little girl and mom washing hands

4 Handwashing Hygiene Tips

4 Ways to Improve Your Health Through Handwashing

Washing your hands regularly is one of the best ways to remove germs and prevent illness — especially during flu season and during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many patients admit that they don’t wash their hands nearly as much as they should.

Here are some facts and tips to help you improve your health through better handwashing hygiene.

1. Know the Facts

While handwashing may seem like a simple action everyone knows to do — there are many people who either do not wash their hands often, know the importance of hand hygiene, or don’t do it correctly.

Before you think twice about washing your hands, here are a few facts from the CDC to remember:

  • The estimated global rate of handwashing after using the toilet is only 19%.
  • Handwashing could prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses, and nearly 20% of respiratory infections.
  • Handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea.
  • Handwashing with soap could protect almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.

2. Sanitizer Has Its Limits

Hand sanitizer is a great alternative to hand sanitizer when you’re out and about — but it should never replace washing your hands. For instance, hand sanitizers may not remove harmful chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals like lead. Be sure that all of your hand sanitizers are labeled as containing at least 60% alcohol.

Here are some examples of when using hand sanitizer can protect your health and the health of your loved ones:

  • Immediately after touching common touchpoints such as doorknobs.
  • Immediately before and after touching or coming in contact with a sick loved one.
  • If soap and water are not immediately available (such as before/after eating).

3. Wash Your Hands Often

Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers as it removes all germs on the skin, and is far better at removing certain kinds of germs like norovirus (stomach virus). That being said, it’s important to wash your hands regularly — especially if you’re out for the day or in a crowded public space.

Remember to wash your hands if:

  • If you work in a public space.
  • You are preparing or eating food.
  • You are caring for someone who is sick.
  • After using the restroom.
  • After handling animals, animal waste, or animal food.
  • If your hands appear visibly dirty.
  • After you touch garbage.

4. Complete All These Steps

Knowing when to wash your hands is one piece of the puzzle — but knowing how to thoroughly clean your hands is the most integral part. Whenever you wash your hands, start with hot water and soap, and follow these steps:

  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash under your nails between fingers, and backs of hands— not just your palms.
  • Create a lather, scrubbing your hands thoroughly.

For more information on handwashing in specific situations such as in the kitchen or at school, visit the CDC.

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