Handwashing is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of many diseases! It is an easy, cheap, and effective way to prevent the spread of germs and keep kids and adults healthy. When your family is healthy, you don’t have to worry about missing school, work, or other activities.

How to wash:

Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Studies have shown that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu.

Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If soap and water aren’t available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

When to Wash

  • Before handling or preparing food 
  • Before and after eating
  • After using the bathroom, after changing a diaper and after helping a child use the bathroom
  • After touching blood and other body fluids (urine, feces, runny noses, vomit, etc.)
  • After handling pets, after cleaning their cages or tanks
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after wiping a child’s nose
  • After playing or working outside
  • After handling trash
  • Whenever hands look, feel or smell dirty

Hand Sanitizers

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to stop the spread of germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers help reduce the number of germs on hands, but do NOT get rid of all types of germs.

To use a hand sanitizer:

  • Read the product directions for how much sanitizer to use.
  • Put sanitizer on the palm of one hand.
  • Rub hands together, covering all surfaces of the hand.
  • Let hands air dry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water as soon as you can.

Hand Care

When you wash your hands often, your skin can become dry or chapped. Germs can enter the body through openings in dry, cracked skin. Here are some tips to keep from getting dry, chapped hands:

  • Wash hands with warm (not hot) water.
  • Use mild soap
  • Pat skin dry rather than rubbing
  • Moisturize your hands often. Put lotion on while hands are still moist after washing.
  • Wear gloves to protect hands from chemicals, dirt and cold weather.
  • Repair hands at night, if needed, by using a hand cream with glycerin or petrolatum and wearing light cotton gloves to bed.  

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