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I hear more people coughing and sneezing this time of year than any other, and sometimes it's attributable to allergies, but other times it's just plain ole' being sick. It's important to remember that there are easy ways to prevent coming down with the cold and flu as the weather turns cold and damp. First rule of thumb is washing your hands on a regular basis to prevent the spread of germs. However, did you ever think that you might not be washing your hands the proper way?

A recent survey found that out of 1,000 people in the U.S. who responded, 62% said they only rinsed their hands after using the bathroom without using soap. Another survey from 2008 found that people touch their face an average of 16 times an hour. Combined, that makes for a pretty nasty pool of germs on the places that people touch the most–like bathroom door handles, keyboards, and other surfaces in the workplace and at home. So what do you need to do? Wash your hands regularly with soap and water and make sure to get to the dirtiest parts.

The Centers for Disease Control suggests that you follow these guidelines when washing your hands:

  • Wash your hands for about 20 seconds, or two rounds of singing "Happy Birthday".
  • The temperature of the water doesn't matter, but it's best to let your hands air dry or use a paper towel instead of rubbing them on dirty pants or using a dirty shared towel.
  • Get to the dirtiest parts of your hands–in the crevices around and under the fingernails and between the fingers.
  • Make sure to use a good amount of friction.
  • Using soap is important because it acts as an emulsifier that allows germs to slip off of the hands.

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