Everyone has a part to play in helping to prevent the spread of common winter infections including diarrhoea and vomiting and respiratory viruses such as flu.
Hand washing with soap and warm water is the most important thing you can do to help reduce the spread of infections. Good respiratory hygiene measures include using disposable paper tissues when sneezing, coughing and blowing your nose followed by disposing of any tissues and then washing your hands.
These simple measures, plus not visiting a patient in hospital if you are unwell yourself, can make a big difference and will help protect you, your family and those around you.
Foster and support a global culture of handwashing with soap
Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in every country
Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap
Why Handwashing with Soap?
Handwashing with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. Together, they are responsible for the majority of all child deaths. Yet, despite its lifesaving potential, handwashing with soap is seldom practiced and difficult to promote.
Turning handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter. A vast change in handwashing behavior is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.
Global Handwashing Day focuses on children because not only do they suffer disproportionately from diarrheal and respiratory diseases and deaths, but research shows that children – the segment of society so often the most energetic, enthusiastic, and open to new ideas – can also be powerful agents for changing behaviors like handwashing with soap in their communities.
In this country you are less likely to die from these infections, however washing your hands can help prevent you from becoming ill and spreading any infections to more vunlarable people.
Check out NHS staff celebrating Global Handwashing Day
Diarrheoa and vomiting (viral gastroenteritis)
If you are poorly with diarrhoea and vomiting, then there are a few simple actions you can take to help yourself feel better and protect those around you.
Firstly, remember to drink plenty of fluids as you may become dehydrated when you are ill
Stay away from work or school etc for 48 hours after your last symptoms
Do not go to A&E, Minor Injuries Units or your GP practice unless you require urgent medical attention for another condition
If the symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting last longer than four days, then seek telephone advice from NHS Direct (0845 46 47) or contact your GP practice.
Diarrhoea and vomiting can be highly infectious, so good hygiene practices are important if you or a member of the household is affected.
Clean the following twice a day with detergent and hot water, followed by a suitable disinfectant or bleach:
Taps and wash hand basins
Keep soiled washing separate from other items. Soiled clothes and linen should be laundered on as hot a wash as possible. Don’t overfill the washing machine or it cannot clean properly. Good hand washing with soap and water, ensuring all surfaces of the hands are washed, rinsed and dried. Don’t share washing items or towels. Avoid using alcohol hand rubs as these are not very effective against viruses.
Viral gastroenteritis can be a particular problem in hospitals and care homes because it is highly infectious. Avoid visiting these establishments (and vulnerable relatives and friends if possible) if you are suffering from symptoms until you are symptom free for 48 hours.