Cold and flu season are upon us. And while eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, staying properly hydrated and minimizing stress are important ways to keep germs at bay, proper and frequent hand washing may be your best defense against infecting yourself and others. In fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest thinking about hand washing as a “do-it-yourself vaccine.” Proper hand washing can also prevent the spread of infectious diarrhea and other serious illnesses.
But just giving your hands a quick rinse won’t do the trick. There are several important elements involved with proper technique to rid your hands of germs, viruses and other harmful organisms.
6 steps to proper washing:
- Wet hands with running water
- Apply soap
- Lather up to create foam/bubbles
- Scrub your hands and wrists including between the fingers and under the nails for at least 20 seconds. If you sing the Happy Birthday tune twice, that should be long enough.
- Rinse under clean running water
- Dry with a disposable or clean towel or under air
Hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) is a good alternative when traditional hand washing is not possible or practical. Carry some with you at all times, especially when out in public. Give it to your kids to use when at school after handling class pets, gym equipment, etc. Rub it all over your hands, in the same manner as traditional hand washing, until dry. It’s important to note that hand sanitizers do not remove all types of germs, so traditional hand washing should still be used as soon as possible afterward.
When to wash
- Before and after preparing food (and during as needed)
- Before and after eating
- After using any restroom or assisting others with same, including diaper changing
- Before and after inserting contact lenses
- Before and after tending to sores or wounds
- Before and after caring for a sick person
- After coughing, sneezing, and blowing your nose
- Upon returning from a public place (store, train, school, etc.)
- After touching any contaminated surface/object
- After touching animals, their food, and their accessories
- After cleaning or using chemicals
- Any time your hands are dirty
Make proper hand washing a part of your and your family’s routine and stay healthier all year long.