By Linda Lauzon
Handwashing is like a "do-it-yourself" vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses so you can stay healthy. Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. It's quick, it's simple, and it can keep us all from getting sick. Handwashing is a win for everyone, except the germs.
Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene 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. If clean, running water is not accessible, as is common in many parts of the world, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.
Handwashing helps prevent infections for these reasons:
- People often touch their eyes, nose and mouth without realizing it, introducing germs into their bodies.
- Germs from unwashed hands may get into foods and drinks when people prepare or consume them.
- Germs can grow in some types of foods or drinks and make people sick. Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, such as door knobs, tables or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.
When should you wash your hands:
- Before, during and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats After touching garbage
CDC recommends cleaning hands in a specific way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The guidance for effective handwashing and use of hand sanitizer was developed based on data from a number of studies. Just follow these easy steps:
- Wet your hands with clean running water (warm/cold), turn off water, and apply soap
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap, making sure to lather palms, the back of the hands and in between your fingers
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds - - long enough to hum the happy birthday song
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them