10 Things You Can Do While Washing Your Hands for the CDC-Recommended 20 Seconds

The CDC wants people to wash their hands for 20 seconds to prevent the spread of disease — or the time it takes to hum the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Here are 10 other things you can do instead of singing happy birthday to yourself repeatedly.

click to enlarge Wash. Your. Hands. - Photo: Unsplash
Photo: Unsplash
Wash. Your. Hands.

Human hands are gross — amazing for doing things that require opposable thumbs, like texting, opening bananas, driving cars, etc., but are generally covered in poop. Fecal bacteria is everywhere (Popular Science has a list of shitty places in a story titled "You cannot escape poop bacteria") and if you don't wash your hands, that fecal matter can get into your mouth and eyeballs via your fingers and thumbs. 

Your hands can also transmit diseases like the flu and coronavirus into your body. 

As more and more cases of COVID-19 (colloquially known as the coronavirus) spread around the world and slowly increase in the United States, officials with the Hamilton County Health Department say they're preparing in case the virus reaches Southwestern Ohio. Cases of the novel virus have cropped up in Washington and 14 other states. Those cases have caused nine deaths in the U.S. There are about 90,000 cases of the virus globally, epidemiologists estimate. Currently, one person in the Buckeye state is being tested for the virus

But, while COVID-19 makes headlines, Interim Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says that for now, simple steps are the easiest way to avoid potential threats like this novel virus, and even the common flu. "Wash your hands after you shake a bunch of hands," he says. "If you touch a bunch of railings, wash your hands before you move on.”

Hamilton County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Steve Feagins also says that keeping your hands clean is more important than trying to avoid airborne contagion. “A bottle of hand sanitizer is way more important than a mask,” he says. 

And the Center for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. They say, "Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water."

The CDC guidelines for washing your dang hands are:

So while you could just keep humming the "Happy Birthday" song until you go insane, here are 10 other things you can do for 20 seconds while washing poop and/or viruses off your hands:

  1. Twitter users and various other media outlets have suggested humming or singing the choruses to myriad other Pop hits while scrubbing ranging from Beyonce's "Love on Top" to Prince's "Raspberry Beret" to Lizzo's "Truth Hurts."
  2. Do a deep-dive examination of your facial hair — eyebrows, nose hairs, mustache. Do any of these need to be trimmed or plucked? Grown out? How do you feel about your facial hair emotionally? Explore that.
  3. Do a mini meditation. Psychology Today has some examples, like noticing five things you can see, hear, feel or smell. But since you are in a bathroom, you might not want to inhale too deeply (har har).
  4. Do 20 squats. Improve your butt's appearance while washing off butt germs.
  5. Recite Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"; contemplate mortality. 
  6. Think about a friend or relative you need to connect with or reach out to. After you wash your hands, send that person an email, text or call them. Tell them you washed your hands and asked when the last time is they washed theirs — a great conversation starter. 
  7. Invent a recipe for dinner. Delish says pea protein and lasagna are big food trends for 2020. Pop quiz: Can you put both of those into a dish?
  8. Take a micro nap.
  9. See how many examples of the Mandela effect you can name. Is it the Berenstein Bears or Berenstain Bears? Sex in the City or Sex and the City?
  10. Count to goddamn 20.

There! Your hands are clean. Happy birthday!

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