With flu season just around the corner, there’s a new wrinkle to staying healthy this winter. Our old standby, the antiseptic hand sanitizer, has been found to not work as well as we believed, especially with the influenza A strain. It’s all in how we use it, according to a recent study.
First, choose a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Be sure to cover your whole hands, including nails. If you come in contact with wet mucus, from a sneeze or cough, it takes the sanitizer a full four minutes to kill the flu virus.
How many of us use sanitizer for four minutes? Not many.
Dry mucus — for example, on a shopping cart handle — takes less time. Hand washing, however, takes only 30 seconds to kill the flu virus and is thought to be more effective than using sanitizer.
Here are some ideas for flu season:
- Does your grocery store deliver to your home or the parking lot? This will reduce your exposure.
- Take some antiseptic wipes in a plastic baggie when you go out. Use them on the cart handles in stores. Carry a small refillable bottle of hand sanitizer.
- Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home.
- Once a week, or more often, wrap hand wipes around door knobs at home and let them dry overnight.
The biggest step we can take is to get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the high-dose flu vaccine for seniors because it creates a stronger immune response, 24% higher than the standard vaccine. There’s also an adjuvanted and a recombinant vaccine not made with eggs.
Ask your doctor which you should get. Remember that it takes a few weeks for the vaccine to take effect.