The act of washing your hands seems so simple. In fact, many take it for granted until cold and flu season strikes or a new infectious threat emerges. But this simple act has proven to be a valuable weapon against the spread of germs and infectious diseases.
Our hands may look clean, but they pick up germs all over the place. During cold and flu season, or during infectious outbreaks, we may come into contact with the tiny, germ-filled droplets from other people's coughs and sneezes. Handling food exposes us to microbes, and we touch so many shared objects throughout the day – elevator buttons, stair rails, doorknobs, subway poles, grocery carts, telephones, keyboards. And it's not for nothing that we're taught to wash our hands well after using the restroom.
Combine our germ exposure with our human tendency to touch our face, shake hands, give hugs, and otherwise be social, and we end up spreading and sharing our germs.
Effective hand-washing or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will rid our hands of most germs and reduce our risk to ourselves and others. What does a proper hand-washing look like?
- Wet your hands and wrists with warm water.
- Rub regular soap into your hands. Intertwine your fingers and rub in between them. Rub the back of each hand with the opposite palm, paying attention to the knuckles and nails. Rub each thumb by gripping it with the opposite hand. Do the same with your wrists. Lather all surfaces of your hands for 15 seconds – or long enough to sing through the song "Happy Birthday."
- Rinse your hands and wrists thoroughly, rubbing them under warm running water.
- Gently wipe and dry your hands with a clean towel, paper towel, or air drier.
- Use a paper towel to turn off the tap. The same towel can be reused to open the door so you don't pick up any bacteria or viruses from the door handle.