Extension Connection: Good hand-washing practices save lives

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Handwashing is the single most important act you can do to prevent getting sick and making others sick. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 5,000 people die each year from food borne illness. 78 million become ill and between 79,000 and 96,000 die from hospital infections each year. A direct link to many of these deaths is poor handwashing. Those people who are more susceptible to illnesses of any kind are babies, young children, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised from other illnesses.

Handwashing is important for food safety, disease prevention and personal health. Wash your hands; before you eat and after you use the bathroom, before, during and after preparing food, after handling animals or animal waste, after playing sports, after changing diapers, and anytime your hands are dirty.

Also during cold and flu season, which has recently hit with all the weather changes,

vaccination is not the only way to help prevent the flu or other illnesses. Here are steps you and your family can take to stay healthy this winter.

The simplest and most effective way is to wash your hands often&8212; with soap and warm water. Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces. Wash for at least 20 seconds. (Tip: have your children sing the &8220;Happy Birthday&8221; song twice while washing.) It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs. Use regular soap. Antibacterial soap is not necessary. These soaps may contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using a gel, rub the gel in your hands until they are dry. The gel doesn&8217;t need water to work; the alcohol in the gel kills germs that cause colds and the flu. However, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers do not remove dirt.

If you feel ill, stay home from work and keep sick kids home from school or daycare. And keep in mind; most people with flu will recover just fine.

For more information

contact Angela Treadaway Regional Extension Agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System

at 669-6763.