Protect yourself: Wash your hands

Protect yourself: Wash your hands

You have probably been advised that regularly washing your hands is essential. People wash their hands when they are visibly dirty, but tend to forget that they can harbour invisible particles even when they seem clean. Disturbingly, only 60% of women and 38% of men clean their hands with soap and water after using the restroom.

So why is hand washing a requirement? Can it prevent you from being sick?

Frequent hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to avoid getting sick and spread illnesses. Your hands pick up many germs during your everyday life operations, through a hand shake, when working or cooking. You can easily transfer them to other people who, in turn, can spread them to others, and so on. Germs on your hands will multiply on your skin if not washed away. People touch their face several times per hours without realising it, and with dirty hands, harmful bacteria can enter your body through the nose, mouth, and eyes to make you sick. By washing hands, you reduce the spread of germs and protect yourself.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, “washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrhoeal disease-associated deaths by up to 50% and reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%”.

Is soap necessary to wash your hands? Does soap kill germs?

Using soap is the best way to ensure safe hands. Compared to soap, water only removes a negligible portion of germs on your hands

The product acts as an emulsifying agent. It suspends oil, dirt particles and germs from your skin. By rubbing your hands, you complete the action of the agent and allow the particle to be easily removed. It is the same as when you clean your teeth. When using toothpaste, you have to brush your teeth to clear away bacteria and traces of food, otherwise it won’t be effective. The longer you rub your hands, the more germs will be washed away when rinsing under water.

Plain soap only removes germs. [Antibacterial soap], on the other hand, contains antibacterial agents to ensure germs free hands, necessary in certain setting like in healthcare utilities.

How to wash your hands?

“95% of people don’t wash their hands properly”.

Most of the people don’t wash their hands long enough; it should be done for at least 20 seconds. The World Health Organization recommends the following steps to ensure safe hands:

Wet your hands with clean, running water. The temperature doesn’t influence the effectiveness of hand washing. Turn off the tap, and apply soap.

–          Rub your hands with soap and don’t forget areas like the nails, the back of the hands and between the fingers.

–          Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, you can sing ‘happy birthday’ twice while rubbing to make sure that you do it long enough.

–          Rinse your hands under clean water.

–          Use a clean towel or a hand dryer to dry your hands. Dry hands are harder for germs to multiply on.


When to wash your hands?

When we think about when to wash hands, the first thing that pops up in the mind is after using the toilet. But it should also be done in those situations:

–          Before, during and after handling food, cooking and before eating. Many foodborne illnesses could be avoided with a good hand washing.

–          Before and after caring  for a sick one;

–          Before and after treating a cut or wound. Bacteria enter the body through cuts and wounds.

–          After using the toilet;

–          After changing diapers;

–          After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. A single sneeze can spread more than 100 000 germs around. Cover your mouth when sneezing and wash your hands after.

–          After touching an animal,or its waste or feeding the latter. Animals carry germs transferrable to humans.

–          After touching garbage.

What to do if soap and water aren’t available?

Hand Sanitizers are a good alternative when soap and water aren’t available. Choose a sanitizer containing at least 60% of alcohol. They kill most of the germs and are effective if your hands aren’t visibly dirty.


Isd423. 2015. BREAK THE CHAIN. [ONLINE] Available at:

CDC. 2010. Hygiene Fast Facts. [ONLINE] Available at:

About Education. 2015. How Soap Cleans. [ONLINE] Available at:

World Health Organization. 2009. Hand Hygiene: Why, How & When?. [ONLINE] Available at:

Should you put hand sanitizers in your office?

Should you put hand sanitizers in your office?

When someone is sick in the office, you don’t have to wait long until everyone starts getting symptoms of illness. Only one person or surface infected is enough to make everyone sick. A group of researchers applied samples of a virus, bacteriophage MS-2 which is similar to Norovirus, the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness, to several surfaces such as doorknobs and table tops at the beginning of the day. In two to four hours, 40 to 60% of workers and visitors picked up the virus and spread it to many other surfaces.  The hand is a quick tool to spread germs and the close proximity of people makes it easy for germs to jump from a surface to another.


