Wash your hands, because it’s gross if you don’t! (And it might make you sick)

Given the news we recently heard that something like a quarter of all cooks don’t wash their hands, and the fact that we’re in the middle of flu season, it’s time for our annual plea and reminder about how important it is to frequently wash your hands. It’s truly one of the best things you can do (besides getting immunized) to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to others.

Let’s start with the basics. When should you wash your hands?

You should wash them after using the bathroom and when you are preparing food or are getting ready to eat. You should also wash up before and after caring for someone who is sick, after changing a diaper, after touching an animal, and after blowing your nose or coughing or sneezing into your hands.

Is there a right way to wash your hands?

Wash your hands

Wash your hands often with soap and water, but especially after going to the bathroom and before you eat.

This might seem like overkill, but to effectively kill germs and get clean, there are five steps to washing your hands: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, and Dry. You should use soap and water and vigorously rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, which also is the length of the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end, twice. Hum it while you scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails each time you wash to make sure you get rid the germs.

What if soap and water isn’t available?

If there is water but no soap, it’s still helpful to rinse your hands. Even better, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol in it also will kill germs. Rub the sanitizer all over your hands and fingers until they are dry. Just keep in mind that they don’t get rid of ALL the germs. Wash with soap and water when you can.

Why is the alcohol important in hand sanitizer?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hand sanitizers that contain 60-95 percent alcohol kill more germs than those with lower amounts of alcohol. Non-alcohol-based sanitizers may not work as well for certain kinds of germs.

Does hand-washing really protect us from colds and flu?

It certainly helps. The very best way to prevent flu is to get the yearly flu vaccine, but there is no vaccine for the viruses that cause common colds, so we have to try to keep those viruses away from our nose and throat with clean hands. In addition to cold and flu viruses, hand washing also helps protect against germs that cause meningitis, some kinds of viral hepatitis, and infectious diarrhea. Think about all the things you touched today that others also touched. You probably picked up some germs along the way that could make you sick. Every time you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, which are gateways into your system, you could get sick.

(A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the one from Dec. 3.) 

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