Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect you and your loved ones from getting sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC), proper hand hygiene and washing hands with soap and water is one of the most important and effective ways to stay healthy and help stop the spread of germs to others. No one wants or likes being sick. So how do germs spread anyways? A few of the ways germs can spread are:
- Touching dirty hands
- After using the toilet
- After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
- Through contaminated food or water
- Through droplets in the air released during a cough or sneeze
- On contaminated surfaces
- Through contact with a sick person's body fluids
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
When you come into contact with germs, you can become infected just by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Once infected, it's usually just a matter of time before you begin to show symptoms of illness. That is why hand hygiene is so important!
Proper hand washing is the first line of defense against illness and not just from the flu or the common cold, but other viruses such as COVID-19. Hand washing can also help prevent the spread of illness from other serious diseases such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, hepatitis A and many types of diarrhea.
When should you wash your hands?
According to the CDC, you should wash your hands often to stay healthy. Here are some times you should wash your hands:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- 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
How should you wash your hands?
Here is information from the CDC says we should all be washing our hands! Some ways you can combat the germs and practice good hand hygiene are:
Follow these five steps every time:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them
As young children tend to forget to wash their hands, be sure to remind children to wash their hands. One way to make hand washing fun for children is to teach them to send a familiar child's song, like Happy Birthday.
If you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water and your hands are not visibly dirty, you can also use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Make sure that it has at least 60% alcohol for it to be effective. When using hand sanitizer, apply the product to one of your hands and rub your hands together. Make sure that the product covers all surfaces of your hands and fingers and rub until your hands are dry. The CDC offers many more tips about hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers on their website.
Remember, a few seconds at the sink could help you and your loved ones avoid illness and don't underestimate the power of hand washing!