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Hand washing, a good habit to practice
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Despite the proven benefits of hand washing, too many people don’t practice this habit as often as they should - even after they’ve used the bathroom.
Germs accumulate on our hands no matter what we do. We get them from direct contact with people, contaminated surfaces, foods and animals. And when we don’t wash our hands frequently, we infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose and mouth or we infect others by touching them or surfaces that they will also touch.
In addition to the common cold and flu, inadequate hand hygiene can contribute to food-related illnesses, such as salmonella and E. coli. While hand washing doesn’t take much time or effort, it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness. Practicing this simple habit routinely can play a major role in protecting our health.
Good hand-washing techniques include washing our hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Not all hand sanitizers are created equal. Waterless hand sanitizers that don’t contain alcohol are NOT effective. The CDC recommends choosing products that contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
The following precautions, while important all the time, are especially so this season when many in the population have colds and other upper respiratory infections but feel they just have to get Christmas shopping done:
1. Avoid contact with people who are sick. Call them or send thoughtful cards or gifts until they are on the mend. They won’t feel like visitors anyway. Suggest co-workers go home when flu-like symptoms descend.
2. When sick, keep your distance from others so that you won’t pass your illness to them. Stay home from work or school and limit errands when you are sick. No one wants your germs, many of which (like those for flu) may be airborne.
3. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.  Wash hands immediately if you must cough or sneeze directly in your hand. Coughing or sneezing in your hand and then touching door knobs or other surfaces spreads the germs which causes others to become sick. Children are now taught to do the “elbow cough” when they don’t have a tissue.
4. Keep your hands away from your face - it is especially important to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their nose or mouth.
5. Get eight hours rest each night and drink plenty of fluids - water flushes your system and rehydrates you. A typical, healthy adult needs eight eight-ounce glasses of fluids each day.
6. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs as well as saving a lot of money on medical bills. Hand washing costs less than a penny and this penny’s worth of prevention can possibly save you the expense of $50-plus for a visit to the doctor.
A simple thing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled hand washing “the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection.” While many people are taught this lesson as children, most either forget or choose to ignore its importance. Done properly and often, hand washing may be the best way to keep you from getting sick or from passing on a disease like flu to someone else.
Unwashed hands are a critical factor in the spread of bacteria, pathogens, disease-causing viruses, and food-borne disease. By not washing our hands, we can acquire or pass on a variety of “bugs and while everyone is susceptible, one-third of the population is at especially high risk of infection and complications that may arise from those diseases. High-risk groups include the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, up to  40 percent of food poisoning outbreaks are the result of poor hand washing and cross-contamination.

Hands should be washed
• Before eating or preparing food
• After handling raw meat, chicken, fish or eggs
• After using the bathroom. Assume that contact with any human body fluids is infectious
• After helping a child use the bathroom
• After changing diapers
• Before you insert or remove contact lenses
• After blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing into your hand
• Whenever hands come in contact with body fluids (vomit, saliva, nasal mucus, etc.)
• After handling garbage
• After touching or playing with a pet
• After assisting or taking care of an ill person
• After handling community door knobs or shaking hands with the general population
Remember to cover cuts with bandages and wear gloves for added protection - cuts are very vulnerable to infections. Artificial nails and chipped nail polish have been associated with an increase in the number of bacteria on the fingernails so be sure to clean the nails properly
Most people who “wash their hands” are not as thorough about it as they should be. Warm water, soap, and attention to detail is essential if the spread of infection is to be prevented. Most waterless alcohol-based antiseptic hand scrubs are effective when used as directed and generously. These agents are not effective, however, when the hands are heavily contaminated with dirt, blood or other organic materials.  
While these solutions may be used when it’s not possible to wash hands with soap and water, there is often no substitute for the following steps:
1. Remove rings and other jewelry
2. Use very warm, running water and soap. Wet hands and apply 1-3 milliliters liquid or clean bar soap. Liquid soap in disposable containers is best. If using reusable containers, they should be washed and dried before refilling. If using bar soap, place it on a rack and allow it to drain.
3. Scrub both sides of the hands vigorously for 15-30 seconds.
4. Pay close attention to the areas around your cuticles, under your fingernails, and in the creases of your hands. The scrubbing action combined with soap helps dislodge and remove the germs.
5. Rinse well under very warm, running water. Turn off the faucets with a paper towel.
6. Dry hands with a disposable paper towel, air dryer or clean single use fabric towel.
7. Protect your hands from touching dirty surfaces as you leave the bathroom.
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