According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick, especially during cold and flu season. However, many people might not know when and how to properly wash their hands for the most effective results. To help you stay healthy, the CDC offers the following information:
When to Wash
It’s important to wash your hands often, especially during these key times when you’re likely to get and spread germs:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who’s sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
How to Wash
In order to wash your hands the right way, follow these five steps every time:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
When you can’t use soap and water, the CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, though the agency notes that sanitizers don’t get rid of all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals from your hands.
To use hand sanitizer, apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount), rub your hands together, and rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
By washing your hands often and doing so properly, you can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy.