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Want to Stay Healthy? Try Washing Your Hands

Dirty digits are the fastest way to communicate infectious germs, experts say


What about the fingernails? Is it necessary to use a nail brush?

Alison Pittman, a nurse and assistant professor at the College of Nursing at Texas A&M Health Sciences Center in Bryan, said you don't need a special brush to clean under your fingernails. Just be sure to get the soap and water under your nails, she advised.

Does water temperature matter?

No, said Morano. But, if you use water that's too hot, you probably won't wash long enough. It's more important to use soap for a longer period of time.

Do you need to use antibacterial soap?

"Soap and water are a good solution for dirty hands," Pittman said. "Any soap has ingredients that break the cells of the bacteria, killing them." And, if there's no soap or water available, "use an alcohol-based sanitizer that's at least 60 percent alcohol -- although these products aren't as effective if hands are visibly soiled," she said.

Do some soaps clean better than others? Should they contain specific ingredients?

Any soap will do, said Pittman.

Does a quick rinse do anything for your hands?

A quick rinse won't clean your hands. Rather, Morano said, washing for a while with soap is what gets your hands clean.

Isn't exposure to some bacteria supposed to be good for you, because it builds up resistance?

"Exposure to small amounts of germs is probably good for you, but it's unsafe to play with a jar of salmonella," Morano said. "That dose is higher than the body can deal with."

What Morano means is that no one needs to go out of their way to be exposed to germs. Everyone encounters a significant number of microbes throughout the day, and the immune system is constantly being challenged. As he said, you don't need to add to the challenge by not washing your hands.

Do hands need to be washed after gardening?

The CDC recommends washing your hands after gardening, even if you were wearing gloves, because there are bacteria and parasites in some areas of soil.

Can you get sick from touching a pet?

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