Washing your hands is a DIY vaccine | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Washing your hands is a DIY vaccine

International Infection Prevention Week started Oct. 13

Have you ever thought to celebrate hand washing? If not, there are a lot of reasons why you should. International Infection Prevention Week runs through Oct. 19, and to celebrate, we’re providing you with the who, what, where, when, why and how you should be practicing hand hygiene.

What is hand hygiene?

It’s a term used to describe the habit of washing your hands regularly. Taking the time to clean your hands at important points in your day can go far in helping you to stay healthy.

Who should wash their hands?

Everyone. Think of hand hygiene as a DIY vaccine — it’s something that 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.

Do you know how to wash your hands?

It seems silly to ask the question — 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:

  • Get your hands ready. 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 thumb. You’d be surprised how often people forget 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 to yourself twice.
  • Rinse! Clear off the soap using clean running water.
  • Dry. 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.

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When do you wash your hands?

Most people know to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom. But are you making sure you’re washing your hands before you eat that sandwich at your desk? Are you washing after you cover a cough or sneeze?

Here’s a list of things that should prompt you to wash:

  • 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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