With cool weather approaching, a rush of colds and coughs emerge among the public. As temperatures drop, the focus of our attention should be on our line of defense against the bugs that always creep up on us. The first step and easiest way to defend your body from infection is quick, inexpensive, and fairly convenient. Most of us learned this trick when we were small children. Can you guess what it is yet?
Wash your hands! Washing hands is a part of daily hygiene that too many people underestimate the power of. This simple action is looked over by thousands of people daily, but it is one of the most effective ways to prevent disease. Ok, you’ve heard the preaching. Now, why is it so important and effective?
Germs, or microorganisms that infect humans and use the human body to generate more infectious microorganisms, can be transmitted many ways.
- Touching dirty hands
- Changing dirty diapers
- Through contaminated water and food
- Through droplets released during a cough or a sneeze
- Via contaminated surfaces
- Through contact with a sick person's body fluids
After contact with anything that could be contaminated, a person should wash their hands with soap and running water. Germs cannot be seen by the human eye alone. Therefore no one really knows if they have germs on their hands that they could spread to someone else. Soap binds to dirt particles that could be harboring pathogens (harmful microorganisms), while the running water helps to rinse the dirt particles off, hence, why both soap and water should be used instead of just water.
If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol to clean hands. Be careful not to rely on hand sanitizer too much, and do not replace soap and water with hand sanitizer. While sanitizer is very effective for reducing the number of germs in some situations, hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty.
Moments when one should wash his or her hands:
- 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 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 or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
The last thing to remember about washing hands is that there is a right way or best way to go about hand washing. If you want to avoid getting sick. Your first step is to follow these steps.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold). Let the water run over your hands for a few seconds. Then, apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue scrubbing and lathering your hands for at least 20 seconds. This is about the time it takes to sing “happy birthday” twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Leave the water running and grab a paper towel.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
- Use the paper towel to open the bathroom door if using a public bathroom.
National Institute of Health
Center for Disease Control and Prevention