In 400 BC ancient Greek historian Thucydides was the first to suggest that germs can spread from one person to another. And something as simple as washing your hands can help you to avoid germs that can lead to infection and sickness.

We all know this, and we were all very much reminded during the pandemic, but sometimes it does take a small nudge and maybe a deeper look at how and when you should wash.

December 4th marks the beginning of National Handwashing Awareness Week, so it’s a great time to do so. First, ask yourself – and be honest – do you wash your hands as often as you should?

Here are some stats that might surprise you if you do choose to skip the wash here and there:

  • 80% of communicable diseases can be transferred by touch (person-to-person contact).
  • Washing your hands a few times a day can reduce diarrhea by 40%.
  • The two most important times to wash your hands are before and after preparing food, and after going to the bathroom.
  • Less than 75% of women and less than 50% of men wash their hands after using the bathroom
  •  Damp hands are 1,000 times more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands, yet only 20% of people dry their hands after they wash them.
  • Studies show that people who wash their hands have 24% fewer sick days because of respiratory illness, and 51% fewer sick days due to a sick stomach.

Now that we know how important hand washing is, let’s take a look at how best to do it and when.

Handwashing Guidelines

Experts recommend washing your hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to get a good lather and clean the back of the hands, between the fingers, and under the nails. Most of the germs can be found under the nails so that’s very important. Dry your hands using a clean towel. So, remember these five easy steps: Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following guidelines regarding when to wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

This holiday season and every day, follow these guidelines because healthy hands make for a healthier you!