Since we're in the midst of cold and flu season, this is a particularly timely question. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent the spread of infections. Based on guidelines from the CDC as well as the Mayo Clinic, here are our best tips for proper handwashing:
Always wash your hands in these situations:
- Before, during and after preparing food, as well as before eating food
- After coughing, blowing your nose, or using the toilet
- Before and after caring for someone who is ill
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After handling pet food or treats, pet waste, a child's diaper, or garbage
- After you have been out in public, where you may have touched door handles, countertops, railings and other such surfaces
Wash your hands properly. Wet your hands with clean, running water (either warm or cold water is OK), and apply soap. Rub your hands together to create a lather, scrubbing well--don't forget to wash in between fingers and under your nails, too. Be sure to wash for at least 20 seconds--approximately the amount of time you'd take to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Rinse your hands under running water, and then dry your hands using a clean and/or disposable towel, or air-dry them.
No soap or water available? Instead, use an alcohol-based liquid sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Keep in mind that while these types of sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, they may not eliminate all types of germs.
Take special care at the doctor's office or in a hospital: If you are at a doctor appointment or in the hospital for care, ask your doctors and nurses to wash their hands each time they enter your room. If you are in the hospital and visitors come by, you and your visitors should each wash up before eating, after using the restroom, and after touching surfaces in the hospital room.
I hope these handwashing tips will help you stay healthy and germ-free in the new year! Curious about other ways a health advocate can help you? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll do my best to answer your questions in an upcoming column!