Stop us if you've heard this one before, but, did you know that you should be washing your hands for the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice? (For good measure, throw in that "how old are you now?" verse, just to be sure.)
Yup, 20 seconds is the recommended time you should be spending running your hands under clean water, lathering them up, and rinsing. Chances are, you're probably not doing that every time you wash.
Sure, you're not scrubbing to prepare for surgery, but washing your hands properly can help reduce your exposure to germs and prevent you (and others) from getting sick.
In fact, keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid sickness and spreading germs. Many of us frequently touch our eyes, noses, and mouths without even realizing it. Germs can get into the body through those areas and make us sick.
Want to avoid that coworker's cold? Try to avoid touching anything they're interacting with and washing your hands after using commonly-touched places in the office, like door handles in the bathroom and kitchen, light switches, water cooler handles, water fountain buttons, and the microwave door button.
(We bet you're thinking about all the things you touched this morning, before reading this article! Exhale … you're going to be alright.)
Seasonal tips for happy hand washing
Now, obviously, we don't need to remind you to wash after using the toilet, changing diapers or blowing your nose. But considering this is the holiday season, think about all the other times you should consider a thorough scrub.
- Whenever using cash and receiving change in stores -- even the crispest bills have probably touched plenty of hands before ending up in your wallet!
- After riding escalators, pushing elevator buttons, or holding stairway handrails.
- After using dressing rooms -- you may have stumbled on the perfect shirt or holiday party dress (at 40% off!) but you're probably not the first one who tried it on.
- Food courts and restaurants -- with all of the heavy shopping volume during the holidays, chances are restaurant staff are having trouble keeping up with cleaning needs.
This last one hurts to write…
- After sitting on Santa's lap. We adore the big man, but so do thousands of other children … not to mention their parents, who might not be sticking to the tips above.
Hand washing moments you may not have considered
Of course, proper hand washing doesn't end when the ball drops on New Year's Eve. Malls and food courts are germ havens all year round. But also consider the following times you might not think of as "hand washing moments."
- Before eating at a restaurant.
- Following kids' birthday parties.
- Right after using public transportation.
- After sporting events, tailgates, hunting trips, golf outings, college reunions, country music festivals, and any other time you'll be doing a lot of hugging, hand slapping, high-fiving and fist-bumping.
That last one was left blank on purpose. Because proper hand washing is appropriate after any occasion … and usually necessary. We may never be able to stop germs entirely, but we can certainly do our part to help keep them in check, and out of our homes and offices.