As people rush around during the holiday season and the weather grows colder, it’s important to stay healthy and avoid germs, as this is a prime time for spreading infections.
One way to reduce the risk of catching the flu, common cold or viruses is to practice healthful habits, such as washing your hands regularly.
National Handwashing Awareness Week is Monday through Dec. 10, a time to spread the word about maintaining healthful habits and to educate people about simple and effective ways to protect their communities.
While many people know to wash their hands with soap and clean, running water when preparing food or after using the restroom, it’s also recommended to wash hands after everyday activities.
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It’s essential to properly wash your hands before and after eating, caring for someone who is sick, treating a wound or cut, cleaning up after a child, changing a diaper, taking out the trash, coming in contact with animals or cleaning up their waste, handling pet food, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
There’s also a correct way to properly wash your hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. First, wet your hands with warm or cold running water, and then apply soap to the hands. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap, making sure to also cover the back of your hands, under your nails and between your fingers.
Then, scrub for about 20 seconds. A fun way to remember this is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice as you scrub your hands. After completing this task, rinse your hands with running water, then dry your hands completely with a clean cloth.
While the steps for proper hand washing are simple, the CDC reports that washing your hands the correct way and helping to educate others can help reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 30 percent, and reduce respiratory illnesses like colds by about 20 percent.
Community members properly washing their hands can help prevent the spread of disease and conditions. If running water is not available, it’s still important to use soap and whatever clean water is available to cleanse your hands. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol is a good substitute, if soap and water are not available.
As the season begins to change and many people start battling colds and illnesses, keep yourself and your family healthy by taking matters into your own hands and practicing proper hand-washing routines. This may help you avoid getting sick, kicking off a healthier New Year.
Dr. Juan Martinez is with KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates.