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NEWS | Jan. 21, 2016

Caught dirty-handed

By TSgt. Tiffany York 628 AMDS/SGPM

Effective hand hygiene is critical in the defense against the spread of many illnesses including the common cold and flu. However, the sad reality is many people do not wash their hands adequately or frequently enough.  As a nation, we are caught "dirty-handed" when it comes to our hand washing habits.  Studies show one in five people don't wash their hands and of those that do "wash" only 30% use soap, the remaining 70% just use water.  The result is fecal matter and other illness-causing germs remain on our hands spreading to everything and everyone we touch.
To keep germs and infections at a minimum, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges individuals to increase the frequency of hand washing and provides details on how improve hand hygiene techniques.  Below are five simple yet effective steps to hand washing:

Step 1. Wet your hands with clean water and apply soap
Step 2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
Step 3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.  Need a timer?  Sing the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice
Step 4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
Step 5. Dry your hands using a clean paper towel or air dry them

Washing with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on your hands.  If soap and water are unavailable, it is okay to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

The majority of Americans understand effective hand washing techniques can prevent the spread of germs but they may not fully understand when to wash. According to the CDC, on average, one person can come into contact with 300 surfaces exposing them to more than 840,000 germs every 30 minutes.  This is proof some people aren't washing their hands regularly and is another reason why we should wash our hands more often. The activities listed below are some examples of when hand washing is recommended:

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

Remember, by practicing good hand hygiene, you are protecting yourself, your family and others around you.  Don't get caught "dirty handed." Wash your hands regularly! For more information please contact Public Health at 843-963-6958 or visit