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Life in Motion

Hand Washing: Protect Yourself and Others

Health & Prevention

Washing your hands is a simple way to prevent illness and infection. However, washing your hands effectively is often overlooked. Brian Hollenbeck, MD, Chief of Infectious Disease at NEBH explains that properly cleaning your hands can prevent the spread of germs, and is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • 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 touching garbage

What is the right way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold). Turn off the water, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

It’s important you pay special attention to your thumbs, fingertips, and in between your fingers, which are areas often missed when handwashing.

In addition, alcohol-based hand sanitizers such as Purell© can provide a quick and effective alternative to washing with soap and water in some instances.  These products are effective when the hands are not otherwise visibly soiled. As with washing with soap and water, be certain to apply hand sanitizer to all parts of the hands, rub in for 20 seconds, and allow hands to dry completely for best results.

Additional reading: 

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