The Importance of Hand Washing

What am I supposed to do? My family is sick, everyone I work with is sick, I don’t have time to be sick!

I have heard this mantra a lot in the past few weeks, even though it is just now fall. I have no idea what this winter may hold for us in terms of viruses and flu.

Of course, my first suggestion is to get a flu shot. I have other suggestions that follow: wash your hands well and often, stay home when you are sick, and cough into your elbows. It is impossible to not come into contact with viruses in spite of our best precautions. So …

Wash your hands! It is the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to keep you well. Studies show that less than half of the people in this country wash their hands after they go to the bathroom. Besides being disgusting, we touch everything that those people touch. With effective hand washing, we can eliminate approximately 96% of the viruses we come into contact with that make us ill. It really is that simple!

When washing your hands, use warm water (not hot or cold), use regular soap (special anti-bacterial soap is not necessary), lots of friction, and for at least 40-50 seconds – enough time to sing “Jesus Loves Me” or count to twenty in German or make that grocery list in your head – rinse all that stuff you loosened up down the drain and dry with a paper towel. Use that same paper towel (yes, you left the water on) to turn off the faucets and open that bathroom door. Throw away the paper towel after you exit a public restroom. At home, change out hand towels (and bath towels) every day – they begin to grow bacteria the first time they are used.

Talk with your teenager about washing hands. They hear it from me every day. Stay well so that you may enjoy the beauty that is Fall.

Jayne Dwyer-Reff, RN,

School Nurse