Proper hand washing | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Proper hand-washing is like a DIY vaccine

Here’s the proper hand-washing who, what, where, when, why and how.

Here’s the proper hand-washing who, what, where, when, why and how.

Who should wash their hands?

Everyone. Think of hand hygiene as a do-it-yourself vaccine — it’s something you can do to prevent yourself and others from getting sick. Washing your hands at key points in your day is the best way to help avoid getting and spreading the germs that cause diarrhea, colds, strep throat, the flu and many serious illnesses.

How to wash your hands

It may seem silly — we’re taught from an early age how to wash our hands. But are you washing them in a way that kick-starts that DIY vaccine power? If you’re not following these steps, you’re not getting the full benefit of washing your hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Don’t forget your thumbs! Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Make sure you’re getting the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, as well as your thumbs. You’d be surprised how often people forget to wash their thumbs.
  • Sing a song if you need to. You should lather and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If it’s hard to keep track, silently sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  • Rinse! Clear off the soap using clean running water.
  • Use a clean towel or air-dry your hands. Consider using a paper towel as a barrier as you open a door after washing your hands. That way, they don’t immediately get germs on them.

When should you wash your hands?

Certainly after using the bathroom. But are you making sure you’re washing your hands before you eat a sandwich at your desk? Are you washing after you cover a cough or sneeze?

Here’s a list of times when you should wash your hands:

  • 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 picking up waste from an animal
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound

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