"Wash your hands!" How many times have you heard that from your parents? You might think they're just nagging you, but actually the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands.
If you don't wash your hands well and often, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself. You're at risk every time you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. In fact, one of the most common ways people catch colds is by rubbing their nose or their eyes after the cold virus has gotten on their hands.
If people don't wash their hands often (especially when they're sick), they can spread germs directly to other people or onto surfaces that others touch. And before you know it, everyone around you is coming down with something!
Think about all of the things that you touched today — from the telephone to the toilet. Maybe you blew your nose or played with your dog. Whatever you did, you came into contact with germs. It's easy for germs on your hands to end up in your mouth.
By frequently washing your hands the right way, you'll wash away germs — such as bacteria and viruses — that you have picked up from other people, through contaminated water and food, from surfaces like keyboards, or from animals and animal waste.
In 2010 the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute did a survey of hand washing. They asked people questions about their hand-washing habits and also watched people in public restrooms. The results were kind of gross. For example:
Even if you're a good hand-washer, your friends may be harboring some dirty little secrets: Students don't wash their hands often or well. In one study, only 58% of female and 48% of male middle- and high-school students washed their hands after using the bathroom. Yuck!
There's a right way to wash your hands. Follow these simple steps to keep your hands clean:
To prevent chapping or dry skin, use a mild soap with warm water, pat rather than rub hands dry, and apply a moisturizing lotion afterward.
If soap and water aren't available, waterless hand sanitizers, soaps, or scrubs are a good alternative. They're usually available as a liquid, wipes, spray, or towelettes, and often come in small travel sizes that are perfect for keeping in your book bag, car, locker, purse, or sports bag.
Good hand washing is the key to preventing the spread of many common infections. Protect yourself by lathering up!
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|Cuts, Scratches, and Scrapes Most small cuts, scrapes, or abrasions heal on their own. Here are tips for teens on how to treat cuts at home - and when to get medical help.|
|Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it's usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect yourself.|
|How Can I Wash My Hands Without Spreading Germs? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|The 5-Second Rule Almost everyone has dropped food on the floor and still wanted to eat it. Does the 5-second rule give you the excuse you need? Or is it just a myth?|
|Why Should I Care About Germs? Germs are tiny organisms that can cause disease - and they're so small that they can creep into your system without you noticing. Find out how to protect yourself.|
|Coping With Colds Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on chicken soup, cold medicines, and other ways to feel better.|
|5 Ways to Stay Healthy for the Holidays Stay well and have a good time over the holidays - even if everyone else is falling apart. Our 5 tips will help boost your body's defenses.|
|MRSA MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can't tackle anymore. The good news is that there are some simple ways to protect yourself from being infected. Find out how.|
|Flu Facts Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. Get the facts on the flu - including how to avoid it.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.