Hand Washing and Hygiene Basics

Washing your hands is one of the key ways to protect yourself against the myriad of germs that are lurking in the world. You will need to wash your hands frequently every day and will also need to follow some other basic hygiene rules to keep yourself healthy, happy, and strong even during the worst parts of the year.

Hand Washing 101

Washing your hands should be a simple task, but some people just do not get it right.

  • It is not about the soap that you use but how you wash your hands that matters. In fact, antibacterial soaps may be contributing to the rise in resistant germs, so it is better to use regular soap and hot water for the right length of time. To help children learn the proper hand washing technique, they are taught to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Happy Birthday” so that they are washing for at least twenty seconds.
  • Once you have washed your hands, think like a doctor—do not touch any surface without a towel. Use your elbow to turn off the water and to push open the door if you can. If not, grab a clean towel and then use it to turn off the faucet, unlock the door, and open it. Throw the towel away before the door closes, being careful not to touch the door with your clean hands.

When You Should Wash Your Hands

There are many times each day when you should wash your hands:

  • Whenever you have gone to the bathroom or blow your nose
  • Before and after you handle food, especially raw meat
  • Before you administer eye drops, put on or take off contacts, or put on makeup that is near your eyes or your mouth
  • After changing a baby’s diaper
  • After playing with a pet or cleaning up after it; it is especially important to wash your hands after handling certain lizards and other reptiles because their skin can carry diseases like salmonella.

More Hygiene Tips

In addition to washing your hands, you should also practice the following to reduce your risk of getting sick or spreading your own germs to others:

  • Learn to cough and sneeze like a vampire. Instead of using your hands to cover your face when coughing or sneezing, do it into the crook of your elbow. You touch fewer people and surfaces with your elbow, so you spread far fewer germs this way.
  • Wipe down the germ catchers whenever you are sick. Door knobs, telephones, computer keyboards, and other shared surfaces are prime targets for germs, especially when you are sick. Make it a habit to wipe these surfaces down frequently even when you are healthy.
  • Try to avoid shaking hands with people. The practice is hardwired into some people, but it only spreads germs. If someone tries to shake hands with you, tell them that you are fighting a cold, and they will likely back off. If not, then shake quickly and wash your hands as soon as possible.
  • Do not wipe your nose or your eyes with your hands. Use a tissue, throw it away, and then wash your hands. If you are sick to the point that you are continually wiping and washing, you should stay home from work or school so that you do not make others sick. This is especially important with coronavirus.