/Handwashing for a healthy flu season

Handwashing for a healthy flu season

October 21, 2016

LAS VEGAS – As flu season approaches, the Southern Nevada Health District is reminding everyone that in addition to getting a flu shot, keeping your hands clean is an important step you can take to stay healthy and stop the spread of germs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent. In a study on the effects of alcohol-based hand sanitizer use in elementary schools, there was an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8 percent among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students.

In order to be most effective there are appropriate techniques for handwashing and the use of hand sanitizers:

  1. Soap is key. Soap removes germs more effectively than washing hands with just water alone. Soap contains compounds called surfactants which help to remove microbes from the skin. People using soap also scrub their hands more thoroughly, which helps to remove germs.
  2. Washing hands thoroughly takes longer than you think. The time it takes to wash your hands depends on a number of factors, including the type and amount of soil on your hands. The CDC recommends washing your hands for about 20 seconds – the time it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  3. Technique counts. Pay attention to the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, and under your nails. Create a lather and scrub your hands to create friction, which helps to remove soil, and germs from your skin.
  4. Drying is an important step. It is easier to transfer germs to and from wet hands. Make sure to dry your hands thoroughly each time you wash them with a clean towel or by air drying if possible.
  5. Hand sanitizer is an option. If handwashing with soap and running water is not an option, use an alcohol–based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Use enough product to cover all surfaces of your hands and do not rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer before it is dry.

“Clean hands are not a trivial matter,” said Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District. “Not only does proper handwashing help to prevent the flu and other respiratory infections, it can also reduce illness and even death associated with other illnesses.”

According to the CDC, 1.8 million children under the age of 5 are killed every year by diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. These two types of illness are the leading killers of children around the world. Appropriate handwashing can prevent one out of every three diarrheal illness and one out of five respiratory infections in young children – making many of the deaths preventable with soap and water.

More information and handwashing resources are available on the Health District website at: http://www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/health-topics/hand-washing.php.



The Southern Nevada Health District serves as the local public health authority for Clark County, Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and North Las Vegas. The agency safeguards the public health of the community’s residents and visitors through innovative programs, regulations, and initiatives focused on protecting and promoting their health and well-being. More information about the Health District, its programs, services, and the regulatory oversight it provides is available at www.SNHD.info.