Any teacher can testify that germs like to go ‘round and ‘round, hopping from child to child until the entire class gets sick, maybe even the teacher herself. Thank goodness we have an immune system that keeps us in the fight against pathogens (the harmful, disease-causing bacteria, fungi, or viruses) that persist in our environment. But why wait for the immune system to react to invaders when we can be proactive and keep them from entering in the first place?
It’s a well-known fact that washing your hands with soap and water is essential to preventing common illnesses. The washing action separates contaminants from your hands, and the drying action, via towel or paper towel, removes them from your hands and helps to flush out the suspended contaminants by removing excess water.
Good hand-washing technique is key. Experts teach us that the correct way to wash hands is by rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds, and using a generous amount of soap. It is also important to get between the fingers, and to not forget your wrists. Short, neatly trimmed nails are best, as dirty, long fingernails can harbor disease. Note that you don’t need to use an antibacterial soap to do the job. A comprehensive analysis from the University of Oregon School of Public Health indicated that plain soaps are as effective as consumer-grade anti-bacterial soaps containing triclosan in preventing illness and removing bacteria from the hands. Some studies also suggest that persistent use of consumer antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers may lead to resistance to antibiotics in some bacteria.