The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to the doctor’s clinic.
Hands are your best companions. They help you in doing all kinds of work and also in communicating with others. Neat and clean hands not only look attractive but are also an indicator of good health. Unfortunately, these same hands can become the medium for millions of microbes like bacteria, viruses and fungi to enter your body. Once these microbes enter your body they make you seriously ill. Swine flu, dengue, malaria and many other serious contagious diseases spread through dirty hands.
Frequently hand washing is the best way to avoid getting sick and spreading illness. Hand washing requires only soap, preferably antibacterial soap and water.

Hand washing: Do's and don'ts
Hand washing is an easy way to prevent infection. Understand when to wash your hands, how to properly use hand sanitizer and how to get your children into the habit.
Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness. Hand washing requires only soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer — a cleanser that doesn't require water. Find out when and how to wash your hands properly.

When to wash your hands
As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. In turn, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Although it's impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes.
Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food
  • Eating
  • Treating wounds or giving medicine
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet
  • Changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage or something that could be contaminated, such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes

Of course, it's also important to wash your hands whenever they look dirty.
How to wash your hands
It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:

  • Wet your hands with running water.
  • Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
  • Lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
  • If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.

Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.

How to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers — which don't require water — are an excellent alternative to soap and water. If you choose to use a commercially prepared hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Then follow these simple steps:

  • Apply enough of the product to the palm of your hand to wet your hands completely.
  • Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, for up to 25 seconds or until they're dry.

If your hands are visibly dirty, however, wash with soap and water. Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another option, although they're not as effective as alcohol-based sanitizers.

Kids need clean hands, too
Help your children stay healthy by encouraging them to wash their hands properly and frequently. Wash your hands with your children to show them how it's done. To prevent rushing, suggest washing their hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. You might place hand-washing reminders at children's eye level, such as a chart by the bathroom sink for children to mark every time they wash their hands. If your children can't reach the sink on their own, keep a stepstool handy.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are OK for children and adolescents, too, especially when soap and water isn't available. Make sure the sanitizer completely dries before your child touches anything. Store the container safely away after use.
Hand washing is especially important for children in child care settings. Young children cared for in groups outside the home are at greater risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, which can easily spread to family members and other contacts. Be sure your child care provider promotes frequent hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Ask whether the children are required to wash their hands several times a day — not just before meals. Note, too, whether diapering areas are cleaned after each use and whether eating and diapering areas are well separated.
A simple way to stay healthy
Hand washing doesn't take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness. Adopting this simple habit can play a major role in protecting your heal

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