Monday, September 27, 2010

How Important Is Hand Washing?

You’ve heard it a thousand times: Washing your hands is an important step in both avoiding illness and preventing the spread of germs to others. What you may not have heard is this: Proper hand washing decreases your chances of getting sick by 50 percent. No one is advocating you become a germaphobe and wash your hands a hundred times a day; that 50 percent can be achieved by washing five to six times a day for 20 seconds, about the same time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
Washing your hands is important year-round, but even more so as the cold and flu season approaches. And it’s not only colds and flu to consider – proper hand washing can help prevent hepatitis A, meningitis, and other serious illnesses.
So, when to wash? Obviously every time you use the bathroom, before and after meals, and after you cough, sneeze and/or blow your nose. Here are some other occasions to wash that you may not have considered:

• After shopping, especially grocery shopping.
• After changing diapers.
• After playing outdoors and/or with pets and your pet’s toys.
• After handling money.
• After using a computer in a public place – the library, for example.
• After reading magazines or newspapers in the work break room or doctor’s office.
• After using shared office equipment such as fax machines, or using a coworker’s keyboard or mouse.
• After visiting a petting zoo or any venue that allows human/animal interaction.
• After touching another person’s cell phone.
• Before and after food preparation – not just with raw meat, but fish, eggs, produce, fruit, canned goods, everything.
• Before and after handling contact lenses.
• Before and after tending to someone who is sick.
• Before and after treating a cut or wound.
And yes – after shaking hands with someone. Not that you’re going to shake hands and immediately run to the restroom! But until you’re able to wash, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here’s to this easy ounce of prevention!

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