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Please wash your hands!

In a perfect world there would be no sickness, right? We would all be washing our hands with soap and water. We’d cough and sneeze into our elbow. Each doorstep would host a chemical shower so we could hose off after being coughed in the face by a total stranger. That is what utopia looks like to me during the flu season.

I’m lucky on the health front. My family rarely gets sick. I’m also superstitious enough to wonder if I’m hexing myself by writing that down. (I’ll let you know the results on that after I consult my Ouija board.) I’m not a doctor, nurse or anyone remotely resembling a healthcare professional. That makes me just as qualified to give medical advice as an in-depth search on WebMD. Before you all get up in arms and storm the comment section, I asked real medical professionals, the ones with degrees on office walls, the best way to help prevent the flu and other viruses.

It is really no surprise that it comes down to hand washing. The biggest issue is that most of us don’t take the necessary time to thoroughly wash our hands. I’m not judging, just here to help. It takes at least 20 seconds for the germs to be killed. So if you’re just rubbing a bit of hand sanitizer around, it isn’t doing its job. The same goes for washing with plain soap and water.

The elementary school trick of saying either the complete alphabet two times or singing the Happy Birthday song twice while washing hands still holds true. It doesn’t matter what trick you use as long as it takes about 20 seconds. Do math problems, if that is your thing or sing part of the score from “Hamilton.” I don’t care, just please wash your hands.

Hand sanitizer has been marketed as the “end all” for viruses. I understand and appreciate its virtues, but it is not a substitute for soap and water. I always think about hand sanitizer as the bonus to hand washing, not a substitution for soap and water. I recognize the role of hand sanitizer when there is no easy access to water. There is also the debate about alcohol-based vs. non-alcohol based hand sanitizers. A hand sanitizer of at least 60% alcohol has been proven to kill germs. That doesn’t mean that a non-alcohol version won’t kill some germs. It just may not be as effective. Check the ingredients list and choose what is best for your family. Whichever hand sanitizer you are using, make sure to use the recommended amount and to get it in all the nooks, crannies and fingernails. Then get on home and wash your hands.

With all the handwashing comes dried hands and cracked fingers. One inexpensive option to keep your hands healthy is to rub cocoa butter or coconut oil on your hands at night. I found both at Dollar Tree. Obviously, hand washing is just one element in a list of ways to prevent illness. I hope you are all healthy and the only thing you’re spreading around is kindness.

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series. For family-friendly activities go to AdirondackFamilyTime.com

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