Hand washing and hand sanitizers reduce the spread of germs.
Hand washing is simple to do and is the best way to prevent infection and its spread because your hands are constantly coming into contact with germ-laden surfaces and transferring those germs to your eyes, nose and mouth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, here’s when to wash your hands:
• Before preparing or eating food
• After going to the bathroom
• After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone to the bathroom
• Before and after tending to someone who is sick
• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
• After handling an animal or animal waste
• After handling garbage
• Before and after treating a cut or wound
Those recommendations are pretty straightforward and obvious. Less obvious, however, is that common surfaces are loaded with germs and you come into contact with them all day. Recent studies have shown that the worst offenders are things like refrigerator door handles, TV remotes, doorknobs, telephones, light switches, faucets, even salt and pepper shakers. With many people touching these things one after another leaving their germs behind, it’s easy for you to pick one up and infect yourself the next time your hands unconsciously stray to your face. So frequent hand washing throughout the day is critical.
Here’s the CDC advice on how to wash your hands:
• Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
• Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
• Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing “Happy Birthday” twice through to a friend!
• Rinse hands well under running water
Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet
. If soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Some people wonder if overuse of alcohol sanitizers could be a problem similar to the overuse of antibiotics, which is known to promote bacterial resistance. The good news is that alcohol sanitizers do not cause resistance, they work differently than antibiotics and therefore can be used as often as your sensitive skin allows (some alcohol hand sanitizers have skin-sparing ingredients like aloe built in).
Here’s the CDC on how to use hand sanitizers:
• Apply product to the palm of one hand
• Rub hands together
• Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry
In addition to keeping your hands clean, remember to cover your coughs and sneezes. And don’t cough or sneeze into your hands (and if you do, wash them after). Rather, cough or sneeze into the crux of your elbow, keeping the germs away from your hands and reducing the airborne spread of germ-filled droplets. Or use a disposable tissue if one is handy. It is not recommend repeatedly using a pocket handkerchief, which are just germ reservoirs.