The “ABCs” of Handwashing

Instructions for washing your hands? You've got to be kidding. Who needs instructions?

It turns out, we all do!! Many of us have inherited from childhood the tendency to swipe our hands under running water and then dry them on the towel. Our hands may look cleaner when we have finished (although the towel may look dirtier!) The problem is, we haven’t killed the germs that get on our hands during our normal daily activities: shaking hands or hugging other people, caring for pets, using the bathroom, handling uncooked foods, touching surfaces that have been touched by other people (telephones, computer keyboards, doorknobs, grocery cart handles, handrails, car door handles—the list is endless!) The transfer of germs from your hands when you touch your mouth, nose or eyes can spread those germs into your body—and it’s enough to make you sick!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US Department of Health and Human Services), the proper way to wash your hands is as follows:
·  Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if available.
·  Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces, making sure to clean between fingers and under fingernails.
·  Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing the “ABCs.”
·  Rinse hands well under running water.
·  Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.
·  Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
·  If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
·  Apply product to the palm of one hand.
·  Rub hands together.
·  Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

An antibacterial soap is a good idea, but studies have shown that the friction of rubbing your hands together from A to Z (20 seconds) kills most of the germs on your hand, whether the soap contains an antibacterial agent or not.  If you wash your hands often, you may want to use a soap containing moisturizer.

Frequent handwashing following these guidelines every time you wash your hands is a remarkably effective way to prevent the spread of illness year round.


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