As the cold and flu season is now upon us, more people are looking for ways to fend off sickness. There are many ways to do this. Some ways include: getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising and staying hydrated. But there’s another prevention method people often forget which is really quite simple….
Washing your hands frequently and properly (Rodriguez, 2012).
Here’s the evidence:
One study was performed at a military recruit training center in Illinois (Johnson, 2012). The researchers had the recruits wash their hands at least 5 times per day (Johnson, 2012). After two years, the hand washing group had 45% fewer cases of respiratory ailments compared to the year prior to starting the program (Johnson, 2012). Another study involving college students found that the students who washed their hands frequently had fewer cold and flu symptoms (Rodriguez, 2012).
How exactly does hand washing prevent sickness?
Sickness is spread through respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes (Johnson, 2012). These droplets often fall on surfaces like cafeteria tables, keyboards and doorknobs (Johnson, 2012). Then, when you unknowingly touch your face, these germs enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth (Johnson, 2012).
What is the proper way to wash your hands?
- Wet hands with water.
- Apply soap.
- Rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds. (Include wrists, between fingers and under finger nails)
- Rings hands thoroughly and dry with a paper towel or air dryer
- In a public restroom, shut the faucet off with a paper towel and don’t touch the door handle when leaving.
It sounds simple, yet many people do not wash their hands properly and end up missing places on their hands. Here is a picture depicting commonly missed areas.
How much hand washing do I have to do?
There’s no exact number on how much is enough. It’s important to remember to wash your hands frequently throughout the day (Johnson, 2012). It is especially important to wash your hands before and after you eat, after using the bathroom, coming home from a public place, handing raw meat, and blowing your nose (Johnson, 2012). You should also wash after touching unwashed vegetables, taking out the garbage, touching your pet and changing diapers (Johnson, 2012).
Can I substitute with hand sanitizer?
Yes, an alcohol-based sanitizer can be used throughout the day if you are not near a sink (Johnson, 2012). It should be at least 60% alcohol to clean hands (Johnson, 2012). Rub the entire surface of the hands, wrists, and fingers until dry (Johnson, 2012). You should follow up with a thorough hand scrub when you are near a sink to prevent the build-up of sanitizer (Johnson, 2012).
80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch (Johnson, 2012). The CDC estimates that up to 49,000 people die from the flu or flu-like illness each year, and another 5,000 people die from food borne illness each year (Johnson, 2012). Washing your hands is a healthy habit that can prevent the spread of sickness and even death in higher risk populations, such as the elderly. Keep a bottle of sanitizer on your desk and use it frequently. Or better yet, do a thorough hand washing at a sink. You will be able to rest assured that you’re not the one spreading germs around your work or school.
Johnson, K. (2012). Prevent colds with hand washing. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/cold-
Rodriguez, D. (2012). Protect yourself to prevent colds and flu. Retrieved from