay healthy and fit. Following these recommendations can be effective at preventing the spread of disease. Let's all do our part to ensure that illness is kept to a minimum this season.

If you would like to learn more about illness prevention, please call the 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron's Public Health Flight at 256-4986/4988 and visit the following websites: or