UNC Health Talk

5 sayings from your mother that will keep you and your loved ones healthy this winter!

As an infectious disease epidemiologist and a mother of two young children, Emily Sickbert-Bennett is passionate about translating infection prevention practices to all settings. In the past two years, she has helped implement Clean In, Clean Out, a novel, house-wide hand hygiene program at UNC Hospitals that has engaged more than 4,500 employees throughout the hospital, produced and sustained very high hand hygiene rates, and reduced the overall healthcare-associated infection rate among patients.

“This is the first time anyone has shown that if you improve hand hygiene from an already high rate of 80% to a higher rate (>90%), you can reduce healthcare-associated infections,” says Sickbert-Bennett.

Below Sickbert-Bennett shares “5 sayings from your mother” that will help keep you and your loved ones healthy this winter. Follow her tips centered around hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, isolation, immunization, and food safety and you will increase your protection against infections.

“A little soap and water never killed anybody.”

Washing your hands often with soap and water or a waterless hand sanitizer can prevent germs from entering your body and making you sick. You should clean your hands before, during and after preparing food; before eating food; after going to the bathroom or helping a child go to the bathroom; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; before and after caring for someone who is sick; after touching an animal, pet food or animal waste; and after touching garbage. View helpful information on hand hygiene: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/


“Cover your cough. No, I don’t want your used tissue.”

When you are coughing or sneezing, you should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Used tissues should be placed in a waste basket to avoid the spread of germs. If you don’t have tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow. Remember to wash your hands each time after coughing, sneezing or handling used tissues. View helpful information on respiratory etiquette: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/etiquette/coughing_sneezing.html


“If you are too sick to go to school, you are too sick to play outside.”

Isolation is the separation of sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. You can prevent the spread of illness to others by staying home from work, school, errands and social gatherings when you are sick. View helpful information on isolation: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm


“It will only hurt a little bit and it’s for your own good.”

Influenza vaccination can prevent you from getting sick from the flu. It can also make your illness milder if you do get sick. Protecting yourself from influenza also protects people around you from influenza illness and severe complications that can result. Older adults, people with chronic illness, and young children are at higher risk for complications from influenza, and the vaccine is an important tool for preventing hospitalizations and mortality associated with influenza for them. Although the prevalent flu strain in a given year may not match the strains the flu shot protects you from, as is the case this year, you still reduce your chances of getting the particular strains of flu accounted for in the shot. View helpful information on influenza immunization: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm#benefits


“Don’t eat that, you’ll get worms.”

When preparing food be sure to follow these four steps to prevent food poisoning. Clean your hands often while cooking, wash surfaces and utensils after each use, and wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Separate raw meat, poultry seafood and eggs from ready to eat foods. Cook your food to the correct temperature and keep it hot after cooking (>140oF or above). Chill your perishable food in the refrigerator within 2 hours and never thaw or marinate foods on the counter since bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature. View helpful information on food safety: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/clean/index.html