PUBLISHED: 6:45 AM on Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Be considerate: Wash your hands
Imagine that you are out to dinner at a local eatery with your family. As you are waiting for your table you notice a person sneeze into their hand and shortly thereafter shake someone's hand in greeting.

During your meal you go to use the restroom and witness numerous patrons turn on the water for a few seconds (literally), run their hands under the water, turn it off and walk out of the restroom.

When you go to wash your hands, you determine that the paper towel dispenser is jammed. What did you do? Did you go to find an employee to let them know? How many door handles did you touch on the way?

Imagine that you are coming out of a stall and notice an employee of the restaurant coming out of the stall next to you. You stop at the sink to wash your hands while they head go directly back to work.

When you return to your table you report the incident to restaurant staff, who responds: "Oh, they probably used the 'other' sink." How is someone supposed to respond to that?

When I get sick (which is rarely), I really have no one to blame but myself. It is hard not to blame others, but in all reality we have to point a finger at ourselves. If we get sick it is most likely because we did not wash our own hands properly before touching our faces (eyes, nose or mouth) and exposed ourselves to a nasty infection.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has identified hand washing as the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection.

The CDC website ( states: "Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. It is best to wash your hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds. However, if soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting."

Think about the infections that are shared by those who do not wash their hands as they touch the various surfaces that you will be handling. Money, doorknobs, telephones and merchandise are just a few.

If you are paying attention, you will witness numerous occasions where people are ripe to receive or pass on infections.

Maybe you will notice habits that you currently have that are increasing your exposure to infection.

The restaurant story in this article is true. My husband and I witnessed the events in a local eatery just a few short weeks ago.

By the way, the offenders were mostly locals, not tourists. We did report the employee hand-washing infraction to the management - it is not okay to leave a public restroom without washing your hands - even if there is another sink available elsewhere in the workplace.

The best way to protect yourself and others is to pay attention to your own habits and to wash your hands. You may not be comfortable drawing attention to someone else's bad habits, but you may be able to influence others behaviors by being a good example.

Please, be considerate of others and wash your hands.

When washing hands with soap and water:

• Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.

• Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.

• Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing "Happy Birthday" twice through to a friend!

• Rinse hands well under running water.

• Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

Remember: If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based gel to clean hands.

When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

• Apply product to the palm of one hand.

• Rub hands together.

• Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

When should you wash your hands?

• Before preparing or eating food

• After going to the bathroom

• After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone to the bathroom

• Before and after tending to someone who is sick

• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

• After handling an animal or animal waste

• After handling garbage

• Before and after treating a cut or wound