Why Is Hand Washing So Important? It's a message worth repeating — hand washing is by far the best way to keep kids from getting sick and prevent the spread of germs. What's the Best Way to Wash Hands? Here's how to scrub those germs away. Teach this to your kids — or better yet, wash your hands together often so they learn how important this good habit is: Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold). Make sure the water isn't too hot for little hands. Use soap and lather up for about 20 seconds. Antibacterial soap isn't a must — any soap will do. Make sure you get in between your fingers, on the backs of hands, and under the nails where germs like to hang out. And don't forget the wrists! Rinse and dry well with a clean towel. When Should We Wash Our Hands? To stop the spread of germs in your family, make regular hand washing a rule for everyone. It's especially important: before eating and cooking after using the bathroom after cleaning around the house after touching animals, including family pets before and after visiting or taking care of any sick friends or relatives after blowing one's nose, coughing, or sneezing after being outside (playing, gardening, walking the dog, etc.) How Do Clean Hands Help Health? Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses — from the common cold to more serious infections, such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, the flu, hepatitis A, and many types of diarrhea. How Do Germs Spread? Germs can spread many ways, including: touching dirty hands changing dirty diapers through contaminated water and food through droplets in the air released during a cough or sneeze on contaminated surfaces through contact with a sick person's body fluids When kids come into contact with germs, they can become infected just by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. And once they're infected, it's usually just a matter of time before the whole family comes down with the same illness. So don't underestimate the power of hand washing! The time you spend at the sink could save you trips to the doctor's office. Back to Articles Related Articles Germs: Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi, and Protozoa Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease. Read More Food Poisoning Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning - and how to prevent it. Read More Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it. Read More MRSA MRSA is a type of bacteria that the usual antibiotics can't tackle anymore. Simple precautions can help protect your kids from becoming infected. Read More Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands? Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids. Read More Being Safe in the Kitchen Cooking and baking are lots of fun - as long as you stay safe. Read this article for safety tips before you head into the kitchen. Read More Hand Washing: Why It's So Important Did you know that the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands? If you don't wash your hands frequently, you can pick up germs from other sources and then infect yourself. Read More Food Safety for Your Family Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe? Read More Campylobacter Infections These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can help prevent them. Read More Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFM) is a common viral infection that causes painful red blisters in the mouth and throat, and on the hands, feet, and diaper area. Read More 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. Read More 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 feel better if you get it. Read More Germs: Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi, and Protozoa 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. Read More Food Poisoning The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning - and how to prevent it. Read More 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. Read More What Are Germs? You know they can hurt you, but what are these invisible creatures? Find out in this article for kids. Read More The Flu: Stop the Spread Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of the flu. Read More Infections That Pets Carry Kids can benefit from the companionship, affection, and relationships they share with pets. But it's important to know how to protect your family from infections carried by pets and other animals. Read More Paronychia Paronychia is an infection of the skin around a fingernail or toenail. Most of the time, it's not serious and can be treated at home. Learn what causes it, what to do, and how to prevent it. Read More Sepsis Sepsis is a serious infection usually caused when bacteria make toxins that cause the immune system to attack the body's own organs and tissues. Read More Staph Infections When skin is punctured or broken for any reason, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause an infection. But good hygiene can prevent many staph infections. Learn more. Read More Dealing With Cuts Find out how to handle minor cuts at home - and when to get medical care for a more serious injury. Read More Cellulitis Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues that can affect any area of the body. It begins in an area of broken skin, like a cut or scratch. Read More Is It a Cold, the Flu, or COVID-19? Your child has a sore throat, cough, and a high fever. Is it COVID-19? Could it be the flu? Or just a cold? Here are tips on what to look for, and what to do. Read More Colds Colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States - and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.