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What is Hand Hygiene?

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Hand hygiene is a way of cleaning one’s hands that substantially reduces potential pathogens (harmful microorganisms) on the hands. Hand hygiene is considered a primary measure for reducing the risk of transmitting infections from person-to-person.

Follow these five steps every time:

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Hands could become re-contaminated if placed in a basin of standing water that has been contaminated through previous use. Therefore, clean running water should be used.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song

from beginning to end twice.

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. Soap and friction help lift dirt, grease, and microbes from skin so they can then be rinsed off hands.

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Germs can be transferred easier to and from wet hands.

Use a paper towel or tissue to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door.

Washing hands can keep you healthy and prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections from one person to the next. Germs can spread from other people or surfaces when you:

  • Touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands
  • Touch a contaminated surface or objects
  • Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects

Key Times to Wash Hands

You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
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