December 2 through December 8th is National Handwashing Week.  A task we should do numerous times through each day, is observed this week, as a reminder of all the bad things that can happen to us if we and others don’t wash our hands. 

Think of how many places you enter and exit through the day – your car, subway, bus, taxi, or other means of going to work.  Doorknobs are a great place for germs to sit just waiting for you.  Your computer or cell phone probably has germs galore.  If you have to share a phone with someone else, you should have some antiseptic wipes to clean them between uses. 

Hospitals come to mind as one of the single-most places that infections occur (HAI’s or hospital-associated infections.)  It is not unusual that hospital rooms and other areas contain antiseptic stations for nurses, patient families, and doctors to ensure their hands are clean before coming in contact with a patient.  Don’t be embarrassed to ask your nurse if she washed her hands before touching you.  Many times, patients leave the hospital sicker than when they came in, especially if they have surgery.  Hospitals fight infection rates by keeping room temperatures low (chilly); however, keeping everything extremely sterile is of the utmost importance.

 Restaurants are another place where germs lurk.  How many times have you noticed someone preparing food without wearing gloves?  Have you ever witnessed them preparing, say, pizza, and then taking money from someone while you are waiting on your order?  Schools, cafeterias, and most restaurants require wearing hairnets and disposable latex gloves when handling food.  Manufacturing plants have strict rules about keeping food safe by wearing the proper protective equipment.  We are very trusting in our purchases of produce, but first and most important, is washing that produce once it is in our kitchen.  Of course, homemakers aren’t going to wear hairnets and gloves preparing the evening meal, but they should wash hands before and after preparing food. 

Airports are another handy location to pick up germs, both inside the terminal and inside the plane.  There have been reports of planes that have not been properly cleaned between flights, so it would pay to carry some antiseptic wipes in your carry-on bag or purse, to de-germ the things you may be in contact with. 

Teach your children to wash their hands the right way, with plenty of soap and water, in the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.  This is a good rule of thumb for grown-ups as well.  Keep some antiseptic wipes or cleaner in your car so you can use it after paying for soft drinks at the drive-in, doing your daily shopping or anytime you have been out of your car.  That way at least YOU know your hands are clean; just hope those you have been in contact with observe the same hand hygiene habits.  Think about these things the next time you shake hands with someone!