Published on June 01, 2020

Handwashing: Your First Defense Against Germs

soapy hands holding heart

Protect yourself against the spread of illness. 

As things reopen and we're no longer confined to our homes, folks are starting to venture out into public places. If this sounds like you, you're by default, coming into contact with more people and ultimately, more germs. 

"Knowing and practicing proper hand hygiene is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent the spread of infection and illness, and while always important, we need to stay vigilant to protect ourselves against COVID and other viruses." says Donna Sears, RN, Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator at Sturdy Memorial Hospital. "Familiarize yourself with the guidelines below to better defend yourself from sickness."

When to wash your hands

We all know to wash our hands before we eat and after we use the restroom, these principles have been ingrained in our minds since we were young, but there are other guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that should be followed to ensure proper hand hygiene.

  • Anytime you're preparing food, you should be washing your hands.
  • If you are caring for another person, changing a diaper or helping a child on the toilet, wash your hands.
  • Coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose are all reasons to lather up to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • When it comes to animals, make sure you wash your hands after you pet them, feed them or pick up after them.

As we are in the midst of a pandemic, you should also wash your hands:

  • After you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that has been frequently touched by others, including door knobs, gas pumps, shopping carts, or payment screen systems
  • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because that’s how germs enter our bodies.
  • Before putting on your mask and after removing your mask.

Properly washing your hands can be done in five simple steps.

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water, apply soap and begin to lather by rubbing your hands together with the soap.
  2. Rub all over including the back of your hands and in-between your fingers.
  3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds. You can sing "Happy Birthday" to ensure you are washing long enough, this could be a good trick to get your kids to wash their hands properly.
  4. Once you finish scrubbing your hands, rinse off the soap with clean running water. 
  5. Dry them with a clean towel or by air drying.

If you do not have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol.