You've heard it before: wash your hands to protect yourself from colds and flu. And, to make sure you're doing it for long enough, hum "Happy Birthday." But, infection prevention specialists such as Jessica Dixon, RN with WakeMed say that's actually not long enough.
"Usually what we say is for people to sing 'Happy Birthday' to themselves twice," Dixon says, going on to explain that this means you should be washing your hands for 15-30 seconds. And, make sure you're rubbing your hands vigorously.
MISCONCEPTION #2: USING ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP IS NECESSARY
Eww! A look at germs left on hands after improper washing techniques. What you (and I!) are doing wrong today at 4. pic.twitter.com/mo6k5VIh9Q— Caitlin Knute-ABC11 (@CKnuteABC11) February 4, 2016
"Friction is really the key to getting germs off of your hands. It's not antibacterial soap killing the germs, it's not really hot water, it's actually using friction to rub the germs off your hands."
And, don't forget to protect yourself after you've washed up when it comes time to turn the water off.
"Turn the taps off with a paper towel, because you touched them with dirty hands to turn them on, so you don't want to recontaminate yourself when you turn them off," she advises.
It all sounds relatively simple, but even trained hospital staff find they've missed some spots after washing their hands. This is made apparent by a training tool Dixon uses called "The Glitter Bug."
First, employees apply a special lotion that fluoresces under a black light. Next, they wash and dry their hands. Then, they put them under the lights to check for any remaining white residue.
"It's a great tool for teaching people the places they tend to miss, like between the fingers, the backs of hands, things like that. I would say most of the time there are places that are not clean. Even myself, I've done it to demo and then gone, 'oh, oops!'" Dixon admits.
MISCONCEPTION #3: HAND SANITIZER KILLS ALL GERMS
Dixon adds that if you're in a pinch you can use hand sanitizer. But, while it's a good alternative for some germs, it doesn't protect you from certain bugs transmitted through fecal matter. So, if you do use the restroom, soap and water is still your best bet.
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