Hand-Washing 101

If you really want to ward off cold and flu bugs this season, here’s the definitive lesson in Hand-Washing 101. This comes from USA Today.

  • First, know this: 80% of infections are passed on by touch, so hand-washing is the #1 way to prevent infection. In fact, frequent hand-washing makes you 24% less likely to catch a respiratory illness, and half as likely to get a stomach bug.
  • Hand-washing is not just for restroom visits. Any time you touch something that other people frequently touch, you should wash your hands. That includes microwave and elevator buttons, gas pumps and ATM machines, and the restaurant menu you just ordered from.
  • Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control, when it comes to hand-washing, water isn’t the most important thing. It’s the soap and the friction – which separates the bacteria from your skin so it washes down the drain. So, scrub vigorously with water and soap until lather appears, making sure to get between your fingers and under your fingernails. Then, dry briskly with a towel, which helps remove even more bacteria.
  • Also, a proper hand-washing takes 20 seconds. However, studies show that the average person spends just 11 seconds and two out of three people don’t use soap.
  • Isn’t a hand dryer more hygienic than a paper towel? Nope. The machines can harbor colonies of bacteria, and blow them all over your clean hands. Since hand-dryers are so slow, some people don’t bother to wash their hands if that’s the only option. Still, experts say you’re better off washing your hands and drying them on your jeans than not washing them all.
  • Finally, do alcohol hand-sanitizers really clean your hands? Not exactly. Dr. Michael Smith, WebMD’s chief medical editor, says that soap and water help dislodge dirt, bacteria and viruses, but the gels only kill some germs. The rest simply get spread around your hands. Still, if alcohol gel is all you’ve got, it’s better than nothing.

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