The Importance of Washing and Sanitizing Your Hands

We’re taught from a young age the importance of proper handwashing hygiene to prevent illness and avoid spreading germs to others. Efficient handwashing with soap and clean, running water is the No. 1 way to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. 

It’s an important lesson for the whole family to practice. Scrubbing germs away, correctly and often, is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses, including the common cold, meningitis, the flu, respiratory infections and diarrhea. Germs can easily spread from your hands into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and make you sick.

When is it Time to Wash?
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these key times to wash your hands when you are more exposed to germs that could easily spread to others:
  • Before, during and after handling food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before or after tending to a cut or wound
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper or helping a child use the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After handling an animal or its food or waste
  • After touching garbage

Back to the Basics
Kids aren’t the only ones who need reminders about proper handwashing. Studies have found that the majority of adults commit just as many fouls when it comes to effectively cleaning their hands. Here is a refresh for everyone on the CDC’s recommended best practices:
  • Get your hands wet under clean, running water and then turn off the tap.
  • Lather your hands with soap, making sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. For reference, that’s about two renditions of singing the “Happy Birthday” song in your head.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or leave them to air dry.

Although they’re not as effective as soap and water, hand sanitizers can be a helpful alternative if you’re on-the-go with no place to find running water or soap. When choosing a hand sanitizer, look for alcohol-based options. These do a good job of killing most bacteria and viruses on contact. The alcohol will typically be listed as “ethyl alcohol” on the label. Purchase a few small bottles that you can leave in places like your car or work desk, and also take with you to outdoor events where you be left sink-less.