Monday, December 4, 2023

You may want to wash your hands after reading this

Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to avoid colds, influenza, and other sicknesses this winter costs absolutely nothing: Handwashing is quick, easy, and free, and a great way to protect yourself from nasty germs.

“Handwashing is one of the easiest yet most important means for infection control available to us,” said Dr. John E. Snellings, assistant professor of Family and Community Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “The Centers for Disease Control cites studies that show handwashing can prevent 1-in-3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1-in-5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu.”

Diarrhea-related illnesses, colds, and influenza are very common at this time of the year, so regular handwashing just might increase the chances of avoiding these illnesses by anywhere from 20-percent to 33-percent.

When someone is sick with a respiratory illness like a cold or influenza, they cough and they sneeze, and they leave germs behind on surfaces and objects. This can be tables, or door knobs, or copier buttons, or a computer mouse and keyboard, or even the telephones and cellphones they touch.

They can also transfer from hand to hand when two people shake hands.

Cold and flu viruses can live several hours on a surface, perhaps even up to 24 hours. So the germs are left behind long after an ill person has left the room.

Washing hands properly is important.

“Wet your hands, apply soap and lather, and scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers, and under nails – for 20 seconds. Rinse and dry with a clean towel or by air drying,” Snellings said.

Even if hands or fingers do happen to have a virus on them, that virus still needs to find a way into the body to infect a person. The virus itself will not enter they body through the skin.

“Unwashed hands can carry bacteria, viruses, and even parasites,” Snellings said. “Exposing these pathogens to the eyes, nose, and mouth, along with their associated mucous membranes, provides a direct route into the body and possible infection.”

John Snellings, MD with EVMS, said handwashing is among the most effective ways to avoid colds and influenza (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of EVMS)
Dr. John Snelling (HNNDaily photo/Courtesy of EVMS)

So all care should be taken to avoid touching the eyes, the nose, or the mouth with unwashed hands. And hands should always be washed before eating or before preparing food for others to eat.

For more tips and information about Dr. handwashing visit the CDC website.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

Related Articles