The Keys to Healthy Hand Washing

By Meredith Sheldon

Getting a flu shot, taking daily vitamins and drinking orange juice are all ways to keep you and your kids free from a cold. Yet, one of the most important prevention efforts is sometimes left off your to-do list — hand washing. This simple, quick activity can be forgotten after a long day at work or a quick bathroom break in between carpools.

Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to ward off germs, but it is important to wash your hands correctly and for the right amount of time. Following hand washing guidelines will limit you and your family’s risk of getting sick.

Why is this important?

We touch our eyes, mouths and the world around us without even realizing it. This is why it is important to wash our hands often to prevent infection. Germs on our hands that come in contact with our bodies can lead to diseases such as the norovirus, Salmonella, E. coli and hand-foot-mouth disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even though we cannot see them, germs are everywhere. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there are about 1,500 bacteria on each square centimeter of our hands. And even if you try to steer clear of those around you who are coughing and sneezing to avoid those germs, you may not be successful. Research from the Queensland University of Technology showed that pathogens, such as a particular bacterial species associated with hospital infections, can travel over 13 feet and linger in the air for 45 minutes. Washing your hands frequently, particularly before prepping meals, eating a snack, putting on makeup and after using the bathroom, will limit your body from contracting a disease or infection

Tips and tricks

The first tip is timing. We all wash our hands, but maybe not for long enough. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap under clean running water for at least 20 seconds. You can measure this time by singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice through. If there is no soap, alcohol-based products are recommended to kill off the germs.

Besides length of the wash, it is also important to make sure you scrub your hands thoroughly. You should even scrub your wrists to make sure you get rid of all the possible germs that could come in contact with your face.

Do not have easy access to a sink? Carry a portable bottle of hand sanitizer to kill off the germs before taking a lunch break at work. You can get them on a keychain and put them on your child’s backpack or lunch box to ensure he or she is practicing proper hand hygiene at school.

Encourage your friends and family to have healthy hands, too. According to the CDC, hand washing education reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31 percent and it reduces respiratory illnesses and colds by 16–21 percent. Spread the word, not the germs.

Glo Germ Gel

Looking for a more visual way to explain the importance of hand washing to your kiddos? Glo Germ Gel demonstrates how germs can linger even after washing hands if not done properly. Simply rub the gel into your hands to spread the non-toxic simulated germs and then wash your hands. Then place your hands under the Glo Germ U.V. light to see how many “germs” are left on your hands!