There's no way you're washing your hands enough times to prevent the flu, colds

washing hands
Posted at 10:07 AM, Jan 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-31 07:23:30-05

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The number one tip from doctors and nurses to avoid getting the flu or a cold is to wash your hands.

But are you washing them enough? Probably not. 

"Studies have shown that hand washing can prevent one in three diarrhea-related sicknesses and one in five respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Although cold viruses have been shown to survive on surfaces for several days, their ability to cause an infection reduces rapidly and they don't often survive longer than 24 hours," according to Debra Winar, a manager with Infection Control at University Hospitals

Once the virus is on your hands and living there, it's only a matter of time before you infect yourself. 

"It's important to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth (the T zone). The flu virus on your hands does not give you the flu, but the virus rubbed into your eye, nose or mouth can make you sick," said Winar. 

But are you doing it enough, and are you doing it correctly?

How long should you wash your hands?

According to  most people are making the same big mistakes.  

"Not long enough, it should be 20 seconds, need to cover all surfaces (not just palms) and in between fingers, don’t touch faucet handles when done," Winar said. 

Surprisingly the water temperature doesn't need to be as hot as your hands can stand. 

"Water temperature is not a factor so hotter is not better.  Warm water is acceptable, whatever is comfortable.  It is the act of friction for 20 seconds that removes bacteria/viruses," Winar said. 

According to the CDC there's an easy way to make sure you're washing your hands for enough time to kill viruses and bacteria you may have picked up on your hands. 

"Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice," the CDC website suggests

How many times a day should you wash your hands?

According to Winar there's no set number of times, but you're more than likely not doing it enough. 

"It should be after you use the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, before and after eating or preparing food, or after touching any contaminated surface," Winar said. "Just wash often and thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer."

Working with some guesstimates:

  • Bathroom: 7 times a day
  • Before and after eating three meals: 6 times a day
  • Three coughs or sneezes: 3 times a day
  • Touching contaminated surfaces (door knobs, desks, keyboards): 5 times a day
  • That's 21 times a day

Copyright 2018 WOIO. All rights reserved.