Extension Connection: Clean hands ward away germs, bacteria

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hand washing 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 and 78 million become ill. A direct link to many of these deaths is poor hand washing.

Those 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.

Hand washing 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.

Anytime of year, it is important to wash your hands often and properly to prevent cross contamination and the spread of illness. About 80% of our communicable diseases are caused by the lack of hand washing.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. The soap and the scrubbing action help dislodge and remove germs. Antibacterial soaps aren&8217;t necessary and may contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers. If using a gel, rub it into your hands until dry. The gel doesn&8217;t need water to work because the alcohol in it kills cold and flu germs.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs, which can live for a long time on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and tables, are often spread by touching something contaminated and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

When sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth and nose. The flu usually spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and droplets move through the air and deposit on the mouth or nose of people nearby.

If you don&8217;t have a tissue to sneeze into, cover your cough or sneeze with your hands and then wash them.

For more information, please contact your local County Extension Office or Angela Treadaway