Are you guilty of these handwashing mishaps?

Are you guilty of these handwashing mishaps?

Humming the “ABCs” or “Happy Birthday” twice can keep you and others healthy. In fact, studies have shown that 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory illnesses could be prevented simply by correctly washing your hands.

“Handwashing is so important because it prevents us from transmitting infectious diseases and viruses from person to person,” says Dr. Julie Taylor, a family medicine physician at Advocate Health Care. “Especially with COVID, flu and RSV ramping up again, it’s more important than ever to wash your hands to prevent getting sick and to protect others who may be immunocompromised.”

But there are a few common handwashing mistakes you could be making.

  1. Not washing your hands long enough. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Using the wrong product. Using a baby wipe won’t have the same effect as a hand sanitizing wipe due to the low alcohol content. Keep in mind that wipes designed to kill germs on surfaces are too harsh on skin and should be avoided.
  3. Choosing hand sanitizer over soap and water. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a great option when you’re on the go. It kills about 60% of germs, however, some germs remain on your hands until you use soap and water.
  4. Only washing your hands after using the bathroom. There are numerous other times throughout the day that you should wash your hands, according to the CDC:
    • When you are sick or have touched your eyes, nose or mouth
    • When handling food
    • After playing with animals and/or feeding them
    • After touching garbage
    • Before and after caring for someone, such as a baby or a sick loved one
  5. Not drying your hands afterwards. Germs thrive in moisture. Leaving your hands wet opens yourself up to contamination.

The next time you wash your hands, remember these five steps:

  1. Wet your hands with clean water.
  2. Lather your hands, fingers and under your nails with soap.
  3. Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse with clean water.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer.

“Besides washing your hands, other ways you can protect yourself include staying home when you’re sick, wearing a mask, getting preventive vaccines, testing yourself for COVID, avoiding large crowds, limiting handshakes and hugs, and hand sanitizing often when regular hand washing isn’t available,” says Dr. Taylor.

Are you feeling under the weather? Find the best care for your symptoms here: Illinois | Wisconsin

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is an external communications specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her bachelor's degree in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in health care public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.