Handwashing – The “do-it-yourself” vaccine that reduces the spread of germs.

By Veronica Montano, MSN, RN – Bridge Nurse Residency Coordinator, CNE Planner

National Handwashing Awareness Week is Dec. 3 through Dec. 9. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine that reduces the spread of germs. You can reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses by correctly washing your hands.

 

The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and clean, running water to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. You should wash your hands before eating food, before and after caring for someone who is sick, 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 your pets and after touching garbage. Washing your hands correctly by using soap and clean water can protect you, your family and others. Hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs.

 

The CDC recommends washing your hands as follows:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. (Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.)
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.

 

When and how to use hand sanitizer:

  • When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations.
  • They do not eliminate all types of germs.
  • If hands are visibly dirty or greasy, hand sanitizers may not be as effective.
  • Swallowing alcohol-based sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning. Keep out of reach of young children.

 

Content Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017 National Health Observances, National Health Information Center, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC.