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Here’s why you should wash your hands properly and often, now and all year long.
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Whether you are trying to protect yourself from COVID-19, catching a cold or the flu, or getting sick from a foodborne illness, washing your hands properly and often is one of the best things you can do.

“Especially with the holidays coming, please protect your family, friends and yourself by washing your hands properly!

Happy Holidays!”

Rebecca S. Treuil, MD, Internal Medicine 

You may have been very diligent about washing your hands at the start of the pandemic, when health officials stressed the importance of proper hand washing. You may have made sure to count to 20 while scrubbing your hands with soap and water, singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘ABC’ song to make sure your handwashing ritual was long enough.

But if you’re like many people, your enthusiasm over doing these things regularly to keep yourself healthier may have slacked off a bit. After all, it can get tiresome to constantly wash your hands multiple times throughout the day. But even if it seems like an inconvenience to remain so vigilant about keeping your hands clean, there’s a good reason to do so.

Washing your hands – properly and often – is one of the best ways to avoid spreading germs, viruses or bacteria on your hands to your face, where they may enter your body and make you sick. Your hands come into contact with millions of germs throughout the day from just about everything you touch – the kitchen counter, light switches, door knobs, cell phones, toilet flushers and all public surfaces. If your unwashed hands then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, the germs may find their way into your body, making you sick.

Use this video and the tips below as a reminder of the right way to wash your hands so you can avoid getting sick from germs or spreading them from surface to surface.

Wash and dry your hands properly:

  • Wet your hands under warm running water and apply soap.
  • Scrub your hands, forearms and between your fingers for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song. Use a nail brush to scrub under your fingernails.
  • Rinse off the soapy water.
  • Leave the water running while you dry your hands with a paper towel.
  • Turn the water off using the paper towel in your hand.

Other ways to protect your hands and surfaces:

  • Make sure all cuts on your hands and fingers are bandaged.
  • Secure bandages by wearing a glove but be just as aware of what your gloved hand touches to prevent cross-contamination.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 19, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Mike McCombe; Chef, Certified Food Safety Educator

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