Wash Your Hands to Stay Healthy!
Did you know that the most important thing you can do all year long to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand washing, when done correctly, may be your single most important act to help stop the spread of infection, reduce illness and stay healthy.
“Germs are found nearly everywhere. As we touch people, surfaces and objects, germs are accumulating on our hands,” said Brooke Wolfe, wellness educator for SHDHD. “Then, as our hands touch our mouths, eye and nose, we are spreading those germs from our hands to our body, increasing our chances of getting sick.”
Germs can live for 2 hours or more on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and shopping carts, and keyboards. Wolfe says when sharing living spaces and items such as pens, phones, utensils, with friends and family, we are also sharing germs.
Washing your hands frequently can significantly reduce the transfer of bacteria and viruses that cause illness. Here are 5 tips recommended by the CDC that you and your family can take to stay healthy and stop the spread of germs, wherever you are:
1) Always wash your hands before preparing food or eating; treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person; and inserting or removing contact lenses.
2) Always wash your hands after preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry; using the restroom or changing a diaper; touching an animal or animal toys, leashes, or waste; blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands; treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person; and handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes.
3) Wash your hands the correct way! Wet your hands with clean, warm running water and apply soap. Rub your hands together to create lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Rinse your hands well under running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
4) Use hand sanitizer when you are unable to wash with soap and water. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. Hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty. To use hand sanitizer correctly, apply the product to the palm of one hand. Rub your hands together. Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
5) Be handshake savvy! Many of our social activities include meeting new people and opportunities where hand shaking is common. Keep in mind when greeting friends, family, new business partners, and others, that germs can easily be passed from person to person, so it is important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and to wash your hands frequently!
For more resources and tips on hand washing and healthy living all year long, visit www.cdc.gov/handwashing/ or contact SHDHD at 1-877-238-7595 to schedule a fun and informative Scrubby Bear presentation on washing hands for your children’s group.
Michele M. Bever, PhD, MPH
South Heartland District Health Department
606 N. Minnesota Ave, Suite 2
Hastings, NE 68901