Handwashing: I Never Knew There Was a Right Way To Wash Your Hands

Does Handwashing Really Work? YES-Clean Hands Save Lives!

Washing hands
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Handwashing is one of the most important steps you can take in preventing flu from impacting your asthma control this flu season. While many people do not realize that there actually recommendations about how we wash our hands, there is also a science behind it.

Why Is Handwashing Important?

Clean hands save lives and may prevent worsening asthma symptoms such as:

    When you take time to wash your hands you are decreasing the spread of germs and viruses that lead to worsening of asthma and other illness. Regularly washing your hands further deceases the risk you may spread disease or self infect yourself.

    Lack of hand washing can lead to illnesses that may exacerbate your asthma through the following:

    • Germs and viruses can get onto people’s hands by touching any object where the virus is residing. Someone may have coughed or sneezed or the object may be touched by another contaminated object (e.g. someone who did not wash their hands).
    • People commonly touch their eyes, face, nose and mouth with their hands. Think of this as auto-inoculation of that germ or virus into your body that may lead to illness. If you do not believe me go to any common area or fast food chain and sit down and watch the crowd for 10 minutes. You will see multiple people touch the area of their face several times while you are observing. I have taken this one step further and approached people and asked them if they remembered touching their face. Now maybe they were creeped out by a random guy asking this, but large numbers of the people I asked either denied touching their face or did not remember how frequently they did this.
    • Germs and viruses get into food and drinks when we handle them with unclean hands.
    • Germs and viruses are transferred to and contaminate objects such as tabletops, door handles, and handrails. Germs and viruses can be transferred to others when they touch these objects and potentially infect others.

    All of these scenarios are times where hand washing could decrease your risk of catching a virus that may make your asthma worse.

    In fact research indicates handwashing education may decrease cold and flu illnesses by more than 20%.

    Handwashing Instructions

    The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends a 5 step hand washing process:

    1. Wet. Wet your hands first. I prefer warm water (especially in the winter), but it does not really matter in terms of disease prevention. If you are allowing kids to wash hands by themselves make sure hot water is not so hot that they could scald themselves. Apply soap.
    2. Lather. Rub your hands together to lather up and make sure you you get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under finger nails.
    3. Scrub. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Singing yourself Happy Birthday twice will be about just the right amount of time. At home, I will ask my kids to sing their favorite song out loud so that I know they are not cutting the time short. Make sure you scrub between fingers and under nails.
    4. Rinse. Run your hands under running water. You do not want to rinse in standing water as you might pick up the germ or virus again. Think of the virus circling the drain away from you.
    1. Dry. Dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry.

    What Should I Do If I Don’t Have Soap and Water Around?

    If you are at the mall or office and don’t have ready access to wash your hands, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Many public buildings and businesses now have hand sanitizer within reach and small travel sizes are easily put in the glove box of your car. You simply put a small amount in the palm of your hand and rub over the front and backs of hands, between fingers until your hands are dry.


    1. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Handwashing: Clean hands Save Lives. Accessed October 10, 2014.

    2. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. When & How to Wash Your Hands. Accessed October 10, 2014.

    3. Kampf G, Kramer A.Epidemiologic background of hand hygiene and evaluation of the most important agents for scrubs and rubs. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2004 Oct;17(4):863–93.

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