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Make handwashing a healthy habit

JANELL LEWIS

Handwashing can help prevent illness in just five simple steps: wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry. With these five simple steps, you reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses. Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others. Handwashing is simple, quick and can keep us all from getting sick.

You can help yourself and loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during the following key times, when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Germs can get on your hands by direct contact, but also by touching an object that has germs on it, because someone coughed or sneezed on it or it was touched by some other contaminated object. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.

Proper handwashing is important when it comes to preventing the spread of disease amongst your family, workplace and community. Washing your hands is simple and can be done correctly with these five simple steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Lather the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice)
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer.

Water and soap is the best way to prevent the spread of disease, but if you don’t have access to water and soap, the next best thing is alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make sure pay attention to the product label and choose hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer can help reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations, however,

  • hand sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs.
  • Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
  • Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.
  • Proper handwashing is crucial when it comes to preventing the spread of disease. Help protect you, your children and your loved ones by practicing correct hand washing.

For more information regarding the prevention of disease and proper handwashing, contact the Beaufort County Health Department at 252-946-1902, or visit www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html .

JaNell Lewis MPH, human services planner IV/preparedness coordinator for the Beaufort County Public Health Department, can be reached at 252-940-5090 or Janell.lewis@bchd.net.