In order to avoid this situation, good hand hygiene is recommended. Employers looking to limit the spread of illnesses in the office should invest in hand sanitizer dispensers. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers reduce the number of cases of the common cold and fever in an office and decrease the number of sick days employees take due to these illnesses.

A recent study made by the University of Southampton in Southampton, England showed that increasing hand washing and hand hygiene in general can lower the rates of respiratory, gastrointestinal infections, and influenza illnesses. 20 000 people were involved in the study. Part of the group  were provided education about hand hygiene and the spread of germs and virus which led to 15 to 25 per cent reduction in infections compared to the other group.  It is the first time that a serious study has been made, showing real effects of hand hygiene. People don’t always carry one with them so providing hand sanitizers will improve hand hygiene and can ward off illnesses.

During a regular workday, using hand sanitizer three to five times is enough to already reduce the spread of germs. Place hand sanitizers containing at least 60% of alcohol where it can easily be spotted, such as in high traffic areas and in the restroom.


Washington Post. 2014. A single doorknob can contaminate up to 60 percent of people in a building in 4 hours. [ONLINE] Available at:

NCBI. 2008. Effect of Hand Hygiene on Infectious Disease Risk in the Community Setting: A Meta-Analysis. [ONLINE] Available at:

Norovirus: symptoms and prevention

Norovirus: symptoms and prevention

Norovirus is the most common type of gastroenteritis, causing stomach or intestinal inflammation and many outbreaks of Norovirus occur all year long from contaminated food. Each year, in the United States, norovirus affects around 20 million cases of acute gastroenteritis according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Norovirus is contagious and outbreaks are more likely to happen in crowded and closed places where the virus can quickly spread between people. Most of them occur in the food industry like restaurants because of infected food workers whom touch raw fruits and vegetables with bare hands before serving them. Norovirus is sometimes called gastric flu even if it is not related to influenza.

Anyone can be infected with norovirus and get sick. People are the most contagious when sick, and during the first few days after the recovery. There is no specific cure for norovirus. It’s usually mild and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days.


The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed engendering the following symptoms:


– diarrhoea

– throwing up

– nausea

– stomach pain

– fever

– headache and body aches

If you experience more serious symptoms or if they don’t disappear after a few days, you should consult your doctor.

How does norovirus spread?

Like most viruses, norovirus spread through direct contact with an infected person, stools, contaminated food or water. Touching contaminated surfaces and then your face can infect you. Norovirus can be present in your vomit and stool even before symptoms of infection appear and can stay in your stool for 2 weeks or more after recovery.

To reduce the risk of infection

Practice good hand hygiene

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and always before eating, preparing, or handling food. Use an [alcohol-based hand sanitizer] if soap and water aren’t available or in addition to hand washing.

Wash fruits and vegetables and cook seafood

Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before preparing and eating them. Cook oysters and other shellfish before eating them.

If you are sick, avoid preparing food and caring for people who are sick

The virus is highly contagious and spread easily through food. You should not prepare food for others or provide healthcare while you are sick for at least 3 days after symptoms stop.

Keep sick infants and children out of areas where food is prepared.


Clean and disinfect surfaces

Touching a contaminated surfaces and then touching your face is enough to infect you. Often wipe down surfaces with an alcohol based solution to avoid cross contamination.

Wash laundry thoroughly

Thoroughly wash your clothes and linens if they are contaminated with vomit or stool.


CDC. 2013. U.S. Trends and Outbreaks. [ONLINE] Available at:

Mayo Clinic. 2014. Norovirus Infection. [ONLINE] Available at:

CDC. 2013. Norovirus Overview. [ONLINE] Available at:

How to make your child wash hands?

How to make your child wash hands?

