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FYI Magazine

Clean Hands Save Lives

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Washing hands isn't simply a method of cleaning up before sitting down to dinner. Frequent hand-washing is the single most effective way to prevent illness.

Proper hand-washing has proven effective against the spread of 99 percent of germs that travel via droplets -- and that includes the flu

 virus. The fact of the matter is that dirty hands have the potential to be deadly, especially if they are the carriers of hazardous germs.

It's impossible to avoid germs. Simply going about daily activities exposes a person to thousands of germs. Shopping in a store, going to school or even spending time around the house can spread germs. When a person touches his or her eyes, mouth or nose with hands that are harboring viruses or bacteria, illnesses can easily take root. Germs can also be spread via touch.

There are many times when hands should be washed.

Before ...

* preparing food

* eating food

* inserting or removing contact lenses

* treating someone who is sick or injured

* giving or taking medicine

After ...

* changing a diaper

* touching an animal, pet toys, etc.

* using the bathroom

* using public transportation

* preparing food, especially raw meats and poultry

* handling garbage or soiled items

* touching a sick or injured person

* blowing your nose or sneezing

Proper Hand-Washing Techniques

There is a right way to wash hands. Follow this procedure, courtesy of The Mayo Clinic.

1. Turn on the water to desired temperature (cold or hot water is equally effective).

2. Wet hands under running water.

3. Apply soap and lather for 20 seconds or more, paying careful attention to all areas of the hands, including the backs of the hands.

4. Rinse well.

5. Dry hands on a towel or with an air dryer. Use a towel to close the faucet. Many germs live on wet faucet handles, and a person can contaminate him or herself again.

Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than regular soap. In fact, antibacterial products -- when overused -- actually may kill off good bacteria or cause certain bacteria to become resistant. This will make it harder to kill these germs in the future.

When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based sanitizers are effective at keeping hands clean. Look for commercially produced products that contain at least 60 percent alcohol. Enough of the product should be used to wet hands completely. Rub hands and wait for the product to be completely dry for maximum effectiveness.