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Our Bodies: It’s The Cold Season - Wash Your Hands

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Dear Dr. Levister: How can I convince my teens that hand washing is essential to overall good health and helps to avoid cold and flu?
Frustrated Mom

Dear Frustrated: As a parent and health care provider, I share your frustration. Try this in your face approach.

Contact your local library or board of public health, and ask for some enlarged color photos of cold and flu viruses, hepatitis, E coli or Staphylococcus aureus (Staph).

Post the photos on your teen’s bedroom wall amid the competing posters of Usher, Snoop Dogg and TLC.

Let the unsightly display of millions of disease-causing organisms serve as a constant reminder that each time we turn a door knob, pick up a telephone, or shake hands we risk contamination.

All it takes is for you to touch your eyes or nose or mouth, and the germs enter your body, multiply and make you sick.

Even when your hands look clean, the germs are still lurking, invisible to the naked eye. And they aren’t just limited to your palms or the backs of your hands.

An alarming 95 percent of bacteria are found on hands hiding under the fingernails. But you don’t have to wear sterile gloves or live in fear of touching things to keep nasty bacteria at bay.

Experts say the easiest way to combat germs is to wash your hands. At a minimum, people should wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, after playing with a pet, changing a baby’s diaper, and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.

The proper way to wash your hands is to lather up at least 20 seconds, cleaning fingers, wrists, backs of hands and underneath fingernails. Rinse thoroughly with warm, running water.

Dry hands with a clean, cloth or paper towel to avoid getting old germs on clean hands. Use an emollient lotion to help prevent skin from drying out, cracking and becoming infected.

As for getting your youngsters to wash: teach them at an early age, speak their language, and practice what you preach.

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