You’re probably washing your hands wrong — here’s what experts say you should do

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In classrooms, hallways, aisles and offices we're all starting to hear more sniffles and sneezes. Flu season is in full swing.

There's any easy way to increase your odds of staying healthy, but studies show you're probably not doing it correctly.

At the University of Kansas Health System, staff members are trying to prevent the spreading of the flu and other viruses, so their employees use a hand-washing simulator to make sure everyone does the job correctly.

"They might seem really involved, but really they`re going to cover all surfaces of your hands and focus on those frequently missed areas," said Tanya McIntosh, an infection prevention nurse.

She walks people through the Sure Wash system, a simulator that tests you in real time on your hand-washing skills.

The test follows the World Health Organization's rules, which first include wetting your hands, getting soap, then cleaning your palms, the back of your hands, between the fingers, under your fingernails, thumbs and finally your finger tips.

FOX4's Abby Eden put some of the morning crew through the test to see who could pass in the shortest time. See all the fun in the video player above.

Nick Vasos won the time test, but they all learned something: none of them were washing their hands thoroughly enough.

"I would think most people wash their hands probably for 5 seconds, said Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease physician. "Unfortunately, I also see people who don't use soap."

Hawkinson is a hand-washing afficiaionado.

"We don`t know it, but we always touch our eyes and nose or our mouth when we`re out in public, and that is most the time how we get infected by these respiratory viruses," he said.

He sees people all the time who unknowingly pick up germs in their daily lives, and he said proper hand-washing could prevent you from landing in the hospital.

"Especially if you`re out, say you`re shopping or after church or at the mall or at the airport -- washing your hands frequently after contacting surfaces or using alcohol gel is probably the best thing to do, not just after you use the restroom," Hawkinson said.

So do it often and do it well. That's advice from the man who sees the results of the season's worst germs every day.

FOX4 also asked if using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is just as good. Hawkinson said it's better than nothing. But if you're near a sink, you might as well wash your hands.