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Cold and flu season is in full swing so now is the time to make sure that you’re doing all you can to keep germs away.

One of the most important steps to avoid getting sick or spreading germs is to wash your hands often with soap and clean, running water.

Here’s the proper technique, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

“Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the ‘Happy Birthday’ song from beginning to end twice.”

When to clean your hands:
Before, during, and after preparing food and before eating
Before and after caring for someone who is sick
Before and after treating a cut or wound
After using the toilet, changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste or handling pet food
After touching garbage

If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizing gel, foam or wipe. Consider carrying a small container with you so it’s handy when you’re out and about, such as when you go out to eat. Choose one that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

In addition, it is important to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze. You can also use your upper sleeve or the inside of your elbow, but don’t use your hands.

Finally, if you’re not feeling well, give yourself a break: stay home from work or school. Please wait to visit loved ones in the hospital. It’s important to protect patients from germs – especially new mothers and infants – and to protect adults and kids from catching illnesses from people undergoing treatment.

Click here to read more about how to care for someone who is sick at home and avoid spreading the illness to others.

Download this brochure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tips on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your home and other home safety tips.

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