National Hand Washing Awareness Week – Why It Works

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If you want to craft a battle plan to prevent colds, you don’t have to think long and hard about it. Just remember three simple words: Wash your hands!

There’s no secret in why that works. It’s all due to the way colds spread.

How You Get Infected

The main way colds get passed around is when someone who’s sick coughs or sneezes. Little droplets with germs land on places like doorknobs, telephones, and computer keyboards. Or the sick person coughs or sneezes into their hands and then touches those objects.

Then you come along, happy and healthy, and touch that spot. Next, without even realizing it, you might touch your nose and mouth. Voila! In an instant you’re infected.

Why Hand Washing Works

Some viruses — tiny living things that cause colds — can live on surfaces for hours. Regular hand washing is your best strategy to keep them from getting inside your body. And of course, if you’re the one who’s sick, washing up will keep you from spreading your germs.

There’s some evidence behind this. A program called Operation Stop Cough was started at a military recruit training command center in Illinois. As part of the program, recruits were told to wash their hands at least five times a day. After 2 years, the hand-washing team reported 45% fewer cases of respiratory illness, compared with sickness rates among recruits during the year before the program started.