SAN ANTONIO — Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent transmitting bacteria and viruses from ourselves to other people. But are you doing it correctly and at the right times?

What if you could see bacteria and viruses? You can spread them to many other people in a matter of minutes, by shaking a hand, using a keyboard and mouse, scratching your neck or face, and ending it with yet another handshake. 

Dr. Jason Bowling, an epidemiologist with University Health System explained the most obvious times to wash. "One, if they are ever visibly soiled, you should wash your hands," he said. "Any time before you eat or prepare food, after using the restroom, before you rub your nose touch your eyes or mouth."

The average person touches their face about three or four times an hour. And he or she touches the phone even more often, which is a well-known germ jungle. "You have a device that you are touching, if that's not been cleaned and your hands probably aren't clean either, so that's another reason not to use your phone while you are eating," Dr. Bowling said.

It's one thing to wash your hands long enough, which should be at least 15 to 20 seconds, but are you washing your hands the right way? 

Here is how to do it correctly: Get your hands wet on all surfaces. Get soap on your hands and rub your hands together including the palms. It's especially important to get between the fingers and the fingertips and fingernails because those harbor bacteria and are often missed in a standard hand wash. Keep rubbing your hands together for about 15 seconds. After you have scrubbed your hands, rinse the soap off, getting all the surfaces. Use a paper towel to dry your hands and with that same paper towel, turn off the handle of the sink that you just turned on with your dirty hands.

Besides your phone, the TV remote can also carry germs. Dr. Bowling added, "It's one thing in your house, probably not cleaned that frequently. It's also not cleaned that frequently in other places, like hotels, where people go frequently."

Always remember to wash your hands after grocery shopping, especially if you touched the child seat on your cart. Dr. Bowling said, "25 percent of those have coliform bacteria, because that's where you put baby butts and diapers."

So wear that gown 24/7 and wash those hands often to help prevent illnesses from spreading.


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