hand washing with soap
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Is it possible to cut down on how many times we get a cold or the flu and how long it lasts? When I raised my children, I taught them what I’d been taught, cough or sneeze into your hands. Now, mothers shudder at the thought of people coughing into their hands, picking up food for their children, setting the table, shaking hands with adults. The new rule is cough into the crook of your elbow, or into your shoulder. You’re not using it for anything else, while you use your hands for everything.

I will say I notice more when I’m in restrooms if someone doesn’t wash their hands, now that we know that about 25% of people do not wash their hands after using the restroom. But, I haven’t figured out what to do about it. By the time I realize someone is heading for the door instead of the sink, I don’t have time to call them back.

And, what would I say? “Excuse me. Did you forget something?” I’m not their mother. But, then, I’m about to use the door handle they are holding. Some progressive restaurants supply paper towels or sanitized wipes next to the door or have installed a handle you can open with your elbow. The women’s room at the National Science Foundation, in their poster about cutting down on the spread of the flu, advises you to wash your hands (of course), then use the paper towel you dried your hands with to go back and wipe off the faucets you used in washing your hands, which, recent studies have shown, are dirtier than most other surfaces.

A cruise I took last winter stationed people at the entrance to the restaurants to insist that you use hand sanitizers before entering, perhaps a wise precaution as a virus hit cruise ships before we got home and we spent hours in dock before we were allowed back in the United States. I imagine the doctor on board was explaining to those on shore the aggressive measures they had taken on the cruise to pre-empt such an outbreak and that no one had gotten sick. I never even used to think about it. But, that was before I knew what poor habits some people have.

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