Proper Time and Way for Great Handwashing

Many of us are listening to the news and hearing the same thing: handwashing, handwashing, handwashing. For many of us, this seems like overkill. We wash our hands regularly. We wash them after the bathroom and before cooking. So, how much more do we need to wash our hands, and does it really make a difference?

During times of pandemic, handwashing is your best tool against becoming ill. Any surface can be contaminated. If you live alone, you may consider your home to be a clean space. To a certain extent, that is true. However, when you touch something outside your house, you risk bringing it inside. Even something as simple as taking the trash out to a communal garbage can or getting your mail can expose you to COVID-19. According to the National Institute of Health, COVID-19 can survive on stainless steel and plastic for up to three days. It can survive on cardboard for 24 hours. That means it could be transferred from the mail, garbage cans, door handles or your mailbox to your skin.

Americans are being told to either practice social distancing or social isolation, depending on where they live. That protects their health and the health of their communities. Every time you leave your house or touch a surface outside of your closed environment, you may come into contact with the virus. So, washing your hands every time is imperative. Hand sanitizer is hard to get, and it’s also not as effective as handwashing. It’s great if you are on the go but, if soap and water are available, washing is a much better and effective action. When you can’t access soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol.

A great video using UV light shows how germs spread from hands to face and also the best way to wash your hands. You may be surprised to find you’re not using the best method! You don’t have to scrub like a doctor heading into the operating room, but you should pay attention to your wrists. When you wipe hair away from your forehead, you may use your wrist and not your hand. Very few of us actually pay attention to how frequently we touch our faces.

Sixty-five percent of women and fifty-two percent of men have reported that they are taking more care to wash their hands since the outbreak of the pandemic. That’s heartening. The CDC says you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds — that’s singing Happy Birthday twice. It’s longer than most of us wash our hands. If you’re sick of Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton’s Jolene, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ and Toto’s Africa all have 20 second long choruses. And, the CDC stresses, drying your hands thoroughly on a clean cloth is vital as damp hands are an excellent place for germs to thrive.

While many of us might scoff at the repetition of the news recommending more frequent and thorough handwashing, it really is the best way of preventing the spread of illness. While you may keep your hands clean, there is no telling who else has touched what you’re touching. So, scrub your hands frequently, especially after leaving the house or if you stroke a pet who leaves the house.
March 27, 2020

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