Clean Hands Are Key To Fighting Cold, Flu Germs

Armen Hareyan's picture
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With the cold and flu season now upon us, it's time for health-minded individuals to pay particular attention to washing their hands on a regular basis because, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cleaning our hands is the single most important measure people can take to keep from getting a cold or the flu.

"Studies have shown that 40 percent of women and 58 percent of men do not routinely wash their hands-including after using restroom facilities," says Adam Siegel, a certified hygiene program manager at UniFirst, which provides safety apparel and facility cleanliness products to companies throughout North America.

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Health studies have shown that cold and flu germs are able to survive on and be transferred from many commonly touched surfaces for up to 48 hours. Some are obvious, like door handles, phones, and computer keyboards. But others tend to be less apparent, like elevator buttons, cafeteria tables, and debit card keypads.

When soap and water are not available, medical experts recommend that waterless hand sanitizing gels or wipes, such as Purell products, be used as they can kill 99.9 percent of the most common germs that cause illness.

For hand washing to be truly effective, the CDC says it must be done for at least 20 seconds and involve a thorough cleaning of the front and back of the hands, as well as the areas between fingers and under the nails. And since damp faucets can provide inviting homes for cold and flu germs, cleanliness experts generally recommend turning knobs with paper towels and, similarly, activating blow dryers with paper or even elbows. In fact, Siegel says it's because of such concerns that companies like UniFirst are now finding a surging demand for motion-activated, hands-free soap dispensers and touch-free faucets.

As experts at the Mayo Clinic point out, hand washing doesn't take much time or effort, but it certainly offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness-particularly, they would likely add, when it comes to enjoying a sneeze-free cold and flu season!

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