Children are always moving around and touching everything around them. While you can’t stop their curiosity, you can prevent them from being sick and teach them the right way to protect themselves. Washing your hands might seem natural for you but it may not be the case for your kid who may not understand the importance of this small act. Teaching your child how to wash their hands and to do it regularly is essential. Hand washing can take some time to be fully integrated and can eventually become a challenge to get it done. Below are some tips to help you make it a fun and natural experience.

Make it easy and safe as well as fun

You should wash your hands with water and soap. Convert washing hands as an enjoyable experience, using fun soaps with different shapes to make it more exciting.  To remove all germs, you have to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Make your child sings ‘happy birthday’ twice to be sure they rub their hands long enough.

Kids may not be able to reach the sink. Give them a stool or step so that they can easily wash their hands without your help.

Repetition is the key

Make hand washing a routine, something natural that your child will do without having to think about it. Repetition is the best way to learn and make hand washing a habit. Often remind your child to wash their hands especially when it is critical, before eating, after using the restroom and after spending time in public places.


Show the good example

If you don’t wash your hands, don’t expect your kids to do it. Children tend to copy what people around them are doing, especially their parents. If you often wash your hands, they will also want to practice hand washing.

Explain why hand hygiene is important

Understanding why we need to wash hands is a crucial point especially for kids. If they don’t see the meaning of hand washing, it can be hard to teach them to wash their hands. Take some time and explain in a simplistic way what germs are and what happen if your child doesn’t wash their hands.

Use your creativity

Sit down with your child and do some activities around hand washing like creating a poster showing the steps of hand washing with pictures. Most adults don’t wash their hands properly, so be sure to teach your kid the right technique from the beginning.  You can even place posters next to the sink to help them remember how to do it.

Ask your doctor to talk about it

If they don’t listen to you and still don’t want to wash their hands, sometimes, asking exterior help can be beneficial. Ask your doctor to explain your kids why they should wash their hands.

Carry a hand sanitizer

Carry an alcohol based sanitizer so that, even if you are outside and away from soap and water, you can still practice good hand hygiene as it should be practiced all the time.


Kid spot. 2013. 9 ways to get kids to wash their hands. [ONLINE] Available at:

Todaysparent. 2010. HomeKidsPreschoolHow to get kids to wash their hands KidsPreschool How to get kids to wash their hands. [ONLINE] Available at:

Soap in public restroom can contaminate your hands

Soap in public restroom can contaminate your hands

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of illnesses and the transmission of germs according to The Centers for Disease and Prevention. It should be done regularly, for at least 30 seconds, and especially after going to the restroom. During the day, you pick up germs and touching your face with contaminated hands is enough to make you sick. Soap removes germs more effectively than water but what if the soap is dirty? Can the soap transfer germs?

Originally, bar soaps were found in public restrooms but got removed when studies showed that they were unhygienic and could transfer germs. The use of soap dispensers has been encouraged to limit contamination. But in public restrooms, studies found that“One in four dispensers is contaminated” allowing germs to thrive in soaps. Washing your hands with contaminated soap can add more bacteria on your hands than you had before washing them, thus contributing to the transmission of germs and spreading of infections.

How does the soap get dirty?

Several reasons can explain this phenomenon. Soaps contain preservatives to limit the growth of harmful microbes, but those preservatives may break down over time and become less effective.

Dispensers aren’t cleaned properly. Dispensers should be thoroughly cleaned before refilling them. Bulk soap dispensers are the most common type of dispensers found in public restrooms. To refill a bulk soap dispenser, you have to top off the soap inside through a lid while the dispenser stays mounted on the wall. The amount of bacteria found in the dispenser was 1000 times higher than the recommended limit. Researchers found that even if you take the soap out of the dispenser, disinfect the equipment with bleach, and refill it with safe and new soap, within two weeks, the soap inside the dispenser will be as contaminated as before the cleaning. Bacteria in the dispenser can be resistant to bleach, and even a small quantity of bacteria remaining is enough to contaminate the soap. Soap dispensers are usually mounted on the walls and it is harder to clean the inside properly. Previous studies have demonstrated an association between the use of bulk soap refillable dispensers and bacterial contamination of the soap. Bulk soap refillable dispensers can increase the number of germs on the hands and may play a role in the transmission of bacteria in public settings. They have been removed from healthcare settings as they increased the risk of cross contamination but are still common in public restrooms.

