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National Hand Washing Week (December)

As we prepare for the cold and flu season, many activities exist that can help you and your family stay healthy during the winter months. The number one activity that can reduce the spread of germs is hand washing. Also, NEVER put a finger in your eyes, nose or mouth! December 1–7th is National Hand Washing Week, promoting better hand washing or "Hand Hygiene" to adults and children alike. The CDC's (Centers for Disease Control) focuses on proper hand washing to prevent the spread of germs and infectious disease.

Hand washing is like a "do-it-yourself" vaccine:

  • 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.

If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone to the bathroom
  • Before and after tending to someone who is sick
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After handling an animal or animal waste
  • After handling garbage
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound

Other activities exist that help us stay healthy. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces remove and destroy germs. The bathroom and kitchen are areas that have frequent traffic and should be disinfected frequently. Practicing safe food preparation and handling can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and germs. Safe food practices include cleaning your hands and surfaces often, separating preparation, cooking and food serving areas to prevent cross contamination, and cooking and storing foods at the appropriate temperatures.

Help you body's immune system be strong by getting your annual flu vaccine. It is not too late to get your flu shot. The vaccine helps your body create antibodies to the flu viruses contained in the vaccine. It can prevent you from getting the flu or decrease the severity if you are exposed to a different flu strain. Realize that many colds and sore throats are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help with this type of infection. Be willing to leave the doctor's office without medication if your physician feels the cause is viral and not bacterial. Remember that antibiotics kill good bacteria found in our bodies that actually protect us. If you do receive an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, please use as directed and complete the full course of treatment. Using antibiotics for viral infections and not completing the course of treatment help certain bacteria become resistant to antibiotics through being overexposed to antibiotic treatment.

Some information regarding hand washing was obtained from the CDC website at Henry the Hand at has many child oriented activities to educate children about hand washing practices. This information is provided as education and should never take the place of a physician's consultation.

Article provided by Dana Breeding, RN Health Educator with Community Outreach.