The Importance of Thorough Handwashing

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Handwashing is all over the news these days. Whether you’re trying to decrease your chances of getting a common seasonal illness like the cold or flu, or you’re looking to avoid exposure to extreme illnesses like COVID-19, handwashing is one of the most essential tools you and your family have to prevent disease. Washing your hands might sound simple enough, but there are specific tips you should follow to make handwashing most effective. A Las Vegas allergist can provide information on the benefits of handwashing and how to rid your hands of germs best.

Why is Handwashing Important?

Washing your hands regularly can reduce your chances of respiratory illness by up to 20% and diarrhea-related illnesses by up to 30%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Given the number of surfaces you touch throughout the day, your hands are one of the first and most common parts of your body that come into contact with germs. Without realizing it, many people touch parts of their faces throughout the day with their hands, including their eyes, nose, and mouth. Unfortunately, those areas are also prime territory for germs. Versatile viruses also live on non-living surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, and the coffee pot at work. Touching these germ-laden surfaces and then touching your face or shaking someone’s hand can easily transmit disease.

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

It might sound elementary, but there are actually “correct” and “incorrect” ways to wash your hands to get rid of germs. The essential steps for proper handwashing include:

• Use warm water
• Scrub with soap
• Be thorough
• Rinse well
• Dry your hands

While the CDC says that precise water temperature doesn’t matter, using warm water (and a running tap) is most effective at killing germs. Soap is also important. Be sure to rub soap on all parts of your hands, including under the nails and between your fingers. Next, thoroughly scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, which is as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times. After lathering, rinse your hands beneath clean, warm running water. Finally, be sure to dry your hands with a towel, hand dryer, or simply by air drying.

What About Hand Sanitizer?

If water and soap are not available, the CDC says that hand sanitizers can be a good substitute for cleaning your hands and reducing germs. A Las Vegas allergist will tell you to look for a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to be most effective at quickly and efficiently killing germs. However, that hand sanitizers do not kill all germs, and they may not be effective for certain harmful chemicals.

If you’re envisioning a healthy spring season, get in touch! Dr. Tottori, a top Las Vegas allergist, is available to help you out with allergies and asthma.