Handwashing is an easy, cheap, and effective way to prevent the spread of germs and keep kids and adults healthy. When your family is healthy, you don’t have to worry about missing school, work, or other activities.
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 dirty hands; touch a contaminated surface or objects; and blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into your hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects.
Help your child develop handwashing skills
Parents and caretakers play an essential role in teaching children to wash their hands. Handwashing can become a lifelong healthy habit if you start teaching it at an early age. Teach kids the five easy steps for handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry. You can find ways to make it fun, like making up your own handwashing song or turning it into a game.
- 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.
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
To prevent the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands BEFORE and AFTER:
- Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Touching your mask
- Entering and leaving a public place
- Touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens
Give frequent reminders
Building handwashing skills takes time. At first, your child will need regular reminders of how and when to wash hands. It is especially important to remind children to wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, after touching pets, after playing outside, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses. But once handwashing becomes a habit and a regular part of your child’s day, they will practice it throughout their lives.
Lead by example by washing your hands
Young children learn by imitating the behaviors of adults in their lives. When you make handwashing part of your routine, you’re setting an example for your children to follow.
What if soap and water aren’t available?
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible.
Baby wipes may make your hands look clean, but they’re not designed to remove germs from your hands. CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water when possible.
Remember to make handwashing a healthy habit at home, school, and play!