You’ve heard it time and again: Wash your hands to avoid getting sick.
Turns out it’s still good advice.
But you have to dry your hands too.
Hands that stay wet or damp after you clean them can carry bacteria or viruses — and using a hand dryer is likely to spread microbes through the air, a recent study showed. Your best bet is a paper towel, even though it’s not so great for the environment.
“Washing your hands is the single most important way that you can prevent the spread of germs,” said Takeela Belk, a registered nurse with Colonial Life. “Equally important is taking the time to thoroughly dry your hands. Bacteria and viruses thrive off of moist and damp areas so place just as much emphasis on drying as you do washing your hands.”
Bear in mind that you can pick up germs from surfaces a sick person touches, doorknobs and tables chief among them in the workplace.
If someone shows symptoms of illness, you should stay at least six feet from them.
A few things to keep in mind about washing your hands:
- You don’t have to use hot water — warm or cold works
- Wash the backs of your hands too
- Scrub for 20 seconds (as long as humming the “Happy Birthday” song twice)
That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also says that studies show hand washing can reduce illnesses such as the common cold by as much as 21%.
Other things can help you avoid getting sick too: sleeping enough, eating well and not being chronically or excessively stressed, all of which can tax your immune system. In general, a healthy lifestyle helps, according to Harvard University.
Journalist Mitra Malek writes about wellness, fitness and innovation. She has taught yoga regularly since 2006 and was a senior editor for Yoga Journal magazine. Learn more at mitramalek.com.