Take 20 seconds and do it right.
That’s the advice from Cottage Health’s Traci Green for washing your hands completely with soap and water during — and after — the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People don’t realize what 20 seconds is,” the infection preventionist told the News-Press about the usual advised time for washing your hands.
It’s the time that it takes to sing a couple rounds of “Happy Birthday.”
“Some of the verses of your favorite songs — sing them a few times. Find what works for you,” Mrs. Green said. “Sometimes it’s good if people time themselves. Once you do that a few times, you feel what that time is really like.”
She also recommended people roll back their long sleeves and wash their wrists.
“When you come up to a place or you touch a counter, your wrists often touch the area. They get dirty quite easily,” Mrs. Green said.
She noted people are good about washing both the front and back sides of their hands, but need to go between their fingers and under their fingernails.
Be sure to wash both thumbs, Mrs. Green said. She explained right-handed people tend to wash their left thumb but not the right. Likewise, left-handed people neglect their left thumb.
She added that when possible in public restrooms, dry your hands with paper towels and not just with an air dryer. “The towels provide friction when you’re drying your hands and help get off anything that might have gotten left behind from washing.”
Mrs. Green recommended using paper towels to turn off faucets, open doors and turn on light switches in restrooms. “Everyone else has touched that faucet, and their hands weren’t washed yet.”
She noted people need to wash their hands at home before and after eating, before preparing food, after playing sports such as soccer (think of that dirty ball), or after taking out the garbage or touching a trash can.
If you have pets, wash your hands, Mrs. Green said.
She also suggested soap and running water over hand sanitizers, which kill organisms but are less effective in removing things such as dirt. “Oils will come off in soap and water.”
If you’re out in public and soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizers that are greater than 60 percent alcohol, she said.
Mrs. Green recommended using hand sanitizers after you touch a grocery cart or a gas pump. (Additional instruction from Cottage Health called for rubbing the sanitizer over all of your hands for 20 seconds and reapplying if your hands dry in less time.)
And wherever you are, don’t touch your face, Mrs. Green said.
“The one benefit of so many people wearing masks is you’re not touching your nose and you’re not touching your mouth,” she said, but added, “People are still touching their eyes.” She suggested wearing sunglasses to add a barrier.
Mrs. Green also discussed keeping surfaces clean at home and elsewhere. She suggested wipes for cleaning grocery carts, car door handles and steering wheels.
And Mrs. Green recommended wipes at home for disinfecting door knobs, light switches, shared electronic devices, computer keyboards and remote controls.
The infection preventionist said she hopes good hygiene practices will continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think there are a lot of people out there who are creating processes for this going forward.”