Use Your Hands to Protect Your Health

October 04, 2017

The simplest thing you can do to protect you and your family from dangerous infections is to wash your hands, thoroughly and often, says NorthBay Healthcare Infection Prevention Program Manager Mercille Locke.  

Everyone is susceptible to the bacteria, viruses and other germs spread by unwashed hands, but few of us wash enough.  In fact, research shows that while more than 90 percent of adults say they wash their hands every time after using the toilet, less than 50 percent actually do when observed.

Many outbreaks of food borne illness are traced to unwashed hands and most colds are spread through germs on people’s hands. Germs are spread every time you touch a doorknob, press an elevator button, shake hands, or pet a dog or cat. Once the germs are on your hands, all it takes is for you to rub your eyes, nose or mouth and the bacteria are spread.

Thorough hand washing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infection and disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And, study after study shows that people who thoroughly and frequently wash their hands are healthier.

To wash your hands correctly, use hot or warm running water and thoroughly coat your hands with soap (avoid the anti-bacterial variety). Rub hands together for at least 20 seconds, working up a thick lather.

“If you sing “Happy Birthday” twice while you wash, you’ve passed the 20 second mark,” Mercille said.

Wash the back of your hands, palms, between your fingers, thumbs, and under your fingernails, and then rinse with warm water. Pat your hands dry, beginning at the wrist and moving down.

For times when you don’t have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Keep cars, backpacks, golf bags and other areas stocked with a supply.

Although it's impossible to keep your hands germ-free, there are times when washing your hands is absolutely critical to your health and the health of those around you.

Always clean your hands:

  • Before eating
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper
  • Before and after preparing food
  • After touching animals or animal waste
  • After blowing your nose
  • After coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • After handling money
  • Before and after treating wounds or cuts
  • Before and after touching a sick or injured person
  • After handling garbage
  • Before inserting or removing contact lenses
  • When you arrive at work or school
  • When you arrive home

Clean hands save lives.




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