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Health Team

Health Officials: There's a Right Way to Wash Hands

Posted October 24, 2007 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2007 1:26 p.m. EDT

— Effective hand washing can be key to preventing the spread of germs that can lead to serious illness.

Besides the cold and flu season, people also have to be aware of the spread of MRSA - an antibiotic resistant germ that can lead to life-threatening staph infections.

Washing your hands the correct way can reduce your risk of contamination, according to health officials.

With rooms full of sick people, thorough hand washing at WakeMed is part of the routine. Healthcare workers are trained to do it the right way, beginning with soap and warm water.

“Make sure you wash with good friction, in between your finger spaces, at the tops of your hands [and] the palms of your hands for 20 seconds,” said Robin Carver, WakeMed's director of infection control. “Take a paper towel and turn off the water faucets with a paper towel, because your hands were dirty when you cut them on.”

Carver says microbes not only live on people’s skin, but also on surfaces. A detergent wipe using friction should kill them. Then people have to worry about spreading germs through the air when you're close to someone.

“If you're going to cough or sneeze … do it inside of your elbow,” Carver said.

That keeps the germs out of the air and off the hands, the way most illness is spread.