We all remember what we learned in elementary school: Wash your hands before eating and after using the bathroom. It's as adults that we let important lessons slide or take short cuts, but as cold and flu season approaches, it's time to revisit this very basic topic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, washing your hands with soap and water is the most important and most effective step in preventing the spread of contagious diseases, both inside and outside of clinical settings. At home, at work or anywhere in your day, it's a good idea to keep your hands clean. Simple hand washing tips can help keep you and everyone around you from exposure to such pathogens as Norovirus, MRSA and even the H1N1 influenza virus that cannot be eradicated as thoroughly with hand sanitizer as with soap, water and proper hand washing. It is important to note that gel hand sanitizers should only be used when soap and water is not available.