Living with Chronic Pain

Hand Hygiene ― A Simple Way to Fight Germs


Proper hand hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses. Hands should be frequently and thoroughly washed, especially when coming into contact with other people, surfaces and objects. Touching the eyes, nose or mouth after contact with germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa) transfers the germs from the hands to the cells of the body, which can lead to infections or illnesses.

Keeping hands completely germ-free is impossible; however, hands should always be washed in the following circumstances:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before and after treating wounds or caring for a sick person
  • Before inserting or removing contact lenses
  • After using the restroom or changing a diaper
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing the nose
  • After handling garbage

Five steps for proper hand washing

The best practice for hand hygiene is to thoroughly wash them with soap and water. Clean hands can help stop the spread of germs. The five basic steps for proper hand washing include the following:

  1. Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold).
  2. Apply soap.
  3. Thoroughly lather and scrub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to scrub the backs of the hands, between the fingers, and under the nails. (Hint: Humming the “Happy Birthday” song twice takes approximately 20 seconds.)
  4. Thoroughly rinse hands with clean, running water.
  5. Dry hands with a clean towel or allow them to air dry.

Three steps for proper use of hand sanitizer

Although thoroughly washing the hands with soap and water is the most effective way to eliminate germs, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol can be used if soap and water are not available. Hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs; however, they can reduce the number of germs on the hands. Using hand sanitizer also doesn’t remove harmful chemicals or dirt particles from the hands. Three steps for proper use of hand sanitizer include the following:

  1. Apply hand sanitizer gel to the palm of one hand. The label on the bottle should provide the correct amount to use.
  2. Rub hands together to evenly spread the hand sanitizer on both hands.
  3. Vigorously rub the hand sanitizer on the skin of the hands and fingers until the gel is dry, typically about 20 seconds.

Caution! Swallowing hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning. Keep out of reach of children.

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