Winter has crept into town, accompanied by its usual partner, the cold and flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the easiest and least expensive ways to prevent the spread of infectious minor diseases, like colds and flu, as well as some pretty serious ones like hepatitis A, meningitis and infectious diarrhea, is to frequently wash your hands. With a price tag of less than a penny, hand washing is certainly a cheap way to avoid a pricey visit to the doctor.
Disease is spread when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with hands that have been exposed to germs. In fact, one of the most common ways people catch colds is by rubbing their nose or their eyes after their hands have been contaminated with the cold virus.
According to a 2005 survey conducted by the American Society for Microbiology, 91 percent of adults say they always wash their hands after using public restrooms; however just 83 percent were observed doing so. Americans also say they always wash their hands after using the bathroom in their home (83 percent) and before handling or eating foods (77 percent). However, smaller percentages of Americans always wash after petting a dog or cat (42 percent), after coughing or sneezing (32 percent), or after handling money (21 percent).
When should you wash your hands? Often. Probably more often than you do now. Germs are odorless and invisible to the naked eye. It is especially important to wash your hands before, during and after you prepare food; before you eat; after you use the restroom; after handling animals or animal waste; and even more frequently when someone in your home is sick.
The manner in which you wash is also critical. Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces with soap and warm water for a minimum of 15-20 seconds to dislodge and remove germs. Following these tips at home, work and school, can help you stay cold-and flu-free this winter!