Stay Healthy This Winter

What if I told you that possibly doing one small thing before and after you go to the fitness center (or school, the mall, your office or other public places) could keep you healthier this winter?
I just posed this question to a busy health professional and found the answer.   Instinctively I knew the right answer, but it seemed so simple that I wanted to hear it from her.  Here’s what she said:  “There’s no miracle,” she laughed and added, “To avoid most sicknesses, it’s as simple as using soap and water.”
“So washing hands can keep us healthier,” I said.  “I’ll tell my readers.  The best germ-fighting idea to keep you feeling great so you can stay fit this winter and all year long is to make washing your hands a top priority.”

As I got into this squeaky-clean topic, I discovered there’s some concern about non-water sanitizers because studies are showing that they have limited effectiveness on some of the more ruthless types of germs.

In a study done by Lysol, it was found that adults have a dirty secret.  We don’t wash enough.  A thousand Americans participated, evenly split between men and women. All were at least 18 years old.   Here are the percentages of those who admitted they might not wash their hands properly in these situations:
• After sneezing or coughing: 37%
• After handling animals or pets: 27%
• Before eating or handling food: 10%
• After going to the toilet: 7%

A bit more than three in 10 said they wouldn’t skip or skimp on hand washing in any of those situations. But the remaining sixty-nine percent didn’t make that clean-hands claim.   It’s not like we Americans ignore how important hygiene is or hand washing should be, but rather it’s that we are so busy we don’t take the time.   Let’s make it a goal to wash our hands often and well?  By the way, I am teaching even the youngest of my grandkids to do just that by example and talking to them about germs.

Here are some hand-washing tips.  How about sharing the tips with your family and friends and maybe even getting permission to post this in the office break room?

Wash hands after using the bathroom, sneezing, touching the nose even with a tissue in hand.  Wash hands after using another person’s keyboard, office telephone or escalator railing.  Wash your hands after you’ve played with a pet or other animal including touching a leash or changing a pet’s cage.  Ditto on touching toys or objects teens and children use, touching equipment in the office, touching anything that basically looks suspect or unclean, including door handles and elevator keys.

Remember, you cannot see the germs that could make you sick, so don’t take a chance.  You’ll want to wash hands before and after going to the grocery store, mall, gas station, etc. where others might not care about your health.
At the gym, wash your hands before a workout and afterward, too.  Think that using a towel to wipe down an exercise machine before you use it will get rid of germs?  Think again.  That won’t de-germ a machine.  If there are no cleaning wipes, use a towel, but then never, ever use your hands to rub your eyes or nose after you’ve touched a machine.  Itchy nose and no tissues in sight?  Don’t tell your kids, but if necessary grab a fresh towel for this.

Now here’s all you need to know about Hand Washing 101:
• Use warm, but not hot, running water.
• Avoid shortcuts. Use soap. Wash the front and back of both hands. Remember to clean under nails. Wash for at least 15 seconds. (This is about how long it takes to sing the alphabet song or to sing “Happy Birthday.”  As a grandmother, I know them quite well.) Rinse well.
• Dry your hands with a fresh paper towel or an automatic dryer.
• Use another towel to turn off the faucet and if possible take a towel to open the door of the restroom, just in case someone didn’t take the time to wash well.
• In a public restroom, use a towel to open the door and then toss that towel in a waste bin.

Take a moment, if you want and read this article on hand washing at WebMD’s “How Mom Can Stop Germs,” by Dr. Hansa Bhargava, www.webmd.com/parenting/d2n-stopping-germs-12/default.htm.  It’s true.  Germs are everywhere, but you can fight them with the simple act of hand washing.  Why let germs from colds and flu sideline you from staying fit for life.

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