What are germs?
The word germ is a general term for many types of bugs. Bacteria and viruses are two types of germs. Bacteria live almost everywhere in our environment. Of the billions of types of bacteria, only 50 are known to cause infection in humans.
Viruses cause far more infection than bacteria and spread more easily. If more than one person in your family has an illness, chances are it’s a viral infection.
Cold and flu viruses invade our cells and rapidly grow in number, causing symptoms like runny nose, cough, aches, and sore throats.
How do germs spread?
Germs can live for a long time on surfaces such as desks, door handles and phones. Most people get sick when they touch something that has germs on it and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. The best way to lower your risk of getting sick is to clean your hands often.
To stop the spread of germs, follow these simple steps:
The most common way germs are spread is by people’s hands. Germs are often harmless but they can also cause illnesses such as colds, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as more serious infections such as E. coli and influenza.
Cleaning your hands properly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will help protect you, your family, children and others.
Did you know…? Hand Hygiene is the #1 way to prevent the spread of infections.
Make regular and thorough hand hygiene a part of your daily routine, especially:
- Before eating or handling food
- After using the washroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching animals or animal waste
- After handling garbage
- After changing diapers
- Before and after touching a sick or injured person
- Before and after visiting a hospital
With Soap and Water:
- Remove jewellery. Wet your hands with warm water. Use liquid soap if possible. Apply a nickel or quarter sized amount of soap to your hands.
- Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather and then rub all over the top of your hands, in between your fingers and the area around and under the fingernails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for 15 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a paper towel if possible. Then use your paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door if needed.
With an Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer:
- Remove jewellery.
- Apply a small amount, about the size of a quarter, to your hands – this should be enough to cover all areas of your hands, including under your nails.
- Use a rubbing motion to distribute the hand sanitizer all over your hands – don’t forget to go between your fingers, the finger tips, back of hands and base of thumbs.
- Rub until your hands feel dry (15 – 30 seconds).
It only takes 15 seconds to protect yourself and others.
Hand Sanitizer or Soap and Water?
Use soap and water:
- When your hands look dirty.
- After you use the washroom.
- Before you eat or prepare food.
Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:
- When your hands do not look dirty.
- If soap and water are not available.
Facts about Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers
- Products that kill germs on the hands.
- Should contain 70% to 90% alcohol or isopropanol.
- Are fast acting and convenient.
- Are less drying and irritating to the skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there non-alcohol based alternatives?
Non-alcohol based hand sanitizers are available, however they are not as effective against bacteria and viruses and may even be harmful due to some ingredients in the non-alcohol formula.
Will alcohol-based hand sanitizers dry out my skin?
Everyone has a different tolerance for these products. Drying of the skin may occur as a result of washing hands with soap and water or the use of hand sanitizer. Many hand sanitizers have moisturizers added. Hand lotion can also help moisturize the skin.
How can I improve my hand hygiene in public settings?
Small bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be carried with you.
Should I use regular soap or antibacterial soap? What is the difference?
Regular soaps are remove most germs that cause illness.
Antibacterial soaps have low levels of bacteria-fighting agents. In fact, the most common household illnesses are caused by viruses that cannot be killed by these agents. There is little evidence to suggest that these soaps reduce infections.
Are alcohol-based hand sanitizers safe?
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are safe if used as directed.
Are they safe for children?
While safe to use as directed, the product could be dangerous if a child swallows it. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be kept well out of reach of young children and should be used only with the help of an adult.
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Throw the tissue in the garbage as soon as you are finished using it.
- Use an alcohol based hand sanitizer or soap and water to clean your hands after throwing away your used tissue.
- If you do not have a tissue, cover your cough or sneeze in your upper arm or sleeve, not in your hands!
Proper cleaning and disinfection will help stop germs from spreading and making you sick. Cleaning is just as important as disinfecting.
What does it mean to clean?
To remove dirt and germs from a surface by using friction, soap or detergent, and water.
What does it mean to disinfect?
To kill germs by using a chemical solution such as chlorine bleach.
Steps to Cleaning and Disinfecting Items and Surfaces
Step 1 - Clean/Wash
Scrub using detergent and clean water to loosen dirt and debris on surfaces.
Step 2 - Rinse
Use clean, warm water to remove soap, dirt, and debris from surfaces.
Step 4 - Disinfect
Use chlorine bleach or disinfecting wipes to kill most harmful germs. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use to be sure that the item is disinfected.
Step 4 - Dry
Air dry or wipe dry with a paper towel that can be tossed in the garbage when you are done.
How to Disinfect
After cleaning the surface, disinfect using one of these four methods:
- Spray the surface using a squirt bottle filled with an approved disinfectant; or
- Soak the object in a container of disinfecting solution for several minutes and then remove the object and allow it to air dry; or
- Wash and disinfect objects in a commercial dishwasher; or
- Wipe the surface of large toys or objects that may be harmed by saturation (i.e. book covers, puzzles) with a clean cloth moistened with disinfectant.
Which areas to focus on?
- Diapering and toileting areas
- Cots, cribs, linens
- Play mats
- Toys, crafts and sensory play tables
- Outdoor play areas
- Wading pools
- Common areas
Instructions for Mixing Bleach and Water
Day-to-Day Disinfecting - for floors, walls, washrooms, countertops, tables, toys and diaper change areas.
- Slowly add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of bleach to 1000 ml (4 cups) of water. Leave on surface for 2 minutes.
During Sickness With Vomiting and Diarrhea - for washrooms and diaper changing areas etc.
- Slowly add 4 teaspoons (20 ml) of bleach to 1000 ml (4 cups) of water. Leave on surface for 10 minutes.
Learn more about mixing bleach and water.
Adults and children should stay home until they feel well for one full day before going back to work or school.
Do not share items that have been in other people’s mouths. For example, toothbrushes, drinks, water bottles, unwashed utensils.