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Handwashing can keep you healthy

Learn how and when to wash your hands.

Are you worried about catching a cold or the flu this season? Don't throw your hands up. Put them together and scrub.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from seasonal illness.

How sickness spreads

Cold and flu germs spread through the coughs and sneezes of infected people. This means that touching surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops and desks could put you at risk. But taking just a few simple steps can help protect your health.

Whether you're sick or not, always use a tissue or your elbow to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. And wash your hands often.

Handwashing 101

Washing your hands probably seems simple enough. Our mothers have been after us to do it ever since we were small. But when it comes to keeping palms and fingers germ-free, CDC offers these tricks of the trade:

  • Rub your hands together with soap under warm water for at least 20 seconds. This is long enough to sing or hum the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
  • Be sure to wash everywhere: wrists, palms, backs of hands, fingers and under the fingernails.
  • Rinse the soap from your hands and dry them completely with a clean towel or paper towel. Pat your hands dry to avoid chapping and cracking. If your hands get dry and irritated, moisturizer can help.

Washing without water

Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol so you can clean your hands when soap and water aren't available. Apply the recommended amount to one palm and rub your hands together until they're dry, which should take about 20 seconds.

When to wash

Try to keep your hands clean as much as possible throughout the day. According to CDC, you'll definitely want to wash them:

  • Before preparing or eating food.
  • After handling uncooked meat or fish.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • After changing diapers.
  • Before and after coming in contact with someone who's sick.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.
  • After handling garbage or animal waste.

Keep 'em clean

Make sure children wash their hands regularly too. According to CDC, colds are the main reason children miss school. But good, simple health habits such as washing hands can protect kids from getting sick.

Reviewed 2/15/2024

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