Did you know that clean hands can have a big impact on your health?

During a day or even an hour, your hands touch many things. They pick up germs that can cause disease if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, or any break in your skin.  Good hand cleaning, also called hand hygiene, is the first protection against illness in yourself and your family.  Even when your hands look clean, they may carry germs.

Germs on your hands can cause illnesses such as common colds, influenza (flu), skin infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureu, or more serious illnesses such as diarrhea, bronchitis, hepatitis A, and meningitis.  

What is the best way to clean your hands?  

Germs multiply quickly on your skin and hands, so it’s important to clean them often. Use one of these methods to clean your hands:

Wash hands with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled. First, wet your hands with warm water, then use liquid or clean bar soap to work up a lather.  Rub your hands together vigorously for at least 15 to 20 seconds to remove the “dirt”.  Remember to scrub your nail areas, thumbs, wrists and back of hands because these areas are often forgotten.  Finish by rinsing your hands well, then drying with a clean towel.  In public areas, protect your clean hands by using the paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door.

When your hands look clean, germs can still be present.  This is when you can disinfect your hands using an alcohol-based hand product such as a gel or foam.  Check the label to be sure the product contains between 60 and 95 percent alcohol.  Alcohol-based hand products only work on hands that look clean because they cannot physically remove “dirt.” Use enough of the product to thoroughly moisten your hands, and then rub it in until your hands are dry.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health strongly encourages everyone to wash your hands, especially:

Whenever they are dirty Before, during and after you prepare food Before you eat Before you touch your eyes, nose or mouth Before you insert or remove contact lenses Before and after using sports/fitness equipment Before and after treating a cut or wound After you blow your nose, or cough or sneeze into your hands After you use the bathroom or change a diaper After handling uncooked foods, especially meat, poultry or fish After touching animals or animal waste After you handle garbage or dirty laundry More often when someone in your home is sick

To prevent disease all year long, remember to wash your hands often and encourage your family members and coworkers to do the same.  For more information about preventing illness, visit www.health.ok.gov.