To stay healthy, you have to take things into your own hands -- literally. Washing your hands regularly is one of the best ways to fend off sickness.
Germs can live for hours or even days on surfaces. If someone coughs on a handle and then you grab it, the virus can spread onto your hands. You can infect yourself by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Soap traps these germs, and water rinses them away. Although it seems simple enough, research shows that 97% of Americans don’t wash their hands correctly. To scrub up the right way, teach your family to follow these steps:
- Wet your hands with warm or cold water. (Hot water can dry out your skin.)
- Apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to create a lather. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and underneath your fingernails.
- Scrub your hands for 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
- Rinse your hands beneath clean, running water.
- Shake your hands a few times. Then dry with a clean towel or hand dryer.
When to Wash
Make handwashing a habit in your family. Remind everyone to hit the sink during these times.
- Touching your mouth, eyes, or nose, or a cut or scrape
- Using the bathroom
- Playing on playground equipment
- Touching pets or pet food
- Handling garbage
Hand Sanitizer Dos and Don’ts
Washing with soap and water is the best way to clean your hands. But if you’re not near a sink, hand sanitizers are a good option. Alcohol-based sanitizers can destroy many of the germs that make you sick -- if you use them correctly.
DO look for sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol. Research shows these sanitizers work better than those with lower amounts of alcohol.
DON’T use sanitizer on dirty or greasy hands. The sanitizer won’t be as effective.
DO apply enough sanitizer. Cover the fronts and backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails. Check the label; most brands recommend an amount that’s about the size of a quarter.
DO rub your hands until they’re dry. Put the sanitizer in the palm of one hand. Then rub for about 20 seconds, or until your hands are dry.
DON’T wipe, rinse, or wave your hands. Wiping or rinsing off the sanitizer can make it less effective. Waving your hands exposes them to any germs in the air.
DON’T leave sanitizers in the reach of children. A few swallows can lead to alcohol poisoning.
DO still wash with soap and water. Sanitizers don’t remove all kinds of harmful germs, so you should scrub up as soon as you can.
Hygiene at Home
You share many things with your family, but sickness doesn’t have to be one of them. To prevent the spread of germs, step up your cleaning routine. Viruses, such as the flu, can live for up to 2 days on surfaces, so it’s important to disinfect regularly. These steps can help keep your household healthy:
- Use the right products. Look for cleaners that destroy cold and flu viruses. Or make your own by mixing 1/3 cup bleach with a gallon of water.
- Clean and sanitize. Wash surfaces with soap and warm water. Then use your disinfecting cleaner as directed. Or wipe with a bleach solution and let air-dry.
- Disinfect high-touch areas often. These include door handles, light switches, faucets, and toilets.
- Wipe down phones, remote controls, tablets, and keyboards. These electronics are often teeming with germs. Check with the manufacturer on how clean them. Or use an alcohol wipe or 70% alcohol spray and dry completely.
- Assign toiletries. Make sure everyone uses their own towel, razor, cup, and toothbrush.