Each new flu season we seem to be bombarded with an endless crop of suggestions on ways to keep the bugs at bay: vitamins, herbs, sanitizers, vaccines–you name it. But the most effective way to prevent illness often gets lost in the shuffle (probably because it is so strikingly simple): Wash your hands!
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is the best way to prevent infection and illness. And imagine–it is cheap, it does not hurt the environment, and there is no question about negative implications for our own health. It is such an obvious win-win.
The CDC recommends that we wash our hands before preparing food and after handling uncooked meat and poultry, before eating, after changing diapers, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose into a tissue, and after using the bathroom–to that I would add a good wash as soon as you or your children come home from school, work, errands, playing, etc.
Here’s how to wash your hands most effectively:
- Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
- Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
- Continue rubbing hands for 15-20 seconds. (For my kids, I recommend singing a round of ABCs.)
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- When out, dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.
- Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands.