LiveSmart: Listen to Mom – Wash Your Hands!

[This piece was written by Carla Barberis-Ryan, MHSA, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Director, Women’s & Children’s Services at St. Peter’s Hospital.]

It turns out that mom was right, again. One of the best ways to stay healthy as we enter the thick of cold, flu and stomach bug season is to heed mom’s advice from when you were little: Wash your hands!

Hand-to-mouth contact is the primary way many infectious diseases are spread, so proper and frequent hand washing is critical. It’s important to remember – and remind the children in your life – that washing your hands is the number one defense against illness.

You should always wash your hands:

  • When your hands are visibly soiled.
  • Before eating.
  • After using the toilet, when the number of germs on your fingertips doubles.
  • When you’ve coughed or sneezed.
  • After you’ve petted or cared for pets, including handling pet food and dishes.
  • Before preparing food.
  • After touching raw meat, poultry or fish and especially before you touch any fresh food, such as lettuce, that does not require cooking.
  • When you’ve changed a baby’s diaper.
  • When you’ve been working outside in the garden.
  • After handling garbage.
  • After you’ve taken medication or treated a sore on your skin.
  • Before inserting or removing a contact lens.

How you wash is just as important as when you wash. Just placing your hands under running water for a few minutes will do little, if anything, to get rid of harmful bacteria. Always remember to:

  • Use warm water and soap, lathering up all over the hands, in between the fingers, under the nails and up the wrists. Remember that millions of bacteria can hide under a ring, watch band or bracelet.
  • Take at least 20 seconds – the time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice – to wash, rubbing the hands vigorously together before rinsing.
  • Dry the hands thoroughly with a clean towel or paper towel.

If you don’t have access to facilities to properly wash your hands, hand sanitizer will work in a pinch until you can wash your hands. But it is no substitute! So, as soon as you have the opportunity, make sure to lather up for good health.

Earlier this year, St. Peter’s received the 2018 Women’s Choice Award as one of America’s Best Hospitals for obstetrics for the fourth consecutive year. This follows last year’s recognition as an international “Baby-Friendly” hospital, with St. Peter’s being the first in the Capital Region to earn the designation.

For information on delivering a baby at St. Peter’s Hospital, as well as information on parenting classes, infant care, breastfeeding, or placental donation, please call 518-525-1388 or visit

St. Peter’s Hospital was named one of America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics and Heart Care for the fourth consecutive year, Cancer Care for second consecutive year, and Orthopedics, Bariatric Surgery, and Breast Centers for the first time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email