DiscoverHealth

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How to avoid germs (Spoiler: Wash your hands)

There’s a lot of talk about germs and sickness lately. How do you protect yourself? Good hygiene!

Proper hand washing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

How should you wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.

Soap and water is the best way to reduce bacteria. If using hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Other ways to stay healthy

Here are a few other ways to avoid germs:

  • Bump elbows instead of shaking hands or hugging.
  • Clean your phone at least once a week.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean your desk, keyboard and phone at work.
  • Clean your purse weekly. Use disinfectant wipes on leather bags. Toss your cloth purses in the washing machine (set to cool and delicate).
  • Bring your own yoga mat to the gym.
  • Shower and wash your hands before you leave the gym and you won’t carry germs into your car and home.
  • If you use makeup, clean your brushes once a week and your makeup bag at least once a month.
  • Dust your home regularly.