5 Tips for Washing Your Hands the Right Way

Ward Off Viruses with This Proven Method

In general terms, we know that keeping our hands clean means fewer germs infiltrate our bodies’ thresholds. But what is the science behind it? How does it work?

Illnesses like Coronavirus (COVID-19) and influenza thrive on contact from person to person, or person to surface to person. People often touch their eyes, nose or mouth without thinking. This is the point of entry for germs, which causes us to become sick.

HSHS Infection Prevention Manager to the Rescue

“These viruses are shared through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes,” said Sue Galoff, infection prevention manager at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals. “If the droplets don’t land in the mouths or noses of people nearby, or inhaled into the lungs, they can land on surfaces and live for a period of time.”

In that way, viruses can be spread easily from doorknob to hand to mouth, nose or eye.

“Although it’s not thought to be the main way Coronavirus or Influenza is spread, it is still possible,” Galoff said. “Other illnesses are spread this way as well, which is why hand washing is imperative to good health.”

It’s never too late to start washing your hands the right way, Galoff said. “If you don’t wash your hands on a regular basis, start,” she said. “And if you are, the way you’re doing it might not be as effective as you think.”

Five Tips for Effective Hand Washing

TIP 1: Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap. Turning off the faucet after wetting hands saves water, and there are few data to prove whether significant numbers of germs are transferred between hands and the faucet.

TIP 2: Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes from skin. Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails, so the entire hand should be scrubbed.

TIP 3: Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice or sing the “ABC” song slowly once. Evidence suggests that washing hands for about 15-30 seconds removes more germs from hands than washing for shorter periods.

TIP 4: Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Soap and friction help lift dirt, grease, and microbes — including disease-causing germs — from skin so they can then be rinsed off of hands.

TIP 5: Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands; therefore, hands should be dried after washing.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov.


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