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The Importance of Proper Handwashing

Did you know that the first week in December is National Handwashing Awareness week?  This campaign encourages adults to make proper handwashing a part of their everyday life and encourages parents to teach their children to do the same.

Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and people frequently touch these areas of the body with their hands without even realizing it making handwashing an essential part of our daily hygiene.

Follow these five steps from the CDC to help prevent the spread of germs:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

There is a lot of science behind these recommendations, so be sure to follow these steps every time you wash your hands.

There are times when soap and water are not available, so an alternative is to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Most of us were taught as youngsters to wash our hands before meals, but clean hands prevent illness so it’s important to do especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can greatly reduce this risk.  It is estimated that proper handwashing with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50% and reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16%.

You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often. Learning the basics of hand hygiene can help you become a champion hand washer!

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