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Handwashing: Powerful Illness Prevention

December 3, 2017
Handwashing: it's something you do multiple times a day, every day. It's probably so ingrained into your daily routine that you rarely give it much thought. However, when done properly, it's the single most effective way to prevent the spread of germs. December 4-10 is National Handwashing Awareness Week, and also the time of year when influenza (flu) viruses in the United States start to peak. If you follow the 4 Principles of Hand Awareness, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can virtually isolate yourself from the germs people around you may be spreading:
  • Wash your hands when they are dirty, before eating, and after using the toilet.
  • Do not cough into your hands.
  • Do not sneeze into your hands.
  • Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose, or mouth.
The mucous membranes of your eyes, nose, and mouth are referred to as the T-Zone, and this zone is where the majority of diseases enter the body. In fact, for respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, it is the only portal of entry, which is why not touching this area is crucial to avoiding getting sick. If you never touched your T-Zone with a contaminated finger again, you could avoid flu, conjunctivitis, strep throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, and many more! Handwashing is very much like a "do-it-yourself" vaccine (though you should never forego your flu shot!), when these five simple and effective steps are followed:
  • Wet your hands with clean, running water
  • Lather by applying soap and rubbing hands together. Remember to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel.
There are some situations where you may find yourself without soap and water, but still need to wash your hands: food trucks, outdoor events like concerts, festivals, and fairs, or in emergencies such as water outages. Then what? Will hand sanitizer get the job done? The answer is yes if you use the SaniTwice method, developed by infection prevention specialists to help the military safely feed recruits in the desert when there is no running water.

  • Apply hand sanitizer (two pumps!)
  • Rub all over hands for 15-20 seconds (including backs and between fingers)
  • Towel wipe while hands are still wet.
  • Apply sanitizer again.
  • Air dry.
By following these simple steps for hand hygiene and sanitizing etiquette, not only are you preventing yourself from getting sick, but you're assisting in preventing epidemics and pandemics everywhere.
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