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Hurray for Hand Hygiene!

This year, National Handwashing Awareness Week is December 2 – 8, but as we all know, clean hands should be at the forefront of our minds all year long.

Why is it so important to wash our hands? Because germs are invisible, many of them can make us and others sick, and we never know where they’re lurking. Those little buggers can literally be anywhere.

There are some obvious times to wash our hands, and according to the CDC, it’s fairly often.

  • 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 blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage.

Believe it or not, there is also a correct way to wash one’s hands; it takes five steps and at least a full minute or so if you follow the rules.

Step 1: Wet your hands with clean, hot or cold running water, turn off the water, and apply soap. (You may consider this to be several steps, but we’re still only counting it as one.)

Step 2: Lather your hands by rubbing them all over with the soap, making sure to lather the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. (Again, it seems like more than one step, but let’s call “hand-lathering” one step.)

Step 3: Scrub your hands for 20 seconds. An easy way to time yourself is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself twice from beginning to end. Note: You may improvise here and either hum or sing the words out loud if you’d rather.

Step 4: Rinse the soap off of your hands completely using clean, running water.

Step 5: Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry them. Recent publicity surrounding whether or not hot air hand dryers are sanitary has caused people to rethink that habit and opt for old-fashioned paper towels.

The bottom line is good hand hygiene is the best defense against illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses. Not only will it help keep you healthy, but can keep others healthy as well.

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