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Hand-washing: Do's and don'ts
How to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which don't require water, are an acceptable alternative when soap and water aren't available. If you choose to use a 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, until your hands are dry.
Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another effective option. Again, look for a product that contains a high percentage of alcohol. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash with soap and water.
Kids need clean hands, too
Help children stay healthy by encouraging them to wash their hands properly and frequently. Wash your hands with your child to show him or her how it's done. To prevent rushing, suggest washing hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. You might place hand-washing reminders at your child's eye level, such as a chart by the bathroom sink that can be marked every time your child washes his or her hands. If your child can't reach the sink on his or her own, keep a step stool handy.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are OK for children and adolescents, too, especially when soap and water aren't available. Remind your child to make sure the sanitizer completely dries before he or she 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 health.Previous page
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- Wash your hands. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HandWashing. Accessed July 14, 2011.
- Understanding microbes in sickness and in health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/microbes/PDF/microbesbook.pdf. Accessed July 14, 2011.
- Jefferson T, et al. Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011;7:CD006207. http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab006207.html. Accessed July 14, 2011.
- D'Antonio NN, et al. Revisiting the hand wipe versus gel rub debate: Is a higher-ethanol content hand wipe more effective than an ethanol gel rub? American Journal of Infection Control. 2010;38:678.
- Aiello AE, et al. Consumer antibacterial soaps: Effective or just risky? Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2007;45:S137.
- Kinnula S, et al. Safety of alcohol hand gel use among children and personnel at a child day care center. American Journal of Infection Control. 2009;37:318.