How Should You Wash Your Hands to Avoid Coronavirus?

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It’s the big question everyone’s asking: How can I avoid coronavirus? Although the virus was previously thought to not pose an immediate threat to the U.S., some public health experts now think that 40 to 70 percent of the global population – Americans included – will eventually be infected. The disease’s symptoms resemble the flu, and just as with the flu, you’re unlikely to die or suffer long-term consequences if you’re young and healthy, but since you can still inadvertently spread it to vulnerable populations, it’s vital to limit your potential of carrying the virus.

Washing your hands is key for preventing coronavirus transmission, and chances are that you’re not washing your hands correctly. Simply putting your hands under running water isn’t enough, and just because you’re using soap doesn’t mean you’re washing your hands correctly. Here’s how to wash your hands to avoid getting or spreading coronavirus.

Wash every part of your hands – fingernails included

Change your handwashing routine to prioritize getting soap and water on every single part of your hands. This doesn’t just mean your palms and fingertips – it means the spaces between your fingers, the backs of your hands, and underneath your fingernails. Viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens can gather under your fingernails especially easily, and most handwashing doesn’t reach the fingernails well. To ensure that your fingernails are being properly washed, when you wash your hands, scratch your fingertips against your palms to get the soapy water all the way under your fingernails.

Sing a song to get the right amount of handwashing time

Most people don’t wash their hands for nearly long enough. Experts recommend washing your hands for a full 20 seconds to properly minimize your chances of spreading coronavirus and other pathogens. If this amount of time seems incredibly long or even agonizing to spend washing your hands, fret not – there are plenty of songs you can sing to have a bit of fun passing the time and make sure you spend enough time under the faucet.

Singing the alphabet song or two back-to-back renditions of “Happy Birthday” is usually enough to reach 20 seconds of handwashing. You can also sing certain portions of ubiquitous pop songs to pass the time, including the choruses of Beyoncé’s “Love on Top,” Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Toto’s “Africa,” and Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.” You may well be singing these songs anyway, especially the last one, so why not include them in your handwashing to make it more fun?

Use a clean towel to dry off

If you wash your hands and then use a dirty towel to dry them off, then you might as well have never washed your hands. You can reuse a hand towel assuming that you’ve only previously used it to dry properly washed hands, but you shouldn’t use somebody else’s hand towels. You can use air dryers if they’re your only option, but recent studies have shown that air dryers aren’t always sanitary options.

Know when to wash your hands

Many people know the basics of when to wash their hands: Before eating, throughout food preparation, after using the bathroom, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. You should also take care to wash your hands after coming into contact with pets, handling pet food, treating cuts or other wounds, and after working with garbage or recycling. Most importantly, wash your hands after caring for or coming into contact with people who are in any way ill.

Use hand sanitizer if need be

In a pinch, hand sanitizer is a viable solution for killing pathogens. As with handwashing, you’ll need to rub in your hand sanitizer for 20 seconds across all parts of your hands. Read the label on your hand sanitizer container to determine how much hand sanitizer you should use. If you can’t figure out a proper amount, keep in mind a principle that applies to handwashing too: During a virus outbreak, it’s hard to underdo personal hygiene.

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