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St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

How to prevent infections at work, at home and at play

Tips to stay healthy from an infection prevention and control expert

Our world is full of bacteria and viruses and our best defence is learning how to coexist with them safely as we go about our daily routines.

Ina Belu is an infection prevention and control practitioner at St. Joseph’s who advises staff on best practices for preventing and reducing the spread of infections to support a safe and healthy environment.

No matter where you are – at work, at home or at play – Belu’s top tip to prevent infection is hand hygiene. “It’s important to clean your hands often, especially before eating or handling food, after using the bathroom or taking out the trash. Even if your hands don’t look or feel dirty, bacteria and viruses may still be present.”

When washing, Belu suggests using regular soap and warm water and lathering your hands for at least 15 seconds. If your hands aren’t visibly dirty, you can use a hand sanitizer instead. Belu recommends using a hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of least 70 per cent and rubbing your hands together until they are dry.

At work, maintain a clean workspace. “Use disinfectant wipes to kill germs on surfaces, especially the keyboard, mouse, telephone and armrests,” says Belu.

“Another key way to prevent the spread of infection at work is to keep up to date on vaccinations and stay home if you are feeling unwell,” says Belu. “Coming to work sick can put your colleagues – and patients if you work in a health care setting – at risk.”

At home, Belu says to keep a general disinfectant on hand for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens. Also, ensure you’re using a different cloth or sponge in each area of the home so you aren’t transferring germs from one space to another. Antibacterial soaps are not recommended for hand and personal hygiene.

Belu also shared great tips for party hosts: “If you’re serving food, consider putting a hand sanitizer at the starting point of the food table and be sure to use dedicated serving utensils for each dish. Refrain from double dipping or sharing drinks. Likewise, don’t feel bad about cancelling if you’re sick; nothing tastes worse than a side of germs.”

“Bacteria and viruses can be our friends or our foes,” adds Belu. “For example, a normal bacterial flora helps with digestion and metabolism. But we need to know how to protect ourselves, our coworkers and our loved ones from bacteria and viruses that can make us sick.”

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