Handwashing: An Ounce of Prevention

UW Health flu experts say washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent spreading the flu.Given the rapid pace that serious diseases can circle the globe, and the attention paid to antibiotic resistance, more people are aware of germs and how they can make us sick. Frequent handwashing is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Simple? Yes, but this dose of preventive medicine should be taken seriously.


Think about all the things that you touched today - from your telephone to the toilet, your stinky socks to your much-used handkerchief. Every time you touch your food or put your hands in your mouth or near your nose these germs are hitchhiking their way into your body.


Worse yet, every time you share a kiss, caress a child's face or help with a runny nose, you share your germs with someone else. And they share their germs with you.


Hand Washing Tips


That's where hand washing comes in. Teach these steps to your children, and try them yourself the next time you step up to the sink: 

  • Stay Healthy and Remember to W.A.S.H. U.P.
  • Use warm water when you wash your hands. Warm water is better at killing germs, and reduces the risk of burning yourself with water that is too hot.
  • Use whatever soap you like.
  • Work up a generous lather on both sides of your hands, your wrists, and between your fingers. Don't forget to wash around your nails - germs' favorite finger hideaway. You should wash for about 15 seconds. This is about as long as it takes to sing "Yankee Doodle," a great technique to use in getting children to wash longer.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Dry well with a clean towel. Handwashing experts will use a towel to turn off the water.
  • Wash your hands before eating or touching food in any way, after using the bathroom, blowing your nose or coughing, touching animals, playing or participating in sports or visiting a sick friend. 

Move over chicken soup, there's a new trick for stopping illness - it's prevention.