Capital Health Care NetworkHow to Wash Your Hands to Avoid Getting Sick
National Hand Washing Awareness Week Dec 3rd – 9th
Maintaining good hand hygiene is an effective way to help stop the spread of germs and illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Hand washing can help prevent the spread of an array of sicknesses including flu, cold, diarrheal and respiratory illness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a five step hand-washing method to help avoid spreading germs. The five-step method is simple:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Studies indicate that cold water works just as well as hot water. It’s true that hot water kills off bacteria, but only at temperatures that will seriously damage skin.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes from skin.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. The optimal length of time for hand washing depends on many factors, including the type and amount of soil on the hands, but washing for 20 seconds has become the standard recommendation.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. While some recommendations include using a paper towel to turn off the faucet after rinsing, this practice has not been linked to improved health.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel. Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands. Studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic show that paper towels can help remove bacteria, unlike air dryers which can increase bacteria counts.
When clean, running water is not accessible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.