Frequent hand-washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness. Hand-washing doesn't take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness. Adopting this simple habit can play a major role in protecting your health.
Hand-washing is especially important for children in child care settings. Young children cared for in groups outside the home are at greater risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, which can easily spread to family members and other contacts. Be sure your child care provider promotes frequent hand-washing. Ask whether the children are required to wash their hands several times a day — not just before meals. Note, too, whether diapering areas are cleaned after each use and whether eating and diapering areas are well separated.
Always wash your hands before:
Preparing food or eating
Treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person
Inserting or removing contact lenses
Always wash your hands after:
Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
Using the toilet or changing a diaper
Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes, or waste
Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes
In addition, wash your hands whenever they look dirty.
How to wash your hands
It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:
Wet your hands with running water.
Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.
Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.