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Washing your hands can protect you and your community from coronavirus

Aiesha Banks • Mar 19, 2020 at 10:00 PM

Hand-washing is a win for everyone except the germs.

What can we do within our community to prevent illness? Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry. Five practical and straightforward steps you can take to reduce the spread of disease so you can stay healthy. Hand-washing is one of the top ways to guard yourself and your family against getting sick.

As we know, the epidemic at this moment is COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. This disease is thought to be spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Regular hand-washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.

What can we do within our community to prevent illness?

• Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Rules for washing hands

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the length of the “Happy Birthday” song), especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Remember the five steps to washing your hands

1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Remember the “Happy Birthday” song.

4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Rules for using hand sanitizer

Use hand sanitizer only when you can’t use soap and water. Sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. However, sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs and may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals.

1. Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand.

2. Rub your hands together.

3. Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds. Need a timer? Remember the “Happy Birthday” song.

People at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus are women who are pregnant, children, the elderly, and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. If you have any symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath between two and 14 days after possible exposure, call your health care provider immediately.

The last question we can ask ourselves is, what can we do within our community to prevent illness? It’s quick, it’s simple, and it can keep us all from getting sick. Hand-washing is a win for everyone except germs. Life is better with clean hands.

Healthy Kingsport’s mission is to create a sustainable community culture of healthy living by promoting awareness, influencing policy, and enhancing infrastructure. The organization’s vision is a community where healthy living is the norm.

For more information, visit www.healthykingsport.org and www.cdc.gov.

Aiesha Banks is the executive director of Healthy Kingsport. She can be reached at abanks@healthykingsport.org.

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