A number of infectious diseases can be spread from person to person by contaminated hands. Regular handwashing is the best way to keep yourself healthy and prevent the spread of illness in your family and community. A good vigorous 30 second hand wash with soap and water, will remove germs by way of friction. By washing the front and back of your hands and between your fingers for approximately 30 seconds will remove any microbes from your skin. Then follow by drying your hands with a single use paper towel thoroughly.

When to wash your hands?

You should wash your hands thoroughly:

  • If visibly dirty
  • Before preparing food
  • Before eating
  • After toileting
  • After changing a nappy
  • After blowing your nose
  • After caring for someone who is sick
  • After any contact with bodily fluids, including cuts, rashes and wounds
  • After touching animals
  • After handling rubbish
  • After touching raw meats especially red meat and chicken
  • After working in the garden
  • After smoking

Alcohol-based hand gel or foam, with a minimum of 60% alcohol can also decontaminate a number of germs on hands. Hand gels and foams will kill most bacteria and viruses on contact. You may notice that these are used more commonly in hospital or clinic settings alongside handwashing. These gels will not remove any visible soiling or contamination on hands, and this grime will create a barrier.

Take care of your hands

Handwashing is only one part of hand hygiene. Looking after your skin generally is important, as your skin is your most effective barrier against infection. After your hands have been dried thoroughly, you can help to look after your hands if you:

  • Apply a water-based absorbent hand cream three to four times a day, or more frequently if your hands are constantly in water.
  • Use gloves to wash dishes to protect your hands.
  • Use gloves when gardening to prevent a build-up of ingrained soil or scratches.
  • Consult a doctor if a skin irritation develops or continues.