Handy tips for hand-washing

By Emily Miller • Published: December 6th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The last gift you want to give your friends this holiday season is a cold. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness is by washing your hands. And what better time to put your hand-washing skills to the test than during Handwashing Awareness Week in December.

Although there is no wrong time to wash your hands, there are certainly times where the soapy practice is a must. Make sure to wash your hands before and after preparing food, while caring for someone who is sick and when treating a cut or wound. Also, give your hands a good scrub before eating, and after activities like using the toilet, changing diapers, blowing your nose or handling animals. It’s also a good idea to scrub up after you take out the trash.

To wash your hands properly, wet your hands with clean, running water and bring on the soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well, getting the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Continue scrubbing for at least 20 seconds or the time it takes you to hum the entire “Happy Birthday” song twice. Rinse your hands well, and dry them with a clean towel.

No nearby soap and clean, running water? Not to worry. Although washing your hands with soap and water is best, another option is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. In some situations, these hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands. However, sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs, and they are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty.

This December, spread holiday cheer without spreading icky germs by washing your hands often … and properly.