Why You Should Sing 'Happy Birthday’—Twice—While Washing Your Hands

iStock
iStock

Some people like to sing while scrubbing up in the shower, but physicians say we should also be belting out tunes—specifically, two renditions of "Happy Birthday"—while washing their hands, according to The Guardian.

Cold and flu season is swiftly approaching, and keeping your hands squeaky clean is a key way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to those around you. That said, some people might not know the optimal time span to suds up at the sink, which is 20 seconds if you’re to fully rid your hands of harmful viruses and bacteria.

Instead of breaking out a stopwatch, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)—the professional membership body for pharmacists in Great Britain—has recommended that people sing two rounds of "Happy Birthday" during each hand washing session. Not a fan of bathroom karaoke? Try humming it instead. (Singing it silently in your head works, too.)

This raises the question: How do germs get onto our hands and make us sick in the first place? For one, they can be contracted by touching an object that someone coughed or sneezed on. Germs from fecal matter—which come from using the toilet, changing a diaper, or handling raw meats that have invisible traces of animal poop on them—also play a part, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When people touch their eyes, nose, and mouth with germy hands, or prepare food with them, they’re inadvertently making themselves sick. And since germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to surfaces like handrails, tabletops, or toys, people who routinely skip hand-washings are also putting others at risk for illness.

CDC officials say that proper hand-washing can ultimately reduces antibiotic use—thus decreasing our chances of developing antibiotic resistance—and also prevent about 30 percent of diarrhea-related sicknesses and 20 percent of respiratory infections, like colds. That said, not everyone does their due diligence at the sink, especially after touching animals, going to the bathroom, or preparing and eating meals.

According to a poll of more than 2000 people conducted by the RPS, 84 percent of people don’t wash their hands for long enough periods of time. Meanwhile, around 65 and 32 percent of people don’t wash their hands before eating or preparing food, respectively, half of them don’t after touching pets and other critters, and 21 percent don’t after a trip to the toilet.

These stats have you concerned? Here’s a primer to perfecting your hand-washing technique.

[h/t The Guardian]

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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