The Common Cold Prevention Wash Hands

Until recently, people had no idea that colds were spread through tiny microbes invisible to the naked eye. Now we know these tiny cold-causing germs can be spread from person to person through direct or indirect contact. In order to minimize this spread and as part of your cold prevention plan, it is vital to maintain a very simple regimen of keeping your hands clean.

How the Cold is Spread

The cold virus is spread either through the air or through bodily fluids, including saliva and mucous. These secretions can be spread directly from person to person through such activities as kissing or indirectly, such as when an infected person sneezes and then touches a surface that a healthy person then touches.

During cold season, it is easy for a person to spread the cold virus by wiping his nose or sneezing or coughing into his hands, thereby transferring contaminated bodily fluids. If the person does not then wash his hands, the virus may be transferred to anything that he touches.

Keeping hands clean helps prevent you from spreading the cold virus and also keeps you from introducing the cold virus to your own body.

Hand Washing for Cold Prevention

The most effective way to keep your hands clean is by washing them. Hand washing may seem like fairly straight-forward activity, but washing your hands effectively is a bit of an art form. Follow these steps on how to wash your hands to maximize the reduction of colds and viruses. Use warm water and antibacterial soap for the best results:

  1. Place a small amount of soap in your palm. Aim to have approximately one teaspoon of soap in your palm.
  2. Rub your hands together vigorously under the water, taking care to soap up the backs of your hands and fingers for at least 15 seconds. One school of thought is that people should wash their hands as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.
  3. Rinse thoroughly, then use a paper towel to dry your hands. Use that same paper towel to turn off the faucet, if possible.

During cold season, consider using paper towels rather than cloth towels to dry your hands in your home. If a person who has a cold wipes his dirty hands on a towel, cold germs can sit and proliferate. When a healthy person washes his hands and then uses the infected towel, he transfers the germs onto his hands. Likewise, if the person who originally transferred the germs onto the towel washes his hands and then dries them on the dirty towel, he can keep re-infecting himself and can impede healing.

After washing your hands, try to avoid touching any common surfaces, such as the bathroom counter or the doorknob on your way out of the room. These surfaces often have an above-average germ count because they are touched by many people. This is especially true of public restrooms.

When to Wash Your Hands

To maintain optimum cold season hygiene, you must wash your hands often. Unlike brushing your teeth, which can be performed twice a day to great effect, hand washing should be performed frequently.

Everyone knows that washing your hands after a trip to the restroom is necessary. You should also wash your hands any time you are in a public environment where many people touch the same surfaces. This can be after riding public transportation, visiting a library or even after visiting the company lunchroom on your afternoon break.

You should wash your hands frequently if you sneeze or have a runny nose. This will remove any cold virus from your own hands and will help prevent you from spreading the virus directly or indirectly.

You should also wash your hands liberally when you are around children. Little ones are less likely to have perfected their hand-washing techniques, both in terms of frequency and effectiveness, and are often guilty of spreading the cold.

It’s a good idea to minimize how much your touch your eyes, mouth and nose when you are in close proximity with other people, as these are the prime mucous membranes that the common cold will try to invade.

If you know you will be in an area where you will not be able to wash your hands as frequently as you’d like, bring along an antibacterial hand sanitizer. These products are highly effective at killing germs.

Resources

Appalachian State University (2007). Hand Washing Technique. Retrieved November 5, 2007, from the Appalachian State University Web site: http://www.flu.appstate.edu/handwashing.htm.

Center for Disease Control (2007). Celan Hands Save Lives! Retrieved November 5, 2007, from the Center for Disease Control Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/cleanhands.

Missico, Anthony Jr. (2007). Cold and Flu Prevention: As Simple As Washing Your Hands. Retrieved November 5, 2007, from the missico.com Web site: http://www.missico.com/personal/tidbits/health/washing_hands.htm.