“Topping off” or improper refilling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Don’t recommend adding soap to a partially empty soap dispenser as it can lead to bacterial contamination of soap”.

Airborne and environmental contaminants from the restroom can enter the dispenser when open, especially in an environment where faecal bacteria are thriving. In most contaminated dispensers, coliform and faecal matters were found in important quantity.

Cleaning personnel can contaminate soap when refilling the dispenser with bacteria present on their hands, like after having just cleaned the toilets or if they aren’t wearing gloves.

Companies usually use concentrate soap that they dilute after. If the dilution is too important and more than recommended, it can make the soap less effective against germs.

How to avoid this situation?

The best and easiest solution is to replace bulk soap dispenser with sealed soap dispenser. With a sealed system, to refill the dispenser, you only have to put a sealed bottle or a pouch inside the equipment and don’t risk touching the soap.

In a study, contaminated dispensers were replaced with sealed soap dispensers. One year after the installation, the soap from the sealed soap dispensers was contamination free. The use of dispensers with sealed refills instead of bulk soap refillable dispensers can lower the risk of contamination and can reduce the spread of bacteria.

As a user, If you aren’t sure about the soap in a public restroom, you can also complement hand washing with hand sanitizing to ensure safe hands.


American Society for Microbiology. 2010. Bacterial Hand Contamination and Transfer after Use of Contaminated Bulk-Soap-Refillable Dispensers. [ONLINE] Available at:

CDC. 2002. Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings. [ONLINE] Available at:

How to protect yourself against the haze?

How to protect yourself against the haze?

The haze in Singapore has been back for several weeks. It is not an exceptional event, for almost every dry season, outbreaks have occurred. Thick grey smog coming from Indonesia floats over the island causing people to stay indoors, closure of schools and unhealthy levels of pollution. Singapore’s air quality even reached hazardous levels and there is no indication on how long people will have to cope with this situation.

Cause of the haze

The current haze comes from forest burning triggered by illegal fires in peatland, and forest in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island and the Indonesian part of Borneo. These fires are created to quickly clear lands for palm oil, paper and pulp plantations

What is in the haze?  How to check air quality?

The haze is predominantly composed of two types of particles:

–          – PM10 are particulate matters of 10 microns in size. They are large enough to be trapped by the nasal passages when you breathe.

–          – PM2.5 are fine particulate matters that are no larger than 2.5 microns, a thirtieth the diameter of a human hair. They can get trapped deep in the lungs and go into the bloodstream.

Short term exposure to high levels of haze particles can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat in healthy individuals, while a long-term exposure to these particles on a regular basis can create heart and lung complications such as lung cancer or heart disease.

The PSI, Pollutant Standards Index gives information about air quality. Look for the three-hour PSI or 1-hour PM2.5 concentration levels published by the National Environment Agency (NEA). PSI is determined by the concentration levels PM10, PM2.5, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. During a normal day, without haze, the maximum concentration of PM2.5 is usually between 20 and 35 micrograms per cubic meters. The air is considered unhealthy when the concentration of PM2.5 hits 100, and hazardous when it exceeds 300.

How to protect yourself?

Stay indoors and close your windows and doors when the PSI is high

When the outdoor air quality reaches serious levels, stay indoors as much as possible and keep the windows and doors closed.

Cut down on physical activities

Exercising make you breathe deeply, allowing pollutants deep into your lungs. Reduce outdoor activities to limit your exposure to the haze especially when the PSI reaches 100 or more.

Stay hydrated

The haze causes drying conditions. Stay hydrated and drink more water than usual to flush out toxins absorbed by your body.

