TAMPA, Fla. — ‘Tis the season for exchanging more than just presents, good tidings and cheer. While influenza (flu) viruses are spread year-round here in the U.S., the peak time for flu season is between December and February, meaning now is the time to avoid spending the holidays with the gift that keeps on giving – a cough, fever and chills that is.

Believe it or not, one of the simplest ways to avoid spreading the flu is by washing your hands. However, the most recent available data still suggests U.S. citizens aren't quite sure how to do that. In fact, a 2018 report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found 97 percent of Americans are not washing their hands correctly.

It is recommended to soap up and scrub for a minimum of 20 seconds because rushing the process won’t rid your hands of the possible bacteria still lurking on your skin. Since washing your hands is an easy and effective way to stop the spread of germs, it is ideal to make sure you are washing your hands often enough while following the proper steps.

So when should you wash your hands? According to the CDC the key times to scrub would be:

  • Before, during and after preparing food and before eating
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching, petting and handling a pet or their food/treats
  • Before and after administering first aid care
  • After changing diapers or helping a child with toilet training
  • After handling trash or recycling

It is also recommended to wash your hands when you get home from your commute as well as wash your hands often in the workplace.

To ensure you are washing your hands properly, here are the five steps to keep your hands squeaky clean and germ free:

1: Wet your hands with warm or cold water, then apply soap

2: Lather your hands – front, back, between fingers and under nails

3: Scrub your hands for approximately 20 seconds. This is equivalent to singing “Happy Birthday” from start to end twice

4: Rinse your hands with clean water

5: Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry

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