Hand-washing: are you doing it right?

Miriam Campan
Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control websites have never been busier. Their sites -- cdc.gov/ COVID19 or coronavirus.gov -- offer information on how to stop the spread of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.

The recommendations are as follows:

• Avoid close contact with people who are ill.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw it out.

• No tissue? Sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm.

• Clean and disinfect touched objects and surfaces.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Stay home if ill (except to get medical care), and,

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

There are no recommendations for using hand sanitizer in lieu of soap and water.

The CDC recommends the five-step method for hand-washing to prevent the distribution of germs. Water can be either hot or cold during the first step of thoroughly wetting hands. Second step is to lather or make bubbles by rubbing hands together. Third is to scrub all surfaces (palms, backs, fingers, between fingers, and under nails) for a minimum of 20 seconds. Fourth is rinse. Five is to dry hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.

When unable to wash hands with soap and water, the CDC suggests using an alcoholbased sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Apply the sanitizer covering all the surfaces of the hands. Rub hands together until they feel dry (around 20 seconds). Do not rinse or wipe off before the sanitizer is dry; it may not work as well against germs. Do not use if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill or rinse away all germs. Much depends on the physical structure of the virus or bacteria. Some, such as the stomach bug called norovirus, are not as affected by alcohol.

Washing hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap does reduce the amount of germs, pesticides and metals on hands.

The website HUB-High Speed Training offers these basic hand-washing facts:

• The average office worker’s hands come in contact with 10 million bacteria per day.

• Contaminated hands can transfer viruses to more than five surfaces or 14 other objects.

• Damp hands spread 1,000 times more bacteria than dry hands.

• Bacteria can stay alive on hands for up to three hours.



Do you think the coronavirus will spread into Central Montana?