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The Single Best Way to Prevent Illness

The Single Best Way to Prevent Illness

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.

Read about what type of soap to avoid here: The Trouble with Triclosan in Your Soap
Read about making your own homemade all-natural hand sanitizer here: Theive’s Oil Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Read more: Children, General Health, Health, Natural Remedies, , , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

66 comments

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1:44PM PST on Mar 1, 2013

Hardly original, but I find men are far worse than women for not washing their hands when preparing food or after blowing their nose or using the toilet.Do us all a favour men and don't spread your germs to the rest of us okay?

8:08AM PST on Dec 8, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

6:10AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Wash your hands is so simple! It's too bad a lot of people don't do it, and then they spread their germs to infect others!!

6:28AM PDT on Nov 3, 2011

thanks for the info

4:54PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Great ideas that I have used for years.

4:05PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

I use a good vegan, natural soap, that wont dry the skin like Castille soap.

2:49AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

So nice to see something so basic presented here, without touting the use of special products or other substances.

Thank you!

11:58AM PDT on Sep 10, 2011

interesting...thanks

3:07AM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Don't use antibacterial soaps and drying your hands properly are just as important as washing your hands properly.

9:14AM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

noted, thanks.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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