Salt Lake County Health Department says simple steps can prevent illness

SALT LAKE CITY -- Cold and flu season is here, and it’s already hitting hard for our neighbors in Nevada, where flu cases are already up nearly 20 percent in some areas.

The Salt Lake County Health Department wants to keep that from happening here in Utah, and they say simply washing your hands could keep you from becoming a cold and flu statistic.

While it may seem straightforward, Environmental Health Scientist Andrea Gamble broke down the steps for proper hand washing.

"So the proper way to wash hands is you want to use warm water–preferably 100 degrees, and then you want to apply enough soap to create a lather,” she said. “Here in Utah we have really hard water, so you need to apply a little bit of extra soap to get that lather, and then you want to vigorously scrub for 20 seconds.”

She said attention to detail is important.

“And you want to pay close attention to in between your fingers, your fingernails, and then get all the way up to your elbows," she said.

There are also other steps to consider once the actual washing is done.

“Then you want to rinse your hands and then use a single use paper towel– the friction will actually remove more germs," Gamble continued. "And then you can use that paper towel to turn off the faucet because you don’t want your clean hands touching the dirty faucet–and if you’re in the bathroom you can use the paper towel to open the door to get out.”

Gamble said it’s important to realize that water alone won’t do the trick.

“And if you’re just putting your hands under the water without using soap and scrubbing, you’re just dislodging the germs, and so when you touch things you’re actually spreading germs,” Gamble said.

She also said it’s crucial to dry your hands properly.

“Wet hands spread germs more easily than dry hands because it will dislodge the germs, and every time you touch a surface you can leave the germs behind–so you’re actually spreading disease instead of preventing it,” she said.

Hand sanitizers deactivate the germs, but they still stick around on your hands until they are washed down the drain.