Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from flu, colds, COVID-19, and other illnesses that can be transmitted through contact with people, animals, food, and contaminated surfaces.
When you have contact with an infected person or contaminated object and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could become infected with whatever viruses or bacteria they may be carrying. Washing your hands with soap and hot water decreases the risk that germs will evade your natural defenses.
It’s important to wash for a sufficient length of time. After wetting your hands, lather them with soap for 20 seconds, then rinse for another 10. If soap and water isn’t an option, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or antimicrobial wipe. Bleach-based solutions are best for cleaning objects and surfaces.
While washing your hands often is important, it’s key to do so before you:
- Prepare and eat food or serve it to others
- Put in or take out contact lenses
- Treat or bandage an injury or skin condition
Wash your hands after you:
- Use the bathroom
- Blow your nose, cough, sneeze, or touch your hair or face
- Assist someone with grooming or hygiene tasks (including changing a diaper)
- Cook with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs
- Eat or drink
- Pet animals or dispose of their waste
- Take out garbage
- Handle objects that have been touched by others, such as dirty dishes, money, doorknobs, or gas pumps
- Use public transportation
In addition, you can decrease the spread of germs by:
- Assigning each family member his or her own hand towel
- Cleaning bathroom and kitchen countertops and sinks regularly
- Getting a flu shot every year
- Eating healthy, exercising, and sleeping seven to nine hours a night
The above information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice.