The DIY Vaccine: Hand Washing

| Posted On Mar 02, 2016 | By:

No one wants to experience the unpleasant symptoms of seasonal flu or norovirus. Aside from getting your flu shot, what can you do to protect yourself? Wash your hands, correctly and often. It’s a simple, effective way to get rid of germs before they make you sick and, equally important before you can pass along those germs or an illness to your loved ones.

Thanks to the CDC, here are 6 things you should know about hand washing to make your routine as effective as possible and keep those germs away:

#1: Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? 20 seconds is about the same amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. These are the steps for effective hand washing:

#2: Important moments to wash your hands.

It is important to always wash your hands before:

Additionally, always wash your hands after:

#3: The most commonly missed areas when washing hands

The most commonly missed areas when washing hands are between the fingers, around the fingernails, and the back of the thumb. It is important to pay special attention to these areas when washing or sanitizing hands.

hand washing, missed areas

#4: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but they do not eliminate all types of germs. Hand sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty or after using the restroom. Furthermore, soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs, like Norovirus and Clostridium difficile (C. diff). Norovirus causes diarrhea and vomiting and is easily spread in densely populated areas, such as cruise ships. C. diff is an antibiotic-associated diarrhea common to hospitals and nursing homes. The CDC recommends ethanol alcohol-based hand sanitizer, preferably in a gel form. The sanitizer should be at least 60% ethanol.

#5: Antibacterial soaps are no more effective at preventing infection than regular soap.

Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than plain soap and water for killing disease-causing germs outside of healthcare settings. There is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than plain soap for preventing infection under most circumstances in the home or in public places.  Therefore, plain soap is recommended in public, non-healthcare settings and in the home.

#6: Handwashing helps battle the rise in antibiotic resistance. 

Preventing sickness reduces the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (e.g., colds and flu). Reducing the number of these infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world.

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  1. It’s not always possible to turn off the faucet or open the door with a paper towel since most public restrooms no longer have a paper towel dispenser and, instead, use a hand drying machine! Another important point is to make sure to use soap when washing hands at a sink-some people I know only rinse their hands with water which is useless without soap!

    Comment by JT Titus on March 3, 2016 at 11:27 pm
  2. My inner ocd handwashing germophobe thanks you for this informative article.

    Comment by Kathy on March 4, 2016 at 2:00 pm
  3. While most people say that they wash their hands after going to the bathroom, research shows that in reality only 31 percent of men and 65 percent of women washed their hands after using a public restroom.

    Comment by Elliott Diliberti on March 11, 2016 at 11:44 pm
  4. An additional precaution is to scrub the nails of one hand into the palm of the other, including the the thumb! I have taught my grandchildren to do this automatically.

    Comment by Joan Belson on March 17, 2016 at 8:59 pm
  5. More reasons to stop using antibacterial soap: Use leads to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Also, it contains ingredients injurious to human health. See…/five-reasons-why-you-should-...

    If there are no paper towels available, turn off faucet with your elbow, and open door with your hand inside your sleeve.

    Comment by Laurie Brandt on March 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

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