Washing your hands correctly is the most effective thing you can do to protect yourself against a number of infectious diseases, such as influenza (the "flu") and the common cold. Not only will it help keep you healthy, it will help prevent the spread of infectious diseases to others.
Even if your hands appear to be clean, they may carry germs. Hands pick up micro-organisms (germs) in a number of ways.
When people who are sick sneeze or cough, the germs that are making them sick are expelled into the air in tiny droplets. If these droplets get onto your hands, and then you touch your mouth, eyes or nose without washing away the germs, you carry the infection. You can also get sick if you don't wash your hands before and after preparing food, after handling raw meat, and after using the toilet.
Washing your hands not only prevents you from getting sick, but it also reduces the risk of infecting others. If you don't wash your hands properly before coming into contact with others, you can infect them with the germs on your hands. Other people can also get sick from the germs unwashed hands leave on shared objects like doorknobs, keyboards, and other equipment in the home or workplace.
Hand-to-hand contact can spread mild conditions, such as the common cold, but also more severe or life-threatening diseases. Infectious diseases are a particular risk to the very young, the elderly, those with a pre-existing disease, and people with a compromised immune system, such as those with HIV or AIDS.
- Wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing or using tissues, before and after eating, before preparing food, after handling raw meat, after petting an animal, and after using the bathroom.
- When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or raise your arm up to your face and aim for your sleeve. Do not sneeze into your hand. Throw away tissues as soon as you use them
- Keep the surface areas in your home and office free of germs by cleaning them. Doorknobs, light switches, telephones, and keyboards are especially important to keep clean.
- If you have children, teach them good hygiene and how to wash their hands properly. Young children should be supervised while washing their hands.
- If you use bar soap, keep it in a self-draining holder that can be cleaned thoroughly before a new bar is added.
- Don't use a single damp cloth to wash a group of children's hands.
- Don't use a standing basin of water to rinse your hands.
- Don't use a common hand towel.
- Don't use sponges or non-disposable cleaning cloths unless you change them daily and launder them using detergent. Germs thrive on moist surfaces.