Save your life in 20 seconds: wash your hands

Mom was right; washing our hands really can keep us from getting sick!

Our hands pick up bacteria and viruses from things that we touch during the day. Some of the dirt is visible, such as when we work outdoors. But a lot of the time we can’t see the germs we’ve picked up through using the restroom, petting animals, touching railings or door handles and just living our everyday lives.

Bacteria are everywhere and we can’t avoid them completely. In healthy adults, our bodies can handle small amounts with little threat to our lives. But given the right conditions bacteria can multiply rapidly and make us sick. Some people may get very sick and can potentially die from illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses. Populations at higher risk include babies and young children, those with chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems, and older adults. Seniors are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses because the amount of acid produced in the stomach decreases as we age. It is that acid which helps prevent illness from occurring harmful bacteria and viruses are ingested. Also, the immune system’s ability to fight disease weakens as we age. To decrease your chances of getting sick: WASH YOUR HANDS!

Wash your hands whenever they feel dirty. And anytime you use the restroom, change a diaper, pet an animal, and come into contact with juices from uncooked meat, fish, and poultry. Wash them when you come into contact with crowds or frequently handled items like counters, door knobs, and money. Always wash your hands before preparing foods and before eating.

The best way to wash your hands is to wet hands with warm water, apply soap, and rub hands together. Lace your fingers so the soap gets between them and don’t forget under your nails. Rinse to remove soap and germs like bacteria and viruses, and dry, preferably with a paper towel.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Rubbing and scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds or more loosens the microorganisms that cause disease, so they can be washed down the drain.

For more information on the importance of handwashing or other food safety issues visit http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/.

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