Woman washing hands.
Multiple times a day, every day, for most of your life you performed the act of washing your hands. And if you are like 95% of Americans, you’ve been doing it wrong. According to Michigan State University, only 5% of people actually wash their hands correctly. During cold and flu season this is nothing to make light of.
The average person touches their face anywhere from fifteen to twenty-three times per hour. And, on average, only washes their hands about 10 times per day. This leaves hundreds of opportunities daily to transfer bacteria and viruses from work surfaces, home surfaces, and the people in our lives directly to our nose and mouth.
So before you find yourself taking sick days from work or spreading germs to your loved ones during the holidays, here are some top tips for how to limit germ exposure – and most importantly, the right way to wash your hands.
STEP 1: Thoroughly wet your hands with clean, running water. Then turn off the tap and apply soap.
STEP 2: Lather all parts of your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Don’t miss any spots. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
STEP 3: Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Darting in and out doesn’t cut it. Need a timer to know how long 20 seconds is? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
STEP 4: Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
STEP 5: Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Paper towels are recommended because of the act of wiping away germs.
These five steps may seem simple enough, but 95% of people don’t thoroughly cover their hands in soap and don’t wash long enough to effectively kill germs. It’s important to wash all of your hands and spend at least 20 seconds on the task. But in addition, here are a few more tips and tricks for staying healthy.
– Stop Touching Yourself. It can be hard to break habits, but as often as you can try not to put your hands on your face. This will limit the opportunities you have for transferring bacteria and viruses to your nose and mouth.
– Hot water or cold water? According to the Food and Drug Administration it doesn’t matter. Hot water that we can handle isn’t hot enough to kill bacteria, so there is no benefit to using hot water over lukewarm or cold water.
– Is hand sanitizer just as good? No. Soap and water is best. However, hand sanitizer is a decent alternative under certain circumstances when you don’t have soap and water available.
– Hand Sanitizer has its own rules. Since it doesn’t require water, it is an acceptable alternative when soap and water aren’t available. But make sure your hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol. Then Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
– Don’t have soap or sanitizer? Wet wipes can be an alternative when you’re on the go. Winter is an ideal time to keep a pack with you for convenience. They can also be used to wipe down surfaces you may touch or rest your things on.
– Always wash your hands BEFORE: Preparing food or eating, treating wounds or caring for a sick person, or inserting or removing contact lenses.
– Always wash your hands AFTER: Preparing food, using the toilet, changing a diaper or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet, touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, treating wounds or caring for a sick person, handling garbage, and handling pet food or pet treats.