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Tap into the truth about washing your hands during National Handwashing Awareness Week

by Author Name | Original pub date

It’s National Handwashing Awareness Week. Yes, that’s right: Handwashing is so important to preventing the spread of disease that there’s a whole week dedicated to it.

In a hospital setting, washing hands saves lives. In settings that we’re all accustomed to — work, school, at they gym, out shopping — it is the single most important thing we can do to prevent getting (or giving) a cold or the flu, according to Stephanie Kreiling, infection control director at Baylor Scott & White Health in Fort Worth.

Here, Kreiling offers more advice about handwashing.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before eating.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick.
  • Before and after using the bathroom, helping a child use the bathroom, or changing a diaper.
  • After petting an animal or handling animal waste.
  • After handing pet food or pet treats.
  • After touching garbage.

How should you wash your hands?

  • Wet hands thoroughly (warm or cold water is fine) and apply soap.
  • Rub hands together to create a lather; rub vigorously for at least 20 seconds, covering all surfaces of the hands and fingers. (Need a timer? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that you hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.)
  • Rinse thoroughly under a stream of water.
  • Use a disposable towel to turn off the faucet and discard the towel into a wastebasket.

Is a hand sanitizer a good alternative?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, with at least 60 percent alcohol, are effective at killing most harmful germs on hands. But if your hands actually look dirty, you should wash them with soap and water.

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