A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Hand-washing: The first line of defense

Handwashing with soap

Hand-washing is shown to prevent a variety of diseases and infections.

Editor’s Note (3/16/20): This post was recently updated with resource information in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. See resource listing below the post.

Interested in a low-cost, do-it-yourself, way to defend against germs?

Try washing your hands with soap. It’s the proven, old-school method that works best.

Your hands are the main carriers of infections and disease-causing germs. In fact, touching things is how most infectious diseases are spread.

Hand-washing performed at key moments throughout the day is shown to prevent a variety of diseases and infections.

Here are a few frequently asked questions from the CDC to help get you in the hand-washing habit.

When should I wash my hands?

  • Before, during and after preparing food.
  • Before eating.
  • Before and after caring for someone who’s sick.
  • 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.

What’s the correct way to wash my hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

What should I do if I don’t have soap?

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers quickly can reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Additional coronavirus resources:

Coronavirus outbreak: What you should know

Marshfield Clinic Coronavirus Updates 

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

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