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Tips to Prevent the Spread of Cold and Flu the Whole Year Through

The first week of December is National Hand Washing Awareness Week. In a year like 2020, when COVID-19 has changed so much of our lives and routines, it might feel like the year of hand washing awareness.

But now would be the worst time for us to get complacent. With winter upon us, the spread of regular respiratory and viral infections will be on the rise — not to mention the spread of COVID-19. Washing your hands is the best way to help keep you and your loved ones healthy.

So, in celebration of National Hand Washing Awareness Week, let’s take a look at how we can double down on our hand washing efforts.

When to Wash Up

A good rule to follow is simple — wash your hands as much as possible.

Always try to wash up after you’ve been out in public and have been exposed to frequently-touched surfaces. (Hand sanitizer is okay in a pinch, but a full hand washing is best.) It’s particularly important to wash your hands before you touch your face, particularly your eyes, nose and mouth — which are prime pathways for germs to enter our bodies.

Be sure to wash during these activities:

  • Preparing and eating food: Wash your hands before, during and after you prepare, touch or eat food. This advice holds true even when preparing food for your favorite furry friends.
  • Using the bathroom: Wash your hands after using the toilet, and after you change a diaper.
  • Caring for a sick person: When you’re acting as a caregiver for someone who isn’t feeling well, it’s important to wash your hands regularly.
  • Coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose: Cough and sneeze into your arm instead of your hands, and wash your hands after each time you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
  • Handling garbage: Wash up after you’ve touched garbage.
  • Touching animals: Wash your hands after you touch animals or animal waste.
Graphic of commonly missed areas during hand washing

How to Do It Right

Fortunately, hand washing isn’t a complicated process. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a list of five simple steps to follow.

  1. Wet your hands with clean water and apply soap. It doesn’t matter if the water is warm or cold.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Make sure you get both the front and back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Reaching your forearms is also a good idea.
  3. Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands under clean water.
  5. Dry up!

What to Use

It turns out that it really doesn’t matter, as long as it’s soap. According to the CDC, studies haven’t found any additional benefit from using soaps that contain antibacterial ingredients over plain soap. Bar soap will work just as well as liquid soap, although liquid soap is easier to keep clean and share in public places.

Just Keep Doing It

Hand washing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stay safe this flu season — and through the COVID-19 pandemic. Washing hands saves lives — let’s all keep it up and do our part to stop the spread of germs and illness.