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Proper hand washing promotes good health

By Sherri Halsell
Texas AgriLife Agent

It is a busy time of the year with schools resuming for the fall semester.  Parents have bought new school clothes and supplies to help prepare their children for school.  There is one more thing parents need to do to help their child be ready for this new school year and this is to wash their hands properly.  Washing your hands is especially important in the fight against infection. Hand washing is the single most important behavior in preventing infectious diseases like strep, staph/MRSA and the flu.

Hand washing and cleanliness should be emphasized:

  • Before touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or any cut or scrape on the skin
  • Before and after close contact with another person
  • Before and after preparing or eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After sneezing, blowing, or touching your nose or assisting a child with his/her nose; and
  • After arriving home from daycare, school, or other activities

Hands should be washed with soap and water.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should not be used as a substitute washing with soap and water unless soap and water are not available. Look for a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it.  Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Generally, directions for hand sanitizers require placing enough hand sanitizer in the palm of your hand to thoroughly cover your entire hand and rubbing hands together until dry.

Plain soap and water are best. Antibacterial soaps are not needed. Antibacterial soaps may contain triclosan, a chemical that kills both bad and good bacteria. While bad bacteria can make you sick or cause infection, good bacteria can help you. The triclosan in antibacterial soaps may change the balance of bacteria on your skin and may even make bacteria harder to kill.

Steps for Hand Washing:

  1. Use warm water.
  2. Wet hands and wrists.
  3. Use a bar or liquid soap.
  4. Work soap into a lather, and wash between fingers, up wrists, and under fingernails for at least 20 seconds. For young children, have them sing the alphabet (abc) song; twinkle, twinkle little star; or twice through the happy birthday song. If no hot water is available, wash longer.
  5. Rinse off soap with warm water.
  6. Dry using a clean cloth towel or paper towel.

It is a good idea to turn off the faucet with a paper towel since you have to turn it on before cleaning your hands. A paper towel is preferable in environments where cloth towels would be shared. Be sure to dispose of the paper towel properly.

Contact Sherri Halsell, Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service Clay County agent at (940) 538-5042, for more information.


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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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