How to prevent and control infections

Reduce the spread of infections

An important part of staying healthy is to know how to prevent and control infections whether in a hospital, a school, the workplace, or at home.

The most important ways to prevent the spread of infections are:

1. Clean your hands Ė practice good hand hygiene

Did you know that 80% of common infections are spread by our hands?image of hand washing

Germs are a part of everyday life. Some bacteria are beneficial and part of our body's natural protection against disease. Other bacteria and viruses cause disease and are introduced to the body, especially when touching hands to the mouth, nose or eyes.

Itís very important to clean your hands frequently during the day, but most importantly:

  • after using the bathroom
  • after changing a diaper
  • after playing with a pet
  • before eating
  • before and after preparing food, and
  • after coughing or sneezing into your hand

There is more than one way to clean your hands properly. You can use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Both methods are equally good at removing harmful germs when you use the proper technique and follow some simple guidelines.

How to wash your hands using soap and water

  1. Wet hands with warm water. Apply soap to cover all hand surfaces and lather thoroughly.
  2. Rub palms, spaces between fingers, backs of hands and wrists. Rub fingers, fingertips and thumbs.
  3. Vigorous rubbing of hands must take at least 15 seconds but 30 seconds is best.
  4. Rinse hands under running water.
  5. Pat hands dry thoroughly with a paper or single-use towel.
  6. Use the towel to turn off the tap.

How to use a hand sanitizer (hand rub)

image of hand sanitizer bottle

Hand sanitizers, also called hand rubs, should contain at least 60% alcohol for maximum effectiveness. Hand sanitizers will not work properly if hands are visibly dirty. Use soap and water instead.

  1. Apply enough product (either gel, liquid or foam) in the palm of one hand to cover all hand surfaces.
  2. Rub all surfaces of hands and wrists.
  3. Rub fingertips and thumbs.
  4. Hands must remain moist for at least 15 seconds.
  5. Rub until hands are completely dry.

image of man coughing into his elbow

2. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing

Many germs and diseases are spread through the air when you cough and sneeze. Germs can travel up to one meter or more if you donít cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

Here are some things you can do to prevent spreading your germs to other people or onto surfaces around you Ė

  • Keep tissues handy and use a clean one to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissues. After use, discard it in a trash container immediately.
  • Clean your hands immediately with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • If you do not have a clean tissue available, turn away from other people and cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm and not your hand. If you do cough or sneeze into your hand, clean immediately before touching anything.

More things you can do

Other important steps you can take to prevent you and your family from getting an infection or spreading an infection are:

  • get immunized
  • donít share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors
  • stay home when youíre sick
  • practice safe sex

More information

Resources