It’s cold and flu season in the northern hemisphere. And wherever you are in the world, we all want to wash away the germs that could make us sick.
Hundreds of people have taken our hand-washing quiz and about half of them stumbled on question 3, which asks: “Your hands are wet and soapy. How long should you scrub?” Can you answer correctly?
Hand-washing is of particular concern to those who live with primary immunodeficiences. This group of more than 300 rare diseases makes people more vulnerable to infections, such as influenza. The Immune Deficiency Foundation offers advice on hygiene in its handbook for patients and families.
Washing for the recommended amount of time ensures that you’ll do a thorough job. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends scrubbing all surfaces of your hands, including the palms, backs, fingers, between your fingers and under your nails.
Do you know someone who resists hand-washing? When we asked Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an associate director at the CDC, he encouraged a polite but direct approach, especially for those who have immune system problems. It’s even OK to ask the doctor or nurse if they washed their hands before examining you, he said.
With friends or family members, he suggests explaining why clean hands matter and saying something like: “These are all the things you can do to keep me from getting sick.”
What’s the correct amount of time to wash your hands? Take the quiz to find out!