Why is Hand Washing Important?

By Anita A. Li (Certified Health Education Specialist), Published: March 23, 2013

The single easiest way to prevent common diseases and the spread of germs is washing your hands. Regularly washing your hands and washing them correctly can protect you from diseases such as

  • The common cold
  • Influenza
  • Meningitis
  • Hepatitis A
  • Diarrhea

Taking a little extra time to wash your hands and telling your children to wash their hands will increase productivity in the long run. When children know when and how to wash their hands, they are less likely to get sick meaning they can spend more time in school and less time sick at home or in the doctor's office.

When and how do you wash your hands?

You and your child should wash your hands

  • When preparing food
  • Before eating
  • When taking care of the sick
  • When treating a cut
  • After changing a baby's diaper
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • After physical contact with an animal
  • After touching garbage

There are about five steps to washing your hands:
1) Wet your hands with warm or cold water.
2) Lather your hands with soap (regular bar soap will work just as well as antibacterial soap).
3) Scrub your hands between the fingers and under your fingernails for about 20 seconds. You can ask your children to sing happy birthday twice while scrubbing their hands.
4) Rinse your hands with running water.
5) Dry your hands with a clean towel and use it to turn off the faucet.

How can you get your children to wash their hands more often?

You can try to make hand washing a family activity. Remind your children to wash their hands frequently and teach them how to properly wash their hands. You can also wash your hands with your children and sing a song together while doing it.

*When you do not have access to clean running water, hand sanitizers could also be used. However, make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol.

Source: CDC, KidsHealth