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  • Writer's pictureMaria H. Drzaszcz

Beat the germs as winter is right around the corner

courtesy photo

Ah handwashing! One of my favorite soap boxes, pun intended. It amazes me how often this simple task goes undone and unrecognized as a simple way to cut down on germs. I reflect back on my preparation to take my nursing boards and a question that would come up over and over again: what is the single most effective way to prevent the transmission of disease?

The answer: you guessed it: handwashing. It is also stressed in the hospital as a way of not only keeping me safe, but keeping my patients safe and free from acquiring hospital infections as well. I’d like to go over some reasons why handwashing is so vital. Handwashing with soap and water removes germs from our hands. This in turns helps prevent us from spreading germs to ourselves, if we unintentionally touch our faces and also while we are preparing food or drink. It also helps with cutting down germs that can be transferred from our hands to another person hands, table tops, door knobs, toys, phones, keyboards, etc.

Think about all the stuff we touch in the course of a day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, “removing germs through handwashing helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.” It is recommended to wash your hands with clean (warm or cold) water, and apply soap. The current science says that any soap will do the trick and the intent is to wash the microbes or germs off of your hands and down the sink. The antibacterial soaps have shown not to make a difference and some ingredients can actually be harmful. Scrub your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. I teach my kids to sing the “Happy Birthday” song or the alphabet twice. Rinse and then dry with a clean towel.

When soap and running water are not available, it is recommended to use an alcohol based sanitizer or sanitizer wipe with at least 60 percent alcohol. I particularly like Purell’s Cottony Soft wipes. They contain 62 percent Ethyl Alcohol, are super soft and portable. Flu, RSV, COVID-19 among many other nasties are around us: wash your hands!

This is the time to also go and get your flu shot, if you already haven’t. According the CDC’s website (, “Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza.”

I stress importance of flu shots for all children over 6 months of age and adults alike. As a nurse, I hear countless arguments against the flu shot. “It doesn’t work.” “It will make me sick.” “ I’ll get the flu now.”

While there are definitely certain scenarios of children and adults who should not get a flu shot, most kids and adults can and should get one. It can even save you or your child’s life.

This may sound extreme, but many of us in healthcare have seen countless patients with flu related complications that end up on ventilators and in intensive care units. Younger children are particularly at risk from flu related complications. For those who are still on the fence, do your due diligence and weigh the risks versus the benefits. It may save you a few headaches (or much worse), literally!

Stay healthy heading into winter!

Maria H. Drzaszcz, a Hammonton resident, is a registered nurse with 14 years critical care experience and is the proud mom of three young children.


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