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Hand Washing Remains Best Step in Fighting Colds and Flu

Did you wash your hands? It's a question we are used to asking our children, but it is a question we should constantly ask ourselves. Hand washing remains the single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others.

As children and adults, our hands carry millions of microbes. Most are harmless, but many cause illnesses such as colds and flu.

We can also pick up germs from objects and surfaces, such as doorknobs and stair railings touched by other people who are not properly washing their hands. Think about all the things you touch each day and how many people may have touched them before you. It's easy for a germ on your hands to end up in your mouth. Think about how many foods you eat with your hands.

When we do not wash our hands properly, we spread these germs to other people, or give them to ourselves by touching our eyes, mouths, noses or open wounds on our bodies.

So when are the best times to wash your hands?

  • Before eating or touching food (like if you're helping cook or bake, for example)
  • After using the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose or coughing
  • After touching pets or other animals
  • After playing outside
  • After visiting a sick relative or friend

How long should it take to effectively wash your hands?

Effective hand washing takes 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing two choruses of "Happy Birthday."

What is the proper hand-washing technique?

  1. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should use the following technique:
  2. Hands should be washed using soap and warm, running water.
  3. Hands should be rubbed vigorously during washing for at least 20 seconds with special attention paid to the backs of the hands, wrists, between the fingers and under the fingernails.
  4. Hands should be rinsed well while leaving the water running.
  5. With the water running, hands should be dried with a single-use towel.
  6. Turn off the water using a paper towel, covering washed hands to prevent recontamination.

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