When should you wash your hands?

Washing your hands is the easiest way to keep yourself and others from getting sick. Think of it as a do-it-yourself vaccine: Hand hygiene helps prevent diarrhea, strep throat, the flu and many other illnesses caused by various germs like bacteria and viruses. We teach kids how to wash their hands –– but do they know when they should wash their hands? Here are some hand washing tips to help keep your family healthy.


When do you wash your hands?

Parents often emphasize washing hands after children go to the bathroom. But are you checking that your kids wash their hands before eating? What about after they cough or sneeze?


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Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness provides educational classes and campaigns dedicated to help children and families lead healthy lives.

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Here is a list of activities that should prompt handwashing:


  • After using the toilet
  • After being outside the house (playing, walking, school, day care)
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After cleaning your house or room
  • After touching an animal or picking up waste from an animal
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before getting into water, such as a pool
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound


Are your kids washing their hands the right way?

Is your family washing their hands in a way that kick-starts that DIY vaccine power? If you’re not following these steps, you’re not getting the full benefit of washing your hands:


  • Get your hands ready.Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Don’t forget your thumbs!Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Make sure you’re getting the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails, as well as your thumb. You’d be surprised how often people forget their thumbs.
  • Sing a song. You should lather and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing and drying your hands. If it’s hard to keep track, silently sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself twice.
  • Rinse!Clear off the soap using clean running water.
  • Use a clean towel or air-dry your hands. Consider using a paper towel as you open a door after washing your hands. That way, they don’t immediately get germs on them.

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