Safe hands

National Handwashing Awareness Week, held annually the first full week in December, will be observed Dec. 1-7.

Handwashing is the first line of defense against the bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa that cause illness. It prevents the spread of colds, flu, gastroenteritis and viruses such as the coronavirus.

Follow these five steps every time you wash your hands:

• Wet your hands with clean running water.

• Lather hands with soap and rub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

• Scrub for at least 20 seconds.

• Rinse your hands well under clean running water.

• Dry hands using a towel or air dryer.

Wash your hands before and after touching your eyes, nose or mouth; before and after eating; after touching your mask; after using the restroom; after entering and leaving a public space; and after touching items that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, gas pumps, shopping carts or cash register screens.

Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if it’s not possible to wash with soap and water. The sanitizer should be at least 60 percent alcohol.

Handwashing is preferable to sanitizer because the latter does not get rid of all types of germs and may not be as effective on grimy or greasy hands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has additional details on handwashing, while the Wellness LiteBlue page has more information on health matters.