Use air purifiers at home.

Air purifiers and air ionizers can help to reduce the indoor particle level. Be sure to regularly change the filter to get rid of pollutants from the air efficiently.

Wear a mask.

Covering your nose with your hands is not enough to protect you. Wear a mask when the air pollutants levels are high. N95 masks seal to the face of the wearer and provide good protection against the haze as they keep fine particulate matter out. You can reuse your mask but don’t share it. Change it when it gets soiled or distorted in shape.


Teach people around you how to wear their mask. Not wearing your mask correctly can compromise its efficiency. 

step to wear mask

Surgical masks and paper masks are not effective in filtering fine particles. They can reduce the discomfort caused by the haze and prevent the larger irritant particles in the air from being breathed in but do not provide adequate protection.

Avoid smoking.

Smoking can make your lungs more sensitive to the effects of air pollutants.

Eat a balanced diet

Eat lots of vegetables and fresh fruits to get enough nutrients to help your body deal with the haze.

Eat food containing Vitamin A such as liver, carrots, sweet potatoes or spinach. Vitamin A protects your eyes and shields your lungs from air pollution. The chemicals in the haze destroy the Vitamin A contained in the lung tissues, weakening your defence against carcinogens.

Take Vitamins E and Vitamins C complements to strengthen your immune system. The two vitamins taken in combination will also keep your lung tissue healthy by building up levels of a protective protein to prevent enzymes released during inflammation from destroying the lung’s elastic properties.


National Environment Agency. 2016. HAZE SITUATION UPDATE. [ONLINE] Available at:

National Environment Agency. 2016. About Haze. [ONLINE] Available at:

Ministry of Health. 2015. MOH Haze Microsite. [ONLINE] Available at:

MRSA, Symptoms and Prevention

MRSA, Symptoms and Prevention

MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a type of bacteria resistant to several widely used antibiotics such as penicillin and methicillin. It is considered as a superbug and can be difficult to treat.

How did MRSA become resistant?

Originally, Staphylococcus infections were sensitive to penicillin. MRSA first appeared in the 1960s. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics and vaccines caused some strains of staphylococcus to become resistant to penicillin and methicillin. Several reasons can make bacteria resistant:

–          Patients press doctor for medication to help them overcome their cold and other minor illnesses. Thus, doctors prescribe antibiotics to patients when it isn’t completely necessary, for example for viral infections like the common cold when the drugs only work on bacterial infections.

–          People tend to stop treatments when symptoms are fading. Germs aren’t all eliminated and the remaining one becomes stronger and resistant.

–          Some people also flushed the remainder of antibiotics in the toilet. The drugs reach water supply where germs are able to evolve and refine their ability to outsmart these medications.

How can you get MRSA?

You can carry the bacteria on your skin or in your nose without having any symptoms of the illness. MRSA is spread by contact. Touching the skin of another person who has MRSA or touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face can infect you. MRSA can also make you sick by entering your body through an open cut or wound.


The symptoms of MRSA depend on where you are infected. In most cases, it causes mild infections on the skin. The infected area on the skin can become red, swollen, and painful and can even have pus. You can then get fever.  MRSA can also cause more serious skin infections or infect surgical wounds, the lungs, the bloodstream or the urinary tract.

Who is at risk?

Everyone can get MRSA but staying in hospital can put your more at risk. People who have a surgical wound or intravenous, or the one who are hospitalized for a prolonged period of time are more likely to be infected. People with a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or who take antibiotics are also at risk.

How to prevent getting MRSA?

To prevent the spread of MRSA, keep your hands clean by washing them thoroughly with soap and water during at least 15 seconds and thoroughly dry them. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water and soap aren’t available. In hospital, hands or gloves may become contaminated with MRSA when healthcare workers touch a patient and then spread the superbug from one patient to another. Healthcare providers should wash their hands before and after touching a patient and change gloves between patients.

