Germs are everywhere – on surfaces throughout the house, in your car, and at work. Coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom, and touching people and objects can easily cause bacteria and viruses to spread and lead to illness.
Germs can cause symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea that can have a significant impact on people’s daily lives. Adults may need to stay home from work, which can lower productivity. Kids may be unable to attend school, which can interfere with their ability to get an education and can also require parents to lose wages and get behind at work in order to stay home and take care of them.
When and How to Wash Your Hands
It is impossible to avoid germs altogether, but handwashing can reduce your exposure. You should always wash your hands after you use the bathroom or change a diaper; before and after you take care of someone who is or may be sick; if you touch an animal, or its food or waste; and after you touch trash or a trash can. You should also wash your hands before preparing or eating food and should never share utensils or cups with others.
Start out by wetting your hands with clean, running water. Then apply soap and rub your hands together to create a lather. Include the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Continue to scrub for at least 20 seconds, then rinse your hands under running water. Dry them with a clean towel or under an air dryer.
Teach your children to wash their hands at a young age. Demonstrate proper technique, remind and supervise your kids, and set a good example by following your own advice.
Other Ways to Prevent the Spread of Germs
If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is a good alternative that can help remove germs in many situations. Use a product that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Rub it all over the surfaces of your hands and fingers. Hand sanitizer is not as effective at removing visible dirt and grease, but it can help when hands have picked up germs from coughing, sneezing, or touching objects.
If you have a cold or virus, cover your mouth when you cough. Use your arm, not your hand, so you don’t get germs on your hand and then transfer them to the next object you touch. If you need to sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue or your arm.
Wipe down surfaces you touch frequently, such as your computer’s keyboard and mouse, door handles, light switches, and remote controls. If you have children, clean their toys with disinfectant wipes to avoid transferring germs to other members of your family or to your children’s friends.