Keeping your hands clean

Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, February 2, 2005

By By Carolyn Bivins Extension Agent
Clean Hands Help
What's the single most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness? Cleaning your hands reports the centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In both school and business settings, hand washing is especially important in keeping kids in class and folks at work.
Each year, nearly 22 million school days and office days are lost due to the common cold. Bacteria including Salmonella and certain strains of E. coli can live for up to two hours on cafeteria tables, doorknobs, computer keyboards, etc. The good news is that frequent and proper hand cleaning prevents the spread of bacteria among the entire community.
By frequently washing your hands you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people, or from contaminated surfaces, or from animals and animal waste.
What happens if you do not wash your hands frequently? You pick up germs from other sources and then you infect yourself when you: Touch your eyes, your nose or your mouth.
One of the most common ways people catch colds is by rubbing their nose or their eyes after their hands have been contaminated with the cold virus.
You can also spread germs directly to others or onto surfaces that other people touch. And before you know it, everybody around you is getting sick.
The important thing to remember is that, in addition to colds, some pretty serious diseases - like hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea - can easily be prevented if people make a habit of washing their hands properly.
When should you wash your hands?
You should wash your hands often. Probably more often than you do now because you can't see germs with the naked eye or smell them, so you do not really know where they are hiding.
It is especially important to wash your hands:
Before eating, drinking or snacking; before preparing and serving food; after you use the bathroom; after handling animals or animal waste; after coughing or sneezing; when caring, tending to, someone sick or injured and after handling garbage
What is the correct way to wash your hands?
First wet your hands with warm running water and apply liquid, bar soap or powder soap;
Next rub your hands vigorously together to make lather, and scrub all surfaces and between the fingers;
Continue for 15 -20 seconds or about the length it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" tune. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs;
Rinse well under running water;
Dry hands thoroughly using paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use paper towels to turn off faucet and then to open the door. Be sure to discard paper towel in trash can.
Remind your love ones that every trip to the bathroom should end with washing their hands. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based wipes or gel formulas are effective for cleaning hands.
It is estimated that one out of three people do not wash their hands after using the restroom. So these tips are also important when you are out in public.
Washing your hands regularly can certainly save a lot on medical bills.
Because it costs less than a penny, you could say that this penny's worth of prevention can save you a $50 visit to the doctor.
Source: Cleaning Matter; September, October 2004, Soap and Detergent Association

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