Cover your cuts and scrapes with a bandage and keep them clean and dry. Avoid touching other people’s wounds or bandages.

Avoid sharing personal items such as clothes, towels and razors. Other items that should not be shared include brushes and makeup.

Use a tissue to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing and throw it after. You can also sneeze or cough in your inner elbow to avoid spray of saliva and secretions and contaminating your hands.

Disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, computer keyboards to avoid cross contamination.

What can you do to prevent the development of MRSA?

The misuse and overuse of antibiotics created superbugs like MRSA. Use antibiotics safely and in the right condition.

Antibiotics should only be used against bacterial infections. they aren’t effective for viral infections such as a cold or flu. Don’t take antibiotics without a prescription as they might not be the appropriate choice for your condition or may not have any effect.

Follow your doctor’s instructions when you are prescribed an antibiotic and don’t stop the treatment earlier than expected.


CDC. 2013. General Information About MRSA in the Community. [ONLINE] Available at:

MayoClinic. 2015. MRSA infection. [ONLINE] Available at:

WebMd. 2015. Understanding MRSA Infection — the Basics. [ONLINE] Available at:

NHS. 2015. Symptoms of an MRSA infection . [ONLINE] Available at:

How to protect your baby against germs? [infographic]

How to protect your baby against germs? [infographic]

Children catch between six to ten colds per year. When you have an infant, keeping him away from illnesses is hard. Children under 3 months are especially vulnerable, parents should be very careful to protect their babies during this period. Germs are everywhere and you can’t completely avoid them. As a parent, it’s easy to get stressed out and worried. Even though your baby will be sick at some point, you can follow some tips to reduce the risks.

How to sanitize your hands?

How to sanitize your hands?

Using Hand Sanitizers keep your hands germ free!

We recommend the following Hand Sanitizing Steps prescribed by World Health Organization (WHO).

Duration of entire procedure – 20-30 seconds.

Note: If hands are visibly soiled, they should be washed with soap and water before applying Hand Sanitizers

Zika Virus, Symptoms, Prevention

Zika Virus, Symptoms, Prevention

Zika virus is now becoming a matter of concern as more and more people are getting infected all around the world.

The virus is spread to people by mosquitoes from the Aedes species. These mosquitoes also transfer diseases like dengue and chikungunya. Mosquitoes can give the virus by biting someone already infected and then biting other people.

The word Zika comes from the Zika forest in Uganda, where the virus was first discovered by scientists in 1947. Before 2015, Zika virus outbreaks only occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, the virus reached Brazil and is now spreading to many other countries.

For the moment, the virus has not really spread in Asia. There have only been a few cases reported in Thailand and Taiwan. But, as people travel a lot, it is easy for a virus to spread around. For the moment, no cases have been found in Singapore but the virus will probably reach the island in no time. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is following the situation closely and is taking precaution measures to avoid any huge outbreaks.


The symptoms of the Zika virus are similar to chikungunya and dengue. The symptoms are:

–          fever

–          rash

–          joint pain

–          conjunctivitis.

Not every person infected will develop symptoms, about 1 in 5 people will actually become ill. The illness lasts from a few days to a week and is usually mild but if a woman is infected during pregnancy, it can cause a neurological disorder, microcephaly, to the unborn baby. The infant’s head will then be significantly smaller than the one of other infants and his brain won’t develop as much as the one of the others.


There is no vaccine available against the Zika virus.

To avoid getting infected, protect yourself against mosquitoes by using insect repellent. Cover your body, arms and legs with clothing and sleep under mosquito nets.

Aedes mosquitoes usually lay eggs in and near standing water in buckets, bowls, flower pots. You can reduce their breeding by ensuring that there is not stagnant water in and outside your house.


WHO. 2016. Zika virus. [ONLINE] Available at:

CDC. 2016. About Zika Virus Disease. [ONLINE] Available at:

MOH. 2016. Zika Virus. [ONLINE] Available at: