Wash Your Hands!

By Lina Younes

Winter is commonly referred to as the cold and flu season. Given the cold temperatures, increasingly people will stay indoors where they may be more exposed to others who already have colds. No doubt that indoor air quality is essential for our health. So, what can we do to prevent these colds? Maintaining a distance from those who are sick may be helpful, but what do you do when a close family member is sick or you come in contact with someone who still doesn’t show signs of a cold? Well, preventing colds may be easier than you think. Point of advice: wash your hands often!

Keeping hands clean is one of the best ways of preventing the spread of germs including those of the common cold. It’s important to wash hands before, during and after preparing food as well as eating. Also wash your hand after coughing or sneezing to avoid spreading your own germs. Although hand sanitizers can reduce germs in some situations, good old fashion water and soap still remains the best cleaning method.

As a child, I was always prone to colds. I didn’t completely outgrow them, but I have noticed that in the last year or two they have become less frequent. What have I done differently? Well, after I go to the bathroom and wash my hands, I keep a clean paper towel to open the doors along the way, thus preventing exposure to some hard surfaces like door knobs and elevator buttons which might be contaminated with cold germs. I cannot say scientifically if the combination of increased hand washing plus the paper towel is the main cause, but I’ve definitely seen the benefits by suffering less colds.

Since small children tend to put their hands and objects in their mouth, teaching them to wash their hands well and often will be good preventing medicine. Washing hands often is a good habit that applies to people of all ages. Have a health year!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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