By Alicia Potter
Updated: August 20, 2008

never-sick-washBy Alicia Potter
From Health magazine

Chris Pope Campbell, 39, of East Greenwich, R.I., washes her hands up to a dozen times a day—after using the restroom, upon returning home after work and errands, after blowing her nose, before eating. Thats unusual. Surveys suggest less than half of us are so vigilant. Campbells thrilled with the results: “I rarely get a cold, and there hasnt been a stomach flu in my family for more than five years.”

While washing your hands that much may seem like a hassle, Campbell says its become a comfortable habit. The only downside is that her hands get dry, so she has to moisturize frequently.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say hand-washing is the number-one action you can take to dodge the 1 billion colds Americans come down with annually, not to mention bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella.

Make hand-washing work for you: Wash with regular soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Vigorously scrub all parts of your hands, not just palms, and check your fingernails for trapped dirt. Dry with paper towels, or designate a hand towel for each member of your household. (They can reuse these several times.) And dont forget to wash after gardening, working out, and handling raw meat or fish.

Also, keep alcohol wipes or alcohol-based cleaning gel handy when using ATM machines and grocery carts, taking public transportation, and reading magazines in waiting rooms, says Neil Schachter, MD, director of respiratory care at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Alcohol kills bacteria and the viruses that cause colds. But dont use antibacterial and/or antimicrobial products: They have chemicals that can lead common bacteria to adapt and turn into superbugs.

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