Cassandra Johnston
Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator
HKPR District Health Unit

How many of us battle a cold or flu each winter? We all get sick – I work in health care, and I’m no exception – but there are ways to reduce our risk of illness. The single, best approach is washing our hands.

It’s hard to imagine, but hands spread an estimated 80 per cent of all common germs and infections! By washing our hands, we easily remove the germs that make us sick. Health is literally in our hands!

The trick is to properly and regularly wash our hands. This isn’t just a lesson for kids; adults like us can use a refresher too. In the spirit of good health, follow these five simple steps:

  • Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Lather hands by rubbing them together with soap. Work the soap into the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails.
  • Rub hands together for 15 to 20 seconds. Need a timer? Singing Happy Birthday will do nicely (and it’s easy to remember for all ages).
  • Rinse hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry hands off using a clean towel or air dry them.

Hand sanitizer is good to use if our hands aren’t visibly dirty. Ideally, use hand sanitizer with 70 to 90 per cent alcohol content. Apply one to two squirts the size of a dime and rub hands together all over, including palms, back of hands, and fingernails, for approximately 15 seconds – or until they’re dry.

We need to wash our hands many times through the day: before eating meals/snacks, before and after preparing food, after going to the washroom, after touching an animal, and after handling garbage.

While it’s not rocket science, proper handwashing is out of this world in helping stop the spread of germs. As we lather up with soap and water, and prepare to sing Happy Birthday, let’s take heart knowing we’re removing germs… and washing away worries about getting sick!