Many people – especially children – can be careless about washing their hands, which can lead to the spread of infection. Washing your hands is not only quick and cost-effective, but the best way to protect yourself and others from spreading germs. Wash your hands:
- Before you pick up anything to eat
- Before, during and after preparing food
- After using the toilet, changing a baby’s diaper, or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After you blow your nose or sneeze
- After touching garbage.
In addition, be sure to wash your hands before and after caring for someone who is sick and after touching animal food or waste.
So what’s the best way to wash your hands? Good old soap and water: work up a lather and scrub well, cleaning the backs of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. Doing this should take about 20 seconds; afterwards rinse and dry on a clean towel or under an air dryer.
If soap and water aren’t available, try an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol – but note that these products don’t eliminate all types of germs, and aren’t effective when hands are visibly dirty.
And skip the antibacterial soaps and gels for home use – in healthcare settings there is a need, but at home, there is no proven purpose for them, and they may be counterproductive by accelerating the development of resistance to antibiotics.