Good Hand-Washing is the Best Way to Stay Healthy

The first week of December is National Hand-Washing Awareness Week. An infectious disease expert explains why nothing beats good hand hygiene when it comes to keeping the whole family healthy during cold and flu season.

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CLEVELAND – The first week of December is National Hand-Washing Awareness Week.

To keep the whole family healthy during cold and flu season, nothing beats good hand hygiene.

But, according to Frank Esper, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, when it comes to our tiniest family members, we need to pay special attention.

“The youngest children, the one and two-year-olds, are not very good hand-washers,” he said. “They generally have a hard time working with soap and water and doing the whole hand-washing sequence. That’s where alcohol-based sanitizers help; they tend to be much better for the smaller children.”

Dr. Esper said once children have reached school age, they are better able to wash their hands correctly.

He recommends washing hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, and to make sure both hands are covered with soap.

After hands are thoroughly rinsed, dry with a clean towel.

Dr. Esper said hand hygiene is important year-round, but especially during cold and flu season.

Germs can easily be transferred from person-to-person when we touch things like door knobs, money, or even other people.

With so many soaps available nowadays, it can be difficult to know which to choose.

The good news is, folks don’t need anything fancy or expensive to keep hands clean and germ-free.

“There’s certain soaps that are called antibacterial soaps, or antibiotic soap with antibacterial compounds added, but really, all soaps are antibacterial,” said Dr. Esper. “You don’t need soap with antibacterial or antibiotic labels; just a regular, good, old, generic soap will do just as fine as the expensive ones.”

If soap and water are not available, Dr. Esper said an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be effective as well.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a product that contains at least 60 percent alcohol and to rub it over all of the surfaces of the hands until dry.

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