Proper Handwashing Could Keep Doctor Away

POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2009 - 1:20pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:59pm

By now we all know washing our hands is one of the best ways to prevent the flu -- but are you sure you're washing your hands correctly? Reporter Chris Chan recently put his handwashing skills to the test using glo germ, a harmless powder that glows under a blacklight, and shows us how viruses like the flu can spread.

"If you think of a phone in a busy office, or a keyboard, that half hour can expose a lot of people," Frank Myers, of Scripps Mercy Hospital, said. After covering his hands with the fake germs Chan picked up the phone and dialed some numbers. The germs were all over the handset and buttons. Then an NBC intern, Cameron, picked up the phone.

The germs were clearly visible on her hand. "If she stuck her finger in her mouth nose or eyes, she would most likely be infected," Myers said. Myers says the flu virus can stay live on a phone or hands for roughly 30 minutes.

And if you don't wash your hands properly the virus can stick around. Chan had a quick wash and found that he missed several spots. You're supposed wash for 15 to 20 seconds, the time it takes to sing the a-b-c song or happy birthday.

And even then, the fake germs were still on his hands. "Some people do a good job of making sure their fingertips are clean but forget their entire thumb," Myers said. It's a lesson in handwashing that could keep the doctor away.