It’s that time of year again – the sneezing, sniffling, hope-it’s-nothing-worse season.
Although there are many different types of ailments, there is one thing that can help ward off most of them: hand-washing. It might sound a little too simple, but experts continue to tell us the simple scrubbing of hands using soap and water is the answer to keeping healthy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls hand-washing a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that is “one of the best things we can do to keep from getting sick and avoid spreading germs to others.”
It involves five simple steps: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, and Dry.
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. (Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself while you lather – it lasts about 20 seconds.) Then dry your hands with a clean paper towel or hand towel. If in a public restroom, it’s best to turn off the faucet and open the door using the paper towel to avoid picking germs back up.
Sometimes washing with soap and water is just not an option. There are plenty of hand sanitizers on the market today that do an acceptable job when soap and water is not available. The hand sanitizer you choose should have a substantial amount of alcohol in it – at least 60 percent is recommended.
We can also take measures to prevent germs from getting on our hands to begin with. When sneezing or coughing, it’s best to use “coughiquette” or coughing etiquette – using the crook of your arm and your elbow to cover up the spray.
We all use our hands a lot, and we touch more things than we probably realize. One of the most basic – and most important – things we can do as health professionals and as citizens is to thoroughly and regularly wash our hands.