Handwashing is the most effective way to prevent sickness and stop the spread of illness.  Proper handwashing can help eliminate the spread of:  the Common Cold, the Flu, Stomach Upset, Diarrhea, Hepatitis A, SARS and pneumonia.

Good handwashing practices can:

  • Prevent 1 in every 3 diarrheal illnesses
  • Prevent 1 in every 5 respiratory infections like the cold or flu

1.8 million children under 5 die from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia each year.  These are the top two causes of death for young children.


How do germs spread?

Germs can be transferred to people from any object that has been sneezed on or coughed on.  You can also come into contact with germs when sick people cough or sneeze near you in the air.  When germs get onto your hands you can pass them to others through touching them directly or touching an object that they then touch.

Germs can into your body through your eyes, nose and mouth.  When your hands are dirty with germs and then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth those germs can make you sick if your immune system is not up to fighting off the bacteria or virus.

Germs can be transferred to handrails, doorknobs or even the food and drinks that we consume.


When should you wash your hands?

It is impossible to keep your hands germ free.  However, you should wash your hands often to limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and microbes.  But particularly:

  • Before preparing food
  • Before and after eating
  • Before and after caring the sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal food, animal treats or animal feces
  • After touching garbage
  • When every your hands are visibly dirty


Best Hand Washing Practices:

  • Wet hands with running water
  • Apply soap and lather up
  • Rub hand vigorously for 20 seconds scrubbing all hand surfaces, front, back, between fingers even under the fingernails.
  • Rinse in running water
  • Dry hands or a clean towel, use a disposable towel or an air dryer


Antibacterial soap is not necessary.  Overuse of antibacterial soaps can lead to the development of bacteria that is harder to kill.  Regular soap will do.

You can use hand sanitizer if you can’t get to soap and water.  The CDC recommends sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol.

Washing your hands frequently and well can be the best thing you can do for yourself, your family and your community!