TULSA, OK -- Washing one's hands properly takes 20 seconds, yet many people know they should but don't wash at all.
The Oklahoma Department of Health says in less time than it takes to send a text message on a cell phone, kids and their parents can significantly reduce their chances of getting ill.
Teaching young people how to stay safe from food-borne illness is among the goals of National Hand Washing Awareness Week, which is held during cold and flu season for a reason.
"You would not believe what people don't know," said Patti Landers, Ph.D., a researcher and associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. "People do not receive much education anymore about how to wash their hands or why it's so important, so people don't learn."
Quick Facts for Keeping Hands Germ Free
- When washing your hands, pay particular attention to commonly missed spots such as tips of fingers, the web between your thumb and index finger and in between your pinky finger and ring finger;
- Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available;
- Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces;
- Continue rubbing hands for 15-20 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing "Happy Birthday" twice;
- Rinse hands well under running water;
- Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet;
- Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty;
- If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast-acting;
- When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer: Apply product to the palm of one hand. Rub hands together. Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry;
When Should You Wash Your Hands?
- After coughing or sneezing (if you covered your nose or mouth with your hand);
- Before, during and after you prepare food;
- Before you eat, and after you use the bathroom;
- When your hands are dirty, and;
- More frequently when someone you live with is sick.
Source: University of Oklahoma/U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention