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Don't Spread Germs: How to Wash Your Hands Properly

Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to reduce the number of germs on your hands and your risks of getting sick or spreading diseases. Many people may not realize their hands are dirty. Even if you cannot see any germs, the germs are still there. Germs can easily get into your body when you touch your eyes, ears and mouth.

Germs can be spread from a sneeze or a cough. Germs are on used tissue and toilet paper. Germs are also on telephones, door handles, shoes, faucets, light switches, hand railings, pet food dishes, wastebaskets, mops and buckets, floors, clothing, tabletops, money, keyboards, and thousands of other everyday items.

Hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection. Here’s how you can help stop the spread of germs and infections:

Wash Your Hands Often
   • Whenever your hands look or feel dirty
   • Before, during and after handling and preparing food
   • Before you handle clean dishes
   • Before dressing a wound, giving medicine or inserting contact lenses
   • After using the bathroom
   • After blowing your nose or covering coughs and sneezes
   • After touching anything that might be contaminated such as a diaper, trash or cleansing cloth
   • After touching fixtures in public areas such as handrails, doorknobs or elevator push buttons
   • After touching an animal or its leash, toys or waste
   • After visiting someone who is not feeling well
   • After cleaning your room.
   • After playing outside
   • After doing yard work
   • After using shared equipment, toys or other items

How to Wash Your Hands 
1. Turn on the faucet. Now it is dirty, too! (The soap dispenser is probably dirty as well.)
2. Wet your hands under the water, preferably warm running water.
3. Put some liquid soap into your hands or use a bar of soap.
4. Rub your hands together vigorously to make a lather and rub for 15 to 20 seconds. (About as long as it takes to recite the alphabets or sing “Happy Birthday”.) Remember to scrub the front, back and sides of your hands as well as in between your fingers. Pay special attention to the area under your nails where germs like to hide.
5. Continue to rub your hands together under running water while rinsing all the soap off your hands.
6. Use disposable paper towels to dry your hands. Then use the same paper towel to turn off the water.
7. Throw your used paper towels in the trash. Be careful not to touch the lid or anything else that is dirty.
8. If you’re in a public restroom, you could also consider using the paper towel to open the door. You’ll just need to find a trash can to properly dispose of your used towels once you’re out of the restroom.

Other Ways to Prevent Germs and Infections from Spreading
   • If you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Put a small amount, about half a teaspoonful, in the palm of one hand and rub your hands together vigorously. Cover all surfaces of your hands and fingers and keep rubbing until the solution evaporates and your hands are dry. Note - If your hands are visibly dirty, you should wash them with warm water and soap instead of using a hand sanitizer.
   • Antimicrobial hand wipes can also be used if soap and water are not available.
   • Clean and disinfect areas often. Cleaning helps remove germs from surfaces. Disinfecting these surfaces helps destroy germs. Areas that look clean may not be clean. Germs can live on surfaces for several days.
   • Clean and disinfect kitchen counters before, during and after preparing food, especially meat and poultry.
   • Use disposable wipes or paper towels or cloth towels that can be washed in hot water. Look for wipes that clean and disinfect.
   • Prepare food safely using clean hands and surfaces.
   • Use a separate cutting board for fresh produce and a different board for raw meats and poultry.
   • Routinely clean and disinfect all surfaces in your bathrooms. This is especially important if someone in your home has a stomach illness, a cold or the flu.

Although it is impossible to keep bare hands germ-free, you can help protect your health  by making it a habit to wash your hands often. Help keep yourself and your family healthy by making hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting a regular part of your household routine.

Kuakini Health System is committed to ensuring that its patients and residents are safe.  To reinforce this commitment, alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed on every floor throughout the Medical Center and Kuakini’s long term care facility (Hale Pulama Mau building.) For more information on ways to prevent the spread of germs and diseases, talk to your physician.