Hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from becoming sick this season.

Hand washing, when done properly, is one of the most simple, effective and inexpensive ways to prevent the spread of many types of germs.

Studies show hand washing with soap and water could prevent about 1 out of every 3 cases of diarrhea illnesses and almost 1 out of 6 cases of respiratory infections like pneumonia.

It is important to wash hands before eating or preparing food, while caring for someone who is sick, before/after treating a wound and if you blow your nose, cough or sneeze. In addition, hand washing is imperative after using the restroom, changing a diaper, touching an animal or animal waste and handling trash.

To make hand washing effective, commit to following the same important five steps every time. First, begin by wetting hands with clean, warm, running water.

If hands are placed in a sink of standing water, hands can be recontaminated with the germs remaining from previous use.

Next, apply soap and 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.

Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease and germs from the skin. Scrub hands with soap for at least 20 seconds-sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to help gage time.

Evidence shows washing hands for an average of 20 seconds removes more germs than shorter time periods.

After scrubbing, rinse the hands thoroughly under clean, running water. The soap lifts dirt, grease and germs off the hands. Again, use running water to rinse to prevent recontamination of hands by germs remaining in standing water. Finally, dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Good hand washing protects you and other people from the germs and dirt which accumulate on your hands throughout the day.

Practicing the proper technique to get your hands as clean as possible can create a habit to keep you and your family healthy year round.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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