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  • Michael Sparks, MD

Hand Hygiene: The basic steps to stay healthy

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

”Wash your hands before you eat that!“

We all have countless memories of a parent, a friend, a teacher, or someone else important in our lives reminding us to wash our hands. It Is true, good hand hygiene goes a long way at preventing the spread of germs and keeping you healthy.

Washing your hands is one of the best way of preventing the spread of respiratory and diarrheal illnesses. Germs spread when we touch objects or surfaces with germs on them and then touch our face (eyes, nose, mouth) with our un-washed hands. Additionally, sneezing or coughing into our hands and then touching others will spread germs as well!

There are a few key times we should always wash our hands:

- Before and after preparing or eating food

- After using the toilet

- After changing a child’s diaper or cleaning up a child

- After touching animals, animal food, or garbage

- Before and after caring for someone who is ill, especially if they have gastroenteritis (also known as ”stomach bug”)

Remember these 5 simple steps:

1 - Wet your hands. Did you know the temperature of the water makes no difference? Warm or cold water work the same.

2 - Apply soap and rub your hands together into a lather.

3 - Scrub your hands (Including your finger tips, between your fingers, and backs of hands) for 20 seconds. That’s the time it takes most people to sign ”happy birthday” twice.

4 - Rinse your hands with water.

5 - Dry you hands.

6 - Party? Or Eat? Or celebrate that you now have clean hands!

Can‘t I just use hand sanitizer?!

Yes - but… Hand sanitizer doesn’t work on all germs. It also isn’t effective when your hands are visibly dirty. It is better than nothing when soap and water are not available but is not a replacement every time. If using sanitizer, choose one that has at least 60% alcohol. Apply a small amount to the palm of one hand and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to cover all surfaces of both hands and then let them dry completely.

Further Reading and source material:


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