Germs are everywhere — not just on and within our bodies, but also on the surfaces we touch. While some of these germs are good for us and keep us healthy, others are harmful and can cause illness.
Harmful germs can live on the surface of our hands, so if you touch your eyes, nose, mouth, or other surfaces, you may be at risk of infecting yourself or spreading germs to others. This is why it is important to practice good hand hygiene — especially with cold and flu season upon us.
Hand hygiene refers to the cleaning of one’s hands using either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and it is the single most important method of preventing infection (Minnesota Department of Health). According to the Mayo Clinic, you should always wash your hands before preparing or eating food, treating wounds or caring for a sick person, and inserting or removing contact lenses. Likewise, you should always wash your hands after preparing food; using the toilet, changing a diaper or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste; blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; treating wounds or caring for a sick person; handling garbage; and handling pet food or pet treats. You should also wash your hands whenever they are visibly dirty.
When washing your hands, wet them with cold or warm water, apply soap, and be sure to scrub all surfaces — including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails — for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well and use a clean towel to dry.