December 4th through 10th is national handwashing week! No matter where you are, practicing hand hygiene is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from germs that can make you sick.
Cover your cough and sneeze the right way.
The primary way viral respiratory illnesses spread is through person-to-person contact via the infectious respiratory droplets found in a cough or sneeze. You might be surprised to learn that a typical human sneeze or cough can exit the body at around 200 miles per hour and emit more than 40,000 droplets into the air.
When those respiratory droplets are filled with infectious viral particles, it’s easy to see how illness spreads. So, covering your cough or sneeze is a great way to protect other people from getting sick – but how you cover it matters.
The best way to cover a cough or sneeze is to grab a tissue, cough into the tissue, and then personally throw the tissue away. If you don’t have access to tissue, use the crook of your elbow to contain your cough or sneeze. You should never use your bare hands. You use them to shake hands, open doors, and do many other things that can spread germs.
Wash your hands regularly and especially before eating.
You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs. These include after using the bathroom; after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose; after going outside; after touching animals or their cages; before eating; and when your hands look dirty.
You can tell when your hands are in need of a wash once you get used to frequent hand washing, because you’ll recognize the difference between freshly clean hands and not so fresh hands.
A quick rinse under warm water is not enough either. The key to washing your hands is to make sure you thoroughly clean all surfaces and areas of your hands, fingers, and wrists with soap.
Remember these five steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to follow the same steps.
Avoid touching your face with your hands.
Today, you likely rubbed your eyes, scratched your nose, wiped away a crumb from your mouth, smoothed over your temples—or something in between. In fact, you’ve probably touched your face dozens, if not hundreds of times, without realizing it.
We all do it. We touch our faces countless times every day. However, touching your face can significantly increase the risk of infection with flu or other viruses. The more often you do so, the more likely it is you will transmit a germ on your hands from a surface you touched onto your face, where it will enter your body and begin to make you sick.
Your mouth, nose, and eyes are the only portal of entry into the human body for all respiratory infections and all it takes is touching them with a finger already carrying an infection.
People touch their faces for lots of different reasons, so the first step to reducing your face-touching is identifying what part of your face you touch the most and why.
Maintaining clean hands and avoiding contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth helps keep you and those around you healthy.