Hand Washing 101: Tips You Need to Avoid Getting Sick

Healthy Living 28

There's one thing that can do more to save lives -- and keep you cold and flu free this winter -- than any vaccine or medical intervention, and you've probably been doing it since you were old enough to stand at a sink. It's washing your hands!

It seems really simple, but any visit to a public restroom will remind you that some people still don't get the importance of hand washing (which is, quite frankly, gross). Even the most well-meaning among us don't always know when to wash their hands or what the most effective hand-washing techniques are.  

You know to do it after using the bathroom, before eating, and after handling stuff like raw chicken, but you should also scrub up:

  • Before and after handling food
  • Before and after caring for a sick person (including when you're giving someone medicine)
  • Before holding a baby (please, people, always do this ... some parents are too shy to ask and it really helps keep the baby well)
  • Before and after treating a cut
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching animals, their toys, their leashes, or their waste (like changing a litter box or picking up after your pooch)
  • After touching something contaminated -- like garbage, used cleaning cloths, or trash cans
  • After working in the yard or garden
  • After contact with blood or bodily fluids (including saliva and vomit)
  • Before putting in your contact lenses

... and there are probably many, many more. Yes, this all sounds a little OCD, but "when in doubt, wash your hands" is a good rule to follow. Even if you don't make direct contact with, say, bodily fluids or waste, you can't be sure you're not all germy without good hand washing.

That said, simply passing your hands back and forth under running water isn't going to cut it. You need water (warm or cold, doesn't matter) and soap; antibacterial soaps are not any more effective than plain ones and may contribute to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria. It doesn't have to be fancy, either. Regular old bar soap is just as good as the fancy foaming stuff kids like (which you can make by refilling an empty foaming soap container with plain liquid soap and water and shaking).

Wet your hands, lather them up, and wash them for 20 seconds. Sing "Happy Birthday" twice or use these little ditties my kids learned in school:

(To the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"):

Wash, wash, wash your hands, that's what you should do

Rub and scrub and rub and scrub and you won't get the flu

(To the tune of "Frère Jacques")

Top and bottom, top and bottom

In between, in between

Rub them all together, scrubby scrubby scrubby, you're all clean, squeaky clean

Rinse, dry with a clean towel, and you're done. Hand sanitizers work too, but not as well as soap and water and should only be used if you aren't near a sink. Now don't you feel good about making the world a little healthier?

Do you have any tricks to get your kids to wash their hands?


Image via SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget/Flickr

cold & flu, healthy habits

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Doomy234 Doomy234

The rules in my house are: after the bathroom, before eating, and after touching pets. Other than that its your own opinion whether you should or not. Obviously, you should if you get anything on your hands thats more than a water based drink (water, tea, coffee are okay to just wipe off with a towel, but juices and things should be washed). Common sense should come into play as well. If you just took out the trash or have been digging in the yard, it should be obvious.

Kritika Kritika

Honestly...my mom rarely made us wash our hands and to this day I never get sick (she did scream if we so much as let an unwashed grape touch our lips).


I think it's counter productive to our immune systems to constantly wash our hands. Unless you've just picked up animal feces/vomit, human feces/vomit, used a public restroom or messed with anything that literally left debris on your hands and will smear elsewhere...you'll be ok.


When at home I never wash my hands before eating, holding my baby niece, after holding my dog or taking out the trash and I lived to see 26 with an extremely low record of sickness...I'm talking twice in the past 10 years and both were after life changing events...this article seems OCD if you ask me.

doll0302 doll0302

I am a BIG hand washer, and i know that people make fun of me for it, but i think that it is better safe than sorry. I wash my hands when i arrive at work, i usually stop by a few stores on my way, and who knows what germs are on door handles, and i like to keep my desk and keyboard clean. I don't think you should be washing only when you use a public restroom, you should be washing EACH time you use the restroom. I would always wash before touching a baby, changing a diaper, or touching an animal. I am not a sick woman either, but i can't really afford to carry illness to my home and kids. They are big hand washers too, and they are hardly ever sick. I don't think allergies count right? 

daerc... daerca574

we just insist they do it.  they know they will get into trouble if they don't

ChicH... ChicHippie

Having an immune-compromised child has made me very obsessive about handwashing. My husband is not so diligent so I figure our son still gets plenty of germs to build up resistance to.

jessi... jessicasmom1

I have a fetish that I wash my hands as often as  I can in a given day.

KamiB79 KamiB79

We wash hands a lot!

momka... momkaribg

Our kids just wash there hands. We don't really need any tricks.

JHanc968 JHanc968

Good tips!

slw123 slw123

No tricks, we just tell them to.  I make them wash their hands the minute we get home from school.....always.

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