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12/5/2013 1:00:00 PM
Most Important Action to Prevent Illness is Also the Simplest

Your hands touch so many things every day: children, doorknobs, ATM buttons, shopping carts, keyboards, pets, and bathrooms, just to name a few. All of these surfaces are likely to have disease-causing germs on them.

If you touch your eyes, nose, mouth or any broken skin, the germs on your hands can cause an infection. Illnesses such as skin infections, diarrhea, colds or even the flu can be spread by germs on your hands.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds you that the most important step you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones is to clean your hands, and it's easy to do!

What is the best way to clean your hands? Use one of these methods to clean your hands:

• Wash your hands with soap and water any time your hands are visibly soiled. First, wet your hands with warm water, then use liquid or clean bar soap to work up a lather. Rub your hands together vigorously for at least 15 to 20 seconds to remove the "dirt." Remember to scrub your nail areas, thumbs, wrists and back of hands because these areas are often forgotten. Finish by rinsing your hands well, then drying with a clean towel. In public areas, protect your clean hands by using the paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door.

• When your hands look clean, germs can still be present. This is when you can disinfect your hands using an alcohol-based hand product such as a gel or foam. Check the label to be sure the product contains between 60 and 95 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand products only work on hands that look clean because they cannot physically remove "dirt." Use enough of the product to thoroughly moisten your hands, and then rub it in until your hands are dry.

Germs multiply quickly on your skin and hands, so it's important to clean them often. The OSDH Acute Disease Service strongly encourages everyone to always clean your hands at these times:

• Before, during and after you prepare food • Before you eat • Before you touch your eyes, nose or mouth • Before you insert or remove contact lenses • Before and after using sports/fitness equipment • Before and after treating a cut or wound • After you blow your nose, or if you cough or sneeze into your hands • After you use the bathroom or change a diaper • After handling uncooked foods, especially meat, poultry or fish • After touching animals or animal waste • After you handle garbage or dirty laundry • More often when someone in your home is sick • Whenever your hands look or feel dirty

To prevent illness all year long, remember to clean your hands often and set an example for your family members and coworkers to do the same.

For more information about preventing illness, visit www.health.ok.gov.

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