Why Everyday Should Be 'Hand Hygiene Day'

Good health is in your hands. Washing your hands properly and frequently is the best way of protecting you and others from infections. The World Health Organization (WHO) declares every May 5 to be “World Hand Hygiene Day.”

The designation by the WHO is primarily meant for healthcare workers to help prevent the spread of infections in medical settings. But hand hygiene applies to all children and adults. Frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading the flu and other illnesses. Soap and water are best for killing viruses on your hands. For the most effective cleansing, wash your hands for 20 seconds, which is about how long it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. (See the infographic below for the proper way of washing your hands.)

Keep in mind that viruses and bacteria can live for several hours on hard surfaces such as cafeteria and restaurant tables, telephone receivers, computer keyboards and doorknobs. And you can become infected with respiratory illnesses if you don’t wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

When should you wash your hands? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food; and before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • 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

Infographic by Irina de Souza

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