Washing your hands is the most significant step you can take to prevent the spread of germs and illness. Children hear from a young age how important it is – especially after using the bathroom. But research by Michigan State University showed that only 5 percent of people wash their hands correctly! Read on for a refresher on how and why you need to wash your hands for good health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50, and appropriate hand washing techniques can reduce the likelihood of food-borne illness outbreaks. It also reduces risk in medical settings, prevents eye infections and lowers respiratory infection risks.
We know germs can spread in lots of ways: touching dirty hands or changing a diaper; coming contact with droplets in the air or on surfaces from coughing or sneezing; when you touch a sick person’s bodily fluids; and through contaminated food and water. With this in mind, these are the times when you should definitely wash your hands:
Before, during and after preparing food – especially raw meat or poultry
After using the bathroom or changing a diaper
After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
After treating a wound or scrape
After being outside – gardening, playing with the dog, etc.
After cleaning or touching garbage
After touching animals, even family pets
Before and after visiting or caring for someone who’s sick
Now you know when to wash your hands, and here’s the quick and not-so-dirty way to get them squeaky clean. And if you have kids, follow these routines together to help establish life-long healthy habits.
1. Wet your hands with running water.
2. Use liquid or bar soap to lather well.
3. Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds. (Most people do this step for much less time!) Remember to clean all parts of your hands, including between your fingers, under fingernails, and up past your wrists.
4. Rinse well, and dry hands with an air dryer or clean or disposable paper towel.
If you want to learn more about the science behind hand washing and how it can help you and your family stay healthy, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for hand washing guidelines.