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A lot of attention is focused on hand hygiene in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and rightly so. Research shows washing your hands frequently and properly can prevent infections and the spread of germs. That holds true whether you are at work or play, or at a restaurant or in the kitchen of your own home.

Your hands are like magnets for all kinds of germs. They pick them up no matter where you go or what you do through everything you touch – pets, people, clothes, and so on. As you live life your hands collect all kinds of germs, which stick to them like glue. Scientists say if those germs get in your eyes or your mouth, they can possibly make you sick. And if you don’t wash your hands before cooking, you could contaminate your food with germs that can possibly make you sick, too. I trust you wash your hands. The question is – Do you wash them correctly?

There is a technique for hand-washing to eliminate germs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers pertinent information about proper hand hygiene, including guidelines. Brian Katzowitz, MS, a Health Communication Specialist, in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at the CDC shares great information, plus a link for five steps to handwashing. 

Why is handwashing important? 

Handwashing has been clearly shown to prevent a variety of diseases and is one of the most important ways to protect oneself and others from infections. CDC recommends washing hands with plain soap and clean, running water.  

If soap and water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used. Evidence shows handwashing can help prevent 1 in 5 respiratory illnesses and 1 in 3 diarrheal illnesses.

When should hands be washed?

While frequency will vary for each person, it’s important to wash your hands often, especially during key times when you are likely to get and spread germs. This would include before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers, after touching garbage, etc.

How long should hands be washed?

We recommend scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to time it is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. 

The five steps for hand washing webpage provides more detail – https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html.

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