Hum "Happy Birthday" While You Wash Your Hands to Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

No birthday required.

Man washing hands
Photo: kieferpix/Getty Images

With the world wide death toll from the novel coronavirus topping 3,000 and more U.S. states reporting new cases by the hour, Americans are anxious to know what precautions they can take against the deadly virus.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the COVID-19 infection caused by the virus, and no medication to treat it. In the meantime, the CDC is recommending everyday preventive actions to help prevent it from spreading. These include avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; washing your hands often with soap and water; and humming “Happy Birthday.” Really.

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Washing your hands seems like a simple enough directive, but unfortunately, most people aren’t effective handwashers. That’s why the CDC has outlined five steps for washing your hands the right way, including a tip for making sure you’ve spent the required 20 seconds lathering up: humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end… twice.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

So, the next time you hear somebody humming “Happy Birthday” in the bathroom, you’ll know why.

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