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Preventing Colds with Hand Washing


Georgetta Shiflett, RN

Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spreading of germs. The act of friction that occurs when rubbing skin against skin, while using soap and warm water followed by a thorough rinsing and drying can help rid the skin of harmful bacteria.

Colds are generally spread through respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. Most often we unknowingly touch the germs that live on hard surfaces and then infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose, and mouth.

Hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of viral and bacterial infections. the proper way to wash our hands:

1. Wet hands with water, then apply soap.
2. Rub hands together for 20 seconds, making sure to rub the wrists, under the fingernails, and between the fingers.
3. Rinse hands thoroughly and dry using a paper towel or air dryer.
4. If you are in a public restroom, use a dry paper towel to shut off the faucet. Use another paper towel on the door knob or use your shoulder to assist with opening the door.

You should wash your hands frequently throughout the day:
1. Before and after you eat
2. After using the restroom
3. After handling raw meats and vegetables
4. After handling garbage
5. After coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose
6. Touching a pet of changing a diaper

If there is no sink available, keep an alcohol based hand sanitizer close by. The sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol to clean the hands and the sanitizer must be dry before it is effective. Wash your hands thoroughly when you have access to a sink.

Following these simple steps can help prevent the spread of harmful viruses and bacteria and hopefully prevent you from catching a cold.

WebMD Medical Reference
Sources:
CDC: "CDC Clean Hands Campaign," "Clean Hands Save Lives," "Stop the Spread of Germs."
FDA: "Handwashing."
Thompson, K, Bruce, D. Overkill, Rodale Books, 2002

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