Avoid infection by washing your hands regularly and correctly
“Remember to wash your hands.” You’ve probably heard this so many times, you do it automatically. But do you know the correct way to wash your hands and when to do it to avoid infection? We’re excited to offer a refresher on one of the best ways to keep germs at bay.
When should I wash?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing your hands reduces respiratory illnesses in the general population by 16% to 21%.1 Always wash your hands before and after you prepare or give medication to yourself or someone else, and before and after you handle medical supplies. Also, wash before you insert or remove contact lenses or prepare or eat food.
Wash your hands after you:
- Blow your nose, cough or sneeze into your hands
- Prepare food
- Touch garbage, chemicals or anything that could be contaminated (dirty shoes, cleaning wipe)
- Use the restroom
- Touch an animal or animal leashes, toys or waste
- Treat wounds or care for an injured or sick person
What if soap and water are unavailable?
The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water when possible because this reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands.2 If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Apply enough of the product to the palms of your hands to completely wet your hands. Then rub hands together, covering all surfaces, until hands are dry. Do not rinse or wipe off the sanitizer before it dries—doing so may not fight germs as well.
- AE Aiello et al. “Effect of Hand Hygiene on Infectious Disease Risk in the Community Setting: A Meta-Analysis,” American Journal of Public Health 12 (June 2008): 1372-81, accessed August 13, 2020.
- “Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed August 13, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html