The 2018-2019 flu season is currently in full swing and there is still a couple of months before it is expected to end.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 6 million and 7 million people across the United States have been sick with flu and about half sought medical care for the illness. Between 69,000 and 84,000 have been hospitalized.
While vaccination is still the first line of defense against the flu, there is one way the public can easily and effectively help avoid getting sick and prevent the further spread of the virus: through frequent and thorough handwashing.
The CDC has a simple and helpful guide on proper handwashing. The first step is to wet the hands with clean and running water. It is necessary to use running water because standing water in a basin can recontaminate the hands through previous use. It is okay to use either warm or cold water; the temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal, according to previous research.
Using soap is more effective than washing with water alone. Lather hands by rubbing them together with soap, making sure to scrub the areas between the fingers and under the fingernails.
Experts recommend scrubbing the hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. A helpful way to make sure that enough time has passed is to hum the "Happy Birthday" song twice from beginning to end. Rinse using running water.
To dry wet hands, one should either use a clean towel or air dry them. There is not enough evidence to suggest which hand-drying method is more effective. However, this step is necessary because microbes transfer more easily to and from wet hands.
Those who do not have immediate access to soap and water can reduce the spread of diseases by using sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
When To Wash Hands
Handwashing is recommended before and after completing chores and other activities. One can pick up viruses, bacteria, and other microbes by touching objects and surfaces throughout the day.
The CDC guideline recommends thorough handwashing before and after preparing food, before meals, before and after caring for a sick person, before and after treating wounds, after using the toilet, after handling garbage, and after sneezing and coughing.