Washing your hand properly and often is key to staying heathy, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. But for many of us, hand washing technique is something that we rarely think about, especially since we normally learn this skill so early on in life. When should we wash our hands, how do we wash our hands properly, and why is it so important for our health?

We should be washing our hand before times when we are likely to spread germs to ourselves, and after times when we have likely been in contact with germs. According to the CDC, some of these critical times include before, during, and after preparing food; before eating food; before and after caring for a sick loved one; after using the restroom or helping a child use the restroom; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and after touching an animal. 

According to the CDC, there are five simple steps that one should take each time you wash your hands. This can ensure not only your safety, but also the safety of your family, coworkers, and community. The steps are as follows:

1. Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the water, and apply soap.

2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Make sure to lather the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. 

3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You’ve probably noticed on social media that many people have posted their favorite songs or portions of songs that you can sing to designate this twenty second period. For example, you can sing “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end two times.

4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. 

5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry your hands.

If soap and water are not available, you can use hand sanitizer as a substitute for hand washing. While hand sanitizer will not remove dirt, harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and all germs, it is still a viable substitute if washing your hands is not feasible. Use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol. 

To use hand sanitizer, apply the sanitizer to the palm of your hands (see the label for the specified amount) and rub together over all surfaces of the hand for 20 seconds, or until the sanitizer is absorbed.  

For more information on handwashing, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website.

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