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Hand Washing to Prevent Disease

As the weather starts to turn colder, we are reminded that cold and flu season are approaching. Washing your hands is an important and easy way to help prevent the spread of germs throughout the year, but can be especially important during the winter months. You can quickly spread germs from your hands to your eyes, nose, and mouth. You can also infect others who may touch the same common surfaces such as door knobs, hand rails, and keyboards. Frequent hand washing can keep you and those around you healthier throughout the years.

Not washing your hands or inadequate hand washing can lead to the spread of numerous infectious diseases. These diseases include common gastrointestinal problems, colds, and flu. Not washing your hands before preparing food can lead to the spread of common food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella and E. coli.

When to Wash Your Hands

You should always wash your hands after using the restroom, before preparing food, before and after caring for someone who is ill, after touching or petting animals, after blowing your nose or coughing, and any other time they appear dirty. It is important to wash your hands more often during flu season, especially if you have been in a public place such as a shopping center or on public transit.

How to Wash Your Hands

It is important when you wash your hands to make sure to use soap. Rub your hands together working the soap into a lather. Make sure to reach all the surfaces of your hands. Continue scrubbing for a minimum of twenty seconds. For children, it can be helpful to ask them to wash their hands for the length of time it takes them to sing through “Happy Birthday” twice. Finally, rinse your hands and use a towel or hand dryer to dry your hands.

If possible, use the paper towel to turn off the water. Remember that you, and others, touched the faucet before washing your hands. This same concept can be applied to the door handle on your way out of the restroom.

Soap and Water Substitutes

Sometimes washing your hands with soap and water is not a possibility. In these instances, use an alcohol-based gel as a substitute. While these gels are not as effective as soap and water, they are better than nothing. To use, rub the substance over the entire surface of hands until it is dry.

A Note on Anti-Bacterial Soaps

Anti-bacterial soaps have become popular over the past several years; however, they are not more effective at killing germs than regular soap. In fact, the use of anti-bacterial soaps has been linked to the increasing resistance of bacteria to medications.


A great poster for teaching children about hand washing is available from Amazon.


A fantastic teaching tool for talking to little ones about the benefits of hand washing.

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