Things You Can Do

Tip Sheet

Prevent the spread of harmful bacteria & learn why these methods work.

Wash your hands with soap and water.

Heard this one before? OK, but not all the nuances.

    1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (preferably warm, but also cold), turn off the tap, and just use regular soap. Why? Do not wash in a sink of standing water that can re-contaminate hands. Warm water is sufficient. Hot water uses more energy and may even cause more skin irritation than warm or cold.
      • Drought tip: turn off even low-flow faucets while scrubbing. Collect any "gray" water in a small bowl below the tap. Use this water for only non-edible plants.
      • You don't need antibiotic soap. Why? Studies show that soaps containing antibacterial ingredients are no more effective than plain soap. In fact, their wide use has stimulated resistance. Avoid soaps with antibiotic ingredients such as Triclosan or Triclocarban (in the vast majority of soaps on the market).
    2. Lather your hands for at least 20 seconds. Soap the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Go ahead, imitate your favorite heart surgeon! Why? Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt and microbes from skin. Microbes live everywhere on your hands, in highest concentration under the nails. A good 20-second timer: Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice!
    3. Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
    4. Dry your hands using a clean towel or by air. Why? Germs transfer more easily to and from wet hands. Clean towels and air drying are the best methods not to spread microbes. Catch: towel must be clean!

Other Effective Things You Can Do

  1. Don’t take unprescribed antibiotics. Why? Not only is it illegal to take someone else’s medication, correctly prescribed antibiotics treat specific kinds of infections. Taking the wrong ones can be both ineffective and allow harmful bacteria to multiply.
  2. Take only doctor-prescribed antibiotics and finish your prescription: Ask your doctor if tests will be done to verify if your prescription is correct. Then, finish your antibiotic course with none remaining. Why? Even if you feel better, only your full treatment will kill the bacteria infecting you. Also, old antibiotics don't work as well, becoming breeding grounds for resistance.
  3. Know the sources of your food and avoid those that contain antibiotics. Ask meat departments/butchers whether their meat, poultry and fish have been raised on antibiotic-feed. Why? “Sub-therapeutic” levels of antibiotics in livestock feed breed superbugs. (Eighty percent of antibiotics produced in the US are used to accelerate growth in livestock, but resistance as a major side-effect.) Even “organic” foods may be affected, if fertilized with manure from antibiotic-fed animals.
  4. If you have to go to the hospital or out-patient clinic, locate the highest ranked facility and minimize the time of your stay. Why? The CDC warns that 1 in 25 patients leaves the hospital or clinic with an acquired bacterial infection, often spread through tubes, such as catheters and other probes. Ask your doctor If a hospital or out-patient procedure is really necessary.
  5. Stay up-to-date with all immunizations and do your best to stay healthy. Why? A strong immune system is the best way to stay safe from pathogens -- more effective than any antibiotic. Yes, once again, your mom was right: Eat well and get enough sleep. Experts recommend seven to eight hours per night. Why? Only one night of four hours sleep compromises the human immune system by 70%.

Final word: Supplement these researched tips with more intelligence provided by your most trusted doctors from their superbug “war rooms.”