Hand hygiene: 20 seconds that matters for you and others

During this cold and flu season proper hand washing techniques are vital for reducing the spread of harmful germs, but how are you and your family actually doing with meeting the 20 second recommendation?

Twenty seconds, not 10 seconds or five seconds, but twenty seconds is the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation for effective hand washing that eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses from your hands. The emphasis is on reaching a full 20 seconds of lathering and scrubbing with soap and clean water before you reach for the towel. You are putting yourself and others at risk if your hand washing routine only takes a couple of seconds or if it lacks the vigor of a thorough cleansing. As advised by Michigan State University Extension, hand hygiene is a case when more, equals is better.

When you stop and think about the numerous things you touch throughout your day the possibilities are endless for contaminating your hands with germs. Hands routinely touch light switches, doorknobs, pets, trash, keys, cell phones, electronic devices, credit cards and at some point food items. Hopefully it is your natural routine to wash your hands before you eat or after using the toilet but recognize that bacteria lurk everywhere. One of the best healthy habits you can implement is thorough hand washing throughout your day. Maintaining this healthy habit may take continued awareness and dedication but it is a lifelong habit that will serve you well.

The frequency of hand washing varies depending on your activities. Families with your younger children may find themselves at the sink often. Parents and caregivers have the important responsibility of role modeling good hand hygiene and teaching your children how to wet, lather and scrub their little hands. It won’t be long before children are washing their hands on their own and positive reminders that frequent and effective hand washing are essential for good health is a great motto for every family.

The CDC reminds us that hand washing is an ongoing activity when you are working with food. Wash before you begin to prepare a meal or snack, during the process of working with different food items and at the end. This attention to detail will help prevent food-borne illness. There is satisfaction in knowing your cooking or baking includes meticulous attention to cleanliness for the protection of others. Strive to always wash your hands before eating every meal and snack as germs can easily pass from your hands to your mouth while eating.

You may not have given hand washing much thought previously but this simple act provides the best protection for you against getting sick. We all appreciate when others are diligent with their hand washing practices especially in the food industry. Maybe it is time for you to take an honest assessment of your hand washing routines. A quick rinse compared to a thorough 20 second scrubbing can mean the difference between staying healthy or possibly getting sick. You owe it to yourself and others to rinse those germs right down the drain. Happy scrubbing!

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