Proper Hand Hygiene Helps Prevent the Spread of Germs

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Now that spring has sprung, hopefully the cold and flu season will soon be history. One way we can guard ourselves against potential germs is by actively washing our hands. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is like a “do it yourself” vaccine. However, there are no needles needed for this vaccine, it only takes soap, water, and a little of your time.

Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Unfortunately, with our busy schedules we sometimes don’t take the time to wash our hands as often as we should. Washing hands should be done when taking part in any of the following activities:

  • Preparing or eating food
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Treating wounds or injuries
  • Caring for a sick or injured person
  • Touching an animal or handling pet food
  • Blowing your nose, as well as coughing or sneezing in your hands
  • Shaking hands with others
  • Handling garbage, household chemicals, or anything else contaminated

We accumulated a variety of germs from our day-to-day interactions and can easily infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose, or mouth. Washing hands properly and effectively requires the following steps:

  1. Wet hands with running water.
  2. Apply soap (liquid, powder, or bar).
  3. Work into a lather and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds. For young children, encouraging them to sing songs, such as the “ABC song” or “Happy Birthday” twice can help them remember to wash for a set amount of time.
  4. Before rinsing with clean running water, don’t forget to scrub the backs of your hands, wrist, and between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer. If possible, avoid turning off the faucet with your clean hands and use a disposable towel or your elbow.
  6. If you are unable to wash hands with soap and water, apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is recommended to use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol.

According to the Mayo Clinic, hand hygiene 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.

Last year, healthy lifestyles was a topic taught at 28% of Progressive Agriculture Safety Days. These safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend one of 440 Safety Days offered throughout North America. This year alone, more than 100,000 children & adults will participate in a Safety Day within their local community. Learn more at

Photo Caption: At a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® held in Iowa, participants demonstrate proper hand washing techniques during a healthy lifestyles activity.

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