One of the easiest, least expensive ways to stay healthy often is one of the most overlooked. Avoiding the common cold — or worse, the flu — can be as easy as washing your hands.
Many people wash their hands but do so ineffectively with just a quick rinse of water. To wash your hands properly, you should lather your hands with soap and scrub them for at least 20 seconds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice as a timer.
The CDC highlighted the importance of proper hand washing and how it helps to prevent illness during National Hand Washing Awareness Week, which was recognized earlier this month. The observance coincided with National Influenza Week, which was established to highlight the importance of getting the flu vaccine.
You should wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially at these times:
• Before, during and after preparing food
• Before eating food
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• Before and after treating a cut or wound
• After using the restroom
• After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the restroom
• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
• After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
• After touching garbage
Experts say this is the best way to wash your hands:
• 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. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
• Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
• Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them, and use a towel to turn off the faucet so you don’t reinfect your hands with germs lingering on the fixtures.
Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them in most situations.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers quickly can reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
Follow these directions to use hand sanitizers effectively:
• Read the label to learn the correct amount.
• 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.