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I have a hazy memory from about age three. My father had become ill and took on a strange pallor that worried my mother enough to take him to a clinic. A doctor quickly diagnosed him with hepatitis A. Immediately, my sisters and I were rounded up and injected with the hepatitis A vaccine as a precaution. The worst part of that memory is the doctor’s conclusion that the source of the virus was likely unwashed hands at a restaurant he had eaten at. The thought of those germy hands still makes me cringe. According to the Mayo clinic, practicing good hygiene, including washing hands frequently, is one of the best ways to protect against hepatitis A, as well as many other viruses. Imagine the pain and discomfort my father might have avoided if that long-ago-restaurant-worker had simply followed proper hand-washing procedure.
Which brings us to today. National Handwashing Awareness Week is December 4th through December 11th. Handwashing is hardly news to any of us. You would be hard-pressed to find a public restroom, or any restroom for that matter, that doesn’t provide a sink, soap and hand towels or air dryers. And correct handwashing isn’t limited to the restroom.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) describes handwashing as a “do-it-yourself” vaccine, stating that handwashing with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. The CDC suggests washing hands before and after preparing food, before eating, before and after caring for a sick person, before and after caring for a cut or wound, after using the toilet or changing a diaper, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste, and after touching garbage. According to the FDA, proper handwashing may not only eliminate a large percentage of food poisoning cases, but also significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu. Preventing the spread of germs is essential to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, especially during cold and flu season. I personally make it a point to wash my hands as soon as I walk through my front door in an effort to keep unwanted germs out of my home. I have a monthly pest control service to eliminate visible pests that threaten my house, so it makes sense to be just as vigilant towards the unseen “pest” germs that threaten my health.
Let’s quickly review the 5 basic elements of proper handwashing, according to the CDC:
- Wetyour hands with clean, running water, then apply soap
- Latheryour hands by rubbing them together with soap, making sure to lather the backs of your hands, between fingers, and under fingernails
- Scrubyour hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinseyour hands well under clean, running water
- Dryyour hands using a clean towel or air dry them
In a matter of about 30 seconds washing your hands has the potential to prevent days of illness: minimal commitment, maximum benefits. See you at the sink, my friends!
Overall, the key to success is to be mindful and in the moment. Be Active Be Well
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.