Gear up for flu season with proper handwashing

If you do have soap and water at hand, there are four key steps to follow for proper handwashing.

Christina Rittenbach
Christina Rittenbach, extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences division of the North Dakota State University Extension Service in Stutsman County.
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Proper handwashing is the single most important way to help prevent the spread of illness, including colds and the flu. As the weather begins to cool, people stay indoors more often, and the number of colds and flulike symptoms begin to increase.

There are specific times and situations when handwashing is recommended:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or cleaning up after a pet
  • After touching garbage
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound

Washing your hands with soap and warm water is the best way to clean your hands. However, if water is not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer with 60% alcohol. Be sure to read the directions to see how much to use. Rub the sanitizer all over your hands and between your fingers until your hands are dry.
If you do have soap and water at hand, there are four key steps to follow for proper handwashing:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap – don’t reach for the soap before wetting your hands.
  2. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails. Continue rubbing for at least 20 seconds.
  3. Rinse hands well under running water.
  4. Dry your hands using a clean towel, paper towel, or an air dryer.

For more information on this topic, contact Christina Rittenbach, NDSU Extension agent in Stutsman County, at (701) 252-9030 or

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