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Hand-Washing May Have Kept Flu at Bay
Date:12/30/2010

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The best way to rid hands of these infectious agents is by washing them. However, hands have to be washed properly, something many people fail to do, Benjamin and Dimond said.

First, you must use soap and warm water. Benjamin said that just sprinkling water on your hands and then drying them does little to rid them of viruses.

"Soap helps break up the grease, soil and dirt," he said. "Within the grease and the dirt, organisms can reside. You need to use soap and warm water to break that up."

Don't worry about using antibacterial soap for day-to-day hand-washing. Just about any type of soap that creates lather will work. "Antibacterial soaps are not necessarily any better unless you're in a surgical or medical environment," Benjamin said.

Next, you want to scrub your hands together vigorously, being sure to rub all the surfaces of your palms and fingers. The friction is what dislodges viruses from the skin. "You want to lather up all of your hands and you want to work all that lather in," Dimond said.

Be sure to take your time when washing your hands, too. People who rush through hand-washing might not completely scrub off all the germs. The CDC recommends that people wash for at least 20 seconds, enough time to hum the "Happy Birthday" song to yourself twice.

Once you've finished washing, be sure to thoroughly rinse your hands. Rinsing washes away the dirt, grime and viruses along with the soapy lather.

Finally, dry your hands. Wet hands pick up viruses from surfaces more easily than dry hands. "If you've got wet hands, the minute you touch something else, you're going to pick up something else," Benjamin said. Hands left wet or damp after hand-washing also can become dry and cracked, providing viruses with another place to latch onto and hide.

People should wash their hands at specific times during the day, according to Benjamin and the CDC, including:

  • Any time hands are visibly dirty.
  • Before
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