Healthy Choices

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

How to wash your hands correctly to avoid illness

12/02/2013 3:15 PM

12/02/2013 3:16 PM

It turns out there’s a right and a wrong way to wash one’s hands, says Sacramento County Public Health Nurse Kate McAuley. Unfortunately, most people do it the wrong way. They simply don’t spend enough time on the task.

For people who dab on soap, rub and dash, it may come as a surprise to learn they are not doing enough to clean their hands.

“It’s really important to thoroughly wash our hands as we go about our day. We pick up a lot of bacteria, viruses and dirt,” said McAuley, who is the county’s immunization program coordinator and interim director of public health nursing. “A quick rinse will not do the job. You need to take the time to wash the back of your hands, your palm and your fingers.”

This is especially true during the holiday season when people are eating lots of finger foods, and shopping in public places where doorknobs and escalator railings might be contaminated.

Trying this simple tip will get you as clean as McAuley wants you to be: Singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice over and while washing your hands for the duration. This will result in a hand-washing that banishes all those germs down the drain.

And given that this is the time of the year that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the importance of hand-washing, the CDC is offering a poster to download that say “Keep Cool and Wash Your Hands” or in Spanish, “Mantenga la Calma y Lávese Las Manos.”

About This Blog

Sacramento Bee reporters Cynthia Craft and Sammy Caiola write about community health issues in the Sacramento region. Their work is in conjunction with the California Endowment, a non-profit health foundation created in 1996.

Cynthia H. Craft is The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health. She graduated from Ohio State University and previously worked at the Los Angeles Times and California Journal. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. Reach her at or 916-321-1270. Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

Sammy Caiola joined The Sacramento Bee as a health reporter in 2014. She is a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where she was a Top 10 finisher in the William Randolph Hearst College Journalism Awards. Reach her at or 916-321-1636. Twitter: @SammyCaiola.


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