The Power is in Our HandsPosted on by
Angela Dunbar, Manager of the CDC
and CDC Foundation’s Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients Program
“I wonder if they will all say the same thing,” I thought as I waited for the steady flow of my medical team to begin filing in and out of my exam room.
You see, I had breast cancer and was just about to begin six weeks of treatment. Six weeks, 42 days… sounds like nothing, right? But to me it was everything. During those six weeks I had a lot of Hallmark movie moments that I didn’t want to miss. I desperately wanted to feel good enough to move my oldest son into his freshman college dorm, see my other son off to his first day of his junior year in high school, and walk my 4-year-old little girl into her first day of “big school.” And, of course, there was work, which going to every day made me feel surprisingly accomplished and almost normal.
My mind was racing through all of the things I’ve heard over the years. Ironically, I have managed Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients (PICP), a program for people with cancer, their caregivers, and providers, for nearly a decade. So when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my boss reminded me that I knew exactly what to do to stay healthy during this time: Wash my hands!
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Sometimes almost too simple, which is maybe why I doubted it. So, equipped with the knowledge from PICP and the reminder from my boss, I asked each member of my medical team that day what was the No. 1 thing I should do to avoid getting sick during my treatment. You guessed it. “Wash your hands” came out of every single one of their mouths in some form. Of course they followed it with other advice, but cleaning hands often was the clear weapon of choice against the spread of germs.
All along, the power was in my hands. It’s in your hands, too. Even if you’re one of the healthiest people you know, always remember that the person beside you may not be so lucky. Handwashing is not just about protecting yourself, but about protecting people around you. So in honor of National Handwashing Awareness Week, here are CDC’s recommendations for the right way to wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with water. Use liquid soap if possible. Apply a nickel- or quarter-sized amount of soap to your hands.
- Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather and then rub all over the top of your hands, in between your fingers and the area around your thumb, and under the fingernails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 15-20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean running water.
- Dry your hands with a paper towel if possible. Then use your paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door if needed.
And if you’re like me, you probably have five bottles of hand sanitizer floating between your purse, car, desk, etc. Just remember, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub it, just like you rub soap, until your hands are completely dry.
By the way, I’m happy to report that my Hallmark movie got a happy ending! Now, go wash your hands!
Angela Dunbar is a health communications specialist and manager of the CDC and the CDC Foundation’s Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients program.