CDC has launched Life is Better with Clean Hands, a national campaign encouraging parents to make clean hands a healthy habit for the whole family.
Handwashing is an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to help your family stay healthy. Studies have shown that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu. When your family is healthy, you don’t have to worry about missing school, work, or other activities.
Help your children make handwashing a healthy habit at home, school, and play by:
- Teaching kids the five easy steps for handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry—and the key times to wash hands, such as after using the bathroom or before eating.
- Giving frequent reminders so that handwashing becomes a habit and a regular part of your child’s day.
- Leading by example by washing your hands.
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Studies have shown that handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu.
Follow these five steps every time.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- 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.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
If soap and water aren’t available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
For Office Employees
Handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness to others. Germs can spread easily in offices where employees share the same space, supplies, and equipment. CDC recommends washing hands often, especially during key times when you are likely to get and spread germs. In workplaces, these key times are before eating lunch or preparing food, after using the bathroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
For more information on Life is Better with Clean Hands, a campaign promotion toolkit, free posters, and other resources for promoting handwashing, visit www.cdc.gov/handwashing.
Show Me the Science – When & How to Use Hand Sanitizer in Community Settings
CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The guidance for effective handwashing and use of hand sanitizer in community settings was developed based on data from a number of studies.
Why? Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile1-5. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly 1-15, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried 14.
Why? Many studies show that hand sanitizers work well in clinical settings like hospitals, where hands come into contact with germs but generally are not heavily soiled or greasy 16. Some data also show that hand sanitizers may work well against certain types of germs on slightly soiled hands 17,18. However, hands may become very greasy or soiled in community settings, such as after people handle food, play sports, work in the garden, or go camping or fishing. When hands are heavily soiled or greasy, hand sanitizers may not work well 3,7,16. Handwashing with soap and water is recommended in such circumstances.
Why? Although few studies have been conducted, hand sanitizers probably cannot remove or inactivate many types of harmful chemicals. In one study, people who reported using hand sanitizer to clean hands had increased levels of pesticides in their bodies 19. If hands have touched harmful chemicals, wash carefully with soap and water (or as directed by a poison control center).
Why? Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers 16,20. Hand sanitizers without 60-95% alcohol 1) may not work equally well for many types of germs; and 2) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.
From 2011 – 2015, U.S. poison control centers received nearly 85,000 calls about hand sanitizer exposures among children 25. Children may be particularly likely to swallow hand sanitizers that are scented, brightly colored, or attractively packaged. Hand sanitizers should be stored out of the reach of young children and should be used with adult supervision. Child-resistant caps could also help reduce hand sanitizer-related poisonings among young children 24. Older children and adults might purposefully swallow hand sanitizers to become drunk 26.