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Proper handwashing is one of the best preventive measures to keep you from getting sick — whether it's the common cold or the coronavirus. It can also help control the spread of disease to others.
"Handwashing is a great defense against common germs," says Mary K. Hayden, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Rush. "It's great for mechanically removing dirt, live bacteria, their spores and viruses, which is an effective way to avoid disease."
Hayden also recommends using alcohol gels when soap and water aren't available.
"Alcohol gels actually kill germs," says Hayden. "The gels get rid of the vast majority of pathogens quickly and have the advantage of not being drying, which can be an issue in the winter. The only disadvantage is that they don't remove all viruses, parasites or bacterial spores the way handwashing with soap and water can.
Most people don't think there's a difference between washing your hands thoroughly and just giving them a hurried lather and rinse. In fact, to wash your hands properly, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following:
If you don’t have access to soap and running water, you can use an alcohol-based hand gel or wipe.
Alcohol-based gels get rid of the vast majority of pathogens quickly. The only disadvantage is that they don't remove all viruses, parasites or bacterial spores the way handwashing with soap and water can.
It seems simple, but handwashing is a great way to stem the spread of germs and disease.
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