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NOT BORN YESTERDAY: Your best defense: Washing

By LINDA BROWN, Not Born Yesterday

If you’re even a little squeamish today, do not continue reading; the next few sentences are creepy enough to stimulate gag reflexes.

Ninety-one percent of Americans say they wash their hands after using a public toilet. However, an observational study conducted in six U.S. airports discovered only 28 percent of men and 17 percent of women actually did. And, before you shake hands during this cold and flu season, a recent study found only 24 percent of men and 39 percent of women wash their hands after they cough or sneeze.

Good hand hygiene among doctors is even worse. Seventy-three percent of intensive care unit pediatric doctors claimed they lathered up between patients, but when they were secretly observed, only 10 percent actually washed their hands. Experts claim up to 80,000 lives could be saved each year if doctors and nurses were more diligent about hand hygiene.

To stay healthy and avoid spreading germs to others, Luanne Freund, director at Vintage Park Assisted Living, 2250 S. Elm St., suggests washing your hands before food preparation, before eating, after changing diapers or using the toilet, after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose, after touching an animal, and after touching garbage.

Freund elaborated with these simple tips:

• Wet your hands with warm running water. Remove any jewelry. A recent study compared bacteria counts of 50 healthcare workers wearing rings and 50 who were not. Hand washing lowered staph bacteria by 50 percent for those without rings but only 29 percent among the ring wearers.

• Lather up with soap and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds — recite the alphabet or sing the “Happy Birthday” song — and pay extra attention to fingernails and finger tips. Be sure to get the tops of your hands as well.

• Rinse thoroughly under running water, sending the germs down the drain, then dry well. Damp hands harbor microorganisms.

In a pinch, Freund said, hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol will do instead of washing, but only soap and water can eliminate all types of germs.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at

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