It’s that time of year again when respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses are increasing in frequency, especially among children. It’s especially important to remember that one of the best offenses against a germ defense is washing hands correctly and at the right times!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend five simple handwashing steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
- Plain soap is best; no science shows antibacterial soaps to be more effective at preventing the spread of germs (FDA).
- Lather hands by rubbing them together with soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Lathering and scrubbing creates friction which helps lift dirt, grease and microbes from skin.
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. Singing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice should do it!
- Rinse hands well under clean, running water. The dirt and germs lifted from the skin from soap and friction is easily rinsed off and rinsing soap away also minimizes skin irritation.
- Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands, so hands should be dried after washing.
When should hands be washed?
- Before, during and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who has been sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
Those working in child care and children attending child care need to wash hands additional times. The Healthy Child Care Iowa (HCCI) handwashing poster lists when children need to wash hands in child care.
Child care staff should follow Caring For Our Children (CFOC) best practice hand hygiene for child care workers found on their website here.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands. Remember to keep hand sanitizers out of reach of young children and use only under adult supervision.
Regular handwashing is quick, it’s simple and can keep us all from getting sick!
Center for Disease Control: handwashing
Caring For our Children: hand hygiene
Food and Drug Administration: consumers
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