03 Dec 2015


The Importance of Handwashing

As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands.  Germs on your hands can get into the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth and make us sick. Although it’s impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes. Most infections (98%), whether viral or bacterial, are spread by our hands.  It is estimated that there are 1500 germs in one square centimeter alone. Most are harmless, but you can pick up some that cause illnesses, such as colds, flu, and diarrhea. Proper hand hygiene is the most important way to prevent the spread of infections, removing 99.9% of all germs.

About 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the world. Handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.

For kids, washing hands can be a fun and entertaining activity. It is simple enough for even very young children to understand. Handwashing gives children and adults a chance to take an active role in their own health. Once kids learn how to properly wash their hands, they can—and often do—show their parents and siblings and encourage them to wash hands, too.

By reducing illness, handwashing also increases productivity due to:

  • Less time spent at the doctor’s office
  • More time spent at work or school

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before and after touching food
  • Before dressing a wound
  • Before inserting contact lenses
  • Before giving medicine
  • After using the bathroom
  • After handling animals and their wastes
  • After any contact with blood or other bodily fluids
  • After playing with toys used by other children
  • After working or playing outside

How should you wash your hands?

If hands are visibly soiled:

  • Wet hands with water
  • Put soap in palm of hand and rub into lather with other hand
  • Rub hands together for 20 seconds, making sure to cover all areas from the fingertips to the wrist
  • Rinse under running water
  • Pat dry with a towel
  • Shut water off with towel

If hands are not visibly soiled:

  • Use alcohol-based hand rub.
  •  Apply solution to palm of one hand and rub hands together, covering all areas
  • Stop when hands are dry.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are OK for children and adolescents, especially when soap and water aren’t available. However, be sure to supervise young children using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Remind your child to make sure the sanitizer completely dries before he or she touches anything. Store the container safely away after use.


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