BOSTON - You're probably washing your hands wrong it could be making you sick, according to a study conducted by Michigan State University.
That study found 95 percent of people weren't washing their hands correctly.
Dr. Mark Gendreau, with Lahey Hospital, says most people touch their faces about sixteen times in the span of one hour, transferring bacteria to their mouths and increasing their likelihood of contracting a virus.
He says about 80 percent of infections are spread by hands. So here's what Gengreau has to say about getting your hands clean and keeping them clean.
The Proper Technique
Proper handwashing is all about time and technique. To effectively kill illness-causing germs, the process should take about the same amount of time as it would take you to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. By dedicating at least 30 seconds to the task, you’re much more likely to rid yourself of harmful bacteria, minimizing the chances of infecting yourself of someone else.
In addition to spending too little time on the task of handwashing, people often make the mistake of putting too much emphasis on scrubbing their palms. Germs like to congregate and hide in regions like the back of our hands, between fingers, on wrists, around cuticles and underneath fingernails. Scrubbing all areas of the hand from the wrist to the finger tips is key.
Handwashing can help keep you healthy throughout a busy holiday season, but there are also long-term health benefits. Thirty percent of diarrhea-related illnesses and 20 percent of respiratory infections can be prevented just by washing your hands. Handwashing is the first line of defense against the common cold and more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, the flu and hepatitis A.
What About Hand Sanitizers?
When you don’t have access to a sink, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be substituted for handwashing if your hands aren’t visibly dirty. A sanitizer with an alcohol base of at least 60 percent should reduce germ count, but it will not eliminate all germs. In fact, hand sanitizers do not kill germs linked to salmonella, E. coli, MRSA (a type of staph infection) and norovirus, which is why the Center for Disease Control states washing properly with soap and water whenever possible is the best method.
Ultimately, handwashing is the most effective method to safeguard against the spreading of germs. This is especially important during the holidays when catching a cold, flu or other virus can mean missing out on fun-filled festivities.
The five essential steps of proper handwashing are as follows:
- Wet hands with warm or cold water and apply soap.
- Lather generously by rubbing hands together (make sure to lather the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails).
- Scrub for at least 30 seconds.
- Rinse well under clean, running water.
- Dry well using a clean towel or air dryer.
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