Face masks, working from home and social distancing at the grocery store might have once seemed out of place. Within weeks of the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States, however, they were common across the country.
COVID-19 has given Americans a crash course on how to prevent the spread of illnesses. While face masks are a visible reminder of the effort, one of the most important things people can do is wash their hands.
Washing hands can help prevent many diseases, but it is not always done correctly. One observational study found that people were not washing their hands as they should 97 percent of the time.
Keeping your hands clean and staying healthy requires a regimen of not only hand washing, but hand drying, hand sanitizing and avoiding face touching as well.
Wash your hands
Washing your hands not only helps you to avoid getting sick, but it can also stop the spread of germs to people around you as well. Clean your hands with running water and soap for 20 seconds. Get a good lather and scrub your hands all over, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. Germs can hide under nails, so don’t leave those areas out of your routine.
“Washing your hands with soap is a simple action, but it is easy to do it wrong if you aren’t paying attention,” says Dan Bushnell, administrator at Gramercy Court Assisted Living. “A splash-and-go approach won’t kill germs effectively, so take the time to follow all the recommended steps to really clean your hands.”
Don’t forget to dry
After washing, dry your hands with a clean towel. Drying your hands after you wash isn’t just for your comfort; germs spread more easily on wet hands, so drying off after a good wash is an essential part of the job. Researchers have found that drying removes additional bacteria, so don’t just shake your hands and call it done.
Hand sanitizer works too
If you just finished a messy hamburger and your hands are covered in sauce, hand sanitizer won’t be much help. If your hands aren’t visibly dirty, however, hand sanitizer can be a good substitute when you can’t wash with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and remember to rub the sanitizer on all surfaces of your hands.
Don’t touch your face
Now that you’ve read all these tips, you’re undoubtedly a pro at washing your hands. However, that doesn’t mean you are free to keep touching your face all the time. It’s natural to touch your mouth or eyes without really noticing, but this can give germs an easy way to get into your body. Make a conscious effort to stop touching your face to double down on keeping the germs away.
When it comes to avoiding illnesses, it is difficult to control whether you get sick. Washing your hands is one method of infection prevention that you can control, and it is very effective — wash, dry, sanitize and don’t touch your face. Doing so will step up your washing game and help stop the spread of germs.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.