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Stop Germs in Their Tracks With Proper Hand Washing

When the weather cools, people stay indoors more often. The number of colds and flulike symptoms begin to increase at this time of year. Did you know that proper hand washing is the single most important way to help prevent the spread of illness?
Stop Germs in Their Tracks With Proper Hand Washing

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When should you wash your hands?

• Before, during and after preparing food
• Before eating food
• After using the toilet
• After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
• After touching an animal or cleaning up after a pet
• After touching garbage
• Before and after treating a cut or wound

Quick Quiz: What are the three "ingredients" you need to wash your hands?

Answer: Warm running water, soap and a way to dry your hands (clean towel, air dryer).

Is hand sanitizer a substitute for hand washing?

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to clean your hands. If water is not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol. Be sure to read the directions to see how much to use. Rub the sanitizer all over your hands and between your fingers until your hands are dry.

4 Steps to Proper Hand Washing

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. (People often reach for the soap before wetting their hands.)
  2. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails. Continue rubbing for at least 20 seconds. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to time yourself.
  3. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  4. Dry your hands using a clean towel, paper towel or an air dryer.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Featured in Food Wise October 2013 Newsletter (PDF)

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