Why Is Hand Washing So Important? Hand washing has always been the best way to keep from getting sick. But with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks, hand washing matters more than ever. Coronavirus spreads easily. Hand washing prevents the spread of germs, including coronavirus. When you wash your hands, you protect yourself from germs. You also protect people in your family. And with the coronavirus, when you stop the spread of germs at home, you protect people in the community too. What's the Best Way to Wash Hands? Here's how to scrub those germs away: Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold). Make sure the water isn't too hot. Use soap. Lather up for about 20 seconds. Any soap works. It doesn't have to be antibacterial. Make sure you wash between your fingers, on the backs of your hands, and under your nails where germs like to hang out. Don't forget your wrists! Rinse and dry well with a clean towel. When Should I Wash My Hands? Make a habit of regular hand washing. It's most important: before eating and cooking after using the bathroom after cleaning around the house after touching pets and other animals before and after visiting or taking care of sick people after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing after being outside after handling mail or packages What if you don't have soap and water? Waterless hand sanitizers or scrubs are good too. They come as liquids, wipes, sprays, or towelettes. You can buy travel sizes to keep in your book bag, car, locker, purse, or sports bag. How Do Clean Hands Help Health? Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of illnesses, including coronavirus (COVID-19). And it helps protect you against everything 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 spread in lots of ways. For example: 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 you come into contact with germs, you can become infected just by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Seize the power of hand washing! It's one of the best things you can do to help yourself and others. Back to Articles Related Articles 5 Ways to Stay Healthy for the Holidays Stay well and have a good time over the holidays - even if everyone else is falling apart. Our 5 tips will help boost your body's defenses. Read More Coping With Colds Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on colds and ways to feel better when you catch one. Read More E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect yourself. 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 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 Cuts, Scratches, and Scrapes Most small cuts, scrapes, or abrasions heal on their own. Here are tips for teens on how to treat cuts at home - and when to get medical help. 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.