How many times did mom tell you to wash your hands? Well, mom was on to something! Hand washing, when done properly, is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent many types of illnesses.
This time of year many of us are worried about catching a cold or even worse – the flu. While most people quickly recover from a common cold, the flu can be much more serious. Those over age 65, young children and persons with chronic illnesses such as diabetes are especially susceptible to complications caused by the flu.
According to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, on average five to 20 percent of the population get the flu every year. In fact, the flu is responsible for approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Washing your hands doesnt take much time or effort, but certainly has its healthy benefits, said Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, Public Health Director and County Health Officer. Germs are easily spread by not covering a cough or sneeze, and by touching everyday objects, such as door knobs, hand rails and counter tops. Staying healthy can be as simple as washing your hands.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, several studies have shown that adults fail to wash their hands frequently and effectively. In a 2000 study, 1,021 people were asked Do you always wash your hands after using the bathroom? An overwhelming majority of adults, 95 percent, said they did wash their hands. However, when adults were observed in a subsequent follow-up study in public restrooms in five major metropolitan areas, only 68 percent actually washed their hands!
Parents and caregivers hand washing isnt just for adults. To help keep your children from getting sick, make sure they wash their hands often and properly. To get kids into the habit, teach by example. Wash your hands with your children and supervise their hand washing. Tell your children to wash their hands for as long as it takes them to sing their ABCs, Row, Row, Row Your Boat or the Happy Birthday song.
To keep those hands clean and prevent getting sick:
Use warm running water with a bar or liquid soap
Rub your hands together for 15-20 seconds to work up a good lather. Be sure to wash in between your fingers, under your nails and scrub the tops and palms of the hands
Rinse all soap off your hands with warm, running water
Dry your hands using a disposable paper towel. Germs can hide in a cloth towel.
After drying hands, grasp the faucet handle with your used paper towel to turn off the water. Avoid touching the sink or faucet handles-theyre too germ friendly. Throw your used paper towel in the trash
Always wash your hands:
After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
After using the toilet
After changing a diaper
After touching animals or animal waste
Before and after preparing food; and before eating
After handling garbage
Before inserting or removing contact lenses
When using public restrooms, such as those in airports, train stations, bus stations and restaurants
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently launched Clean Hands. The comprehensive public education campaign is designed to encourage hand washing to avoid getting sick and to help prepare for pandemic flu – an outbreak of a new flu virus for which people have little or no immunity and there is no vaccine.
For more information about influenza and how to protect you and your family, please visit our dedicated website