Dec. 1-7 is National Hand-Washing Awareness Week 2013, so let’s talk about hand hygiene. What is hand hygiene? It’s a term we use to describe things you can do, such as hand-washing and using hand sanitizer, to improve the cleanliness of your hands and protect your health. Hand-washing is one of the most important ways you can prevent many infectious diseases, including colds and flu.
The World Health Organization states that “simple hand-washing could save up to 1 million lives each year” around the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wash your hands:
Photo courtesy of CDC/Amanda Millsbefore, during and after preparing food;
- before eating food;
- before and after caring for someone who is sick;
- before and after treating a cut or wound;
- after using the toilet;
- after changing diapers or cleaning a child who has used the toilet;
- after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
- after touching an animal or animal waste;
- after handling pet food or pet treats; and
- after touching garbage.
Also, it’s a good idea to wash your hands more often during cold and flu season. Have you thought about your hands when you take public transportation, when you go somewhere where there are a lot of people or when people at your work or school are sick?
Some people are more at risk for infections, such as seniors or people with immune system problems. It’s even more important that they wash their hands more regularly. Otherwise they can become very sick. And don’t forget kids! Children like to get close to each other when they play. Teach and remind children to wash their hands. Start teaching children hand-washing when they are young and make it fun.
The proper way to wash your hands is to wet them with clean water, then apply and spread soap over all parts of your hands. Rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head), rinse well and dry.
If you can’t wash your hands with water, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply and spread the sanitizer to all parts of your hands and rub your hands together until they are dry.
Be sure to visit the Get Ready campaign’s hand-washing page for great information and materials on hand-washing.