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How to wash your hands correctly and why it is so important during the COVID-19 crisis

If you are concerned about the risk of coronavirus, the simplest thing you can do to lower your risk of contracting it is something you should already be doing many times a day: washing your hands. Basic soap is enough to kill most viral germs that may be living on your hands. This makes it all the more important to wash your hands before touching your face, eating or after you have used the bathroom or touched communal, germ-filled surfaces. It may seem simple, but many people either do not wash their hands for long enough or do not wash them at all.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), effective hand-washing involves wetting your hands with clean water, applying soap and lathering your hands generously. You should be scrubbing your hands, making sure to wash your palms, the backs of your hands, and in between all of your fingers. Handwashing should last at least 20 seconds, which you can time by singing a song in your head. For this, you have a couple of options: you can sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice, the alphabet song or even the chorus of “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. As long as you are washing for at least 20 seconds, it does not matter how you time it. This may seem like a long time while you are washing, but it is worth it to keep yourself and others safe. After you have scrubbed your hands well, you should rinse them off completely under clean water, and dry them with a towel or let them air dry. 

If you are in a situation where you absolutely cannot wash your hands, it can also suffice to use hand sanitizer, as long as it has an alcohol content of at least 60%, as recommended by the CDC. However, hand sanitizer is not entirely effective in removing all germs and any chemicals that may be on your hands, so do not rely on it as your primary method of hand cleaning. If you do use hand sanitizer, make sure to rub it in for about 20 seconds and make sure it covers all areas of your hands.

If you are still not convinced, here are some fun facts about hand-washing:

Hand-washing can prevent one in three diarrhea-related illnesses and one in five respiratory infections.

65% of women wash their hands after using the bathroom, while only 31% of men do.

Hand hygiene was not identified by the CDC as an essential way to prevent the spread of disease until the 1980s.

Global Hand-washing Day occurs every year on Oct. 15.

According to the Global Hand-washing Partnership, the promotion of hand-washing has been linked to higher educational achievement in many countries, as it keeps children healthy and able to attend school.

You can stay safe amidst the spread of coronavirus simply by washing your hands effectively. Regardless of coronavirus, you should be washing your hands regularly anyway. You can learn even more about washing your hands at cdc.gov/handwashing/.

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