The keypad for your credit card at the grocery store. The hotel remote. The handrail on the bus or other public transportation. Your cell phone screen. Money. A *gasp* public toilet seat. Just thinking about these germ-infested items makes my nostrils flare with disgust. I’m now frowning because this just made me think about the last person who touched my keyboard. Where are my bleach wipes again?
Now that you’re afraid to touch anything, let’s set the gross aside for a minute. Because there’s something easy that all of us germophobes (and non-germophobes) can do to prevent spreading germs.
Wash our hands.
That’s it. Really.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it best, so here’s a direct quote: “Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it can keep us all from getting sick. Handwashing is a win for everyone, except the germs.”
- See all the gross examples above. Eww, need I go on?
- It’s quick, pretty easy and can help us all from getting sick. Even the CDC says so.
- Viruses can live on your hands for hours. Washing your hands regularly is a proven way to lower your chances of getting sick. Don’t just take it from me. Research backs me up. A study of 305 school-age kids found that children who washed their hands four times a day had about a quarter less sick days due to respiratory illness and less than half as many sick days due to upset stomachs.
How to wash
- Just putting your hands under running water doesn’t cut it. Follow these tips to make your handwashing count:
- Use warm water.
- Wash with soap.
- Keep washing for at least 20 seconds (imagine singing “Happy Birthday” twice).
- When using public restrooms, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet. At home, make sure you sanitize the handles on your faucet regularly.
- If you do not have soap and water, an alcohol-based gel will do. Bonus: Some smell really nice.
Hand-washing and food preparation
Hand-washing protects you from the cold and flu, and proper hand-washing could reduce a ton of illnesses that result from improper food preparation. If you’ve had food poisoning like me, you know it’s the worst. You’ll really want to make sure that you (and others) are following these tips:
- Wash your hands (as directed above) before and after handling food.
- Wash cutting boards and utensils in the dishwasher, or wash them in hot, soapy water after each use.
- Wash countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing food.
It’s not just the kitchen and the bathroom. Your desk, computer keyboard, mouse and phone can be germ-laden. Think of how often those items are touched and the last time they were cleaned.
What about those elevator buttons? Cue nostril flaring again. Ever eat at your desk? Do you clean it if something doesn’t spill? Some viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to three days. Time to get out that disinfectant.
Make time to wipe down your desk regularly. Disposable wipes make it so easy these days. Not only do they get rid of germs, but you’ll also tidy up your space. I try for at least once a month, but I’m pretty sure that after writing this, I’ll up the frequency.
I need to go wash my hands.
For more information and great resources you can print and post, visit the CDC website.