Handwashing Regular handwashing is an important step to minimizing the spread of germs. Hands pick up germs from all of the things they touch and then spread them from one place to another. Germs that are on hands can also enter the body when a person eats or when they touch their eyes, nose, mouth, or any area on the body where the skin is broken (because of a cut, rash, etc.). All that is needed for handwashing is soap and clean, running water. Handwashing with soap and water removes visible dirt and hidden germs. Studies have demonstrated that handwashing reduced the number of diarrheal illnesses by 31 percent and respiratory illnesses by 21 percent. Hands should be washed:
before eating, feeding, or preparing food. This prevents germs from getting into the mouth from hands.
after touching saliva (after feeding or eating), mucus (wiping a nose, using a tissue), bodily fluids (toileting, diapering), food, or animals
when visibly dirty, after touching garbage, or after cleaning The Center for Disease Control recommends the following handwashing steps:
1. “Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.” 2. “Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub your hands well; be sure to scrub
the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.” 3. “Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy
Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.” 4. “Rinse your hands well under running water.” 5. “Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.”
Infants and young children will need help with handwashing. Caring for Our Children recommends that caregivers:
Safely cradle an infant in one arm to wash their hands at a sink.
Provide assistance with handwashing for young children that cannot yet wash their hands independently.
Offer a stepping stool to young children so they may safely reach the sink.