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Dirty hands increase flu risk

GermHands.jpg

One very simple way to help avoid getting the H1N1 flu this season is to regularly wash your hands. Avoiding the H1N1 strain of influenza this season is as simple as regularly washing your hands. But despite the documented effectiveness of hand washing, many people are skipping this tenet of basic hygiene and boosting their chances of contracting the virus.

Consider how dirty hands increase your risk of infection.

H1N1 influenza lives on surfaces for up to eight hours. Germs lurking on light switches, computer keyboards, toilet handles and other common surfaces can creep into your body each time you gnaw on your nails, rub your nose or itch your eyes. All that touching and scratching of your face is no biggie with squeaky clean hands, but they're often not that squeaky clean.

People grossly exaggerate their hand hygiene. Researchers observed college students at the University of Ontario and concluded that 83% claimed to dutifully wash their hands but only 17.4% were telling the truth.

Combine that data with a University of California, Berkeley study where college students were video-taped for a three-hour period and found to touch their eyes, nose or lips once every four minutes and you begin to understand the tremendous impact hand washing has on your health. In fact, hand-to-face contact equates to roughly one-third of the risk of catching the flu.

The good news: soap and water and hand sanitizer are powerful weapons against the flu. Australian researchers smeared the H1N1 strain of influenza on individuals' hands and were unable to detect the presence of the virus after participants washed with soap and water or sanitizer.

In addition to lathering up, following these tips can further fortify you against infection. As flu season shifts into high gear lend a hand in preventing the spread of H1N1, or other nasty bugs, by washing yours.

Photo by hoyasmeg

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