With cold and flu season in full swing, washing your hands can go a long way

It’s happened to all of us before. You are just sitting down for dinner after a long day, but your mother’s query stops you. “Did you wash your hands?” You get up reluctantly and run your hands under lukewarm water long enough to appease your mom.

Why does she always insist on all this hand washing? To you it may seem pointless, but like most of the other things she says, Mother has a reason for demanding freshly washed hands.

Cold and flu season always seems to coincide with the weather turning cooler. “Fall starts to kick in at a point where whatever immune system and health strength we had coming into the school year is starting to sputter,” said Dr. Mike Gray, head of the biology department.

“All it takes is a few cases in the student body before [germs] can potentially spread if we have contact with somebody who’s already [fighting a cold],” he said. “The majority [of cold and flu cases] actually come about from direct contact, primarily through unwashed hands.”

Senior nursing major Samantha Hudson also stressed the importance of hand washing. “That’s the main way to prevent the spread of infection,” she said.

Hudson said that thorough hand washing is the first thing nursing students are taught as freshmen since keeping your hands clean reduces the number of germs and viruses that cause colds.

Dr. Gray emphasized that hands touch everything: doorknobs, eating utensils, sink handles and even other hands. They’re the main way viruses get the opportunity to attack your immune system.

But if you do happen to get sick, there are simple solutions for fighting pesky colds. “Lots of fluids and rest,” Hudson said. She also prefers water to soda or coffee when it comes to increasing fluid intake.

In the end, washing your hands frequently is the best way to stay healthy. “The key is prevention,” Dr. Gray said, stressing the fact that the best defense is a good offense.

So wash your hands when they get dirty and even when you think they’re not dirty. With soap and water on your side, those pesky viruses don’t stand a chance.