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Handwashing in a sink

4 Important Facts About Hand Washing

It’s still cold and flu season, which means that you likely have a higher risk of getting sick if you and those around you don’t practice proper hygiene.

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to lower your risk of spreading or coming into contact with germs that can make you sick, but for too many people it isn’t common practice. Here are a few reasons hand washing is so important and the proper way to do it.

Protection from Infections

Hand washing is critical for seniors who may have compromised immune systems that make them more likely to get an infection. Caregivers also need to make sure they properly wash their hands, especially if they’ve just come from outside, used the bathroom or been in a high-traffic public area like a grocery store, bank or workplace. Seniors who may have ailments that require cleaning, dressing a wound or changing a bandage should make sure their hands are completely clean to reduce their risk of infection. Caregivers should do the same, as well.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

The best, though impractical answer, to this question is “all the time.” But that’s not always possible. You should wash your hands whenever you come into contact with a surface or object that increases your exposure to germs. If you’ve recently prepared or eaten food or taken out the garbage, you should wash your hands. If you’ve changed a diaper, picked up after a pet or used the bathroom, you should wash your hands. If you’re sick or are caring for someone who is, you should wash your hands whenever you or that person sneezes, coughs or touches their face.

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

Just running your hands under cold water isn’t enough. Proper hand washing ideally includes warm water, soap, a lather and scrub. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using soap, lathering up and scrubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers and underneath your nails for at least 20 seconds total. After that, you should rinse your hands with clean water and completely dry them using either a towel or the air dry method.

What About Hand Sanitizers?

These products are just as good as soap at killing infection-causing viruses and bacteria, especially if you don’t have immediate access to a sink to wash your hands. All you need is a half teaspoon of these products to protect your hands from germs, so it’s a good idea to carry them in your purse or pocket.

Hand washing is your best defense against germs. Proper hand washing takes mere seconds, and that’s not a big time investment to reduce your chances of getting sick. So, wash your hands and do it often.

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