Do you know how to wash your hands? Not so fast.
As students head back to school, and flu season gears up, the chance of illness coming home to families is on the rise.
Nobody wants to sacrifice days at a time to cough syrup, runny noses and a general shutdown of family life. Luckily, there’s a simple solution: Washing hands.
People think they know how to wash their hands, said Oklahoma City-County Health Department senior public health inspector Tonya Moore. But many people are getting it wrong.
“When it comes to preventing the spread of illness, washing your hands is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do,” she said. “Correctly washing hands reduces the risk of flu, cold, food-borne illnesses and many other diseases.”
Too many people think simply rinsing their hands is enough to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, she said.
Teaching hand-washing in a community reduces the number of people who get respiratory illnesses by 21 percent and reduces the number who get sick with diarrhea by 31 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The right way
So what is the right way to wash hands?
1. Wet hands and apply soap. Regular soap works just as well as anti-bacterial.
2. Lather up and scrub for 20 to 30 seconds. Be sure to get the backs of the hands, between fingers and around the nails, where bacteria like to hide.
3. Rinse hands under clean water. Hot water is not necessary.
4. Dry hands and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door, so as not to recontaminate the hands.
What does washing really do? On each square centimeter of skin, there are about 1,500 bacteria shielded by oil, which the body produces naturally. Water and oil do not mix, which is why soap is so important.
“There’s a reason we always talk about using soap and water,” Moore said.
“When we lather up, the soap becomes an emulsifier and bonds with the oil, which helps break it up. Then, when we rinse, the excess oil and bacteria are washed away.”
The duration of lathering is important, so don’t skimp on the time, she said. To remove the greatest number of bacteria, rub the soapy lather on hands for 20 to 30 seconds — about as long as it takes to hum “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
“Hand-washing isn’t a guarantee against getting sick, but for something so easy to do, it sure can have a big impact on your family’s health,” Moore said.
Greg Elwell is a media relations development coordinator for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.
Hand-washing isn’t a guarantee against getting sick, but for something so easy to do, it sure can have a big impact on your family’s health.”
Oklahoma City-County Health Department senior public health inspector Tonya Moore,