The Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services – Public Health Division is reminding residents that hand-washing is one of the most important preventive measures against illnesses. Influenza (fl u), strep throat, intestinal disorders, pneumonia, norovirus and the common cold are just a few of the diseases that proper hand-washing can help to prevent. Remind family members when to wash hands: before touching or serving food; before eating or drinking; before taking out or putting in contact lenses; before treating a cut or injury, and before caring for a sick person. You should also encourage family members to wash hands: after going to the bathroom; after helping someone else with toileting; after changing a diaper; after coughing or sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping a child’s nose; after handling uncooked food, such as raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs; after handling garbage; after touching an animal (especially a reptile) or cleaning up animal waste;  after taking care of someone who is sick or injured, and after using public transportation.

     Knowing when to wash your hands is important, but knowing how to do it is just as important.

Here are easy steps to follow:

• Wet your hands with water as hot as you can stand.

(Hot water is more effective in removing soil and bacteria from your hands. Cold water is less effective, taking a lot longer to clean hands.)

• Apply soap.

Regular soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap and is cheaper to purchase. Pump soap is recommended if possible. Bar soap dishes will hold bacteria in the bottom, after the water drains off the soap.

• Scrub your hands, wrists, fingernails and between your fingers for 15 to 20 seconds.

 Sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself two times – which takes about 20 seconds. Make this fun for your children and they are more likely to wash their hands more frequently. Friction created by rubbing your hands together will help the soap remove germs.

• Rinse your hands with hot water and dry hands with a clean towel or disposable paper towel. 

Turn the water off with the paper towel and throw it away. Make sure your hands are dry. Germs will stick to wet hands when they touch things.

• Use disposable alcohol wipes or gel hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. 

     The alcohol will kill the germs on hands. Frequent hand-washing may cause your skin to become extremely dry, especially in the wintertime. You may want to use soap with moisturizers or apply moisturizer to your hands.

     Washing your hands is a good healthy practice at any time of the year, but especially during winter. Germs are everywhere and your hands are a convenient way for them to spread to other surfaces and people. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly can help you and your family be healthier this winter.

For more information, call the Guilford County Public Health Division at 336-641-7777 or visit www.myguilford.com.