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Clean Hands Help Stop the Spread of Germs

December 11, 2020

For months, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top public health officials have told us that proper hand washing, combined with social distancing and mask wearing, are the most effective things we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19. With new cases of COVID-19 surging across the country, National Hand Washing Awareness Week, December 6 -12,  comes at a great time.

How do you know if you are washing your hands the right way and at the right time?  The following hand washing tips will help you get your hands squeaky clean.

Wet your hands with clean, running water. The water can be hot or cold, it’s your preference. The water does not kill germs, the water would have to be scalding hot to do that. Instead it’s the soap lather that removes the germs from your hands.

  1. Apply soap and create a lather by rubbing your hands together. Be sure to get the fronts and backs of your hands, in between your fingers and under your nails. You can use bar soap, liquid soap, or antibacterial soap. Studies have shown that they are all equally effective at removing germs.
  2. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds -- that’s the time it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice or the alphabet song.
  3. Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  4. Dry your hands completely. This last step is important because germs spread more easily on wet hands. The CDC recommends using a clean towel to dry your hands. Reusable towels are a good option at home, but they should be cleaned regularly.

If There’s No Soap and Water, Use Hand Sanitizer

If soap and clean water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to kill germs. Apply the gel to your palm and rub it all over your hands until it’s dry - that should take about 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer will not be as effective if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy and may not remove chemicals. Be careful because hand sanitizer is flammable. It can also cause alcohol poisoning if swallowed, so keep it away from small children.

When to Wash Your Hands

It’s important to wash your hands often throughout the day - not just after using the toilet or before eating. The CDC says these are some of the key times to wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

COVID-19 Hand Care

In addition, there are certain times when you should wash hands to slow the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends washing your hands BEFORE and AFTER:

  • Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Touching your mask
  • Entering and leaving a public place
  • Touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens

It’s Not Just for COVID-19, It’s Always Time to Wash Your Hands

While slowing the spread of COVID-19 is the most talked about reason to wash your hands these days, it is not the only one. Proper hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself and your family from getting sick. In fact, the CDC says hand washing can prevent one in three intestinally-related illnesses and one in five respiratory infections like colds and flu. It can also eliminate germs that cause strep throat, pink eye, norovirus, and food-borne illnesses like salmonella and e-coli. Hand washing is easy and effective. Put simply, clean hands save lives.

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