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Hand hygiene can keep you healthy

By Karen Elliott: Cold and flu season is here. Are you looking for ways to keep your family healthy?

Handwashing is a simple way to prevent the spread of germs and keep everyone healthy and able to go to school, work, and other activities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, handwashing can prevent one in three cases of diarrhea and one in five respiratory infections such as cold or flu.

Soap and water are the best tools to use. If soap and water aren’t available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol should be your second choice. Baby wipes are not designed to remove germs from your hands.

Hands should be washed:

  • after using the bathroom
  • before, during, and after preparing food
  • before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • after handling pet food or pet treats
  • after touching garbage

Young children learn by watching and imitating adults, so if you make handwashing part of your routine, you are setting a good example that your children are likely to follow. Be sure to wet hands, lather your hands properly (including the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under nails), scrub for at least 20 seconds, rinse well, and dry. If you or your family members need to slow down or time themselves, try humming “Happy Birthday” twice.

Remember to make handwashing a healthy habit at home, school, work, and play. Want more help? Find a CDC handout on family handwashing or when and how to wash hands, plus more great handwashing information

Karen Elliott is the infection prevention and cardiac stress testing nurse at Community HealthCare System.


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