a person washing their hands

Hand Hygiene 101: Preventing Disease

You’ve probably heard about the importance of hand hygiene many times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention shows that one out of every four U.S. adults don’t wash their hands when they should—after using the restroom, before and after preparing or eating food, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose.

Many diseases are spread by not properly washing your hands as feces from people or animals create a source of germs, such as Salmonella and E. coli, that can cause diarrhea or spread respiratory infections such as hand-food-mouth disease. While these germs can get onto your hands after using the restroom, they can also be a result of handling raw meat or touching an object that has germs from someone coughing or sneezing on it.

Public health efforts to promote handwashing have been ongoing for many years in an effort to curb the spread of disease, and National Handwashing Awareness Week (Dec. 1-7) serves as an annual reminder to practice proper hand hygiene.

There’s even a proper way to wash your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap, paying close attention to the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (tip: sing Happy Birthday twice).
  4. Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

While washing your hands with soap and water is preferred, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative—soap and water have shown to be more effective at removing certain germs such as Cryptosporidium and norovirus.

As we head into the New Year, let’s all make a resolution to wash our hands often and properly to stop the spread of disease.

Learn more about Infectious Diseases at UTMB Health by visiting www.utmbhealth.com/services/infectious-diseases.

Tips sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.