• By Deborah Balzer

Infectious Diseases A-Z: Good health through good hand hygiene

October 15, 2018

washing hands in the sinkGlobal Handwashing Day is celebrated on Oct. 15 as a way to promote good health through good hand hygiene. Washing hands with soap and warm waters can prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses, and other infections by removing bacteria and viruses before they enter the body. For hand hygiene to be effective, it needs to be done correctly. It seems simple enough, but you'd be surprised to find out most of people are washing their hands all wrong.

Watch: You're washing your hands all wrong.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:00) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please ‘Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.’ Read the script.

Children often are taught at a young age to wash their hands before eating and after using the restroom. It’s an easy and effective way to stay healthy and avoid spreading disease.

But Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, says adults could do much better at the sink.

"People go to the bathroom, and they run their fingers under the water. Well, that does nothing. And then they grab the dirty faucet, and they touch the dirty handle on the way out of the bathroom."

Dr. Poland says that, in public washrooms, there are often more bacteria on those faucets than in the toilet water.

Next time you’re at the sink, Dr. Poland says, "Wash your hands while singing 'Happy Birthday' to yourself. You get between the fingers, the fingertips, the thumb. You turn the water off with a paper towel. And you open the door to leave with a paper towel and dispose of the paper towel. That’s how you wash your hands – ideally with warm, soapy water."

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