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Wash Your Way to Wellness

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

November not only brings with it that national day of overeating known as Thanksgiving, it also ushers in flu season. If you don't want to spend turkey day coughing, sneezing and aching all over, ATRIO Health Plans wants you to know that – aside from getting a flu shot – one of the most effective means of fighting the flu is the simple act of washing your hands.

Here's why:

  • People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it. Germs enter through our eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Germs from unwashed hands also can land on food and drinks.
  • Unwashed hands additionally can transfer germs to other objects, such as handrails, table tops, or toys; whoever touches these objects will likely walk away with unwanted germs.

When to Wash

Throughout the day and night, there are numerous points where handwashing is a must. Dividing these critical junctures into the categories of “before” and “after” should help keep hand washing top-of-mind.

Specifically, you should wash your hands before:

  • during, and after preparing food;
  • eating food;
  • and after caring for someone who is sick;
  • and after treating a cut or wound.

Also, you should wash your hands after:

  • using the restroom;
  • changing diapers or cleaning a child who has used the bathroom;
  • blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing;
  • touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste;
  • handling garbage.

Hone your Handwashing Skills

While washing your hands would seem to be, literally, a just-add-water skill, there are a series of steps that should be followed. These include:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. Contrary to some claims, hot water is not more effective. Further, the temperature at which humans can withstand hot water is not sufficient to kill germs or microorganisms;
  • Rub your hands together to create a lather; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails;
  • Continue washing your hands for at least 20 seconds; if you prefer not to count, simply sing the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end, twice;
  • Rinse your hands well under running water;
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel, paper towel, or air dry.

Whenever possible, opt for soap and water, as that’s the best way to reduce germs. If soap and water aren’t available, the next best bet is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, sanitizers don’t eliminate all types of germs. Additionally, hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty.

Keep Germs to Yourself

Central to containing the spread of germs, is knowing what not to do. With that goal in mind, do not:

  1. cough into your hands;
  1. sneeze into your hands;
  1. put your fingers into your eyes, nose, or mouth.

With germ-free hands, you can now pat yourself on the back.