NDSU Extension Service - Sargent County

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Defend Your Health with Effective Handwashing

Defend Your Health with Effective Handwashing 10/21/16The “flu shot” season is underway.  Joyce Chapin, RN for Sargent County District Health Unit, has been making the rounds to Sargent county communities, providing easy-access flu vaccine clinics in recent weeks.  Coupled with the flu vaccine clinics that were held in Havana and Cogswell, I offered handwashing clinics.                                                                                                        

During the handwashing clinics, participants had a tiny amount of white powder sprinkled onto their hands.  The powder simulates germs, and it glows when exposed to black light.  After receiving the powder, the participants washed their hands in the restroom.  Then they put their hands under the black light to see if any glowing powder (“germs”) remained on their hands. 

The handwashing clinics gave participants a “seeing is believing” experience.  They were able to demonstrate to themselves whether or not their handwashing technique was effective at removing the glowing “germs.”  In several instances, the “germs” remained in the creases on the palms of hands, between fingers, around fingernails, and on the fingertips.

Effective handwashing is a front line defense to help prevent colds, flu and foodborne illnesses.  Unfortunately, the simple things in life are often the things we take for granted, and “washing our hands” may certainly be one of those seemingly simple things.

We might be tempted to cut corners and save time by using a “splash and dash” approach to handwashing, rather than being thorough.  However, the CDC guidelines for effective handwashing include these five steps: 

1. Wet your hands with running water (warm or cool). Add soap. (Regular soap is fine; no need to use antibacterial
    soap.)

2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together vigorously, making sure to wash in between fingers and around and
    under fingernails.

3. This lathering and scrubbing should go on for at least 20 seconds. That's the amount of time that it takes to sing the
    "Happy Birthday" song to yourself twice. 

4. After 20 seconds of lathering and scrubbing, rinse hands under running water.

5. Dry with a clean towel or use an air dryer. 

Like so many things in life, timing is everything.  Use the effective handwashing technique before, during and after preparing food, and before eating meals or snacks, no matter where you are at.  Other times to wash hands thoroughly are after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, blowing your nose or taking out the trash, and both before and after taking care of someone who is sick. 

Reference:  Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., NDSU Extension Service, Prairie Fare:  What Kind of Hand Soap Do You Buy, Oct. 13, 2016.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/hygiene-wash-hands-washing-hands-153375/   (downloaded 10/25/16)


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