Handwashing: The Number One At-Home Germ Prevention

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nurturing Well by: Jill Starbuck

While people catch the common cold and other viruses throughout the year, back-to-school days and colder weather bring more sniffles, coughs, and scratchy throats than any other time of the year. This is also the time of year when the running debate about the efficacy and dangers of vaccines reconvenes, especially for the flu. Whether or not you receive a vaccine, you should consistently practice measures to help avoid contracting and spreading the flu or other viruses. The number one healthy practice is simply washing your hands. When performed properly, handwashing helps prevent the spread of germs, remove germs, and keep sickness at bay.
While the act of handwashing seems like a simple concept, using the proper technique will provide you with more protection. The following list outlines important aspects of proper handwashing:
1. Water temperature. Despite myths that water needs to be hot or scalding in order to kill germs, warm or cold water works just fine. Just make sure it is always clean water.
2. Duration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. A good way to time this is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
3. Timing. When you wash your hands is critical. Specific activities cause you to be more susceptible to catching an illness. Therefore, washing hands before, after, or during such activities is important. These include working around food, changing diapers or cleaning up after animals, using the toilet, touching garbage, blowing your nose, and others.
4. Cleansing agents. The best cleansing agents to use for washing your hands are simply clean water and soap. However, when these aren’t available, the CDC recommends hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content as an alternative. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers do not work as well as soap and water though.

Handwashing literally saves lives. Make a conscious effort to wash your hands properly and frequently to increase your chances of avoiding the latest bug going around.

Jill Starbuck has 20 years of experience as a business writer, editor, and market research analyst. She is a certified health coach through the Integrative Institute of Nutrition and a certified running coach through the Road Runners Club of America. She is also the co-owner of a running business. She can be reached at jillstarbuck@hotmail.com.