The pandemic has made us quite aware of the importance of washing our hands to help protect against COVID-19 infection. However, as we enter the season of get-togethers and crowded activities, handwashing is also a must to protect against other germs that can make us sick. Here’s what you should know about handwashing as well as where to go to keep up with information about vaccines, masking and other important ways to protect yourself from COVID-19.
Keeping hands clean can reduce…
- Respiratory illnesses, like colds or flu, in the general population by about 16–21%
- The number of people who get sick with diarrhea by about 23–40%
- Absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29–57%
- Diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by about 58%
Handwashing is most important when preparing food, before eating, after using the bathroom, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. (Remember to cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Always discard used tissues in the trash.)
To wash hands properly, wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap. Rub your hands together, lathering the backs, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
Keep updated on COVID-19 guidance
The COVID-19 vaccine. Information is continously being updated as we learn more about the virus and how best to prevent its spread. Everyone age 5 and up is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Always check with your healthcare provider and the CDC for up-to-date recommendations including those for children and teens. Visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html
COVID-19 booster shots. COVID vaccines work well, but boosters may be needed to protect against the Delta variant. You can mix and match which vaccine you get as a booster. For eligibility and the time period to get a booster according to what COVID vaccine you got initially, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html
Mask recommendations. The CDC recommends that everyone 2 years of age or older who is not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public places. Consider wearing a mask outdoors in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases or for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. To find transmission levels and masking guidance by county, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html
Travel: For general domestic and international travel guidance including getting tested, visit the CDC’s travel guidance site.