University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Sherry David, RN
Coordinator of Quality Management
First Published: 2004
Last Reviewed: November 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
How often have you told your children to wash their hands before dinner, after they cover a sneeze, or after they go to the bathroom? Children imitate what they see. Do they see you performing good hand hygiene as often as you should?
Handwashing is the single most important and easiest way of preventing the spread of disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is available to everyone without a prescription.
"With the flu season coming up, handwashing is one way you and your family can protect yourselves," says Sherry David, RN, UI Hospitals Clinics coordinator of Quality Management.
Have some fun with your child and teach him the way to wash his hands at the same time.
Have your child wash his hands and keep track of how long it took him. Then coat his hands with a mixture of one-eighth teaspoon cinnamon with one-fourth cup cooking oil. Now have your child wash his hands again, spending the same amount of time as the first washing.
Odds are there will be plenty of cinnamon spots left on his skin and under his nails. Have your child wash his hands again, this time until the cinnamon spots are gone. Now your child has a good idea of what should happen during handwashing.
Hand Hygiene 101
Remember what your mother said: "Don't forget to wash your hands!"
It sounds elementary, but do you know the proper way to wash your hands?
- First, wet your hands and apply soap.
- Next, rub your hands vigorously together.
- Wash the back of your hands and between your fingers.
- Continue for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Rinse well and dry your hands.
- Dry your hands beginning at your wrist and moving down. Pat your hands rather than rub your hands dry. It helps prevent chapped hands.
- Apply lotion.
It is especially important to wash your hands:
- Before, during, and after you prepare food
- Before you eat, and after you use the bathroom
- After handling animals or animal waste
- More frequently when someone in your home is sick
Another way to clean your hands when you are on the go is to use alcohol-based hand sanitizing products. Place a nickel size amount of the solution in the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together including all parts of your hand and fingers until dry and your hands are sanitized.